April 17, 2023
Tracking progress, especially over time, is a great way to build a complete picture of your body’s adaptation to your workouts. Fitbod’s Exercise History charts allow you to dig into all your data. Below, I’ve put together a few tips to help you interpret those stats.
(Go here for more information on Fitbod’s Exercise History feature.)
I’m going to focus on Fitbod’s Estimated Strength chart because it’s the main metric you’ll want to use as a gauge for progress. “Estimated Strength” is the maximum weight that Fitbod estimates you could lift in one all-out effort repetition. You’ve probably heard of this metric before: It was previously called “Projected 1 Rep Max” in the Fitbod app, and you may hear it called “Estimated 1 Rep Max” elsewhere. We updated the name because users found “Estimated Strength” easier to understand and more directly tied to their goals.
We calculate yours based on a combination of weights lifted, reps done, and sets finished since hitting a 1RM is probably a regular fixture in your training routine. Fitbod generally won’t prompt you to do it.
What Should You Expect to See in Your Estimated Strength Chart?
If you’ve been exercising consistently and challenging yourself to a reasonable degree, you should see an upwards trend in Estimated Strength—and the same goes for volume.
It takes time and multiple efforts to be able to see your trends. You might even need to train consistently for months to see significant progress… But don’t let that discourage you! Shoulders aren’t built in a day. And dips sometimes happen. Those ups and downs are part of training. No one’s hitting personal records every time they lift!
If you’re just starting, you’ll probably notice a rapid increase in progress. Those are “beginner gains.” Starting a training program will often jolt your body into quick adaptations, which is great for our mental game.
But you should be aware that this rapid growth won’t continue at the same pace forever. Instead, you’ll probably notice it’s decreasing or even flattening out. Those are called “plateaus,” and they’re very common.
Plateaus happen because your body is adapting to the stress of training. Fitbod uses non-linear progression and a variety of exercises to avoid these periods of stagnation.
You can let Fitbod’s algorithm help you stave off a plateau, or you can take a more hands-on approach if you want. Switching up your fitness goal or changing your training split might help you get something different out of your workouts. You can also add circuits and supersets, adjust your rest times, or add new equipment to keep your body guessing.
What Don’t You Want to See in Your Estimated Strength Chart?
The shortest answer I can give is a steady decline in your progress, which can happen because of overtraining, undertraining, or a lack of proper recovery. External factors, like stress, bad sleep, or poor diet, can also affect your training.
Just like positive progress, a steady decline takes time to build. Keep an eye on your trends to nip these slips in the bud. If you notice a decline, take a minute to check in with yourself. A little adjustment might go a long way.
There are other reasons you may see a decline. The most likely is a dip in your progress due to a cut or fat loss regimen. Losing fat might also cause a loss of muscle mass and strength. Remember your goal if you see that this is happening. A slight decline in strength while you’re cutting is normal. If you keep training, you should gain your strength back.
It’s all about how your body responds—these are just guidelines for what might happen. Regardless, most people will want to attempt to maintain as much muscle mass and strength as possible .
Don’t hesitate to hit me up, either! Email me at [email protected] if you have questions about a slowdown in your progress.
What Causes the Ups and Downs?
There are a ton of reasons why you might see ups and downs in your performance. The most common are how you’re training and recovering, but your mentality and schedule also affect your capability at the gym.
Changes to your training routine are the number one reason you might see a dip in performance. Imagine doing something simple that you’ve done over and over, like brushing your teeth. Now imagine doing that same task with your other hand. You wouldn’t be nearly as efficient and would likely have to think about what you’re doing the whole time.
You need to give your brain time to adapt to the movement before you can do it efficiently. You can apply this to everything from your exercise selection to rep ranges—new things need time.
Recovery is another common reason for dips or spikes in progress. It’s a bit more unpredictable, though. A lot goes into it: Diet, sleep, and stress are important. If one of those gets consistently knocked over time, your performance will too.
Your training frequency can also massively impact individual performance. If you do the same exercise or even target the same muscle group on consecutive days, you’ll almost certainly see a decline in performance.
There’s also the mental side of things. Getting hung up on a certain weight, waistline, or whatever can affect a person’s perception of their progress. Negativity has no home in progress.
The bottom line is: If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right. I see this all the time just before or after a big jump to a higher weight.
Why Better Habits Don’t Always Yield Better Results
Good habits don’t always lead to improvements. Progress in one area doesn’t mean immediate rewards. It takes time. You need to be consistent to see improvements.
Let’s say, for example, that you improve your diet: You start eating clean, tracking your intake, and putting yourself in a solid position to succeed. You would think this would guarantee a better rate of progress. What if these changes add to your daily stress? Or you lose some sleep due to meal prep. improvement in your diet is always helpful, but every bit of your fitness influences everything else.
Volume, Reps, and Weight and How They Impact Estimated Strength
Volume is another stat for your Estimated Strength. You can look at it a few different ways, but we’ll focus on volume for a particular set. As you increase either your reps or weight, your volume will increase, indicating an increase in your Estimated Strength.
Your volume should trend upward as your Estimated Strength does. In a single performance, these stats relate inversely. The closer you get to performing a single max-effort repetition, the lower your volume will be for that set. Or when your relative intensity (%1RM) increases, your volume will decrease. For instance, if you perform ten reps of a given weight, you may only be able to perform five reps at a slightly heavier weight.
When Fitbod makes weight recommendations and calculates your Estimated Strength, it automatically accounts for this dynamic.
What About Bodyweight Exercises?
Bodyweight exercises are harder to adjust for your Estimated Strength because we measure your Estimated Strength for bodyweight exercises as the maximum amount of reps you can perform in one set.
That can create some measurement challenges. For instance, your weight fluctuates, and those fluctuations might affect the number of reps you’re able to perform. If you lose 10 lb., you might be able to do another rep of an exercise. Or, you might be able to perform more reps of an exercise because you added 10 lb. of muscle. You might even see no changes at all.
Like anything in fitness, it depends on you, your routine, and your training regimen.
Examples of What You Might See in your Estimated Strength Charts
The chart above is a great example of an upward trend in strength with lots of spikes and dips over individual performances. At the start, most performances are clustered just under 50 lbs. Over 6 months, there are plenty of dips and jumps. They could be caused by any number of different things, but we can see most of the values clustered around and just under 60 lbs. by the end of the period shown.
There are a few things to take away from this chart. The first is the initial dip between the first and second points. There’s an extended period between these two performances, which could indicate that a lot of time has passed between training sessions for this muscle group or exercise. The break might’ve caused some atrophy, diminishing strength.
This is a great example of how recovery, or frequency, could affect individual performances. The third and fourth points on this chart are done close to each other, and we can see a dip in performance. While it isn’t guaranteed, there’s a high likelihood that this muscle group wasn’t fully recovered, and therefore the individual performance suffered. However, we do still see a general upward trend upwards after then, showing that you can still make progress even after a poor performance.
This is a great example of how other exercises can influence your performance over time. There’s a large gap of nearly 2 months between the second and third points on this chart. One explanation for this rapid improvement could be training done in other exercises. For instance, shifting from Front Squats to Back Squats for those two months would do it. The exercises are related and train the same muscle groups in a very similar way. Improvements in Front Squats would translate to an improvement in Back Squats.
Hope that helps. Have fun diving into your data! And, as always, Fitbod members are free to hit me up any time at [email protected] with questions.