Hacking The Workout Journal: How to Track Your Workouts in The Most Effective Way Possible

How to Track Your Workouts in The Most Effective Way Possible

In this article, I’m going to be giving you my best tips on how to track your workouts in the most effective way possible.

Because without tracking your workouts ( and improving on them) you won’t’ make any substantial long term progress in the gym, it’s as simple as that.

In order to develop a more muscular physique, it’s important to build strength. This is called progressive overload.

Without progressive overload, your body stays the same. There must be a stimulus for growth to occur because your body needs a good reason to change.

If you don’t track your workouts it’s impossible to know if progressive overload is occurring.

What To Use For A Workout Journal

Some people like to use a notepad or a purpose-made workout journal but it really doesn’t matter what you use. Because as long as you’re striving for progress in your workouts by getting stronger, any option will do.

For a long time, I’ve just used my notes app on my iPhone. There are also purpose-made apps such as the app strong which I’ve used before and found to be useful.

How I Journal My Workouts

I plan my training in 8-week cycles and after every 8 weeks, I have a week off from the gym. This is called a deload week. And it can be very productive for the next training cycle.

Every 8-week interval is called a training phase and typically I complete 6 training phases in a year.

I make my yearly training phase in advance on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet although you can also use google sheets.

And each week I track my workouts on the notes app on my iPhone. And every Sunday I add the week’s worth of workouts that I’ve completed to my spreadsheet.

An Example Of One Weeks Worth Of Workouts For A 3 day Push Pull Legs Program

Monday: Push Day

Barbell bench press 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Dumbbell shoulder press 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Dumbbell bench press 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Standing lateral raises 8 -10 reps for 3 sets

Cable crunches 8- 10 reps for 3 sets

Wednesday: Pull Day

Barbell deadlift or barbell row 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Seated cable row for 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Lat Pulldown for 8 -10 reps for 3 sets

Dumbbell row for 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Cable crunches 8-10 reps for 3 sets

Friday: Leg day

Barbell squat for 8 – 10 reps for 3 sets

Romanian deadlift or hamstring curls for 8 – 10 reps for 3 sets

Leg press for 8 -10 reps for 3 sets

Calf raises for 8 – 10 reps for 3 sets

Warm Up Sets

It’s very important to know that you must perform warm-up sets before you perform the first exercise of each workout.

For each workout warm-up for the first exercise only, although the push day is the only exception to this rule.

Monday ( Push workout) warm-up for the barbell bench press and shoulder press.

Wednesday ( Pull workout ) warm-up for the deadlift.

Friday ( Leg workout) warm-up for barbell squats.

Once you’ve warmed up for these compound exercises your muscles will have an increased blood flow and your body temperature will be higher which will reduce the risk of injury.

The reason you don’t have to warm up for the rest of the exercises in your workouts is because the compound exercises such as the barbell squat, deadlift, bench press and shoulder press target the muscle groups you’ll be using in the other exercises in the workout, thereby already warming them up. So its not necessary to warm them up again as they’ll already be warmed up.

A Simple Warm Up

Set 1 warm-up with 50% of your working weight for 12 reps.

Set 2 warm-up with 70% of your working weight for 4 reps

Set 3 warm-up with 90% of your working weight for 2 reps.

Next sets: perform with your working weights.

Here’s what your warm up sets might look like for barbell squats if your working weights were 100kg.

Set 1 50kg for 12 reps.

Set 2 70kg for 4 reps

Set 3 90kg for 2 reps.

Next sets 100kg for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

How To Find Out Your Working Weights And Warm Up Set Numbers

All it takes to find your working weights is a bit of trial and error. I recommend starting off light. This way you won’t hurt yourself.

Once you’ve had a reasonable but conservative guess of your working weights you can calculate your percentages off that.

Alternatively, if you’re just starting to work out as a beginner or after a long lay off you can just start off using the bar for 3 warm-up sets of 12, and then you can add 2.5 or 5 kg for your working sets. And just work up from here.

How To Track Your Workouts An Example:

Here’s a 4-week example for progressing on barbell squats although you can use this method of progressing on all of the exercises in the example program.

Barbell Squats

Week 1

Warm up sets x 3

Set 1 – 100kg x 10

Set 2 105 kg x 8

Set 3 105 kg x 8

Week 2

Warm up sets x 3

Set 1 – 105kg x 9

Set 2 – 105kg x 8

Set 3 – 105 kg x 8

Week 3

Warm up sets x 3

Set 1 – 105kg x 9

Set 2 – 105kg x 9

Set 3 – 105 kg x 8

Week 4

Warm up sets x 3

Set 1 – 105kg x 9

Set 2 – 105kg x 9

Set 3 – 105kg x 9

Week 5

Warm up sets x 3

Set 1 – 105 kg x 10

Set 2 – 110 kg x 8

Set 3 – 110 kg x 8

The Truth About Tracking Your Workouts

There’s no one best system for tracking your workouts. The most important thing is that you know how much you’re lifting and improving on that, by doing things such as:

  • Increasing the number of reps you perform with the same weight.
  • Using better form with the same weight.
  • Lifting a heavier weight for the same number of reps.
  • Lifting the same amount of weight with shorter rest intervals between sets.

Using Google Sheets On Your Phone Or Tablet

One great way of tracking your workouts is to use the same principles as above but track your workouts on google sheets/ excel on a tablet or on your phone when you’re at the gym after each exercise.

Rest Intervals

For the example workout program above I recommend you have 2-3 minute rest periods in between sets. This way you’ll be able to give each set everything you’ve got without being extremely fatigued like you would in a circuit style workout program.

You can also update your workout journal on your app, notes on your phone, notepad or even a spreadsheet on your phone or tablet during these 2-3 minute rest intervals.

Add A Notes Section To Your Journal

This is optional. But it can definitely help to make notes on how you were feeling during your workouts and how they went. For example, if you were squatting and you feel like you didn’t squat low enough. You could make a note in your journal to squat lower next time.

Or if you felt like you were lifting the weight too fast and less controlled (thereby increasing the risk of injury) you could put ” slow tempo down so that my form is more controlled next time ” to get a better mind-muscle connection with the same weight and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Optional Addition To The Workout Journal

For me, it really helps to record my workouts when I can, and I recommend that you do it as well. More specifically try to record compound exercises like the barbell squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press.

Because naturally compound exercises are more complex and watching your form on a video recording and improving your form when appropriate can help you perform exercises better and result in your workouts being more effective.

The Bottom Line On Hacking The Workout Journal: How to Track Your Workouts in The Most Effective Way Possible

  • Tracking your workouts is needed for you to make progress. Without tracking you won’t know if you’re improving. So whatever your method may be, make sure you track your workouts and focus on slow progression.
  • Theres no one best way of tracking your workouts. As long as your progressing from your previous workouts you’ll do well.
  • Simply just tracking your sets, reps, and how you’re feeling each workout and then trying to improve on yur previous numbers is a timeless way of tracking your workouts. It’ll never become out dated.

Published by henrypaget

Hi, I'm Henry and it's my mission to help you succeed with your fitness & health.

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