Indicators of Progress

The most basic foundational thing you need to know before you consider anything else when designing a program is which indicators of progress will be used to gauge results.

-Indicators are the lifts or exercises that your routine is built around progressing.
-If you are advanced enough, you can select a group of indicators in which you can’t go wrong.
Here all you would be doing is finally pairing your mental “ideal physique” with some reasonable physical numbers.  If these are the numbers the lifter is repeatedly getting closer and closer to (each workout), and they do indeed represent the ideal physique of that individual, then we can say whether true progress is being made.

Common Flaws With Indicators:  


1.  Using only lifts, and body-weight, while relating them in some arbitrary way (such as “I can bench my bodyweight”)….  A 150 lb lb individual who can bench their bodyweight is in fair to decent shape.  A 300 lb individual who can only bench their bodyweight is very out of shape.  Clearly these indicators do not work.In this situation an indicator needs to be thrown in to represent bodyfat %, or strength to weight ratio (not as a fraction but as an exercise).  Individual would greatly benefit from using calipers to measure %, tape measure for waist, or incorpoorating pull-ups, running, plyometrics etc….  Something he or she will fail horribly at if they stray above 15% body fat for men, and 25% for women.)

2.  The exact opposite…  Using only cardio exercises and exercises where bodyweight is the weight being lifted.  This is more common in the “livestrong” and “crossfit” types of crowds.  If you want to have a large frame you are going to have to lift heavy.  The biceps are sometimes the only muscle that will be well developed in the calisthenics-heavy crowds because being a weak muscle it can actually get a good workout in with a person’s mere bodyweight.  For these individuals the key is to get them to balance their cardio/bodyweight related indicator, with something representative of maximal strength (squat or deadlift).

For me personally, I use deadlift, overhead press, pullups, and mile time (as my indicators).
Which is representative of lower body maximal strength, upper body maximal strength, bodyweight-relative strength, and conditioning (in that order)

You will never meet an individual who can:
deadlift 400+
overhead press 205
do ~20 pullups
and run a 5:30 mile
who is “not big” or “not cut”.
You simply cannot combine the above numbers without being “ripped” (due to pullups and mile-time).  You also can’t deadlift 405 or overhead press 205 and be “small”.  The numbers guarantee I am both LEAN and BIG.  By focusing on these #’s and not on a statistic such as bodyfat %, it makes progress much more measurable, and it makes the endpoint much more concrete.

There are no loopholes built in there.

With indicators, we are trying to put physical stats on your “imaginary goal physique”…..

If I gain fat pull-ups suffer, and mile-time gets worse (a lot).  If I gain muscle with fat, deadlift and overhead press improve, mile-time gets worse, and pullups stay approximately the same.  If I lose fat but also lose muscle, mile time will improve a lot, pullups will improve a lot, but the two lifts will suffer.

Pick your indicators of progress wisely because they literally are your compass on your “map of fitness.”  If your indicators are off, your direction is off.  If your direction is off you don’t know where the hell you are going (most people don’t).

Figure out where  you want to be physically.  Note the physical traits of those who have what you want ( ), and set up indicators to let you know if you are on the right track.


If you want her body, and she out-squats you….  Perhaps the day you can out-squat her will be the day she envies your body.  If you’re jealous of the girls in the squat rack it’s time to get off the eliptical and squat!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s