Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

How and Why to Keep a Training Log

by Inna Koppel, SSC | February 26, 2019

training log for strength training

One of the many ways that the Starting Strength method of training is distinguished from all other training programs is the way progress is rigorously documented. This process begins from the first day at the gym when the lifter begins recording their training from the first session in a “marble” notebook – the commonly available composition book you used in school. Although the marble notebook has been upgraded to a digital or online training log for some, the classic notebook and pencil has never failed during a computer crash, and the presence of the notebook at the gym remains the hallmark of the Starting Strength lifter.

Each notebook page should be partitioned in order to make the presentation of information useful. The pages should be divided into columns, one column per workout session, with at least three columns on each page for each of the sessions per week. This columnar method facilitates review, helping to see the big picture as you flip back through the pages. The top of the column will start with the date followed by the first exercise, in general, the squat. Below the squat will be a list of your warm ups and the work sets. Once your first exercise is complete, you will write the next exercise right below it, for example the press, followed by a similar list, all the way down the page. Day two of your training should comprise a column adjacent to the first, and the process repeats itself every time you train.

In addition to recording numbers – warm ups and your work sets – the training log is a place to record what caused interruptions in training, like illness or vacations, or to help explain the gap in dates. You might also note the reason there would be a program change or if there were any injuries that happened around that time. Illness, pregnancy and surgeries should be noted on the side of the workout so that the coach can easily identify why changes were made to your program and help you troubleshoot. Log books can thus help your coach get you unstuck, should you stop progressing, by seeing how you respond to different permutations of volume and intensity, or how you adapt during training cycles with careful attention to interruptions or significant life events.

The utility of the training log may transcend its function as a record of training progress and direction. What you may notice as you look back on your notebook is that it has become a record not only of the history your workouts but also of your physical health, a kind of medical record. You will have noted, over time, how you respond to different stressors and how you recover from them, and this attests to your health, viewed through the lens of strength. Many of my clients train to improve their bone density; barbell training is the best way to build bone, so reviewing progress in a training log provides reassurance that they are improving bone health. 

The training log is not only a record of your training history but also a story of your ups and downs, your personal records, and your failed attempts. It is a reminder that no matter what life throws your way, the training was always there to keep you strong. That is worth recording.

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