7 Powerful Benefits of Keeping a Workout Log

workout log

This is a guest post by Daniel RichterCEO of StrengthLog, a workout log app for tracking your strength training.

In this article, Daniel outlines 7 benefits of keeping a workout log and explains why it’s a great habit.

Daniel has been a guest of my Swedish podcast 25 Minuter twice. He is the founder of Styrkelabbet.se, one of Sweden’s most popular fitness and health websites. He’s also built an awesome home gym. But since most of you reading this site aren’t Swedish, I recommend checking out his international site StrengthLog, where you can learn about research-based fitness advice and all things exercise-related.

Here’s Daniel below:

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7 Powerful Benefits
of Keeping a Workout Log

Strength training is one of the best things you can do for both your health and for changing the way your body looks and feels.

The problem is: after your beginner gains have come and gone, progress often screeches to a halt.

So how do you start gaining muscle and strength again?

The answer might be: by keeping a workout log.

If this is something you haven’t considered, here are 7 reasons why you might want to do so:

1. Track Your Progress

Or worse: your lack thereof.

In order to build bigger or stronger muscles, you must regularly challenge them with heavier weights, more reps, or some other variable that forces your muscles to work harder than last time.

“If you change nothing, nothing will change.”

Increasing the weights you lift comes naturally when you are a beginner to strength training, but a few months down the line, homeostasis kicks in. Adding weight to the bar gets hard and uncomfortable, and if you don’t make a conscious effort to do so, it is easy to forget altogether.

This is where the power of a workout log kicks in.

When you get to the gym (or wherever you train), you simply open up your log, look at what you did last time, and try to beat it.

People working out without a log can lift with the same weights and reps for years, not making any progress. The simple act of 1) writing down what you did, and 2) improve on it the next time, will put you on a growth path that sets you apart from the masses.

2. Keep Your Focus

What’s one of the best ways to make sure you don’t get any results from your training?

You constantly keep switching programs and goals.

Like we covered in point #1, the key to gaining muscle and strength is to progressively do more than last time. If you constantly change what you do, this becomes impossible.

A workout log helps you stay on track, since every time you open it or look back on your past workouts, you will be reminded of what you did and what the purpose was. This makes it easier for you to stick to that habit, which will reward you in the long term.

Like famed coach Dan John says: “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.”

3. Better Goal Setting

Smart, realistic goals can be extremely motivating. On the other hand, unrealistic goals which you fail to achieve can have the opposite effect.

By becoming more conscious of your rate of progress, you’ll get a better sense of which goals are realistic for you to aim for and not.

Let’s say you flip back in your workout log and see that over the last year, you have trained the deadlift hard and added 20 kg to your 1RM. This tells you that if you keep training hard, setting a goal to add another 10–15 kg to your deadlift in the next year is not unrealistic unless you are already at a very advanced level.

Write down your training goals in your workout log, your digital commonplace, or stick them on the wall. Knowing that they are within your grasp if you just keep working hard and consistently might just be the best motivation you can get.

4. Get an Overview

Making informed decisions require information.

Is your training on par with your goals? Are you missing some aspect of training that you actually would like to improve?

A workout log can supply you with a bird’s eye view of your training, and help you make adjustments where necessary.

It will help you identify when you need to do more of something, and also when you might need to dial back.

5. Learn What Works For You

We all have good and bad training periods.

The problem is, most of the time we don’t take the time to learn from them. Or worse: even if we wanted to learn, we don’t have the tools to do so.

Tracking your training changes this.

Was it a long time since you hit a PR in your most important lift? Well, scroll back to your last PR or good training period in that lift, and see how you trained in the months leading up to it. Copy or adapt the method, and see if it works again. If it does, you know you are onto something good.

When you’re stuck in a rut, looking back on past training periods that yielded results can be just what you need to break loose.

6. Be More Mindful

Don’t only jot down weights and reps in your workout log – make a habit out of writing down a few words on how you’re feeling that day, and what goes on in the rest of your life.

How did you sleep last night?

Did you eat a caloric deficit or surplus yesterday?

Are you stressed or calm?

After a few years of training, especially when results get harder to come by, you can easily slip into being too hard on yourself for not making better progress. Sometimes, all it takes for you to shift perspective is to be more mindful of what else is going on in your life.

Perhaps you shouldn’t expect to gain when you are sleeping and eating poorly while simultaneously being stressed out about your job. And at the same time, if better training results is a priority for you – now you know what you must fix.

7. A Reminder of What You’ve Accomplished

Every now and then – especially when you feel like you’re going nowhere – it is good to look back on where you started.

Look back at your first logged workouts and compare them to where you are today. In all likelihood, what you are lifting today would seem unattainable or even superhuman to the old you that was just getting started in lifting.

When you keep your nose to the grindstone your perspective often gets skewed. Taking a break to stand up and look back on the road behind you every now and then might be all it takes to remind you of how far you’ve come.

Time to Start a Workout Log?

There are many ways you can go about keeping a workout log, and you have to find what works for you.

You might use a physical notebook, a section in your commonplace, or use a dedicated workout app like StrengthLog. Anything is better than nothing, and the How is less important than the Why.

Start writing down your workouts. The next time you are doing the same workout, try to improve something. Even if just by a single rep in a single set.

It might just be what makes you start gaining again.

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Daniel Richter is the CEO of StrengthLog, a workout log app for tracking your strength training. On strengthlog.com, he and his colleagues regularly publish articles on strength training, health, and fitness intended to help you get bigger, stronger, and leaner.

Comments

  1. Yes that’s so true with #2, Keep your Focus.

    Before I started writing down my workouts I always struggled with consistency and were somehow not able to make regular exercise a habit.

  2. I used to do something like this a long time ago. A possible pitfall of having quantitative goals like this is, as I’ve experience firsthand, there’s a temptation to lift the extra weight by subconsciously compromising just a tiny bit each month on form.

    When I feel like I could add weight to the bar, I take a couple of weeks to concentrate on going slow and using perfect form. Usually, the feeling goes away.

    • It depends on your age I think. I read somewhere that after you are 35 years old you should be very careful with maxing out certain lifts to avoid injury.

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