I know, I make it sound as if it were optional. But truth is, you absolutely must keep an updated training log. Be it in your computer, online, on a notepad (whatever floats your boat), this is a must have for any trainee, whatever your goals are. Why should you keep one?
Checking where you’re at
This is basic. It lets you know, objectively, where you’re at: what exercises you’re doing, what weights you’re moving (if any), what volume you’re doing, intensity, etc. Everything should be written down. Why? Because tomorrow you may forget what you did today, and you may need to make adjustments.
Checking what you’re doing
This is very important. This will let you know what it is that you’re regularly doing, what you’re paying extra attention to (probably your strong points). This will allow you to adjust and make sure everything you’re doing is balanced (unless you’re doing it on purpose).
It will show you what you’re not doing
As important, or even more so, than the former point. It will let you know what you’re regularly skipping. Ever heard someone make a question about their training and how it’s not giving them results? Here’s where the answer lies most of the time. Check what you’re missing, it will probably be the key to success.
Let’s you see what’s working, and what’s not
Try keeping a log regularly for 3 months and check on your goals. How much closer are you? What’s gotten closer? Then check your log, you’ll see exactly why. Keep what’s working, change what’s not. This is the main benefit of having a training log: it helps you.
As stated before: you’re going to see what’s working and what’s not. Having a clear status on this will let you know what to change and how to change it.
Tailoring your routine
Eventually your training log will be a huge fountain of information about your training. Showing exactly what works, what doesn’t and for how long. You’ll be able to broscience the whys. How’s this important: you’ll be able to tailor your routine and program to yourself. Nobody will know you better than yourself after this. This is very important when you’re experimenting new things, adding exercises or adding extra days to your routine.
Keeping a track of your training program day in and day out will allow you to experiment and track the results (if there are any). Say you started bridging: you’ll know every change in your range of motion, hip strength, back strength, hypertrophy, endurance, flexibility,… (as long as you keep a very detailed track that is). If things changed according to your goals you’ll keep it, if, on the other hand, they haven’t, then you’ll either drop it or make the necessary changes until it starts working towards your goals.
How to keep a training log
Any good training log needs to have a couple of things:
- Your goals: keep them simple and specific (here’s an older post in which I cover goal-setting). Don’t forget to give them a time frame.
- Your stats: this will be your before picture if you want. All the stats regarding your goals should be here (weight, 1RM, max pull-up number, etc.)
- A blank page: This will be to have a side by side of your before and after. You’ll later fill it with your “new and improved” (lets hope) stats.
- The training log proper. In here you’ll put a date and what you’ve done for the day. Exercises, sets, reps, weights, rest periods, notes for your next workout (as in “add reps”, “add weight”). You want to keep it as detailed as you can.
Keep this for a couple of months and you should be able to objectively see your improvement. What are the benefits? Besides what I’ve written before, it’s a great source of self-feeding motivation. No one wants to quite while they are on a streak!!