Keeping an exercise log can help you stay on track with your fitness and diet goals. Learn the six reasons why you need one.
Making progress toward your health, diet and fitness goals isnt easy especially if you arent keeping track of that progress. One of the seven healthy habits of highly-fit people is that they keep a log of their exercise (and often, diet) in order to keep themselves accountable.
But are exercise logs really necessary? Cant you just keep track of your workouts in your head?
Check out these six reasons for keeping an exercise log or journal and decide for yourself:
Reason #1: Exercise Logs Let You Measure Progression
One of the basic principles of weight training is progression.
During each additional workout you need to challenge yourself to overload the muscle a little more than the last workout. Depending on your goals, this progressive overload will continuously strengthen the muscle, increase endurance, size or a combination of the three.
However, if you dont know how much weight you used, the number of repetitions or how many sets of a given exercise you performed, it becomes very difficult to consistently overload the muscle and make progress.
By keeping detailed notes of your exercises, the order in which they were performed in, the weight used, repetitions, sets and rest periods, youll always know exactly what you did in your previous workout. This will help you make sure that your next workout is slightly different and slightly more challenging than the last.
Reason #2: Exercise Logs Help You Identify Sticking Points in Your Workout
Ever have a workout where you felt weaker than normal during a particular exercise?
This can be the result of many factors, including overtraining, the order in which you performed your exercises, the intensity or volume of the exercises you did before the current one, or even whether you did cardio before your weight training.
Training logs provide a quick way to look at all of the different variables in a given workout and identify factors that could be impacting your performance.
For example, performing tricep exercises before other large pressing movements can leave you weaker than normal when performing chest or shoulder presses later in your workout.
If you can quickly look at all of your exercise information from previous workouts in one place, youre more likely to notice that whenever you perform tricep pressdowns before chest presses, you cant perform as many chest presses.
With this knowledge, you can now try changing your order of exercises to see if it improves your chest press performance. And youll know whether it works, because youll have recorded it.
If you werent keeping an exercise log, this type of analysis would be nearly impossible.
Reason #3: Exercise Logs Help You Keep It Real
The uncomfortable truth is that most people overestimate the amount of work they perform during their workouts or weight training.
Theyll jump on a weight machine or pick up a pair of dumbbells, pump out a few reps and think that theyve worked harder than their last workout. But how do they really know?
They usually dont.
Unless, of course, they are keeping an exercise log.
Writing down the details of each workout lets you have a true and realistic view of your performance in the gym.
Self-deception never resulted in a better physique or improved health and the very act of recording your training regimen ensures that you are conscientious of what you are actually doing during your workouts, versus what you think you are doing. This is critical to meeting your short- and long-term fitness goals.
Reason # 4: Exercise Logs Help You Break Training Plateaus
Training plateaus are inevitable for everyone, regardless of their level of experience or motivation in the gym.
The bodys predisposition is toward maintaining the status quo when it comes to strength, endurance and muscle size. Its not unusual for someone who has just started exercising or weight training to make fairly rapid progress in the first six months and then hit a wall. For more experienced gym-goes, those plateaus come more frequently.
DID YOU KNOW? The more fit you become, the more challenging it is to improve your performance or add additional muscle, since highly-conditioned individuals are often closer to reaching their genetically-determined potential than beginners.
But breaking through a training plateau is much easier when you can look back over subsequent workouts in your training log and identify the practices that resulted in progress, or those that maintained the status quo.
For example, lets say you you want stronger, more well-developed shoulders but just dont seem to be making progress, despite performing set-after-set of dumbbell shoulder presses.
You look in your training log and notice that you are always performing shoulder presses after your bench presses. Bench presses activate the triceps and front delts (front of the shoulders) to assist during the movement, so you decide to try shoulder presses first in your workout, when your delts and triceps are fresh.
Suddenly you find you have added 15 lbs and an additional three reps per set, just by reordering your workout. The next thing you know, your shoulders are looking larger and more defined.
You know this because your training log told you so.
Often, breaking a plateau is requires nothing more complicated that trying something new or making a slight change in what you are doing in the gym. Keeping a journal of everything you do each workout ensures that you never stay in a rut for too long.
