T Nation

Lift for a Number?

lets say a program says you should do 3 sets of 8 on the bench press. Do you just rack the weight at 8 reps, or should you go untill you are about to fail?

also i have a related question about keeping track of progress. I started carrying around a piece of paper with all my exercises and weight that i am suppost to do listed on it. After each exercise ill write down how many reps i got for each set. But ive seen like maybe 2 other people even bring papers to the gym in all the time i have been going, and never have i seen anybody writing down anything. So i feel like a dumbass and that i should just lift the damned weight

usually if your goal is 3 sets of 8 reps at the same weight and you can get more then 8 on all sets you should add weight. If I were doing 3 sets at the same weight I would do 8 reps the first 2 sets no matter if I felt I could do more, then on the 3rd set hit as many reps as possible. Though you’ll quickly find that once you start adding weight you might not be able to hit 8 reps on all 3 sets, which is why a lot of people like ramping up to a top set.

As for the paper thing, I bring a sticky note with my weights on it, but I don’t write on it. Most of the time I don’t even look at it, I know what weights im at. There are some people who bring paper/folders to the gym, but a lot of people with experience know what weight they’re at or they just go by feel. After a while you learn to understand your body better. Don’t worry about it, unless you’re bringing a billboard into the gym no one cares or notices.

in that rep scheme you mentioned, you can probably rack the weight and add weight the next session after you get the 24th rep cleanly.

keeping track of your lifts in a log is essential to long-term success. keep doing it.

ive been keeping track of exactly how many reps i get every set. im guessing that all i really need to do is keep track of wether or not i got the target number of reps for all sets, and if so, increase the load on the next session.

if your program says ‘do 3x8’ then you need to do 3x8 or you wouldn’t be following the program…
if your program says ‘do 3x8 or however many reps you get till failure’ then you could keep repping to failure and you’d be following the program.

does that make sense?

do you want to look like most people? 'cause if you do then you should probably eat like most people eat and train how most people train.

with respect to keeping logs most people don’t. but then most people look the same or worse than they did last year. but sure, maybe you should do that.

some people say they have kept training logs for over 20 years… some people say they learn things about what is limiting their progress by going back through their old logs… they track (log) such things as their body weight, what time of day they trained, etc. the more info you log the more patterns you might be able to discover (at some point, don’t overthink it initially).

but on the other hand… people might look at you funny. so maybe don’t keep a log.


I record things in my log like where I needed to clean up reps in the set, say if I cheated the last two, or if something felt particularly good with positioning/MMC/etc, if something felt off, or if I got more reps or weight than last week.

[quote]docthal wrote:
lets say a program says you should do 3 sets of 8 on the bench press. Do you just rack the weight at 8 reps, or should you go untill you are about to fail? [/quote]
This is exactly why I generally recommend rep ranges. If I say “bench press 3x6-8”, the idea is to use a weight that lets you get at least 6 reps and no more than 8. If you do a set and feel like you could’ve gotten 10, increase the weight. If you do a set and struggle to grind out 5, decrease the weight.

[quote]alexus wrote:
do you want to look like most people? 'cause if you do then you should probably eat like most people eat and train how most people train.

with respect to keeping logs most people don’t. but then most people look the same or worse than they did last year.[/quote]
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” - Mark Twain. :wink:

Very true. I generally write the day and date (duh), sometimes the time if it’s drastically different than my usual training time (for example, if I ended up lifting at 11:00pm or 8:00am instead of my typical afternoon session). I used to record bodyweight before training, but since it’s more accurate to weigh-in first thing in the AM, I generally don’t anymore.

I also record every set with weight and reps. If I end up failing a lift or not hitting an expected PR, I can double-check to see if I was too aggressive with my warm-ups that day, if I was on a string of PRs in recent weeks, or whatever. Having a long database of records also helps you track back to see/learn what exercises work best for helping you improve certain lifts.

Last year, when I was trying to PR in the bent press (an exercise nobody’s really done in, oh, 50 years or so), I had a hell of a time figuring out the “best” or most effective assistance exercises. Over the course of a few months, I was eventually able to cobble a program together by reviewing my training notes and dissecting what was or wasn’t helping.

