The most important exercise you’re not doing

The invention of writing was one of the most influential forces in the development of modern civilization. So why do you think you’re too good for writing, eh? Have YOU changed the trajectory of human history as much as writing has? Then you should keep a training log*.

Recording your progress in the gym is an invaluable exercise that everyone needs to practice, regardless of goal. The best part? Physically, it’s the easiest exercise.

*The same holds true for a food log. If your nutrition isn’t in check, just replace “training” with “nutrition” throughout this post. The principles are the same for each.

Why take a training log?

Why am I writing about writing when I could be talking about deadlifts? Because deadlifts don’t matter if you aren’t progressing.

This is where a training log comes in. Recording your workouts has several advantages that are essential for continuing progress in the gym. Allow me to explain.

1. Keeps you honest

People tend to overestimate how much they move and underestimate how much they eat. Keeping a training log provides quantitative data about your training that is pretty hard to argue with. You may think you work hard, but when you actually write out your individual reps, you may realize you spent an hour in the gym only to complete 10 total reps. The point is, it’s nearly impossible to lie to yourself about your training when it’s all there on paper.

World-renowned strength coach Dan John is known for saying, “The goal is to keep the goal the goal”. If your main goal is to squat 2x your bodyweight, why are you spending an hour doing curls? Training data leaves little room for overestimating the quality of your training and thus is invaluable for staying focused on your goal(s).

2. Makes it easier to find holes in your training

If your progress has stalled, just refer to your training log to figure out why. People tend to avoid exercises they don’t like. This becomes glaringly apparent when your training log says you press 50x more than you pull. Better start pulling if that’s the case.

Numbers don’t lie. Objectively seeing every rep and set of every workout can provide ample evidence for any change in strategy and opens the possibility for experimenting with your training and seeing what you respond to best.

3. Easier to gauge progress and find patterns

Bringing it back to the first point, keeping yourself honest will ensure that you prevent frustration. Frustration is the arch-nemesis of consistency. Consistency is the catalyst of progress.  A training log will not only highlight your weaknesses, but will also show where you have improved. Maybe your 1 rep max hasn’t increased but your total volume for a lift has gone up considerably. This is a detail that may have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t written down. Seeing this bit of progress will keep the spark lit and  prevent you from throwing in the towel.

The more quantitative data you have about your training, the better equipped you are to see what works and what you need to change. This is necessary to avoid plateaus, make the most of your training time, and achieve your goals.


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