Reason #5: Exercise Logs Keep You Motivated
Ever have one of those days when you feel like youre not making progress toward your goals in the gym and you get down on yourself?
It happens to everyone.
One of the great things about training logs is that when youre feeling a little less motivated than usual, you can page back through your workouts and see the progress youve made over time.
Whether youve been working out for six months, a year, or six years, people often forget just how far theyve come since those first days in the gym.
Saving your training logs allows you to go back to your very first workouts and see how much youve actually progressed. Sometimes this is all it takes to get you fired up about working out again. It also helps create a sense of pride in what youve accomplished.
I keep every one of my workout journals (I have six now), and whenever I go back to my first journal, Im always astounded at how much Ive accomplished since then. This can be very motivating during those times when I ask myself Is it all worth it? I also try to frequently review my previous two months of workouts to see if Im actually progressing or not. If it looks like workouts are kind of flat, this can motivate me to workout harder the next time.
Reason # 6: Exercise Logs Give You The Big Picture
Training logs dont have to be just for recording exercises, weight, reps and sets.
A good training log will also contain notes about miscellaneous items like the amount of sleep you got the night before, your energy levels before and after exercise, whether you ate before working out, what your mood was like, the amount of time your workout lasted and even things like whether you felt a cold coming on, or were recovering from an illness.
All of these factors can impact your performance in the gym. Being aware of how the effect your workout can help you make lifestyle and diet adjustments that can improve your progress and lead a healthier, more satisfied, and fit, life.
The Takeaway: Dont Skip the Exercise Log
Keeping an exercise log is one of the single most effective methods of ensuring that you reach your fitness and exercise goals and continue making progress in the gym.
While there are some very nice pre-printed exercise logs available at the bookstore or online, you dont need anything fancy to start realizing the benefits of recording your workouts. An inexpensive spiral notebook will do just fine in a pinch. If high-tech is more your style, there are also some excellent exercise log applications available for download to your PDA or cell phone.
I would like to print some of the workout logs but when i try to print them it comes out to small, what should i do?
These are all great reasons to keep a training log.
Personally I use training logs for all of the reasons you cited but what I really like is they take all of the guess work out of my workouts.
I never have to wonder at what weight I should be starting each exrecise off with because all I have to do is look up the last time I did it!
Great point Daniel. Im constantly amazed at how many people workout regularly, yet never keep track of their progress in a written workout log.
Yesterday I was visiting a local gym for an upcoming review and was talking with one of the staff, and he saw my workout log on my clipboard. He asked me if I wrote everything down, as if that was unusual.
He mentioned that he was good at keeping track of everything in his head so I challenged him to let me follow three of his workouts and let me record his progress to see if he really was starting at the same place each time, as well as progressing in some way (either more reps, sets, weight, etc.) Well see if he takes me up on it.
I think it would be an interesting experiment to grab three people who think that they are keeping track of everything fine in their head without a workout log and see what they are actually doing. Look for this in a future post.
Also, I was floored when I talked to a female friend who was paying a personal trainer for 15 sessions. I worked out with her yesterday and asked her if I could see her exercise log so that I could get an idea of her workout and weight used. She told me her TRAINER didnt keep a log with her.
I was floored.
Ive just assumed that most people who are serious about working out keep an exercise log of some sort. But more and more, this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule.
To me this just seems so fundamental. So obviously, we still have some work to do on building awareness around this. Keeping a log was the single best thing I did to make progress in the gym, both in strength and aesthetics. I couldnt imagine going back to “winging it” and just spinning my wheels workout-after-workout.
Hope youll stop by again and thanks for participating in the discussion.
I was stubborn when I first starting working out, and assumed I could remember what weights and times I had during my workout. It didnt take me long to realize that I couldnt remember it all.
Once I started keeping track I made a lot more progress with my workouts and didnt lose any time doing a weight I had already reached.
Is this necessary to worm up before stating excerise.
Exercise logs definitely help me keep track of my workouts and progress when Im doing my vertical jump training. Thanks for another awesome post!