How to measure work effort

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by Marino, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. Marino

    Marino Triple-Digit Post Count

    Is there a useful way to measure work effort to compare workouts? Trying to compare say 5 x 5 barbell squats with 10 x 10 kettlebell swings or swings with get ups. Simply adding up the weight moved doesn't take account of the time under tension or the effort of each move.
  2. wespom9

    wespom9 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    In terms of comparison in the two workouts for you, the RPE scale is a pretty good way to measure. There are tons of variables as you've pointed out, but RPE will give you a pretty reliable indicator of effort.
  3. Maine-ah KB

    Maine-ah KB Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    to my way of thinking a 5x5 barbell squat when compared to a 10x10 swings is a little like comparing apples to oranges. both are great and you should chose based on what your goals are/whats available to you.
  4. Oscar

    Oscar Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I think that you have to set a few hypothesis before being able to carry out the comparison.

    First, comparing different sets/rep schemes of the same exercise is difficult in itself. What is more work, 3 reps with 50 kg, or 1 rep with 100 kg? The first one is more poundage, but if 100 kg is your 1 RM, then the second will be much more effort.

    Then you have to determine how you will compare the different exercises. For this you have to define what is the point in comparing the exercises.

    In my opinion, a scenario where comparing different exercises would make some sense is for metcons. The exercises would have to be metcon friendly, for instance, squats with low weight, swings, snatches or running. The limiting factor of the exercise would have to be the metabolic effort itself, rather than the exercise (ie: gas out before you reach failure). If this is the case, I would compare by HR and duration.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  5. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    What a great question. I don't exactly have an answer, but some thoughts...

    To follow @Oscar's points, I would say they don't compare well because they're different types of target adaptations. 5x5 squats is primarily after a strength adaptation, though of course there is also some energy systems training and a lot of other things going on at the same time. With a strength adaptation, the meaningful "gains" happen after the session, as your muscles repair and rebuild stronger. A day or more of recovery is necessary. With kettlebell swings and get-ups, it's less of a targeted strength adaptation, though there is some of that that occurs too, of course. But there's more of a multi-faceted target adaptation of power development, energy systems training, skill, stabilization, and quality movement. The meaningful "gains" for these things happen mostly during the session or immediately after it, and the session is such that you can repeat it daily.

    What's the reason for the question? Trying to combine the two and monitor the overall stress for the week/month? Measure progress over time?
  6. Bauer

    Bauer More than 500 posts

    I like this grading system from Training for the Uphill Athlete:

    A - means you felt like Superman and had plenty in reserve.
    B - means it was a good workout. You completed the task with no problem.
    C - means you did the workout but felt flat or off.
    D - means could not finish the planned workout or had to reduce it.
    F - means you could not train that day due to fatige or illness.

    Red lights: Two Cs in a row or one C + one D within a week.

    For endurance sessions: One easy session for each missed session. Starting with about 50% volume or intensity and then going up slowly as recovery allows.

    It is more about energy/regeneration management and good for avoiding overtraining. However, it assumes that you have planned a sesson (see D). Sometimes I plan to have a reduced session - and when it goes well, is it a D or a B? That being said I still like it.
  7. Bauer

    Bauer More than 500 posts

    On a different note, I have read somewhere about the idea of "I will PR today". With this mindset you will try to improve on something. This could be a 5 rep PR, a 1RM PR, a tonnage PR, a total rep PR -- and even a perceived effort PR ("10x10 swings with a 32 kg, first time feeling easy").

    And then there is the rating system from
    It is combined with the idea of "make it pretty".
  8. Marino

    Marino Triple-Digit Post Count

    The motivation behind the question is seeking to explain weight gain as a result of changing routine but no dietary change. Moving from KB ballistics to 5 x5 barbell work plus some other things led to body weight gain. Adding up the poundage completed in a session and comparing it to another session was one thing I thought could be useful but I don’t think it is. As I thought about the question there seemed to be lots of variables. Comparing 10 x 10 swings completed in 5 minutes to the same number of swings completed in 15 minutes gives the same weight moved but one must be more metabolically taxing than the other. 5 x 5 deadlifts of 100 kg seems more taxing than 10 x 10 plus 4 x 1 swings with a 24kg. Is there such a thing as a metabolic unit of effort?
  9. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

    There is, yes. Metabolic equivalent of task - Wikipedia But I'm not sure how to line that up with kettlebell sessions.

    I can relate. Some is muscle, surely... 5x5 squats tend to do that. But it's very difficult to gain muscle and other lean body mass (bone, tendons, ligaments... they weigh something too; and the water in the muscle) without some additional fat along with it. My guess would be that your intake increased slightly to go with your appetite, which is driven by the lean mass gain driven by the exercise.

    Also, just speaking for myself, I figure that I burn less calories in a typical barbell strength session now during the session... but perhaps more in total. Today's barbell session (in lbs): Squat 170x5x3, bench 130x4x3, deadlift 280x5x2. A typical kettlebell session, just picked one from my training log from 4/17/17: 5 x 5 Cleans double 20kgs, 5 x 5 Front Squats double 20kgs, 10 x 5 half-snatch double 12kgs, Farmer's carries 4 x 90 sec double 20kgs, 5 x 10 sec L-sit. I used to get sweaty, generally. Now I hardly ever do.

    More taxing, yes. Burn more calories, maybe not.

    I think what it comes down to is 1) do the exercise you want to do for your desired goals and changes, and 2) adjust your macro nutrient intake to support those goals and adjust the overall calories to lose, gain, or maintain, as you wish.
    Oscar likes this.
  10. psmith

    psmith Double-Digit Post Count

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  11. musicsherlock

    musicsherlock My Third Post


    I use METs to track exercise volume. I use a value of 9 for Kettlebell Swings and a value of 5 for GSQ & TGUs...then times by minutes

    02 - Conditioning Exercise - Compendium of Physical Activities

    MET (Metabolic Equivalent): The ratio of the work metabolic rate to the resting metabolic rate. One MET is defined as 1 kcal/kg/hour and is roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly. A MET also is defined as oxygen uptake in ml/kg/min with one MET equal to the oxygen cost of sitting quietly, equivalent to 3.5 ml/kg/min.
  12. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Elite Certified Instructor

  13. Bauer

    Bauer More than 500 posts

    However, I don't think multiplying with time is usefull for strength training or ballistics (except for density protocols). An S&S test day is harder but shorter than a talk-test regulated training day. Or is that the point of it?
    I reckon time under tension or total volume (reps) or even tonnage might be better indicators here. There might even be a study on this. Maybe something like 100 (reps) x 24 (kg) x 4 (RPE) = 960 A.U. would be an average S&S session. Or just 100x 4 = 400.

    Further I didn't know that the RPE scale is apparently roughly exponential. I think the mainstream way is to frame 10 to be maximum effort and 7 to be somewhat hard (at least that's how people like Tim Anderson frame it) -- which would actually be a 4 here. I guess the difference is in asking for a number or for a verbal summary -- and then taking into account that higher efforts take more out of someone than moderate efforts.


    Here is a quote from Pavel on RPE:
    From: ‘Unrealistic’ Athletic Goals: Why and How to Pursue Them
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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