My Workout Sheets, 4/24 edition

I’ve been sharing my workout sheets with folks for a while, and just decided I needed to put it somewhere it’ll be easy to get to.

Please keep in mind these forms are a starting point; they’re the structure that works for me, and your mileage will probably vary. Some folks have better success tracking workouts on their phones, but I find I do better if I’m not touching the phone at all.

How to use the forms

First, we have the actual workout form itself. I adhere to a very simple A/B rotation of workouts, and as such the exercises I can do fit pretty well into half of a sheet of paper. If you get more elaborate, you can do different sheets, etc. This is only a starting point; what you’re trying to do here is get to the point where you track the exercises you perform at the gym.

Which exercises appear on the sheet, is up to you. I do however suggest that you make sure that all of the workout blocks are identical so that you don’t have to have sheet A, B, C, etc. Also, make sure to leave yourself a few blank lines at the bottom so that you can write in bonus exercises. One thing I like to do though is to separately track machine-based and weight-based versions of the same exercise via the columns. But in the next generation of my form, I’m likely to redefine that as set1/machine and set2/weights. Because I’ve grown fond of doing drop sets with real weights, and have used that second column mostly for that purpose lately.

Next, we have the benchmarks sheet. This is meant to be kept at the back of the clipboard so that you can flip over to it when you’re trying to decide whether you’re planning to try to lift 205lbs 5 times or 185lbs 8 times. Personally, I almost always do three sets of the exercises I’m doing in a day, and I try to ensure that Day B exercises are not hitting the same muscle groups as any of my Day A exercises.

The space right after the name of the exercise, is where I write my target weight / reps. For any given Day A, I’ve already decided that today is bench press, hack squat, dumbbell rows, seated crunch, and triceps pushdown. And then I look at my previous sheet and pencil in my targets, and go to the gym and do it.

Filling out the sheet is important because that’s how you communicate to your future self for setting the next set of goals. If my target was 205×8 and I found that I could only complete 6-7, the next target is probably going to be 205×8 again. But if I achieved 205×8? Well, if I don’t feel I achieved it well, I will write it as “205x8pf” – for ‘poor form’. There are several other shorthand abbreviations one can add, but PF is the one I use the most.

If I find that I am not progressing, I’ll take a week and do a “volume week” – I’ll use the tables on the benchmarks form above, to figure out what weight I should use to perform 15 reps of the exercises I’m doing. After a week of this, I usually find that my progression in strength resumes.

As for rep ranges, it’s pretty simple. I do three rounds of all the exercises on my target list, and on strength weeks I shoot for weights where I can perform a minimum of 5 reps and a maximum of 12. If I can do fewer than 5, it’s time to scale down and if I can do more than 12, it’s time to scale up. I will count reps with poor form, but will avoid moving up in weight if I feel like I wasn’t doing well.

Importantly, as with any exercise regimen, talk to a doctor because I am not one. I’ve been happy with the results I’ve had, but those results are mine, based upon following a routine I’ve developed over a couple decades in the gym. That routine is specialized for me, and there are probably a lot of places for improvement if a general audience is going to try to use it.

On the benchmark form, I used to pull the strength standards off of that site for my own reference. The site will customize the standards you get by age and weight, so that’s why it specifically says it’s for a 47yo 240lb man – that’s me. If you’re going to use the benchmarks part of the sheet at all (the 1RM equation is useful no matter who you are, but the benchmarks are specific), you should pull the correct standards customized to your age, weight, and gender.

Lastly, don’t take any of the standards on personally. Weightlifting is an enjoyable sport because any competition beyond competing against yourself, is opt-in. There are a lot of seriously strong folks on strengthlevel skew the numbers for high body weight people, so you’re likely to be staring at “novice” or “beginner” for quite some time – especially if you have a lot of body fat, so the system decides you should be assessed alongside folks who weigh the same as you but are all muscle. The useful thing about these numbers though is that it gives you a rough feel for how comparably high/low your strength is in different areas. I personally have pathetic squat, deadlift, and shoulder press numbers for someone with my bench press numbers. This means I need to work on those; it doesn’t mean I am hopeless. Folks who work desk jobs don’t spend a ton of time doing exercises comparable to squatting, and so that was a blind spot for me.

Oh yes, I should mention – my profile on is Feel free to follow, feel free not to.


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