Lift Heavier Things By Tracking Your Progress

If you work out on a regular basis, you need to track your progress. I remember learning to track bench press with a printed Excel sheet in a high school weight lifting class. For some reason, perhaps because CrossFit has so much variety, it took me a while to get serious about tracking my workouts.

When I started CrossFit in February of 2011, I would get into a routine where I would show up for a workout, try to remember what weight I lifted the last time, and add some weight for the current session. This worked out really well when I was beginning, mainly because I was jumping up so much in weight each time as I started to get in shape.

After a while, I noticed that my rate of improvement was diminishing and even leveling off in some areas. The problem—which I only noticed in hindsight—was mainly due to my not being able to remember how far I had pushed myself in a previous workout. Starting at a computer screen at 5:30 AM, I wasn’t doing much research on previous weights before heading into the gym.

So earlier this year, I started tracking my workouts in a couple of Google Docs.

Apart from actually showing up for the workouts, tracking my workouts has been the single biggest contributor to my improvements this year.

I started two spreadsheets in Google Docs, Named WODs and Ben’s Lifts. I check them accordingly before heading to the gym. I even have them saved as favorites on my smartphone in case I need to look them up while I’m there. Here’s a screenshot of my entries for Deadlift this year:


It’s not too complicated. All you really need is the movement, date, rep scheme, and weight, but I added my 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, and a Notes fields, which turns out to be quite helpful. You notice on June 29, it had been over three months since my last 5x5 Deadlift. I was quickly able to see that I had struggled at 275 for my last 5x5 but thought I could push myself to 285. If I hadn’t been tracking my progress, I probably would have guessed based on my last 5x3 and probably would have ended up at about 265.

There are a ton of different ways to track your workouts. A lot of CrossFit blogs encourage you to post your scores to the comments (I really like this, mainly because it encourages a positive community, but it can be hard to look up old scores). Our box recently started using SocialWod to automatically track our white board. Again, I really like this for the community aspect.

Even with all of these great methods, I still recommend coming up with your own simple tracking system. It’s the best way (in addition to showing up) that I know of to help yourself improve at the gym.

Have any thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!