Today I’d like to share with you the single most important modification you can do to your training to start getting results. Take a notebook, the paper one (however, you can use your electronic device as well). Get a pen or pencil. Now write every set you perform down. How will it help you? You will see what works and what doesn’t right away. In addition, you’ll have something to refer to in a year, two or five, when you hit plateau. Referring to memory is possible and legitimate only if you are Patrick Jane. Otherwise, better begin that damn training log today.
What Is Training Log?
Training log is systematized history of your strength training. It is great thing, that allows you to remember every successful choice you made in your training, as well as all the stupid ones. It is simple. It is effective. It is cheap. It might be the best tool in achieving results.
I’ve seen almost no gains in my training prior to starting a training journal. Period.
Why Do You Need It?
Besides the obvious benefits, you get another point of control. I wrote the whole article on planning vs. training instincts, so I won’t repeat myself. There’s only one thing I want to add. Something will definitely go wrong even in the perfect plan. Training log gives you the ability to overcome this. You’ll be able to analyze the problem and find a reasonable solution, instead of wandering blindly.
My Own Marking
Finally we got to the fun part. People always get stopped from starting their training log by lack of knowledge regarding practical application. The trick here is to make marking as fast and effortless as possible. Otherwise, as experience shows, you won’t be doing this training log thing. I want to share with you the marking I developed for my own training journals. This may be your lucky ticket as it is the most convenient way, in my opinion. Let’s breakdown an example workout:
A1) Straddle Planche Push-Up BW x 5; 4; 3.5 /12
A2) Weighted Chin-Up 45 kg x 5; 5~; 3 /13
B) Double KB Swing 32 kg x 5; 5; 5.
As you can see, I use A, B, C, D… lists. Why? Because they make it easier to record whether you performed straight sets, alternated ones or circuits. You don’t need to write the whole word. You just know that A1) and A2) are sets performed back to back. B) and C) would be examples of straight sets. B1), B2) and B3) are example of circuits. In addition, you can use other way around list notation with success. For example, 2A) and 2B) for alternated sets etc.
After the position in workout I record the exercise that was performed (i.e. Straddle Planche Push-Up, Double KB Swing etc.), then the intensity that was used (i.e. BW for bodyweight, 45 kg etc.) and, finally, reps I got in particular set divided with “;” symbol. Good tip is to write the performed sets down horizontally, in one line, instead of vertically, in form of list. This way you save up your space and won’t need to buy new notebooks that often.
What the F-word does “3.5” mean in the last set of the first exercise? I use “.5” notation to record the failed rep. In other words, it means that I performed 3 clean reps and attempted the fourth, but failed. Despite being written down, the “.5” repetition doesn’t count.
Another trick is to use “~” notation. You will benefit from it at intermediate to advanced stages, when you can’t add reps every workout. “~” means that I performed the repetition, but don’t satisfied with its form. 5~ to 5 is another way to progress at later stages. I may count the ugly rep or not depending on its hideousness.
“/” stands for total amount of reps. You can read more about it here.
Should You Write Down Everything?
Yes and no. The more you write down, the better. I like to record everything I can (especially how did I feel in particular moment). However, you can get away with less. The bare minimum is the core of your workout, the exercises you want to improve the most. On the other hand, if you record the most important stuff but do something ultimately stupid with unimportant, it might not work. Anyway, everything is up to you.
Another great helper is a food log, of course, if you want to have less fat and more muscle. It is even simpler than the training one. You just weigh your food and write it down. Then you count calories and macros for that day. However, the right thing is to do it backwards. At first you count everything, make menu, then weight and eat.
If You Are Lazy, Get an App
With rise of technology you don’t need to do it all with physical carriers. There are lots of services and digital applications that will do all the work for you. I like Fitocracy, FitDay (browser version, not the app) and My Fitness Pal. Just “google”. However, I rarely use them. I prefer old school.
I guess, we covered all the possible problems that can pop up during recording your own training. Of course, all this information can be just result of my OCD. However, I believe that if you apply these techniques, you’ll thank me later. That day, when your training stalls, will come. Wouldn’t it be cool to know what worked for you in the past? How do you think, will you be able to solve your plateau with all the training experience written down or simply by relying on the most unstable thing in the world – memory? I think I made my point loud and clear. Thanks for reading.
If you have a friend, obsessed with strength, do a good thing and share this article with him.
Do you have any thoughts? Do you think that training log is definitely OCD? Do you think that it is OCD to have an OCD? Let’s chat in comments.
Alex “OCD” Zinchenko