How to Track Your Progress at the Gym (The Smart Way)

If you go the gym on a regular basis, I’m sure there’s a good reason for it.

You probably want to achieve one of the following:

  1. Make Gains.
  2. Lose Body Fat.
  3. Both 1 and 2.

The reality is that getting results in the gym is easier said than done.

It takes a lot of effort to make progress.

It can be really frustrating to put in the effort but still be left scratching your head because you’re not achieving what you wanted.

However, once you learn how to properly measure your progress in the gym, this won’t be an issue any longer.

Why Should You Care About Measuring Progress?

Look, I get it. Most people don’t even go the gym and you’re actually putting in the effort and going.

So shouldn’t just going be enough? Well think of it this way…

Is just going to class enough to make an A? It depends on the class itself, but with most high-level courses the answer is definitely no.

You have to put in the effort during class by taking good notes and then study hard outside of class. You can’t just go to class and nap; that’s a waste of time!

The same thing goes for the gym. Simply being at the gym means nothing.

You have to go the gym and train hard time and time again.

Now:

This is where measuring plays a critical role. How are you supposed to train harder if you don’t know exactly what you did the previous time?

For example, let’s say that you do bench press every Monday. So you do 3 sets of 225 pounds for 8 reps on the 1st set, 6 on the 2nd, and 5 on the 3rd.

If you didn’t record that, then what are the chances you’re going to remember a week later? Sure you’ll probably remember that you used 225 pounds, but will you really remember the reps you did for each set?

Doubtful.

Trust me, it gets hard when you have to remember a bunch of different exercises. The point is that writing down what you did matters because it lets you know exactly where you stand and where you need to go.

How exactly should you measure your progress? Well let’s get into that now.

2 Tips for Measuring Your Progress in the Gym

Here are my two best tips to easily manage and record your progress at the gym. These tips aren’t flashy by any means, but they’ll get the job done.

Tip #1 Use a workout journal

The simple truth is that you need to use a workout journal or something to actually record what it is that you’re doing for the day. A workout journal can be a physical notebook and pen, or even using the note app on your phone.

It may be more convenient to use your phone because you won’t forget to bring it to the gym, but either way works just fine.

Now:

What should you record in your journal? I recommend tracking the following:

-Date

-The exercises that you’re doing for the day

-Weight used for each set

-Number of sets for each exercise

-Number of reps completed for each exercise

-How long you rested in between each set

Here’s what a journal might look like for a back and bicep workout:

Date: 11/28/15
Exercise: Sets/Reps Set 1 (weight used/reps) Set 2 Set 3 Rest between each set
Lat Pulldown 3×10 160/10 160/8 160/7 2 min
Barbell Curls 3×8 95 (weight inc. bar)/8 85/10 75/12 90 sec
Cable Row 3×8 110/8 110/8 110/8 60 sec
Hammer Curls 3×10 30 pound DB’s/12 35/10 35/12 60 sec

This clearly isn’t the prettiest workout journal, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to get the job done.

The cool thing is that you can use a log for more than just your weight workouts. It can also be used for cardio as well.

For example, let’s say you were going to do a high intensity interval-training (HIIT) workout where you alternated between a high and low speed. Your journal might look something like this:

Date: Machine Used: Type of Cardio Intensity: Duration
11/28/15 Treadmill HIIT 3.5 mph, 8 mph 30 minutes

Tip #2 Use a Stopwatch

training with a stopwatch

-My $15 Armitron Stopwatch

Using a stopwatch keeps your workouts honest and accurate. If you don’t use one, then how do you really know the length of your rest intervals?

You simply don’t. For example, let’s say you rest for one minute in between sets of dumbbell curls.

The 1st set you actually rest for one minute. However, after you finish the 2nd set you respond to a couple of texts you have causing you to rest for 3 minutes.

Now you’re able to do more reps than you normally would have. What’s the problem with this?

The next time you go in and do dumbbell curls you won’t be able to do as many reps if you actually rest for one minute. Then you’ll be left confused and wondering why you’re not able to make progress.

The reality is that you just didn’t keep up with your rest periods like you were supposed to. And the only way to know is by using a stopwatch and measuring it every single time.

Again, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple $10 stopwatch will do the trick, or you could even use the clock app on your phone.

However, I’ve found it much more convenient to just wear the wristwatch. It’s becomes a big hassle to constantly switch between your music, workout journal, and stopwatch on your phone.

Consistency Over Time Matters Most

Right now you might be thinking, “Big deal if I don’t record one workout, what can it hurt?” I understand that this can be an easy mindset to fall into but don’t.

Think about how many times you said you’d skip the gym just this one time and make up for it later, but of course you never did. Yeah, add all of those times together and now you have the answer to why you’re not getting the results you want.

The same goes for recording your workouts. Every workout that you do builds on top of the last one, and it’s hard for that to happen if you don’t know how much weight to use.

The point is that consistency does matter even if what you’re doing seems small and unimportant.

Final Thoughts

The majority of people don’t exercise on a regular basis. Of those that do, most don’t record their workouts.

Imagine how much better results you could get just by simply writing down what it is that you do? You’ll know exactly where you’ve been and where it is that you want to go from there.

Remember what gets measured gets managed.

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