This morning in the gym we got talking about the quality of training session's and ways in which to ensure you are maintaining the quality over the quantity.
I explained what Charles Poliquin had taught me many years ago about the critical drop off point. Basically, for a given training goal, you have a certain percentage of decrease that is acceptable before you call that exercise for the day and move on.
For example, if in a workout you were to perform 6 sets of 3-5 reps on the bench press and began the workout with 100kg for 5 reps, you would stop the workout if you had to drop the weight to under 93kg or if you couldn’t perform at least 3 reps with the 100kg.
It won’t do you any good to lower the weight more than this and proceed for extra sets. It will just tap into your recovery and make the next session a struggle as well.
Another time to consider the quality over quantity of a workout is in a de-load week. Charles always advocated dropping the volume and not the intensity. I have used this with great success over the years.
An example of this is to cut the amount of sets you are doing and not the load. So if you were performing 5 sets of an exercise, on your de-load week, you drop it down to 3 sets. You still lift as best you can for that day but the volume is lower.
In the past I have had coaches tell us to lower our lifts to 50% of the load we used in the previous week but we would still perform all the sets and reps. I didn't find this to be as effective as it is still mentally draining to get through the entire session, especially if the reps are a bit higher, and you can still accumulate a fair amount of fatigue. Also, why train to be weak. I would much rather get in, stimulate myself, and get out then to just drag a session out for the sake of it.
So, there are two quick ways to ensure you keep the quality of your workouts and not just increase the quantity. It will help you recover from workout to workout and decrease your risk of things like over-training, stagnation, and injuries.