One of the key tools that I have used over my years of training is the use of a training logbook.  


Yeght i am a log book wanker


one of those dudes that walks round the gym with pen and paper in hand!




While I was clearing out some of my shit the other day when I came across my first training log books, which was from 1998 when I was a very slim 10stone 8lbs at 6ft 1in.


I think that looking back through them and comparing the lifts and reps to what I do now should be enough to encourage anyone that keeping track is well worth it for motivational and progressive reasons. 


For example back then my 6-rep max was 70kg where as today it’s more like 160kg. This alone shows massive progress over a 17 year span more than doubling my weight for a 6 rep max, which may be shows a significant relationship for me to doubling my lean body weight over the same time period.


Without a doubt especially in the beginning I can say that this is one of the single biggest motivators for me every time that I went into the gym and start moving some iron, and its something that I encourage all of my clients to get used to using and those that do always make the biggest changes.


Some of you that talk to me or read my blog on a regular basis will know that iam not an advocator of using near maximal weights for minimal reps and sloppy form or doing efficient style powerlifting type lifts.  80-90% of the time I am all about Isolating  & creating maximal tension in the working muscle to make the exercise as difficult and as in-efficient as possible, pretty much the opposite of what I see most casual sloppy gym users doing, and the dead opposite of what power lifers aim is (moving an object in as most efficient way possible from point A to point B).


Keeping a training logbook can help with these in 2 ways…


  1. Making sure that I am getting most out of every working set and rep by working at 100% intensity & effort every time I lift, and


  1. Indicates when I should be using extra intensifier techniques and lifts not just throwing them in for the sake of it, causing potential overtraining and injury.


I remember back when I started training nobody used a training logbook and even back then when I knew very little it confused me as to why nobody was using one!


Just from my example above you can see that planning, tracking and recording each lift will get you far better results than just plodding along and making it up as you go along.


So why does it work so well? A number of reasons really.


100% intensity and efficient use of time & effort


So you go into the gym you have finished doing the warm-up sets and then start the working sets, where do you start at? Well Lets take a typical example that I see on the bench press, you load up


Set 1 20 each side do 10 reps,


Set 2 another 20 each side 10 reps,


Set 3 another 20 each side, 10 reps,


Set 4 add another 10kg each side 8 reps.


So in my mind in the above example you have done 1 working set,


Is his really enough to stimulate muscle growth?


I think not unless your super genetically gifted or just coming of the back end of a deload phase in your training or a complete newbie.


And the reason that people follow this pointless set and rep scheme is because they have no record of what they should be doing, and where they should be starting.


Here’s what I do

Warm-ups as required using C.V and lightweights 2-3 sets 20-30reps


Feel sets… this involves 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps gradually increasing the weight to 80-90% of you 8-12rep max just to stimulate CNS system into action to get peak maximal firing of the muscle being worked.


 Then I would proceed with 4 working sets, so taking the above example it would go


Set 1 160kg 8-10reps


Set 2 162.5 kg 8-10 reps


Set 3 165kg 8-10 reps


Set 4 167.5 kg 6-10 reps


With each completed set I would assess whether the set was too easy for the rep range?


Was the form good and maintained throughout the set?


Was tension maintained in the working muscle, if so increase the weight for the following set and indicate that the weight needs to increase next time this set and exercise is performed, which is normally the following week?


So by tracking the weight in this method and making small incremental changes to the weights from session to session you are going to force the muscle to adapt become stronger and get thicker and larger.


This structured 2.5kg increments over a set period of time will add up to much better muscular and strength gains than causally going into the gym and guessing.


Your getting 95-100% intensity & effort with each working set and rep!




In a perfect world we would keep adding the 2.5kgs to are lifts each week


But as you will come to find out that your body will come to a natural plateau with anything that you do so we have to find new stimulus i.e. new ways of training to take us past are muscular limits.


Remembered using progressively heavy weights is just a technique to stimulate muscle growth nothing more, its not the be all and end all of bodybuilding and building muscle, remember we are not power lifters and strong men!


In fact using more and more weight is far from the only technique, its just part of the big equation that contributes to achieving that lean muscular physique.  


This is where intensifiers should be used to push you through plateaus and stimulate new muscular growth without relying purely on more weight!


See my intensifier article & library in the Blog & on you tube for ideas (watch my clients scream J)


Instinctive trainers


There’s also the argument that you should just go into the gym and train instinctively and just do what feels right. In my opinion this has to many drawbacks


  1. You will always been drawn back to your favorite routine, exercise, rep and set range scheme


  1. Progression is really hard to manage, even if its just using “weights” as described in the example above. Remember there are other means to measure progression of which are





Rep speed,


Rep Range,


Volume etc.


All of which should be included in your plan to keep progressing forward and improving, I don’t know about you but I’ve got better things to remember than the weights I lifted last session!


  1. Lack of Intensity, without a plan most people will become distracted


Without intensity your muscular gains are doomed to failure


These are just some of the draw backs to training instinctively, but having said that sometimes a period of instinctive training can work wonders, so I would say looking at the overall picture a couple of parodied phases per year (2-4 weeks each) would help, maybe whilst on holiday or after a period of really intense training.


For those of you reading this and thinking what a load of bollocks


 I would take a good look around the gym you train in and pick out the people that seem to always be making true constant changes (not fat gain) and make significant gains to their physique, I bet there have some kind of structured plan and diary and are constantly monitoring and assessing there training.


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Laurie “Organized but slight suffering from OCD” Carr




Measure everything!




Success in any aspect of life means mastering the basics!


Keep it simple




I have attached one of our tracking sheets that we use wiur clients if your interested in knowing how to set it out

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