Hi Bret! Autoregulating training brings a question about the necessity(or not) of keeping a training log. I know I may be giving this subject too much thought, but couldn’t resist asking you. The reason I’m interested is, because training according to notes from previous training sessions could possibly negatively interfere with the autoregulatory process(adjusting the workout more by the numbers and details in the log, than the actual state of your body and performance).There are also some experts who don’t keep one or consider doing so necessary. Christian Thibaudeau for instance hasn’t ever used one. Louie Simmons doesn’t almost even allow his lifters to keep one. Plus there are plenty of bodybuilders who don’t bother themselves with it either. At times it makes me still wonder, whether a lot of lifters just get away with it among other things, because of the steroids.So, I’d like to know if you use one your self with your own training? And any other thoughts possibly. I decided to ask you, because you mention autoregulation often in your blog, which I like to read weekly. I understand if you don’t have the time to answer these questions.Thanks a lot! Jussi
Hey Jussi, this is a great question. I didn’t know that about Christian and Louie. Here are my thoughts on the topic.
For bodybuilders, keeping a log is not so important. Strength is critical for muscle growth but it’s not everything. Doing what many bodybuilders do and utilizing “instinctive training” can deliver excellent results over time. Once sufficient strength is built up, they don’t always go in and try to set PR’s. They learn to feel certain muscles working more during various exercises, and they aim to achieve an incredible pump. And since they usually do bodypart splits, switch up exercise order, and rotate variations in and out, it makes more sense to just hit the gym and go by feel rather than try to go up in weight or do more reps every session, since there are simply too many variables in play. In fact, keeping a training log might be detrimental to a bodybuilder, as it might entice a him to go too heavy. For example, let’s say that last time the bodybuilder did flies he used 70 lb dumbbells, but he did them second in his workout immediately following incline bench press. However, for the current workout, he’s doing them third in the workout, following bench press and dumbbell incline press, which would render him a bit weaker. If he tried to match or beat what he did on flies in his last performance he might end up injuring himself. For these reasons, I don’t believe that bodybuilders who have already achieved appreciable levels of strength must keep a training log. It’s fine if they do, but it’s not critical.
Many powerlifters require a log to inform them of percentages that they’ll need to use during their training. Many lifters need these percentages for periodization purposes. Furthermore, many powerlifters perform dozens of slight variations of the powerlifts, either raw or equipped, and it helps to keep track of loads used for all of the different lifts. Finally, most powerlifters don’t just go in and “wing it.” They have either a definite plan or at least a basic idea as to what they’re going to accomplish in the gym. For these reasons, powerlifters should keep a log.
For athletes, the process of keeping detailed records is very important. I’ve seen some impressive templates from coaches such as Mladen Jovanovic that are convenient and detailed. The devil is in the details, and the more you monitor and track, the better chance your athletes have of succeeding. All strength coaches should keep logs for their athletes.
Many beginners can go into the gym and beat their previous effort every week for several months. They just need to know what they did during their last workout and they’ll beat it. Beginners have the worst memories as it pertains to lifting because everything is new to them. They’re not familiar with the names of exercises, the loads they used, etc. So training logs for beginners are essential.
For everyone else, I believe that training logs should in fact be kept. Some guys have terrific memories as it pertains to lifting. They’ll forget their anniversary with their girlfriends or wives, forget to pay phone bills, etc., but they’ll remember exactly what they did on every set of their routine the previous week. However, most normal people struggle to remember the details. For example, I can’t remember what weight I used last time I introduced Zercher squats into my routine, or what I used last time I did cambered bar good mornings. It’s nice to be able to flip back and see what load you used and how many sets and reps you did. Another caveat is that the process of writing down your loads, sets, reps, etc. may help you better remember the workout.
Furthermore, for most of us progressive overload is critical. The average guy needs to get appreciably stronger in order to get more muscular. He can’t just go for a pump and haphazardly throw a few random exercises together and still see results. The process of keeping a log enables lifters to critically analyze their programs and see if they’re truly delivering results in terms of strength gains.
Finally, on the training log you can jot down important notes. For example, I like to write down which hole I did for box squats, which pin placement I used for rack pulls, the precise configuration of adjustment settings I used on a particular machine, or other notes such as “too light,” “too heavy,” “no chalk,” “crippled abs,” etc. For these reasons, I believe that most people should in fact keep training logs.
I keep mine pretty simple. I’ve been doing so for about 14 years now. Here’s mine below; I’m trying to get used to keeping records in kilograms.
Hope that helps! -Bret