Saturday, March 12, 2011

Perceived Intensity and Intensity Waving

This is something I have been experimenting with for a while with good results so far.

I haven't gotten a complete handle on it yet but I will break a few facets of it down.

A lot of guys train around percentages and some guys train around PI (perceived intensity).

If you missed my definition of PI then basically it has nothing to do with your 1 rep max, and everything to do with effort.  I like classifications so low, medium, and high are all PI.  Low being a warm up set, medium would be a week of getting the reps in, and high is busting ass (that would vary on the movement as well).

This is just something that has come to me over the last few months of training yet I have been paying a lot of attention to it.

It started a while back when I talked about doing 5/3/1 with some built in hard weeks with built in "just get the reps in" weeks.  I ended up applying this across the board without really thinking about it.

For my week of incline pressing I have done some heavy weeks but in between there is usually a bench week, then a light week of incline pressing.  So like one week I would do 225 for reps.  Then bench heavy, then do a heavy incline session, then bench the next week, and incline light the next week.

For my chins, I would do a week of bodyweight only 5x5, then bodyweight 7x7, then a week of heavy pulldowns with high volume, then a high PI week weighted with 5-4-3-2-1 backoff, seeing what I could hit for a single then going for a PR on the back off.

My deadlift has responded to it, as I am now hitting 500x9-10 regularly, where 500x10 was my standing PR for a long time and 500x6-8 used to be the usual.

Because of my adductor injury I haven't been able to fully implement it on squats but I don't think it would be that difficult.

The dynamic I think I am dealing with here is the dynamic ebb and flow of what I call session grading (80-10-10) and coaxing of strength rather than demanding it, only asking your body to perform hard when you're having an upper level 80% day.

For example, today I did chins with 100x1.5 where I hit 100xnot-a-full-rep about a month-5 weeks ago.  This happened with only 1 other heavy day of chinning in there where I did 75x5.  The other days I was doing 5x5 with bodyweight, heavy high volume pulldowns and such.  On the days where I did the 100xalmost, 75x5, and 100x1.5 I felt really good.  These would be upper level 80% sessions.  Not quite +10% days but close.  The other days I was just getting some chins in, and feeling good.  So in other words, I matched my volume and PI to how my body felt on those days.

I haven't quite figured out the pattern yet, but it's starting to come to me.  It's not heavy/medium/light either because I don't quite see it lining out that way just yet.  It's more like a light/light/medium/heavy pattern.

I'll keep updating my ideas about this as more comes to me.


  1. so almost an "instinctive training" sort of "non-system" system?! just as, for example, the pressing workout varies from week-to-week, within the workout week each session will/can vary in intensity? geoff

  2. Yes Geoff. So I may deadlift hard, then press easy, then do a hard back and biceps. Then the next week I might squat easy, press heavy, and do a light back and biceps. I'm going to keep logging it all and looking at variables here.

  3. This is yet another thing that you've written that I've thought about for a long time - the 5 x 5 Texas Method tries to do something similar - Heavy day, volume day and a recovery day. I liked training like this but the rigidity of sticking to a recovery session when I felt great - or a volume session when I felt awful wasnt that great. The RTS Tuscherer method also uses a perceived effort scale - I liked the look of that. The big problem is (for me) I will either train hard and burnout or get too lazy and not make any progress. 5/3/1 seemed to take forever to get there - Sheiko was great for volume but not really adjustable.
    Paul - just put the best bits of all these programs and create one ..... easy eh ? !
    The big thing here, I think is progress is a long and winding road (to quote the Beatles) - progress is rarely linear and you need to work out when to work hard and when to back off - not easy.

  4. Correct. Which is why the system would have to have built ins that deal with that.

  5. tbh i'd be surprised if an actual "system" or formula for this stuff could be created! thats not with any disrespect to you paul, just that what is recoverey for you almost certainly wont be for me might be possible to come up with some basic "principles" but i suspect most of this will come down to individual instincts and perceptions.


  6. I agree because there are too many factors outside of the gym that can effect these things.

    But I still wonder if you get get something rough around the edges working...