Weekly Progressions and Training Expectations

Weekly Progressions and Training Expectations - By Hayden Pritchard

I had to train early this morning. 

This was not normal, or ideal.

While training is important to me, it is far from the most important thing. Hence, although I prefer to lift in the afternoon, I wanted to go to my son’s vaccinations, which are booked at my usual training time.

So I made the call to get out of bed earlier, so I could still get my training in but prioritize my family.


There are people who love to train early, I think those people are crazy.

I am not a fan of lifting in the morning. 

For starters, I just don’t enjoy getting out of bed early - I do so when needed, but I am not a morning person. Furthermore, I have also found I feel weaker in the mornings - and who wants to lift when they are weaker?

So, I wasn’t going into training with my usual hope of moving slightly more weight, or the same weight better, than last week.

Weekly Progressions

Before we go any further, a brief aside on progression in training.

During a development block using Emerging Strategies, we repeat the same training microcycle. This means when approaching a new week of training, there are (typically) two ways to progress on a given exercise:

  1. Move the same load as last week, but with a lower RPE; or,
  2. Move a heavier load than last week, while maintaining the target RPE.

Generally, the first option is the goal if the target RPE was slightly overshot in the previous week, while the second option is typically used when the RPE was slightly undershot or was right on. There may even be a third option, of a lower load if the RPE was well overshot the previous week.

So, given I knew I was training at a time of day that I historically don’t perform well at, my expectation was to try to simply achieve the same loading and maintain the RPE. To me I would have called this a win, I would’ve taken that as progress from last week.

Why? Quite simply, if I hit the same load as last week, at a time I am normally weaker at, I would take that as progress.

Training Expectations

Expectations are important when using RPE, they ensure you don’t aim for things beyond the realm of possibility - when managed correctly.

Given this, they shouldn’t be a set thing, they should be fluid. Your warm-ups should inform the within-session training decisions. Whether those be to increase the target loads or to decrease them, in order to achieve the target RPE.

So, prior to my morning session, I wasn’t expecting my “usual” form of progress, i.e., I didn’t expect to lift more, or to lift the same load with a better RPE. I was expecting to match last week exactly and would take that as progression.

But as I said, expectations can change.

To try to mitigate the effects of a morning training session. I added a few more warm-up sets. To give the body a chance to “wake up”  - both figuratively and literally.

As I worked through the warm-ups, things felt pretty good. Better than I remembered from the previous week even.

This surprised me. It wasn’t what I was expecting.

So what did I do? Well, I adjusted my expectations. I decided I would target slightly heavier weights than the week before, even though it was a morning session.

The outcome?

+5kg on both of my top sets, matching the RPE from the week before, and hitting the programmed reps and RPE’s.

A big win, given the fact I was training in the morning.

Final Musings

This could easily have gone the other way. 

I could have struggled through the session, lifted the same as last week, but with a higher RPE.

However, this would still have been OK. Why? 

Because I went into training knowing this could have been the outcome. I had realistic expectations based on my past experiences. In fact, I was prepared for this to be the outcome.

But it wasn’t how it went. 

I was able to start the session with realistic expectations, aim to mitigate any issues, then make decisions within the session to best achieve the outcome.