My Problem With AutoRegulation


As I was sitting by my computer the other day, the soreness in my glutei maximii very vivid from a workout I had no motivation to perform, I started reflecting on the auto regulation phenomenon infecting the fitness scene.

There are 3 reasons you should grab a bowl of potato and continue reading:

  1. I’m about to tell you what my problem with auto regulation is and how most trainees use the technique incorrectly
  2. I will show you how to use it to get better results in your own training
  3. At the end, there is a picture of a potato unicorn that farts rainbows (don’t peek just yet!)

What Is Auto Regulation?

Auto regulation is a fancy term that personal trainers love to use to appear educated. It makes them seem hip and innovative. To me personally, it’s the seventies porn music equivalent to today’s resistance training scene.

Technically, it is a method by which the trainee increases strength by progressing at their own pace based on daily and weekly variations in performance, unlike traditional linear periodization, where there is a set increase in intensity from week to week.

In essence: decide how much weight you lift based on how you feel.

Sounds comfortable?

Well it is, and that is exactly my problem with it, since lifting heavy weights week in and week out is no way near comfortable.

Gives You A Great Reason To Skip Your Workout

In my opinion when something new and hip comes around, the pendulum almost always swings too far in one direction.

What if you don’t feel like training in the first place? Is auto regulatory training not a perfect excuse to stay at home and watch How I Met Your Mother instead? After all, this kind of training was about skipping doing things you don’t feel like doing, right?

This is where many trainees go wrong, and it’s my main concern with how people adapt to the technique.

Research supports AutoRegulation as an effective tool when deciding on which training load to use, not deciding whether you should workout in the first place. >> Click To Tweet This Quote

Read that again. I’ll wait. Tweet it too – it’ll make you sound super smart to all your followers.


To build a physique like this you need to go to the gym even when you don’t feel like it.

The only thing I know, is that the soreness in my butt as I am writing this is highly appreciated, and had I not performed the workout the other day, I would be sitting in this chair comfortably, and I absolutely hate sitting down comfortably.

Try Smart Auto Regulation Instead

Always have a plan – a goal for the workout. Check your last results on every exercise. Give everything you’ve got and try to beat your previous numbers.

Auto regulation will take care of itself. If there is no way you can get the weight you were hoping for, feel free to auto regulate: reduce load and work on technique or add some low load high volume work.

DO NOT skip going to the gym just because you don’t feel like training and justify it with the auto-regulation wildcard.

Like I’ve said a thousand times before: how you feel is a lie, and in the long run, you will miss many of your best workouts just because you did not feel like going to the gym.

Take-Home Message

I have no problem with auto regulation per se; I believe it can be a useful tool when deciding upon training load. My problem with it is when it becomes an excuse for skipping workouts.

Use Auto-Regulation as a tool for deciding on the load you are to use based on how you feel in the gym, not at home.

Learning to perform with maximal capacity on sub-optimal days is a skill. It can be taught, but only if you get to the gym in the first place. I’ve lost track of the number of awesome personal records I’ve set on days that I thought were going to suck.

A big PR on your best day is cool. But what’s more awesome is the PR you managed to pull off on your worst day. That’s almost as cool as this potato unicorn…


Do you think the best athletes in the world got to their current level by training on their best days only? I think not.

Do you have any experience with auto-regulatory training that you’d like to share?
Drop a comment below!

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2 comments on “My Problem With AutoRegulation
  1. Richard says:

    Nice post!

    I get what you’re saying. I’ve used auto-regulation in the past, and still do I guess, but never to SKIP a day of training. Here’s my interpretation: Let’s say I’m on a higher volume day with the intention to perform 4 – 6 sets. Auto-reg would simply determine how many. Feeling great? Do 6, feeling crap? Do 4. Simple! I often use it to add/ditch finisher movements from my workouts depending on how I feel.
    The concept is fairly intuitive to me; I don’t set out to have an ‘auto-regulated training session’, I just train. It sounds to me that those who use it to determine whether or not to train in the first place, have an issue with motivation, and are kidding themselves with auto-reg.

  2. Shane says:

    I agree with you. I think if training is one of your main priorities, it might work really well. You’re always gunning to train and when you feel loaded full of energy you hit the gym and kick some ass. If you overdo it, you rest a little extra or drop the volume/intensity down a little.

    These days when I’m full of energy I usually spend my time working on my business. I train afterwards—in the evening— and by then my energy levels and willpower are somewhat depleted.

    Training hard even if I’m not feeling my peppiest has me seeing good results while still keeping my priorities in order.

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