Lifters' Corner: Notation

(reposted from our March 2018 newsletter)

You train - you don't exercise. And because you train, you keep a training journal. You record your warm-ups and your work sets, but one thing that keeps tripping you up is the notation. You can never remember which comes first . . . sets? Reps? Weights?

Let's talk a bit about this. Generally, there are two methods of notating your training: "sets x reps" and "weight x reps x sets." Thus, if you're program calls for you to squat 3 sets of 5 reps, you'll probably see "3 x 5" in your program, and when you record your work sets in your journal, you'll write "165 x 5 x 3" (if you squatted 165 lbs, for example).

You'll notice that the order of "reps" vs "sets" gets reversed in the two methods, and this is what throws people off. With that in mind, allow me to suggest a rule that might help you keep things straight: Reps are always second.

For example, if you see "4 x 6," you'll know that it means 4 sets of 6 reps since 6 is the second number, and reps are always second. Likewise, if you write "145 x 6 x 4" for your squat workout, you're indicating that you squatted 145 for 4 sets of 6 reps since - again - 6 is the second number, and . . . reps are always second. In this case, you call on your grade school skills and use context clues to determine that 145 lbs must be the weight and 4 must be the number of sets . . . since squatting 4 lbs for 145 sets is just plain ridiculous.

Hope this helps!