How To Maintain a Useful Training Log

Written by Tim Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT

Now that you’ve made the decision to commit to a fitness journey, it’s essential you keep some form of a training diary or log.  This is vital to your long-term success and Fit Deals is a staunch advocate of the use of such training logs for individuals of all levels.  You may react in any of three ways to this proposition: (1) That’s a pain in the butt – just let me work out; (2) Sure, I’ll scribble some loose notes if anything interesting happens in my workout; or (3) Sounds good, I’m committed to being on board.

If your reaction is the first, namely that you think keeping a log is tedious administration, then the remainder of this article is for you, in particular.  If you reacted the second way, that is, you’ll agree to some occasional spontaneous notes, then you’re also in for an education – so read on.  Finally, if your reaction was the third way, we’re delighted to have you on board with this very important element of a training program.

>> Setting the foundation for fitness.  A popular fitness chain once had the slogan that “what gets measured, gets improved”.  This axiom is very true, and it of course applies universally to people who train at any fitness facility (or at home).  If your ambition is to lose weight or inches around your waist, then take a few short seconds to measure your numbers and jot them down.  This simple starting point will form the basis for everything to follow.  The same advantage applies if your desire is to actually put on weight in the form of lean muscle, or if you have a certain muscle group that’s lacking and you’re going to train consistently to bring up size.  Write down your starting point.

>> Applications in athletics.  Another application within the realm of initial measurements is to account for how much weight you can lift, if your desire is to improve as a weightlifter, powerlifter, or sports athlete.  A popular goal that used to be exclusive to men, which is now often the goal for many women, is to determine maximum ability in the deadlift.  Therefore, right from the impetus of your very first workout in this program, you should identify how much you can lift right now.  Again, this is your starting point as the foundation for you to look back upon with great satisfaction, after numerous weeks of continual improving.

>> The ins and outs of a training log.  There’s a lot more to a training log then simply registering which exercises you perform, along with the respective number of sets and reps.  A widely overlooked (but important) measurement is rest periods between sets, so you know how long your body is taking to recover, and how soon you’re stimulating your muscle again.  In fact, there are numerous other measurements you can account for, so let’s take a look at a full slate of measurements you can employ:

REPS.  The number of reps you perform in a set.  This number can be 1, and often is.
SETS.  The number of sets you perform for any given exercise.
REST.  The length of time you take to rest between sets.
F.  Failure.  If you perform 6 reps then fail, note it as 6F.
AO.  All Out.  You didn’t quite fail, but it took everything you had to perform, say, 8 reps.  Note this as 8AO.
NEG.  Negatives only.  A spotter or machine helped you perform the positive portion of the rep, but you performed the negative by yourself.
TUT.  Time under tension.  Instead of standard reps, you performed them slowly, say for instance 5 seconds.  Note this as 5TUT.
½.  Partial reps.  If you perform a move like the biceps curl only half way, note your reps here as ½.
COMP.  Compound sets.  If you perform back-to-back exercises that complement each other, note it as COMP.
SUPER.  If you perform back-to-back exercises that oppose each other, note it as SUPER.
SPEED.  If you go for the huge, fast pump and finish an exercise with a set of explosive reps, note it as SPEED.

The above notations are simply suggestions, since there’s no law which dictates you must use them.  However, it’s really in your best interest to further your training knowledge.  Are you an imaginative sort?  Get creative and come up with your own notes to keep a better grasp on performance.  This is a sure-fire way you’ll get important information to keep improving!


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