We often hear people at meets or in the gym talking about having great training cycles or about personal records. However, when lifters make these comments, they are not always certain of what led to the increase, or they are unsure of what they did in training to hit certain numbers. While they may have certain ideas, they often don’t have a concrete look or data to back any of this up. This is problematic because it can lead to inconsistencies later on, as the next training cycle may not build on what was gained previously or fit the new level of performance the lifter has attained. Since tracking volume is something that is controllable, it is important to learn the basics.

The thing about tracking volume is that it can be as in-depth or as simple as you care to make it. For some, this can be as easy as keeping a small written training journal. For others, tracking volume may consist of elaborate spreadsheets with every facet of volume, intensity, exercise selection, and so on reported. However, the purpose of this article is to take a look at a few ways of doing this and to give some suggestions so as to make this more worthwhile.

Volume Considerations and How to Determine What to Track

Before looking at what to track, it is important to understand why all of this is important. One of the very first articles I wrote as a columnist for elitefts.com dealt with how a lifter’s classification changes the amount of volume he does and the average intensity. This article was greatly influenced by the work of Roman and the manual The Training of the Weightlifter. In this book, Roman gives volume guidelines for each classification. These guidelines go as follows:

    1. Novice: 1,100-1,300 lifts monthly in the preparatory period and 900-1,000 monthly in the competitive period.
    2. Class III and II: 1,000-1,500 lifts monthly in the preparatory period and 750-1,050 monthly in the competitive period.
    3. Class I and CMS (Candidate for Master of Sport): 1,300-2,000 lifts monthly in the preparatory period and 950-1,450 monthly in the competitive period.
    4. MS (Master of Sport): 1,500-2,700 lifts monthly in the preparatory period and 1,100-1,900 lifts monthly in the competitive period.
    5. MSIC (Master of Sport International Class): Volume drops slightly to 1,300-2,500 lifts monthly in the preparatory period and 950-1,750 lifts monthly in the competitive period.

These numbers were compiled through observation and research of multiple weightlifters in the former Soviet Union. Something to keep in mind with these volumes is what we are counting when we talk about the number of lifts. In the examples in the book, Roman was talking about the classic lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk, pull variations of the snatch and clean, jerk variations, and front and back squat variations. These numbers weren’t tracking things such as general accessory-type exercises.

molly training log gabriel 072114

To take this further, we could look at Sheiko’s work on the subject. In his book, he tracks the lifts that are relevant to the powerlifting movements. This would be the squat, bench, deadlift, and their variations. While many of the templates floating around the internet feature certain variations that people have started to consider “Sheiko” exercises (such as deficit deadlifts, deadlifts to the knees, etc.), many of the common variations used in other templates such as box squats, board presses, and floor presses would also be counted in these total number of lifts.

As far as the other exercises—things like the general accessory movements for the specific muscle groups, these are tracked separately and do not add up to the number of lifts. In Sheiko’s book, he keeps these tracked in separate categories but does not calculate the intensities or tonnage from these types of movements.

So, now that we are on the subject of intensity, we have to understand that certain movements are subject to being tracked with certain intensity.

Where Intensity Fits In…

When looking at the above numbers, it is important to understand that every single lift that is performed in the appropriate movements will not get tracked. Both Roman and Sheiko break intensities into certain zones that have relevance to the sport. However, while they differ slightly, they feature a commonality in the thought that intensities under 50% are not counted in the calculated amount of bar lifts. To keep it simple, there are zones that basically are broken up as:

    1. 50%
    2. 51%-60%
    3. 61%-70%
    4. 71%-80%
    5. 81%-90%
    6. 91-100%

So, with this in mind, every lift that is at or above 50% will be counted, and from this, the amount in each zone can be calculated. This can give a certain insight into how many lifts per zone were performed, as well as what intensity zones may lead to the best results for a certain lifter.

molly deadlift gabriel percentages 072114

The next step of this is to record the exact weights and calculate the tonnage. How this comes into play would be a theoretical example of the following. To make this very simple, we will use the number 100 as the max to calculate the volume.  Let’s take a look at the following training session:

Squat: 50% x 6 x 1 set (50 x 6 = 300), 60% x 5 x 2 sets (60 x 10 = 600), 70% x 4 x 3 sets (70 x 12 = 840)

From here we can add up the total number of lifts. This would equal 28. The total volume of this movement would equal 1,740. We then divide 1,740 (total volume) by 28 (total lifts), we end up with an average intensity of 62% which is roughly 62 pounds for the weight. This can then be applied at the macro level of the week, month, etc.

