Why Tracking Your Progression Is More Important Than Exercise Selection

Don’t get me wrong, and don’t misinterpret the headline. Exercise selection matters, and should be considered closely. However, it’s just not the most essential part of your performance training plan – your path to dominate your sport.

To figure out the exercise selection for your program, you need to keep a few factors in mind:

  • Your sport and the movements that occur within it.
  • Your body composition (limb length, potential imbalances, etc.).
  • Your technique level.
  • The desired training outcome for each exercise.

That being said we all need to strengthen our fundamental movement patterns (squat, hinge, lunge, horizontal push/pull, and vertical push/pull), to start moving more efficiently, and thereby create a better foundation for our sports performance.

Does that mean that everyone could be performing the same exercises?

Yes and no. I know… what a bullsh*t answer. But that’s how it is with strength and conditioning – nothing is black and white. The answer is no because it depends on one big factor: the athlete’s technical skill set and exercise base. The answer is yes when we’ve built a foundation where athletes master great technique in a variety of exercises.

Let’s take a hypothetical example.

Team 1:

A group of athletes, where there is a big difference in technical skill level. One person needs to start out learning the technique of a bodyweight squat, another is ready for overloading the movement.

In this case, we need to individualize the exercise selection to meet the athletes where they are and challenge them enough to make an impact and create adaptation.

Team 2:

A group of athletes, who spend their earlier years training techniques on a variety of exercises, and therefore have a quite similar skill set going into the gym.

Now this group of athletes can benefit from the same training program – it is possible to push and challenge them with the same exercise selection. One thing becomes crucial. The individual tracking of each athlete’s progression and training data.

Tracking is everything!

It should go without saying that we can’t make one training program and expect everyone to perform equally in every exercise. The load management and tracking of training data have to be individualized to ensure that the training intervention is suited for the individual athlete.

This means that we are tracking: sets, reps, load, RPE scores, video of exercises, sleep, and other important elements for each athlete. This is the only way, that the same program, or exercise selection, is going to work for multiple athletes.

You have to use the data

There is nothing worse than tracked data that aren’t used for anything. Athletes hate tracking data, if you as a coach don’t even look at it or use it as an evaluation tool. The plan has to stay dynamic and may never go into a static state. By that I mean, that we should use the data to make individual adjustments to the training plan. This can be small changes like load management, or bigger changes like turning down the volume or, if necessary, switching out an exercise for another.

This method of systematic evaluation and feedback ensures the individualization that is needed to create big impacts and great results within a training intervention.

How you as an athlete and a coach decide to collect the data isn’t important. It could be via. apps, handwritten logs, Excel spreadsheets, or any solution that meets your needs and fits your workflow.

The tricky part is making the right decisions from the data

Coaches and athletes need to carefully analyze the information and use it to make the right decisions. It’s important to strike a balance between pushing the limits and avoiding injury. This implies that one athlete might be able to tolerate x amount of work, and another athlete has to do less work – to avoid injury. With the right approach, the tracking of data can be a powerful tool for improving performance and achieving success on the field or court.

To better understand the data, and thereby make the best and most informed decisions, having the right education and experience becomes crucial.


There are so many factors involved in creating the best performance training plan for athletes, the elements of exercise selection and tracking of data are just two pieces of the puzzle. We haven’t even begun to talk about the incorporation of the sporting calendar, the recovery strategies and so much more. However, I hope this article gives you an insight into the fact that, even though exercise selection is important, it might not be the most crucial part of the plan. You can choose the perfect exercise, but without proper tracking and systematic follow-up, it won’t do you any better than any other exercise.

As my final thoughts, I also wanna add that everyone should prioritize training, for the fundamental movement patterns and that it might not be as important which squatting variation you choose, as long as you know why you’re choosing A over B, and if B adds different value to your physical performance, that you consider changing from A to B in your next training cycle.

Sports Performance Specialist

Train With Purpose and Dominate Your Sport

Oliver Bay, Sports Performance Specialist
BARA Fitness

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