How to Create a Workout Journal and Track Your Progress Like a Pro

workout journal how to track your progress

These days everyone is looking for an edge, a new and better way of doing it that nobody else is using…

…a way that can help them reach the next level.

You’re reading this right now for that very reason.

You’re looking for an edge that will help you reach the next level…

…and one thing that can definitely help you reach the next level is adding a workout journal to your training arsenal.

I just cannot emphasize enough how important it is to log your workouts by writing everything down: your measurements, your food intake, your sets, you reps, your mood, your rest periods, etc.

Create A Workout Journal

Why is this so important?

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”~James Baldwin

Most of the top bodybuilders and fitness athletes in the world all meticulously track each and every workout they have.

They want to know the last time they benched 315 for 10 reps – that way they can try to bench 315 for 11 or 12 reps the next time.

For example:

If you did 3 sets of 10 on bench with 225 pounds last week, you’ll want to be able to do 3 sets of 10 with 235 the next week so you’ll know you’re getting stronger.

If you did 3 sets of 10 squats with 250 pounds last week, this week you’ll want to do 3 sets of 12 at 250 pounds.

If you did 5 pull-ups last week, this week you better be hitting 6 pull-ups so you’ll know you’re on the right track.

If you’re training to be your best, you’ve got to train with purpose; but all the purpose in the world is useless if that purpose has no direction.

Tracking your workouts using a journal ensures you won’t be doing the same weight and reps over and over for weeks (or even months)… which can often diminish (or prevent) growth and gains.

That said, when you step in the gym you need to step in with a plan, and that means knowing exactly which exercises you’re going to do, how many reps you want to hit, and the poundage on every single lift you’re planning on attempting.

Pro Tip: your rest periods and workout duration should be carefully planned out and logged in your workout journal as well.

By having your numbers from previous weeks logged in a workout journal, you’ll have a much better idea how to plan and structure your workout(s) and set realistic targets.

You don’t want to be running around the gym looking like a lost puppy… frantically trying to figure out which machines you need to hit that day.

Serious lifters go in with a plan of attack.

workout journal jamin thompson training log

Now, since you’re here reading this I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’re here right now because you don’t currently track your workouts.

Next, I’m going to take another wild guess and assume that I’m going to have to sell you on the idea of keeping a workout journal before you actually start doing it…

I know what you’re probably thinking…

“Jamin, I don’t need a silly workout journal bro. I’ve been lifting for a long time… I remember all of my numbers… and I have a brain like a steel trap.”

While I am happy that your brain health is on point, the most important key to success in the gym is consistency and following a set plan.

And the best way to stick to a plan is to log your workouts in a workout journal.

Using a workout journal, you be able to track your sets and reps so you can track your strength and endurance over time. As you see progress and make gains over time, it will help you stay consistent and motivated.

Think of your workout journal as a tool to ensure your own accountability (as an added bonus, it will even help you stay a lot more focused and motivated during your workouts).

Bottom line: if you want to be better tomorrow than you are today, it often requires a strategy.

And every good strategy needs a tool kit.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “But Jamin, I like to keep things simple. I don’t want to over-complicate things, and a super sophisticated workout journal may only make things harder.”

Don’t worry bro, keeping a workout journal isn’t overly complicated. In fact, it’s actually quite easy.

Ok… so now that I’ve finally sold you on the benefits of using a workout journal I bet you’re probably wondering what kind of workout journal you need to have.

There is no perfect answer here, but my advice to use is to use one that (1) meets your needs; and (2) is most convenient for you.

Here are some helpful ideas to get you started:

A Word Document: Logging your workouts doesn’t have to be overly complicated, in fact, you can easily use the text editor on your computer and log your workouts that way. Simply create a text file for each workout and then save them into different folders on your computer (by day, week, month, body part, etc) or using any folder scheme that works for you.

Google Docs: If you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating multiple folders and saving them on your computer, Google Docs may be an easier, more efficient way to manage your workout logs.

Evernote: If you’re a bit more technologically inclined (and prefer to go mobile) Evernote is a great tool to help keep your workout journal entries super organized. All you’ll have to do is create a notebook called “Workout Journal” and add a new note for each workout. If you’ve never used Evernote before it may take some tinkering before you get used to it… but once you get comfortable you’ll find that Evernote is an incredibly useful tool (plus it is 100% free to use).

Excel: If you’re old school… ok if you’re not just old school but you’re a Triple OG of your local gym you may still use Excel to create and log your workouts. If this sounds like you, go ahead and do your thing. Never change, guy. Never change.

