T Nation

Progression: What Should I Do If I Regress?

I make a note of all my lifts when working out, and note down the amount of weight lifted on each set as well as the number of reps I managed. I then try to beat my previous amount of reps or weight the next time I come in, based on what I made a note of.

Unfortunately at times I actually LOSE a rep the next week. Most of the time I’m able to add a rep, or at least do the same amount of reps as the week before, but what should I do if I lose a rep? For example, let’s say I managed 8 reps one week, so I note it down, but the next week I come in I only manage 7 reps.

Should I then update my notes to signify that I only managed 7 reps, and then base my progression off that, or should I just stick with my highest amount of reps which I got the week before? It just seems a bit strange to erase the 8 reps I noted down, and write 7 instead because I had a somewhat bad workout. The motivation to progress tends to suffer then as well, as I know that I actually managed 8 reps at one point, and now all I’m doing is trying to get back to it instead of actually progressing to more reps or a higher weight than I’ve done in the past.


In case of regression:

  • don’t panic if it’s just a few sessions. Performance can fluctuate even when doing everything right
  • consider eating more (in the vast majority of cases this is enough to fix the issue)
  • consider sleeping more and/or better
  • consider reducing the amount of work you’re doing
  • consider increasing the amount of work you’re doing (it depends on variables such as current training volume, calories etc. which one is the better call)
  • consider deloading, or reducing the weight a building back up doing a ton of reps
  • are you progressing on other movements? If you’re only stuck on an exercise, it’s worth considering whether you could benefit from adding an assistance exercise to fix a specific weakness

Thanks for the tips Samul, much appreciated. Although should I write down my new reps on my notes instead, even if I get 1 less rep than the week before? And then base my progression off THAT?

It’s just my Flat Dumbbell Bench that has regressed. I was stuck on 7 reps for about 3 weeks, and figured today was the day I was going to get 8 reps. Unfortunately the opposite happened, and I only managed 6 reps, which I felt was quite strange, considering I’ve been staying consistent at 7 reps for a few weeks now.

What’s also strange is the fact that I’m seeing progression (either in weight and/or reps) in most of my other exercises, including Flat Barbell Bench, so I’m not sure why my Dumbbell Bench has regressed.

Take a deload (50-75% of the intensity and volume of your usual training). Change one training variable when you get back off the deload.

You might do a different movement (eg BB incline press)
Or different rep range (eg 6 reps instead of 8)

Don’t spend 3 weeks just accumulating fatigue again, that’s nearly an entire training cycle.

Might help those giving advice to provide a rough idea what your lifting looks like and experience level.