Using a Progress Log for Training

Called a log book, workout diary, training journal, fitness chart, or any combination that shares the same intention, a progress log allows you to measure your results. You may not require it if you can remember your workout with a simple program, but it can still motivate you and serve more reliably than memory.

Variables

You can view your progress log after your warm-up and record the results as you finish each exercise.

Include at least these factors for your progress log:

  • Equipment Settings
  • Exercises
  • Weight
  • Reps

As a beginner, variables such as how often you train and when you prefer to train may change, so these factors would help someone with this status:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Exercise Order

The next tier of variables can be as involved as you want:

  • Warm-Up Sets
  • Rest Lengths
  • Workout Length
  • Rep Speed (if too fast or too slow)
  • Non-Training Factors (hours of sleep, amount of calories, etc.)
  • Thoughts and Feelings (Use a 1-10 scale, such as how good you feel.)

Make sure these variables are specific, measurable, and relevant.

If you perform a row, make sure you record the grip used. Although you should use between an underhand and neutral grip, if you did vary your grip each time but failed to note it, this would lack specificity.

For reps, make sure you have a measurement for the range of motion. If you count going up and down without any endpoints as a rep, then you may develop a tendency to decrease the distance as your exercises grow harder.

Monitoring rest lengths when improving strength may be irrelevant. Perhaps you take as long as needed between exercises since you have no intention to elevate your heart rate such as with intervals. If you do something the same way each time without fail, avoid recording it.

Trends

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

– Bill Gates

Try to determine trends in your data. You perform best in the morning or the evening. You make faster progress with lower reps or higher reps. You never make progress if you got less than 6 hours of sleep the night before. If progress stagnates, tinker with things and try something that works.

Warnings

Avoid obsession with the numbers at the expense of good form. If you round your lower back on the squat to get your last rep, you risk your safety.

Stay accurate. You may fail to remember you made an exception 3 months from now. You are cheating yourself if you list 8 reps to earn a weight increase the next session when you got 7 ¼. Making exceptions skews your data and only feeds an illusion.

Importance

Early on in your training career, you may want to measure more rather than less. This will establish consistency. You may struggle to find the right exercise order for example.

Over time, you settle on an order and no longer need to monitor it.

Journaling in general is a good idea. A cue list for good form has great value. Tracking your calorie intake is important in striking the right balance between just enough calories to either gain or lose weight while minimizing bodyfat.

Consider Using a Progress Log

You must use more weight and reps over time to make progress. Writing something down tends to make it come alive, making your vague hopes turn into goals and actions. A record allows you to view your efforts through cold, hard data to make better decisions. If you have not internalized your workouts or see value beyond a replacement for memory, then use a progress log.

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