Do you track every detail of your weight session in the gym? Or do you just head in, programme/no programme in mind and just hit the weights?

When I was younger I used to just head into the gym, warm up, stretch, workout and head home. No thought process prior and no measurement of anything. It was fun to me to go in and workout any part of my body that felt good to me that day (This is also an advanced training system – The instinctive principle – basically using your instincts and connecting with your body to decide what exercises to do and how many reps, sets etc). Without planning and much thought process the gym was also new to me, I would try new exercises, use my favourite ones, shorten my time or extend my time and best of all – I wasn’t boxed in mentally knowing I had to be at the gym 2/3/4/5 days a week. But, I must admit, my progress reflected this sporadic effort and I did see much improvement.

More on consistent training later, but I want to talk about how tracking your progress and keeping note of even the smallest details can keep you on track, maintain your progress and ultimately achieve your goal [*sigh* its so cliche, “your goal”, but its true].

The following advice is for those who are well and truly established in the gym. If you have successful achieved a healthy lifestyle habit of regular exercise – Well done, it’s one the best habits you can have! Below I’m going to write about how we can improve our performance in the gym, keep it interesting but ultimately make those all important improvements and, that’s right, GAINS! All aboard the gains train!


Track it!

Track and you will progress.

Keeping track of our workouts and writing everything down isn’t only for the buff guy in the gym who you thought was carrying around his little poetry book. It’s for you too. And it ain’t no poetry in the conventional sense, he’s actually writing down his workout in fine detail.


Why is he not writing poetry?
Well not that I know of. But isn’t that a funny image,the juxtaposition of dense muscle and provoked images of iron grinding, sweat, swearing, blood and guts vs a poetry book makes a perfect setting. But alas, its only a log book with with all of his reps, sets, exercises, rest periods and reflections [yes, reflections lol]. ‘Gym goer?’ ‘No, I’m a regular Rabbie Burns, thank you!’

Why is the poetry book important?
Keeping a log book/journal/tracking data on your phone for all of your gym sessions are very important for progression as we can track the progress/regression and learn to improve. We will always maintain a true record of our figures for comparison on our next workout and we will try to beat our last effort.

I want you to think about a scientific experiment. To achieve breakthrough success everything is calculated and measured. The different combinations, time, success, failure – every numbered variable possible. The same goes for the gym. Track the numbers, learn and adjust for next time. Otherwise it’s all a bit…random.

But I don’t want to carry a poetry book!
That’s OK, do you have a phone? You can use that! Do you have a memory like a gold fish or an elephant? If you are like myself and your memory is of the goldfish variety then tracking down your workout is necessary. If not, this week you lift 50kg next week you lift 40kg. The effort felt the same and you thought you lifted 40kg last week – no progress is made, you lifted a lighter weight than your body is conditioned and trained for – as I said this is for those who want to take their workouts to the next level and progress in the gym.

How do I go about making sweet poetry in the gym?
Simple, I want you write down the following when tracking your workout and I’ll explain why:

  • The reps
  • The weight
  • The sets
  • Your tempo of lifting
  • The rest time/s between each set/superset etc
  • The rest time between each exercise
  • Your review of each exercise
  • Your feelings/review after each exercise
  • Any pain or discomfort with each exercise
  • Your latest reflection on your last workout

Reps: This is important and quite easy to track, track how many repetitions for each individual exercise, review from last week and determine if you want to improve the workload from last weeks repetitions on the same exercise.
Weight: How much you lift, same as above. Please note that 2lbs extra over 30 reps is an extra total 60lbs/27kgs lifted per exercise and 60lbs/27kgs more than last week – that’s good!
Sets: You can track the same sets as last time, or you can decide to do more or less with increased or decreased weights and reps. An important factor I like to keep is overall tonnage: This is how much total lbs/kgs you lift last for an exercise last time, can you beat it by doing less sets and more reps or via more sets and less reps. Ill explain, if your confused like me reading that back.:
e.g. last week: 5 sets x 5 reps at 10kg equals: 250kg total weight lifted (overall tonnage)
So… Today: 4 sets x 8 reps at 8kg equals: 256kg total weight lifted.
Or… Today: 6 sets x 4 reps at 12kg equals: 288kg total weight lifted.
Tempo: Tracking the speed of your individual reps per exercise is a great way to add intensity. Does it take 2/3/4/5 seconds to complete one rep? Make it more intense by going slower or exploding. I advise looking up tempo training for those interested in this.
Rest time: Important and often neglected, how long do you wait before your next lift after one set? Keeping a record allows you to maintain the same intensity as last time or improve on it by decreasing your wait time. The longer we wait the more chance our muscles have of regenerating to full strength and the lift is too easy/less intense. Manipulate the rest time to your goal. Generally longer rest for strength and shorter rest for endurance.
Review: How was the exercise with all sets and reps? Too easy? make a note of that and tell yourself to increase intensity for next time. Didn’t get all the reps in? Rested too long? Felt pain anywhere? That Mexican food coming back up? all variables can be tracked to improve for next time. Basically I say: If you felt great write why, if it was terrible write why.
Your next poem: Don’t forget to cite slam poetry that comes straight into your noggin. Let your fellow gym goers know that you are more than a piece of meat and multi talented, beret hat wearing slammer.


Tracking isn’t for everyone and it can be quite tedious, believe me! When you start it you will find that you are writing for too long, but you will get better at it and develop a short hand for your own purposes.

When I started to track I was able to feel and see substantial improvements. I had a purpose and a target and this was fun for me – trying to improve and better myself. However, at the same time I found myself pushing myself a little too hard – sometimes always chasing the numbers. Take your time, if you are improving then stick at that weight for a week or two then try to improve the intensity in one of the methods listed above. Let your body adapt to the new weight/intensity and once it has adapted you can then increase [this method was ingrained in me once my physio told me].

If you don’t want to track, you don’t have to track – It’s not essential to improvement. Find what works for you!

I hope this helps, please leave a comment on what you think about this post. Let me know if anything on this page has helped you. Do you track your own workouts, or nah? Ill be tracking later today at the gym.

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