Some may be wondering about movements where percentages aren’t used, or if you strictly go by RPE. This isn’t really an issue if the weight is tracked along with the RPE. In this case, you can break down the reps performed at each RPE and then divide the total tonnage by the total reps. Take a look at the following example:

Bench: 315 x 6 x 1 set @ RPE 6 (1890), 335 x 6 x 2 sets @ RPE 7 (4020), 355 x 6 x 2 @ RPE 8 (4260).

The volume here would be 10,170 for the movement. Divide this by the total reps (30), and this will give you the average weight of 339 pounds.

The thing about calculating intensities is that it becomes useful for the large-scale of an entire training cycle. Many times, data can become confused when people look at articles that talk about the average intensity. For example, in the article Intensity of Strength Training
 Facts and Theory: Russian and Eastern European Approach by Zatsiorsky, he states that the average intensity of the Russian weightlifters was 75%. However, the total number of repetitions observed from multiple lifters calculates this. This does not mean that the lifters only trained with percentages of 75% or between 70-80%. It only means that when all of the ranges of weights lifted were added together and calculated, the average ended up being roughly 75%. A broad range of percentages in the spectrum of 50-100% should be used, and different individuals may find that certain ranges work better for them.

Large Scale Programming

To go back to the beginning of the article, some of Roman's guidelines were listed as far as volumes for each designation of lifter. While some of these may or may not be appropriate depending on the individual, it offers an idea of how many lifts may have been performed in a period such as a week, month, or even year. This can help with setting up the calendar as far as meets go, designating preparatory and competitive months, and having an idea of what volumes may be needed in months, weeks, and sessions. Let’s use an example of the low-end of the Class I and CMS monthly recommendations:

bench gabriel log casey setup 072114

The monthly recommendation here is 1,300 lifts in a preparatory month. With four weeks (give or take), this could be broken down into weekly numbers. Something like this could work:

Week 1: 325 (Avg. 81 per session if training 4 days a week)
Week 2: 357 (Avg. 89.25 per session if training 4 days a week)
Week 3: 389 (Avg. 97 per session if training 4 days a week)
Week 4: 233 (Avg. 59 per session if training 4 days a week)

With this setup, the volume accumulates over the first three weeks, and then it drops during the last week to allow for recovery. The numbers per session are averages but could be waved as opposed to flat loaded. This could mean a day with a moderate amount, a high day, a low day, or any combination to wave this.

Taking a look at competitive months, the volume would start to drop and taper leading up to the meet. This is going off of the low-end of Roman’s guidelines of 950 lifts per month. Most likely, the intensity here would rise and the exercise selection would also be smaller than in the preparatory months. The ranges here are listed first, followed by the number per session for four days, and then the number per session for three days a week. Something like this could work:

Week 1: 250 (Avg. 63-83 per day)
Week 2: 275 (Avg. 69-92 per day)
Week 3: 300 (Avg. 75-100 per day)
Week 4: 150 (Avg. 38-50 per day)

Keep in mind that this is working off of Roman’s guidelines. Some things to consider here are what your current volumes are and what your training has been. Not everyone is capable of these volumes.

bench press log casey williams gabriel naspinski 072114

Of course, the next level of tracking the volume would be to calculate the tonnage for each session, each week, and then each month. The average intensity can then be calculated for each session, each week, and each month for each individual lift and even on a larger scale for an entire training cycle, year, and so on.


This is a very basic look at the idea of tracking volume, tonnage, and average intensities. When looking at the idea, it becomes apparent that having tangible data can help lifters have more consistency in their programming. With this, results may become more predictable with a better idea of what volumes may work and what may be too much to recover from. This also allows a lifter to have record of what he has done previously, and what he may need to change in order to continue to improve. This can also eliminate haphazard programming with results that are inconsistent.


  • Roman, R. A. (1988) The Training of the Weightlifter. Sportivny Press: Livonia, Michigan.
  • Zatsiorsky, V.M. (1992). Intensity of strength training facts and theory: Russian and Eastern European approach. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, 14 (5). 46-57.
  • Sheiko, B. (n.d.). Boris Sheiko’s First Book Chapters 1 – 4. Retrieved from: #