Paper Notebook: I know we live in the tech era, but to be honest, using a paper notebook or binder is arguably the best (and easiest) way to keep a workout journal All you really need is a regular blank notebook, but if you’re looking for a template that’s a bit more stylish (and easy to carry around the gym), you may want to check out The Fitbook or The Fitness Logbook or The Gympad Workout Journal.

Pro Tip: A great plain notebook to use is the Classic Moleskine Notebook. It is small enough to fit in your pocket (which makes it ideal for gym use) and it also has a firm cover that doesn’t bend or tear with repeated use. Plus it is strong enough to withstand sweat or gym equipment falling on it.

Remember: there is no one “best” way to track your workouts – the best thing to do is to just find a tracking method that works for you and stick with it.

So now that you’ve decided on the type of workout journal you want to use, I bet you’re probably wondering how to use the thing.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Here are a few things you should add with each log entry:

Your Workout Journal Entry

Date: The first rule of workout log club is to always (and I mean ALWAYS) list the date. This rule is mandatory, set in stone, and cannot be broken for any reason. If you’re not able to go back and evaluate your progress over time, your entire “log” is useless. Never forget to add the date.

Your Planned Exercises, Sets, and Reps: If you’re one of my Members and are currently following the workouts outlined for you in your membership plan, you will know exactly what exercise you should be doing along with how many sets and reps are required. All you will need to do is enter the exercises listed for you and then log the sets and reps. If you’re training on your own, however, you may not have this same level of structure… so before every workout I recommend writing down every exercise you’re thinking about doing that day BEFORE you head to the gym. Also, write down your planned rest time between sets. Are you doing super sets? Write that down too. List every set performed. For example, if you do 3 sets of 10 preacher curls (3×10), you will log “preacher curls 3×10”. You will also log it as one set, and then list your rest time. Each set should be recorded… so if you do 4 sets, be sure to write down 4 sets. Also, if you have an bad day and don’t hit your numbers (for example, you wanted to get 12 reps but only did 9 reps) be sure to log that in the notes along with why it may have happened. This way you can go back and correct whatever the issue may have been (i.e. you only got 4 hours of sleep the night before).

Supplements Taken: Believe it or not, your pre-workout and post-workout supplements can make a significant difference (both positively and negatively) in not only your workout performance but also in your recovery. With that said, it is important to log what you take so you can make adjustments and continue improving. For example, if you took Pre-Workout X and it made you feel lethargic or jittery after 30 minutes, you may want to avoid using it on a consistent basis. However, before making that executive decision, you’ll want to make sure you have enough data to support that decision.

Mood When Starting: Most lifters I know do not really consider pre-workout mood to be a big factor when it comes to making gains, but science suggests otherwise. I don’t care how manly you think you are, there is no shame in keeping a “mood log” in your workout journal.

Post Workout Notes: This one is optional, but if you’re serious about your gains you’ll probably want to start looking at these metrics a bit more closely. The big ones here are: workout duration, calories burned, cardio (yes/no), but you may also want to also track how you felt after your workout. Were you super tired or extremely sore? Did you have trouble falling asleep? Any changes in appetite? Do your joints hurt? How is your mood?

As you can see, when it comes to developing a workout journal, the possibilities are endless. Of course, no way of creating a workout journal is inherently better than any other way, so just pick a way that that works best for you.

Use My Free Workout Journal Template

If you’re just starting out, figuring out how to create and maintain a workout log on your own may be a little challenging at first. To help get you started on the right track, however, I am going to give you my personal workout log template (for free) so you can use it yourself.

I created this template myself, I use it personally, and many other folks have had success using it so I am confident it will work for you as well.  It’s a simple template, but it has everything you need. You can download it for free below:

download workout journal

Now It’s Your Turn

How are you currently tracking your progress? How do you make adjustments to your current plan after logging your results? Do you know of any great tips I may have missed? Do you have any questions about how to use a workout journal to track your progress?

Remember, I am always here to help, so drop a comment below or ask a question over on the forums.

Let’s get these gains!

Jamin Thompson
Over the past 10 years, Jamin Thompson – actor, sport & fitness model, and former world ranked tennis player – has appeared in or on publications such as Men's Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Inside Fitness, Bodybuilding.com; as well as worked as a sponsored athlete for and/or been featured in commercials and print ads for Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, ESPN, Wilson Sporting Goods, Powertec Fitness, Gifted Nutrition and more. Using his real world, in the trenches experience, writes to help others dominate in the gym, on the field, and in life. His book, The 6 Pack Secret, has been sold in over 50 countries and has helped thousands of folks from all walks of life get cut and jacked the healthy way.
Jamin Thompson

@jaminthompson

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Jamin Thompson
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