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The title of this post comes from an old Chinese proverb and is very relevant to tracking training or workout data. I’ve had quite a few people come to my gym that have told me they’ve had a coach/personal trainer before and he or she never wrote down the workouts, and therefore, nothing was tracked. Unless someone has the most unbelievable memory, how in the hell could you remember what the person you’re training did? All the exercises, weights lifted, rest periods between exercises, the speed in which you performed the exercise? There’s no way you’d remember all that.

So to showcase some important data that we track here at USI, let’s use a current workout one of my clients Steve Cohen is doing. I won’t use the entire program so this doesn’t get confusing, just Steve’s first two exercises (A1 and A2).

Steve’s current program is an Agonist Superset. Two exercises performed back to back that involves the same muscles (the benefits are explained in the last three paragraphs).

Upper Push


So under the Exercise Results, you will see the following.

A1: Push-up Feet on Bench

Average weight lifted: 162 (that’s because that’s what Steve weighs)

Average Reps: 9.5

Estimated 1RM: 215.2

Total Weight: 648

Total Reps: 38

Total Sets: 4

Total Tonnage: 6156


A2: Bench Press – Flat – Medium Grip – Pronated (using the Tsunami Bar)

Average Weight lifted: 85

Average Reps: 7

Estimated 1RM: 105.3

Total Weight: 340

Total Reps: 28

Total Sets: 4

Total Tonnage: 2380


The second time Steve did this workout here’s what his numbers looked liked.

Steve Cohen's second workout


A1: Push-up Feet on Bench

Average weight lifted: 162 (Steve’s body weight was the same as the last workout)

Average Reps: 10.5

Estimated 1RM: 220.3

Total Weight: 648

Total Reps: 42

Total Sets: 4

Total Tonnage: 6804


A2: Bench Press – Flat – Medium Grip – Pronated (using the Tsunami Bar)

Average Weight lifted: 90

Average Reps: 9.5

Estimated 1RM: 119.5

Total Weight: 360

Total Reps: 38

Total Sets: 4

Total Tonnage: 3420


Steve improved because we had established a frame of reference with the first workout and because we know how to properly increase poundages without having him do too much and fail. So let’s look at Steve’s improvement from the two workouts.


A1. Exercise

Average Reps: ↑ 1.5

Estimated 1RM: ↑ 5.1 pounds

Total Reps: ↑ 4 more reps

Total Tonnage: ↑ 648 more pounds lifted


A2. Exercise

Average Weight Lifted: ↑ 5 pounds

Average Reps: ↑ 1.5 more reps

Estimated 1RM: ↑ 14.2 pounds

Total Reps: ↑ 10 more reps

Total Tonnage: ↑ 1040 more pounds lifted (that’s big).


One of the most important aspects to get results is progressive overload. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during training. You have to get stronger. Hopefully, I don’t have to explain the benefits of getting stronger so I won’t. But without tracking data how do you know you’re getting stronger?  The best way to not make progress and stay the same is not giving your body a reason to change. Not getting stronger is a good reason for your body to stay the same. You must track data to know whether or not a program is working and to know when it stops working so a new program can be made.


Now, what are the benefits of doing an agonist (same muscle group) superset as opposed to just doing one exercise (not two in a row)? Basically, it comes down to how long the muscles involved are placed under a load or tension. This is often referred as time under tension. If Steve just did the first exercise (Push-Up Feet on Bench) with a tempo of 4010 and 15 reps that would be 75 seconds that he would be under tension. Because we’ve paired two exercises for the same muscle group together his total time under tension is now 130 seconds (at least for his first set. He loses reps on the remaining sets, therefore, changing how long he’s under tension for).

Agonist supersets can be good for anyone that wants to put on gain muscle, but the time under tension would be different depending on the goals of the person, the age of the person, how long the person has been training, and a host of other factors. The amount of time Steve was under tension for is a bit long for some people, especially younger people that have been training a long time. But since Steve is 59 years old it’s good for him. At Steve’s age, we really cannot have him doing max effort lifts too often and one of the correlations to a long healthy life is muscle mass. It gets harder to maintain it as you get older so training in rep ranges and tempos that can keep it and not beat up the joints too much is a good idea.

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