How to track your progress in the gym

Tracking your progress is an absolute necessity if you want to achieve significant goals in strength training. However most beginners fail to record their lifts and go on entire cycles without planning.

In this article I will present some advice to begin tracking your workouts in the best way possible.

 

Why should you track your workouts ?

 

Recording the exercices you do as well as the number of sets and reps will allow you to get a clear picture of where you stand on the muscle scale. Week to week, you will start to notice what is steadily increasing and …What is lagging behind !

You got it, the main benefit of tracking your workouts is to know what doesn’t …work out.

More over, without a clear picture of your work in the gym, it is impossible to reliably tell if you are following your prescribed program. The most important part of reaching your goals.

 

What to track exactly ?

 

The first objective of recording your workouts is to check if you are correctly following your program.
Therefore, the first thing you should write down is your list of exercises for the day. For that purpose I suggest the following organization :

Day Exercise name Weight Reps Sets Done
Monday Squats 100 8 4 ||||
Leg curls 50 12 4 ||||
Calf raises 60 12 4 ||
Wednesday Bench 80 10 4 ||| + 8
Cable fly 40 12 4 ||||
Face pull 40 12 4 ||||

With this organization you can easily control the number of sets you’ve done for each exercises and record your failed sets (+8 instead of a full set in this exemple).

After the list for each day, I suggest you also leave some space for either improvised exercises or for some notes about the workout of the day. These notes can help you keep track of your fatigue, recurring pains or new PR’s.

I also encourage you to take note of the days on which the bar speed was higher than usual. This increase in bar speed being heavily linked to increase in strength on the main lifts !

Finally, you could also use these notes to track periodically your weight, measurements or body fat levels. Frequency should be at your own discretion, but I suggest you limit your measurements to once or twice a month at most not to confuse daily fluctuation with the general trend.

 

How to do it easily :

 

The simplest way is to track your exercises on a physical notepad. Any notepad could do the trick but I advise you to look for smaller size notepads that you could take with you on your trip to the gym. Bonus points if it has some space to store a pen !

Spiral notebooks are perfect for this

Don’t hesitate to make this notebook very personal. I personally use different colors to highlight muscles groups but there are many other things you could do.

 

 

 

 

Another option is to record everything directly on your smartphone. And actually, there is an app for that … Or several. You could either get tempted by one of the many apps available on app store / play store or simply write down everything in a messenger app.

Using a messenger linked with your computer can also allow you to get your data back to a spreadsheet easily, which brings us to our next point…

 

Using the data :

 

Exporting your records to a spreadsheet can allow you to draw out trends and make graphs of your progression.

An example of anticipated volume and the actual volume done during the month

Those are useful in more ways than one as they motivate you to progress, allow you to design more efficient program and realize which are your worst or best days.

 

Conclusion

 

Now you have all the tools you need to start tracking your workouts. I hope all this info will make you want to start your own journal and try to hold yourself accountable !

Ukiyo-e by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

As an end note, remember to always prepare your exercise list in advance to avoid wasting precious time in the gym !

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