We’ve all done it before. We’ve all picked out some movement, for whatever reason, and proclaimed, “I’m going to do ‘X’ of these every day for the next month.”
I find that to be an extremely noble goal, and if you can carry it out for that month and the ones that follow, you’ll be much further ahead than you were when you started.
Now, I’m here to make it better.
Because this post was inspired by a discussion about the incredible, edible pull-ups I’m going to use them for my example.
Daily Pull-Up Challenge
As I state above, this challenge is typically measured by reps performed each day based on the ultimate monthly goal. So, if you want to perform 300 pull-ups in a 30-day month, you know you must do 10 pull-ups everyday to meet your goal.
Some days you will do only 10; some days you will do more; some days you will do less, and some days you won’t do any at all. As you get closer and closer to the end date, you continuously recalculate how many you need to do on your remaining days to hit your goal.
The only downfall of this method is that you’re only varying the training volume, assuming your bodyweight only fluctuates +/- 5lb. each day over this time. Volume is only one aspect of “overload” in which the body adapts. The other considerations are intensity (amount of weight) and density (amount of weight moved per unit of time). For a comprehensive, physics-based look at overload and work capacity, read this post I wrote for strongman Adam Glass.
Because we are only doing bodyweight pull-ups, intensity stays the same and density is a bit harder to track. The body does not adapt linearly, so all three facets must be taken into consideration for the fastest results.
I propose something better.
The Better Daily Pull-Up Challenge
Let’s stick with 300 pull-ups a month. Multiply 300 pull-ups by my bodyweight (165’ish pounds) and you will see that I need to move 49,500 pounds in 30 days by doing pull-ups. That amounts to 1,650 pounds per day.
Some days I will feel like Superman and want to add weight to my body but likely decrease the amount of reps I perform. Some days I will feel run into the ground and remove weight from my body (with the help of a super band) and likely be able to do more reps. Other days, regular ‘ol bodyweight will feel just fine.
The key to this is tracking your weight added or subtracted and accurately calculating the amount of pounds moved that day and density. To do this, multiply the amount of weight you used (bodyweight +/- additional weight) by the total number of reps you performed. That is your volume total for the day, that you would subtract from your monthly total.
To calculate density, simply write down the time you start your session and the time you end. No need to track how long each set takes. Just make sure you use the same time measurement everyday when you do your calculations. Then, divide your total daily volume by the total amount of time it took you to complete the entire workout.
This method allows us to vary the volume and intensity, which makes the density calculation much more meaningful. It allows you to make daily progress, whereas doing the same amount of pull-ups everyday may only lead to progression on a monthly level.
Why does density matter so much?
As you can see in the final work equation, time has an exponential effect in the amount of work performed. It may then be interpreted that time is the most determinate factor at how our bodies adapt to the applied overload.
By varying all three variables in the work equation and listening to what your body is telling you, I bet you’ll be able to reach your “pounds moved” goal much faster than your “pull-ups performed” goal.
I hope this helps or at least gives you something to think about in your training programming. Let me know how it goes!
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.