Training Logs

Training logs are important for several reasons. Keeping a long term log shows the lifter how much progress they have made over time. It also gives immediate input on the last few workouts specifically the warm up strategy and what the last work sets were. They also give the lifter an opportunity to add in useful comments like, “maximum jackage occurred today” or “it’s like I’m on fucking D-bol”.

A tangible training log that can be carried to the gym will be most effective since there is the potential of not remembering everything that previously occurred. It also allows instant emotions to be dictated to the log, such as, “my traps are mos def gettin’ their SWOLE on”.

Aside from warm-up sets, work sets, and awesome comments, there are some additional metrics that are beneficial to record. These ancillary metrics are optional, but they give a measure of how the body feels in a training program. If the lifter consistently records how they are feeling prior to training, over time they may observe that they became overtrained. There’s a difference in recording, “I’m tired” and “I wanna beat ’em!”

The rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale can also be utilized for individual exercises. In such a case, if a 1 rep max (1RM) is known, then it will be considered a ’10’ on the RPE. There should be nothing left after a 10 rated lift, and if the bar path is deviated to the smallest degree, the lift will end in failure. If a lifter doesn’t want to deal with numbers, they can just use subjective terms, such as Brent’s “ez pz” for a set that is, oddly enough, “easy”. I remember recording “Very. Fucking. Hard.” after doing heavy sets of squats. If there is a gauge on heavier lifts, then the lifter will know how difficult they were months later when they are figuring out how well they adapted to their program, given the circumstances.

Speaking of which, other circumstances would include food, sleep, stress, time management issues – basically anything that would deter training from occurring as normal. I typically reserve comments on these issues if something is askew because there isn’t much of a point in saying, “No stress in life today, aside from Brent trolling the fuck out of me.”

If you haven’t been keeping a log because you’re lazy, then it’d be good to start doing so. Even if you aren’t following a strict program, having a log and being able to review your non-program will still be descriptive in letting you know what has been working or what hasn’t been working. Besides, if you don’t know what you’ve been doing, then you can’t figure out what you’ve been doing wrong when the shit hits the fan.

Here is a page out of my log to give you an idea of how it is structured and how I annotate different things. It is from earlier this year when I was working on rehabbing my back and regaining strength.

Click for larger image.


There is an IPF survey going around that could potentially affect the bench, squat, refeering, weight class changes, age categories, and more. If you give a damn about powerlifting under IPF ruling (like if you compete in USAPL), then go take the survey.
Personally I think the survey is a little vague, but oh well.

29 thoughts on “Training Logs

  1. I love my training log. It’s a old school composition book with a marbled, black and white cover. It’s probably going to last me a complete year of training, which makes it well worth the $2 I spent on it.

    Yesterday, one of the bros at my gym noticed my log while his bros were doing their traps, bro-style. He said something like, “hey, this guy’s got it all written down”, and I couldn’t tell from his tone whether he was impressed, making fun, making conversation, whatever. (I’m pretty sure he wasn’t impressed.) I’ve seen that particular pack of bros before, and they always crack me up.

  2. Got word of this over on Ironmind. This man put up some big numbers, all in the same day to boot.

    Video highlights are a 270 kg jerk from behind the neck and 400 kg deadlift triple.

    I keep forgetting to post this. It’s very impressive.


  3. I know its not very 70’s Big-ish but I use an app on my iPod Touch called Gym Buddy to record everything. The app allows me to view past sets, set plans, and track/graph progress. It also allows me to add comments on each set, and I have, on several occasions, recorded “Shitty Set”. Super easy, and I try hard to not loose it than the log books I’ve had in the past.

  4. Great post. Every serious lifter needs a serious log.

    I started keeping a training log when I first got into strength training in March 2009. I write everything in a notebook and then later put it all into an excel spreadsheet. I love this spreadsheet. I’ve got it set to automatically plot all of my lifts in line graphs. It provides an excellent visual of my progress and serves as good motivation. There’s nothing worse than seeing that line dip!

    I also keep a training log on the website This is useful because it allows other lifters with more experience to comment on my progress.

    I also write a lot of sarcastic comments during down time between sets. A few recent examples:

    “Today is macho bullshit day at Gold’s Gym. Exhibit A: bi’s tris and levis shameless predator of everything female in workout tights is struggling on 225 smith machine 1/4 squats. Woot.”

    “Milestone today: I’ve reached the point where Alphabet Soup gray mustached men whom I’d call ‘sir’ in the daytime suit and tie world call me ‘excuse me sir’ with extreme deference in the weight room.”

    “Alcohol Sweats day: Redskins preseason opener was fun…yesterday. Taking Jedi focus not to vomit. Update: vomited while listening to the song ‘Certain Shade of Green.’ Fitting. In other news this woman with a wig ain’t got no alibi.”

    “Metallica Day: Time to channel your inner alpha wolf in bloody rare form. Punishment is pleasure. Pain is the absence of motivation. The iron is the guardian. PRs come in the form of scary faces in the mirror, with timely modal harmonies.”

    I wanted to have a log-in feature that would act as a training log that would display line graphs like you mention. Getting the app made would have been too expensive.


  5. My entire training squad has been keeping their own logbooks for YEARS. That shit is required, and we troll the fuck out of them until they start bringing their log regularly to the gym. My online training journal is now 6 years old and I have lift progress and PR’s on most lifts recorded on an excel spreadsheet complete with graphs, etc. Yes, I take this shit seriously.

  6. Great post tho. You journal is pretty tight, imo. I couldnt write how i feel because i feel like id low-ball everything in terms of how i feel and how the set felt. atleast your honest with your self.

