Keep Track of Your Program, Dummy

Posted: May 8, 2013 in Training
Tags: , , ,

I get that lots of people are completely fine with going to the gym day after day, doing the exact same program for years, and never changing a single thing. People are creatures of habit, and change can be intimidating. But if you’re going to spend the time and money to go to the gym, you might as well be improving yourself while you’re there. Going in every day and doing the exact same exercises, with the exact same weight, for the exact same number of sets and reps is not only tedious, it’s not really beneficial after the first couple of months. If your program doesn’t change, your body won’t change. And you might actually start to regress once your body adapts to your current plan.

"I do 3 sets of 10 chest press at 100 pounds. Every day. For the last 6 years."

“I do 3 sets of 10 chest press at 100 pounds. Every day. For the last 6 years.”

As useless as it is to do the exact same thing every day, it’s equally useless to not follow a program at all. If you’re just doing random exercises without any logical progression, you might be able to stay in shape but you won’t really be able to build strength or power, which are the keystones of athletic performance.

One thing I’ve noticed about the folks that never change anything is that they don’t keep track of anything they’re doing. Why would they need to? They’ve been doing the same thing so long that their program is lodged in their long term memory right next to their phone number and address.

The “I do random workouts” crowd doesn’t keep track of anything either, because they do different stuff every time they go in, so there’s no point to it. The best way to make sure that your body is actually changing and improving is to keep a workout log.

It doesn't matter if it's messy. As long as you understand it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s messy. As long as you understand it.

Keeping a log allows/requires you to:

1) Have a plan before you go into the gym

Having an actual, written-down, logical plan is the first step towards making your time in the gym worthwhile. If you’re an athlete looking to improve performance, this is an absolute must. There should be a reason behind every exercise in the plan, and a reason for every set/rep scheme. If not, you’re not optimizing your time in the gym. If your workouts from week to week don’t seem to have any cohesion, or they seem thrown-together, you need to come up with a logical plan that’s going to address your needs. I write my athletes’ workouts in 4-week blocks, which are all based off of their previous workouts. Every 4-week block has a logical progression built into it, so there’s no guesswork or randomness involved.

2) Keep track of your progress, or lack thereof

If you don’t have a plan and aren’t keeping track of what you’ve done/are doing, there’s a good chance that you’re not working up to your full potential. Keep in mind, logs don’t have to just include exercises, weights, and set/rep schemes. You can also keep track of your body weight, body fat percentage, and nutrition. When you have a full record of what you’ve been doing, along with the results that you’re getting, it’s a lot easier to decide what’s working and what’s not. Plus, it’s kind of rewarding to look back through your log to see how far you’ve come.

3) Identify what exercises you’ve plateaued on

I typically don’t have my athletes switch big exercises (squat/deadlift/bench variations) unless they’ve hit a plateau or their progress is really slowing down. I plan for them to increase the amount of weight they can lift from week to week. Once they can’t increase the weight anymore, or their form is beginning to break down, I know it’s time to change something. If you’re not making consistent gains, then you need to change your program.

No more back squats for this guy...

No more back squats for this guy…

This post is geared more towards athletes, but really anybody who goes to the gym can benefit from keeping a workout log. If you really want to improve on some aspect of your body/performance, start keeping track of what you’re doing and/or ask somebody who knows what they’re doing to write out a plan for you. You’d be surprised at what a difference it makes.

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