Go to Battle with Your Training Log and Build Muscle Faster
Sep 4th, 2012
As a skinny teenager trying to get jacked I was naive.
Naive enough to ignore nutrition (thinking it wasn’t worth worrying about), naive enough to assume machines were just as effective at building muscle as free-weight, compound lifts, and naive enough to believe that it wasn’t necessary to track the weights I was using on my lifts or the number of reps I was performing with a given weight.
I had somehow drawn the conclusion that as long as I was diligent in working my muscles in some capacity four or five days per week they would eventually grow to Mr. Olympia proportions and all the other stuff wasn’t worth the worry (or the hassle).
Needless to say, my muscles didn’t grow very much and I certainly didn’t get jacked!
My philosophy on nutrition today is a far cry from what is was back then. In fact, I would now argue that nutrition is at least as important as training when it comes to improving the composition of the body.
If you aren’t aware of the nutritional principles I’ve adopted for healthy and fit living, you can read about them in my 6 Nutrition Rules for Living Lean and Healthy article.
But today I want to address an aspect of training that could very well be the most underrated – and underused – weapon in a person’s muscle building arsenal: the training log.
The Importance of Tracking Your Progress
Put simply, a training log is a method of tracking how much weight you’re lifting with the various exercises that make up your training regimen. You can also use it to track other metrics as well: number of reps, number of sets, duration of rest between sets, etc.
The bottom line is that you need a way to record the amount of weight you’re lifting, and/or the number of reps you’re able to complete per set, on each and every exercise you perform throughout the week.
Building muscle and strength is the result of adequate nourishment and progressive overload. I’ve learned over the years that progressive overload is best applied using a systematic strategy.
Adding weight to the bar and arbitrarily deciding how many reps you’re going to perform in an ad hoc manner isn’t going to get you very far. This is where having a training log will prove useful.
The right way to use a training log is to know how much weight you used the last time you performed a lift, along with the number of reps you performed. This will give you a goal to aim at the next time you’re doing that lift.
If you want your muscles to grow the goal must always be to lift more weight or perform the same amount of weight for a greater number of reps. Either method will sufficiently overload your muscles and stimulate them to grow.
I prefer using a set number of reps and adding weight any time I can perform my target number of reps for any of my sets with that lift.
For instance, tonight I was dead lifting 275lbs with the goal of completing 10 reps. I pressed out 12 reps, so I made a note in my training log to add five pounds the next time I’m performing dead lifts with the goal of completing 10 reps.
In case you’re wondering, my training log is a dry erase board, but any method that allows you to track your progress is perfectly acceptable.
Going to War with Your Training Log
By the way, when I’m lifting I don’t go into a set with the mindset that I’m just going to reach my number of reps and stop. I treat each and every set as a battle with the iron, gutting out rep after rep until there’s nothing left in the tank.
Always remember it’s the last reps of a set that leads to muscle growth. If you’ve done nothing more than placed your muscle fibers under a level of strain they’re already accustomed to, they’re not going to grow much, if at all.
Keep this in mind when you’re training. I built a ripped physique on the back of hard work and pushing my muscles with a high level of intensity almost every time I trained.
As it pertains to getting ripped, having well-developed muscles is half the equation. The other half is reducing body fat until you’ve achieved a level of muscle definition that allows the breaks in your muscles and the cuts in your abs to show through.
Developing your muscles to a significant degree can only be accomplished through consistently overloading them. There’s just no way around it.
This isn’t easy, but you need to have the mindset of going to war with your training log, pushing with every last ounce of sheer force that you can muster to crank out as many reps as physically possible.
You probably aren’t going to be able to add weight every time you perform a lift, but that has to be the goal.
Don’t get too down on yourself if you fall a little short. If you gave it your all there’s nothing more you can do.
A little disappointment is okay, but don’t dwell on it for long. Let it go soon after and allow it to motivate you the next time you’re under the bar performing the same lift again.
Using a Training Log to Improve Your Physique
Take a look around the next time you’re at the gym to see how many are using training logs. You’ll probably see less than a handful.
Although, you’ll probably see less than a handful of men and women walking around with impressive physiques, as well.
Going to the gym, halfheartedly pumping a few dumbbells and barely breaking a sweat may be acceptable to some, but it’s not acceptable to me. I’m there to push my body to be improved.
Without keeping a training log and going to battle with it every time I train I wouldn’t be anywhere near as strong or have been able to develop the body I have today.
Don’t be lazy!
Start keeping a training log and make it your goal to improve upon past training sessions as often as possible. Do this and your physique will be continually improved as your muscles will have no other choice but to grow.
For a detailed look at my complete philosophy for building lean muscle, check out my 9 Steps for Building Lean Muscle article.
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