Sarcasm? Please be sarcasm.

i would really appreciate it if somebody posted a copy of their workout log, like what they would bring to the gym. im looking to create a good one for myslf

I use a plain old pen and spiral notebook (usually just a 70-page/one subject), using one page per training session.

In case you can’t read my chicken-scratch, let me translate/re-write it below. This was from a few months ago when I was experimenting by following an old program from the '60s. This page also has a few of my own added notes so it’s a decent sample:

Wed. 2-1-12

Military Prs 2x12 95/12 125/10 … +1 … +1 push press
Close Grip BB Row 3x15 115/15 185/10 155/15
Flat Bench 3x12 95/12 145/12 125/12
BB Curl 1x10 100/10
{ Sqt 2x15 185/15 185/5 R Elbow
{ BB Pullover 2x20 40/20 50/12
[ SLDL 1x15 185/15
[ Shrug 1xX 185/15
Hang Kn Rs 1x25 -/25

The template I use is basically:

Exercise Name Intended Sets x Intended Reps Weight Used / Reps Gotten (repeated for each set)

The “… +1” is basically rest-pause. I took a few breaths before doing those additional reps, the last one using leg drive.
The brackets between squats-pullovers and stiff leg deadlifts-shrugs means supersets, a set of one then immediately a set of the next.

The squats were done “breathing” style, with a few breaths between each rep. I didn’t write it down but that’s implied (to me) because it’s key to the program I was doing. I ended the last set after just 5 reps because my right elbow was distractingly painful, that’s also why I cut the second set of pullovers short . Pretty sure I mildly pinched a nerve or something. It was weird for a few days after.

The shrug “1xX” is basically shooting for as many reps as possible. The dash with the hanging knee raises means no additional weight was used.

The other thing I don’t write down is my general warm-up. I always precede lifting with the same mobility drills - reverse lunge and twist, plank with arm movement, plank with leg movement, cat/camel. To me, those are a given and never change.

Ha, hope that all wasn’t too confusing.

I keep mine on my phone and post it here:


thanks chris, that was really helpfull. fr0 that just looked like your profile i couldnt find your log anywhere.

woops I think I have my profile set to private

anyway here’s today’s leg/quads/calves/traps day

[quote]fr0IVIan wrote:
breakfast: half my usual eggs (mom took 1/2), 6-8 oz sauteed chicken, 1 cup oats


BACK SQUAT, power through with hips!
wider stance, 1 step out from sides of rack
275x1 PR +10, PR DEPTH

235x5 -1 rep, well that was hard.
215x6 -2 reps omg my hip flexors are getting raped.
195x10 omg
belted to prevent major lulz.

bench press grip.

omg this makes me cry.

LEG PRESS (toes forward, inside shoulder width, weight on balls of feet, no lockout, down past second set of stops, seat at bottom hook)
5pps x10
4pps x12
3pps x15, 3 second descents

195x8 (10) x7 (8) x7 (8)
180x7 (8)
165x8 (10)

285x10 (15) x9 (10) x9 (10)
270x11 (12)
255x12 (12)

195x11 (15) x9 (10) x9 (10)
180x10 (10) ~1 sec hold
165x12 (12) 1-2 sec hold

abz: hanging weighted knee raise 50x10 x8 x7, 25x10, maybe did some bw reps, can’t remember

post meal: 1 cup white rice, 1 whole sweet n sour fried trout, 50g Carnivor [/quote]

I take a sheet off a legal pad, tear it in half, and fold it up so it’s no bigger than the palm of my hand. Every exercise gets a table where one row is for reps in that set and the other row is for weight for that set. After each set I write (I also bring a pen with me) in the weight I used and number of reps I got it for. Really convenient because otherwise I would lose count of what set I was on and I would never remember what weight I used for each set and how many reps I got. If I went to failure I put a little F next to the #reps for that set.

I’ve seen one or two people plop down a folder at the squat rack and do all their training calculations on their phone or something before each set, which I would hate to do. Most of the bigger guys at my gym don’t seem to bring in any sort of log, but oh well everyone does their thing. I used to feel a little dorky about logging every set but I don’t think anyone will beat me up for being a little meticulous I should be good on that. I prefer to have something I can put in my pocket easily.