Obviously it’s a matter of personal preference but I like to track and record my workouts.
Yes, you can play it by ear each time but I’ve always found I progress a bit better when I try to achieve some sort of goal each workout.
Setting a goal could be any of the following:
- increasing the weight for a given number of reps,
- increasing the number of reps for a given weight,
- trying to get a better calculated one-rep maximum for an exercise.
What I tend to do is record my best weight for each of one to 12 reps and then I record the calculated one-rep maximum for each exercise. The aim in each workout (or each week or each fortnight) is to break at least one of these personal records.
On one workout I might lift more for seven reps than I have before, on another workout I might lift more for 10 reps.
I find that doing this helps motivate me. It makes sure I’m implementing the “progressive” bit of progressive resistance training. Otherwise I find I just drift through workouts.
When you’ve been doing this for a while, increasing the weight lifted becomes harder – it’s a case of diminishing returns. To begin with, I could increase the weight every workout. After a while I could only increase the weight every week and then, after more solid training, only every two weeks.
But because I record my maximums for all reps from one to 12, I have more chances of increasing the weight somewhere.
Micro-plates are useful in this respect. The smallest plate in most weight sets is 1.25kg (~ 2.5lbs), which means for barbell exercises you have to go up by 2.5 kg (~ 5lbs) each time. This is fine to begin with but it eventually becomes impossible, so get yourself some 0.5kg and/or 0.25kg plates.
I find the sense of progress I get is motivating.
I also have a log of every workout I’ve done and this is invaluable for figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.
There are many ways you can do this tracking. You could record things a spreadsheet, notebook or, if you train at home and have the wall space, you could put up a white board and put your best lifts on there. You could also use some sort of software program for this tracking (I wrote my own in Filemaker).
A spreadsheet is a good option. If you know how to use Excel you can have it produce all sorts of charts so you see a good representation of your progress.
Setting goals is the key to achieving most things if various self-help literature is to be believed and I certainly think it helps with workouts.