There are lots of different training aids available these days, from knee wraps to wrist straps, from bands to boards but the one thing that I believe is truly essential to making progress (at least from a gym kit perspective) is often missing from a person’s kit bag and I guarantee if you look around your gym there won’t be many people using it either… and more importantly I bet the people who are, are the ones who are making progress.
This amazing, incredible thing is a training log book, whether this be old fashioned pen and paper or an app for your mobile, I truly believe that logging workouts is an essential tool for those who are serious about building muscle, or making progress in any sport or activity.
There are a number of key reasons for this… firstly anyone who wants to make progress should have some form of defined training protocol that has some element of progression mapped into it towards their goal. Some training programs can be complex and require multiple exercises at different intensities and having these written down and ‘ticked off’ when you have achieved the expected outcome gives you a sense of accountability and something that can be used to plan the next appropriate steps in your training.
Secondly, no matter how good your memory is there will be details of a training session that might become ‘sketchy’ especially when you become fatigued. Are you really going to remember how many reps you got in your third drop set of leg press from the previous week? This may seem pedantic to some people, but having a sensible marker to beat each week, be it more reps, or a slight increase in load, distance or time is a great motivator, if you know you’ve done something the week before then by making sensible adjustments to your previous weeks marks, you know you have the capacity to make progress this week and the week after and so on. This incremental progression should be the foundation of any program, regardless of goal, that is going to successfully take you from where you are to where you want to be.
Thirdly, it’s good to have a plan! Even if you are training for general health and enjoyment and not towards a specific goal, writing down what you want to do in a workout and setting yourself some goals is important. Even for someone who has a lot of training experience, I have found that not having a plan leads to floating around the gym a bit lost and unfocused when it comes to actually doing some training. For me personally if I only get 45-60 minutes in the gym each day, I want to make the most of that time and not spend most of the session aimlessly wandering trying to decide what to do next!
Finally, no matter how consistent we are with our diet and training sometimes we will have good weeks and sometimes we will have bad ones. A training log allows you to also make notes on things such as how you were feeling that day, what time of day you trained, had you eaten enough or had you been under a lot of physical or mental stress and how you slept the night before. All of these things, if given two minutes to take some notes on, alongside your training program will help you to gather important information about when you feel and perform at your best. Over time this information can be used to really help create truly individualised programs to ensure you are getting the best possible outcome from your time training and also when you need to back off and recover.