    “i was going to do 3 sets but rested too long talking”

    brutal honesty is the only way to learn and progress. i need to learn this

    Your journal is for you to look at. There is nothing brutal about feedback. You’re honest, or you’re not. Are you the kinda dude that cheats at solitaire?


  7. I’ve never seriously played solitaire. I feel like I have different levels of “feelings” when training.

    i think to have a journal like the one posted above, you need a good amount of experience to really guage yourself and feelings during each rep, set, rest, etc. which is what i have yet to achieve. is all.

    You’re making excuses. You get better at logging by logging. You get better at judging subjecting feelings (like perceived exertion) by logging. For example, you might write “the last set on Monday was the hardest I’ve done.” Then, on Friday, your last set was even harder than Monday’s. So you look back at Monday’s log, realize your error, and go from there. It’s all about perspective.


  8. Online logs are also a viable option for some people. A lot of you already have one of these. These can be useful if you’re on a good forum where other people can view and comment on your log. It can also be helpful to look at others’ logs to get ideas for your own training.

    I did paper for several years then switched exclusively to online. My training varies so much, and there are so many variables (work, kids, travel, sleep, injury, apathy), that review isn’t as critical for me.

    Here are a couple samples.

    Mine: Mixed training log. Comments about some of the lifts. Questions from other dudes.

    Derek’s log: BJJ purple belt that reads this site. Detailed posts about his lifting and his sport training. Comments from other grapplers.

    Jacob’s log: A blend of PR Friday and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

    Couch’s training log:

  9. That last one is certainly more birthday party than physics class.

    I’ve made a lot of improvements to my training in the last year, I think keeping a diary is the most important of all of them though. It’s the one thing I recommend people do whenever I get in a conversation about training.

  10. I’ve been keeping a paper log in a small 2×4″ notebook, nice and pocket sized.

    I also plug in my max’s on the profile thing because it plots out nice graphs. Only thing that sucks is there isn’t a “barbell shrug” field.

  11. I entered all of my numbers into the Texas Method 5×5 excel spread sheet and emailed to myself to I can pull it up on my Iphone.

    If you want to see a classic pic of Justin, A.C. and “The Scott” from the seminar checkout Justin with the patented 70sBig pose looking at me in disgust and the A.C. sporting the thumbs out, thumbs up pose. BTW, A.C. didn’t really like my lifting shoes so I had to order some new ones, thanks A.C.

    Ha hopefully you were actually planning on buying new ones before I said something.


  12. my training log is a blue notebook featuring action shots of batman (my favorite), flash, and superman on the front. i find these dudes inspiring. i’ll admit i’m not as thorough or as consistent as i ought to be with my training log. however, it does help me a LOT when i must take into consideration fluctuations of hormones, body weight and work-related fatigue when planning my training.

  13. “It is from earlier this year when I was working on rehabbing my back and regaining strength”

    Holy Shit Justin, rehabbing your back with 400lb+ squats and deadlifts haha now thats what I call 70’s Big! Great motivation here.

    As for myself I had to take a week off the gym and I’m starting to lose my mind… need to rehab shoulders/bi’s/elbows from messing them up on power cleans (pulling with arms) and a bad fight at work. I will try a week of taking it ‘easy’ in the gym if I can stop myself from raging out of control and trying to pick up where I left off with linear progression.

  14. @Justin and AC
    You guys should wear shorter shorts… No homo, just saying. I mean it’s like if a woman has nice tots she should show them off. Right?

  15. @stonwallwells
    you know, at first i thought i’d agree with you…i mean, i’d like to see more 70sbig leg action myself…but then i realized that in all honesty…there is nothing more distracting than walking by a bench and seeing some dude’s gonads drifting aimlessly off the side of the bench.

    i really don’t find walking into a game of peek-a-ball all that motivating. just sayin…

  16. @ThunderThighs

    If you’re talking about guys that go Commando in the weights room, agreed. Completely unacceptable, and a downright hazard to all concerned. No one enjoys having to wipe someone else’s ball sweat off a bench but unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurence.

    As for Justin and AC, you can go as short as you like. It all comes down to packing the Crown Jewels carefully to ensure they don’t spill out when you’re deep with 400lb across your back.

    There are three proven methods to approach this:

    1) The Lunch Pack:

    Both the meat and potatoes are shoved across to one side of the middle seam of the shorts. Can be restrictive and not recommended for well endowed athletes. Definitely not suitable for squatting. Keep this one reserved for when you want to make an impact on the dancefloor on a saturday night.

    2) The Cut Lunch:

    The style of choice for the vast majority of short short wearers. The seam of the shorts divides the meat and potatoes straight up the middle. One potato on either side, with the seam running pararllel along the meat. Can be pointing north or south depending on the needs, preference and mood of the athlete.

    3) The Meat ‘n Potatoes

    Meat on one side, potatoes on the other. Self explanatory.

    Here the Bee Gees depict an excellent example of all three methods.

    From left to right: Lunch Pack, Cut Lunch, Meat n’ Potatoes:

  17. I’ve been keeping an online log on (not a BBer though!) since this year started, though I’ve recently been thinking of keeping one on paper as well. I don’t have trouble remembering my reps or anything, it’d just be nice to have something to do when you have those big layovers between sets sometimes (5+ minutes sucks to stand around and drink water). Only thing that’s been stopping me is my killer OCD, which will cause me to take forever to write each number in my book (going over the line can NOT be permitted, fuck OCD).

    Anyone else got one on I’ll post my link if anyone wants.

  18. Another great post. Reading it suggests a possible future post that I know I’d be interested in, and perhaps other people as well–setting up warm-up sets. I know Rip has a table in his book, but things get more complex as you go up in weight, and he’s a bit ambiguous about it. Thanks.

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