How important is it really to log your lifts? Why do you want to log your lifts?
The two main reasons to log your lifts is if you’re following a certain program where you have to hit certain percentages of your 1RM over a period of time and are aiming to hit a planned 1RM on a certain date and the second reason is (if you’re not following a planned out progression program) is to make sure that you are progressing and not stalling; to figure out what progression method is working optimally for you.
Let’s say you aren’t a powerlifter and aren’t following a powerlifting program, but still do the powerlifting movements to progress in them. Then you may want to write down the number of reps per set you get with a given weight.
Then the next workout, you just look at your workout log to see if you have to get one more rep, or have to increase the weight this workout, or whatever progression you got going on.
Over time, after having collected a few weeks or months of logs, you can reflect back on them to see at what period of time you gained the most strength and/or size and then perhaps go back to that progression style to reiterate fast gains.
Progressing as fast as possible
If you don’t log your lifts, how do you know if you are progressing as fast as possible? Are you keeping an exercise or progression method in your program that is giving you no results? How long have you been front squatting with the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps and sets?
If something isn’t working in your workout, drop it for something better. For instance, if your back squat isn’t progressing because your quads are the weak link, do front squats and stiff leg deadlifts instead for a while. Log those lifts until you come to a point that you feel you cannot progress anymore with your current style of progression method, and then switch out the exercise for another one. If you really like to do front squats and want to keep on doing it, try a different progression method.
I noticed for example that I don’t even have to do flat barbell bench press to progress in it. The first time I noticed this, I was doing mainly dumbbell presses and flies and then one day I realize that I don’t even know how much I can do on the flat barbell bench press. So I decided to test my 1RM and I managed to hit 130kg (∼290lbs) without any grinding. I was quite surprised by this. Point being that, if your bench is stalling, and you want to get stronger in it, don’t be afraid to do another exercise instead (such as flat dumbbell press), as it might be even better for your bench than bench itself.
And training to get stronger isn’t really only to add more numbers to the lift, but getting stronger will also make you bigger. If you can squat 3 plates for 8 reps vs only 2 and a half plates for 8, chances are your legs will be bigger. If you just keep on squatting the same weight and waiting till you feel ready to increase the weight, will you be progressing as fast as possible? Most likely not.
I’m not saying training by feel is wrong. I’m all for reading your body and acting on signs and signals how you should train to prevent injury and so on, but logging your lifts is a really great way to start progressing and to keep on progressing as fast as possible.
Logging you lifts is like having a battle plan for war. Without a battle plan, you’re most likely going to lose, or in this case, get nowhere. I made a lot of gains at first by just lifting by feel and not logging my lifts, but then there came a period where I was just basically lifting the same weights workout after workout. In my mind, I was like: “Maybe next workout I’ll be stronger”, but on paper, I would have seen how bad it looked having done the same weight for weeks on end without progressing. If I had logged my lifts, I would have changed how I worked out a long time ago.
Now I log my lifts and my progress is much faster. I’m not saying don’t fix what isn’t broken, but are you doing everything possible to grow as fast as possible?
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