Strength - A Simple System for Recording Intensity on Workout Sheets

Strength - A Simple System for Recording
Intensity on Workout Sheets

Dick Moss

When following a strength program, students often make notes on their program chart to indicate volume - the number of reps they've performed in a set. However, there is seldom a record of the intensity of these sets - the level of difficulty involved in finishing the final repetitions.

Here's a strength training recording system that will provide information on intensity in addition to volume.

Different Intensities
Intensity can be determined through a comparison to the point of failure. The point of failure is the number of the repetition at which another rep cannot be performed. For example, if a student can't quite complete the ninth repetition, then the ninth rep is the point of failure

A simple measure of intensity might involve three levels:

  1. Not to the Point of Failure (nPF) This indicates that you didn't reach the point of failure in your set. Warmup sets would be a good example. For example, if you lifted the weight eight times but could have lifted more, then you didn't reach the point of failure.
  2. Point of Failure (PF) This is the final repetition that you cannot complete with good technique.
  3. Beyond Point of Failure (PF+) These are repetitions you complete after reaching the point of failure. You accomplish this by performing assisted or forced repetitions - repetitions in which a partner helps to lift the bar.

Intensity Recording System
All intensities revolve around the letters "PF" for point of failure.

  • nPF (not to the point of failure)
  • PF (reached the point of failure)
  • PF+ (went beyond the point of failure)
An explanation of each is below:

If you perform a certain number of repetitions but don't reach the point of failure, you'd note that with an "n" after the number of reps you performed and before "PF." That means "Not to the Point of Failure. For example, 8nPF, means you did eight reps, but they were not to your point of failure.

A set in which you reach your point of failure would be indicated by a note showing the number of reps, plus the notation "PF." So, if you couldn't quite finish your ninth rep, you'd record that as 9PF.

Finally, if go beyond the point of failure, you could note this with "PF," a "+" sign and the number of additional reps. For example, 9RM+2 indicates that you reached the point of failure on your ninth repetition, but did two extra assisted reps.

Sample Chart
Here's a sample workout chart that uses this intensity/volume notation system:

Strength - A Simple System for Recording Intensity on Workout Sheets

Reference: Jurgen Giessing (PhD, EdD), "How Intense Are Your Weight Training Workouts?" NSCA's Performance Training Journal, Volume 6, #1, 2007.


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