What is Autoregulatory Training?

Tailoring your workout:

We’re all searching for the perfect workout. Without fail, most of us jump online, using supposed tried-and-true programs from famous bodybuilders or celebrities.

These programs might work for a bit, but we’re often left feeling like we never hit our full potential and results. And that’s no surprise because the programs you’ve been following are usually designed to match the body type, training goals, and genetics of that particular bodybuilder or celebrity.

But if you don’t have your own personal trainer, how can you start to adapt a workout that’s ideal for you? The answer is in autoregulatory training.

What is Autoregulatory Training?

The simple version of autoregulatory training is changing your workout variables while you are exercising to optimize results. But these intra-workout changes are explicitly based on your previous workout performance.

Sounds like an easy mental check-in with yourself, right? It’s a bit more complicated than that.

For this methodology to work, you’ll need to get in the habit of taking detailed notes about your workout. Thankfully, the days of the old school clipboard and pen are gone, and we have our phones.

Aside from playing your favorite motivation music, you can use your phone to do two key things:

First, download a fitness app that lets you track your workouts with a section for notes. Second, use a talk-to-text app to take notes about your workout for the day.

If you’re already recording your workouts on an app, adding a few notes won’t take much time. But what exactly should you be taking note of?

Which Variables Does Autoregulation Measure?

For every exercise, be sure to take notes on the following variables between sets:

The Basics: Weight, Sets, and Reps

If you’re using a fitness app, you’ll already have a dedicated spot for the amount of weight you’re using along with the number of sets and repetitions.

However, you’ll want to use that side section for notes on how you felt performing each set. Ask yourself the following questions and make notes of what’s relevant:

  • How did that weight feel? Was it too light / heavy?
  • Was that set too easy?
  • Was I able to adhere to the recommended time under tension?
  • Could I have performed more repetitions?
  • Was my form perfect or sloppy?
  • Should I increase my weight next set or focus on improving my form?


Most fitness apps won’t have a space dedicated to intensity so be sure to put this in your notes. To keep it simple, you can gauge the intensity as low, middle, or high. A number system also works. For example, with one representing no intensity and ten meaning the maximum intensity, how intense was that set?

Rest Breaks

On average, most bodybuilding workouts suggest a rest break of 60 seconds while strength training programs recommend around three minutes. But these one-size-fits-all rest breaks might not benefit you during your workout.

During rest breaks, take note of how you feel. Do you need more time to rest? Or can you actually jump into your next set right away? It’s important to consider this in relation to what you’ll change about your sets, reps, and intensity.

For example, if you plan on using more weight or increasing the intensity, a longer rest break might be needed.

Gear and Accessories

Finally, don’t forget to evaluate how the gear or accessories you’re using impact your performance. A few examples include the following:

Autoregulatory Training vs. Max Effort

Autoregulatory exercise seems to be the opposite of what many online fitness programs suggest: all-out effort for each set and rep.

There’s no doubt that maximum effort training is effective, but not for the long haul. Over time, this type of extreme do-or-die lifting can burn you out in two key ways:

First, if you’re moving at top speed all the time, your risk for injury will naturally increase. Workouts require ebbs and flows to avoid the breakdown of muscle and connective tissue. Think it’s a coincidence that professional bodybuilders, powerlifters, and athletes take time off after a season?

For example, Ronnie Coleman recently said that he took a few months off after winning the Olympia. No training whatsoever.

Second, your workout motivation is like a cup that needs to be refilled. Do you really think you’ll be able to maintain all of your motivation for an entire year of training? You’re going to have those days you don’t want to go to the gym. Lifting at maximum effort for every workout will zap that motivation faster.

Maybe you start with a max-effort exercise program for a few weeks, but by using autoregulatory training, you can keep those gains coming.

How to Perform Autoregulatory Workouts?

Here’s a quick recap and guide to getting into the habit of autoregulatory workouts:

  • Download a fitness app.
  • Make sure your phone has the talk-to-text feature. If it doesn’t, download the app.
  • After every set, take notes on your performance using the questions above.
  • Self-correct your exercise choices as you move through the workout, aiming for optimal performance as it relates to your goals. Don’t just shoot for bigger numbers.

Do You Use Autoregulatory Training?

What do you think of monitoring your progress intra-workout? Has this methodology helped to improve your workouts? Let us know on our Facebook!