(Photo Above: Steve Reeves doing barbell curls)
In a previous post discussing Classic Physique Building (CPB) Principles, we talked about the importance of the central principle of progressive resistance. Essentially, this principle says that the key to muscular growth is to use increasingly heavy weights in a systematic, progressive manner. Muscles respond to the use of heavier weights by getting stronger and larger.
OK....most people probably understand that principle at some level. However, everytime we walk into a gym or fitness center, we are surprized to see people working out on the weight floor, but almost no one using or carrying around a workout or training journal or log!
Next to the weights themselves (and your understanding of the CPB Principles), a training journal or log is the next, most important tool! In this journal, you should not only list the exercise routine that you are following, but also the number of sets, reps, and amount of weight that you use. This should be an accurate log of what you actually did - not want you may have intended to do. Only by keeping an accurate log of each workout can you advance in a progressive manner.
Don't rely on your memory! Write everything down! Let's say for today's workout you intended to do 2 sets of 6 reps in cheating barbell curls with 90lbs. But instead, you were only able to do 6 reps in your first set and 4 reps in your second set. Write it down! Now you have a goal! In your next workout, your goal will be to increase your reps (even if only by 1) in the second set. By pushing yourself to beat your last performance, you are applying the principle of "progressive resistance". But you can't apply the principle if you forgot how many reps you did or what weight you used last time.
In your training log, you can also list other things that can be useful. For example, you can list how much rest you are using between sets (1 minute, 30 seconds, etc) or whether you feel strong in a certain exercise and think you can add weight to the bar in your next workout (e.g., you can use an upward arrow to indicate that you think you can use more weight next time, or horizontal line to indicate you need to stay with the same weight, or downward arrow if you need to decrease your weight).
A training journal or log will help you stay motivated since it allows you to to easily see your progress in strength increases as the weeks go by. It will also make it easier to focus on your routine which might prevent you from aimlessly drifting from one routine to another without making progress.
So don't worry whether you see other people using a journal or not - use one! Carry it with you around the gym and record your info after each exercise (or even after each set). If you aren't using a training log, give it a try. You'll be surprized at the results and gains that start coming your way!
P.S. Steve Reeves kept all his training journals even from his first days as a beginner! It clearly worked for him and can for us as well!