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Track your Progress to Maximize your Gains

December 7, 2012
gym note book

Don’t judge me for my awful hand writing. I write these notes while out of breath between sets.

If you want to succeed in weight lifting then you absolutely have to track your workouts. For the longest time I tried to just remember how I did the week before and pick the right weight, and it even worked ok back when I was new and only did six exercises a week. These days I do 20+ different exercises every week and I can’t even come close to remembering what weight I did and how many reps I got.

Perhaps you are able to remember what weight you did but you but not the number of reps or whether it was too much weight and caused you to use bad form. Since I started tracking my lifting I have been making much better progress because I do a better job of picking the right weight. Before I would often pick a weight that was a little too hard or too easy. I would either end up only being able to do 2 reps or it would be so easy I would do 10 to 15 reps. Neither of these situations are optimal for building strength.

What to track in you note book

I track all kinds of information, of course the obvious stuff:

  • the exercise
  • the weight
  • the number of reps

It is also important to track the less obvious information:

  • Did you fail on the last rep or did you think you could have gotten one more
  • How much sleep did you get the night before
  • When was the last time you ate
  • How long did you rest between sets
  • Did you warm up with a jog
  • How long did you work out for

All of this additional information can help you analyze your training sessions and help you progress faster and avoid making mistakes. I feel more in control now that I keep a notebook. I am also able to see a measurable improvement because I know where I started.

  1. You are right. For anyone serious about making progress in their training it is important to track these things. It’s only in the beginning stages that you can recall all your reps and weights for the day. Eventually, your work output will surpass what you are capable of remembering.

    That being said, I no longer count reps, and try (unsuccessfully) to ignore weight. My tendency is toward extreme workouts; and starting as late in life as I did, and training as stupidly as I did, has led to injury after injury.

    Now I just train by feel, keep the weights lighter, and (usually) leave a few reps in the tank. No counting — it keeps me from pushing myself into that dark place I used to frequent . . . for the most part, anyway.


    • It sounds like you have figured out a good way of training for you. I am still trying to gain strength and get bigger so it is important for me to track all the details. It is better to avoid injury by taking it a little easier.

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