A huge reason for having a workout log

written by Philip Stefanov  |  OCTOBER 19, 2021

I’ve always wondered how someone could train consistently and spend countless hours in the gym but refuse to track their training. The first logical question that comes to mind is, “How would you know if you’re improving if you don’t track your workouts?”

Any training is disruptive at first. But the human body adapts eventually and sees no reason to improve further. So, we need to force improvements consistently through intelligent practices, strategic overreach, and tracking progress.

Of course, some people don’t care about progress, which is also okay. Regular exercise is still beneficial, and there is nothing wrong with being happy with where you are. But if you care to get stronger and build muscle, you need progressive overload. Without it, your body won’t have a reason to keep adapting by getting stronger and building muscle because it can handle the physical stress well enough.

The problem is that many people suffer from a mismatch between goals and their work toward achieving them. Trainees work out consistently but do so haphazardly and often go for what feels good instead of doing work that will produce good results.

Do you approach your training that way? Going to the gym and deciding what to do based on how you feel? There is certainly an argument to be made about an autoregulated training approach. But that training style still needs structure, and the person following it still needs to cover all bases to keep improving.

At this point, I can hear some people asking, “Well, I work hard every time I’m at the gym. So why do I have to track what I do?” Fair point, and kudos for pushing hard. But this way of thinking is a slippery slope because you still have to rely on how you feel and, let’s face it:

We don’t always make the best decisions for long-term improvements. Sometimes, all we want is some comfort and the idea that we’ve been productive. You might feel like squatting 245 for 5x5 when you should be working with 290 for the same sets and reps.

Keeping a workout log is a way to ensure optimal performance and to stay honest with yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at my previous week’s performance, thinking, “There is no way I did that last week. How am I supposed to do this again or beat it?” And yet, by knowing that it’s possible, I would warm-up, take it set by set, and match or beat my performance. But if I were to go with my instincts, I would still ‘work hard,’ but end up pushing myself way below my true capabilities.

My point is, we are inherently lazy. As harsh as it may sound, our brain seeks comfort, and we need to be conscious of our shortcomings to push past our perceived limits and keep improving. Many people who reach plateaus don’t need fancy tactics or to change their training. Instead, they need to be honest with themselves and start pushing a bit more.

Three Simple Tips to Rock a Workout Log Like a Champ

1. Write your exercises down

The first and most obvious thing to do is write down the exact exercises you do. I also recommend you include details, such as:

  • If you’re using a weight belt or not - it can be a simple [B] next to the movement
  • If you’ve attached extra weight on yourself for bodyweight movements like pull-ups, push-ups, and dips

2. Write down the weight, reps, and sets

Rocking an effective workout log is about tracking your performance over time. The most straightforward way is to compare the load, number of sets, and reps each week.

For example:

Barbell back squat - 5 sets x 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4 (100 kg)

A few weeks later:

Barbell back squat - 5 sets x 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4 (105 kg)

Assuming that your technique hasn’t gotten worse, you’ve made progress.

3. Most importantly, review your performance

I’ve gotten into the habit of reviewing my previous week’s performance before each workout, and the benefits are tremendous. Doing so allows me to see where I was a week before and push myself appropriately. Plus, it gives me a nice goal to aim for.

Sure, you might not always see improvements. But even matching your performance is valuable.

Until next week,


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