Boy do we love variety. We love eating new things. We love wearing new clothes. We love dating new people.

And it’s pretty simple to understand why. Never before, in the course of humanity, have we had access to so many options. With our insta-alerts about insta-grams on insta-dates, we are insta-distracted by something new! something other! something sexier? something different! 

This study from Microsoft revealed that our attention span is now less than a goldfish.

Sheeit. We’re becoming a culture of goldfish.

But this isn’t only a tale of technology. Our obsession with variety has crept its way into our relationship with exercise. The success of group fitness classes and CrossFit rely upon this obsession. We call these chaotic training methods because they fully embrace constant variety – a new workout every time you walk through the door. Obviously there is no consideration given to short or long term progression, because you’re not doing the workout again. Variety is king.

Here’s the problem: when we allow our diminishing attention span to dictate our training, with no consideration given to short or long term progression, we eventually stop making progress. Progress should be our master, not variety.

But Rob…

Variety is the spice of life.
– William Cowper

Classic. And true. But think about it. If variety is the spice of life then CONSTANT variety is like having way too many spices. That shit won’t taste good.

From a physiological standpoint, too much variety is just as detrimental to progress as too little. The problem isn’t so much that we need less variety, it’s that we need a stronger training stimulus to push our body towards adaptation. One workout simply isn’t enough to get better. We have to do the workout again, and again, and again…incrementally challenging our previous benchmarks. Baby steps. This is called phase training and is a better long term strategy for our collective dreams of bigger, faster, stronger. 

Obviously there is a shelf life to phase training as well. Continue to do the same workout too long, and your body (and mind) will get bored. We’ve gotta Goldilocks it – there is a variety sweet spot where progress continues to kick ass week after week, month after month, year after year.

If you plan on training for less than 2 months, it literally doesn’t matter what you do. Any challenging fitness routine will elicit growth. But who the hell wants to have a short term relationship with progress? If you’d like to make gainz ad-infitum, you’d better get organized.

Your first class ticket to organization station:

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With a smart plan in tow, the next step is a question of execution: what does a well executed training phase look like? Enter, training logs.

Bandana Laws of Training Logs 

Keeping track of your workouts is vitally important. It’s what separates the champions from the wanna-be’s, the lions from the gazelles, the micro-brews from the Coors Light. Here are a few of the rules I use to help guarantee success:  

I) I record all of my workouts on my iPad because I like to save the rainforest.

II) Always record the date of the workout so you can reference it later on.

III) While there are many ways to progress a workout, the most traditional is intensity – increase the weight of a lift. Here’s a good example of a client log that utilizes traditional training blocks. Notice that load and reps are recorded:

Phase Training Sample Workout IV

*A weird note about me. For barbell exercises, I like to record the load on ONE SIDE of the barbell. This is because I spend so much time in the gym with such a wide variety of clients, I don’t want to constantly subtract the weight of the bar and divide by two to figure out what I should be putting on the bar (no it’s not hard math, it’s just an unnecessary step and I’m a whore for efficiency.) Plus, I’m not generally concerned with how much weight my clients lift, I only care that they’re pushing their limits – wherever those might be.

IV) Generally speaking, workouts should be written with rep ranges. If you fall outside of the rep range, the next week don’t add additional load. For example, in week 3 (7/21/2015) of the workout above, the athlete (let’s call him Tyrannosaurus Flex) was unable to finish the 8th reps of 45º DB bench. Instead of increasing the following week, the weight remained at 90 lbs, but Tyrannosaurus Flex was able to get all of the prescribed reps. This offers a strong psychological bonus as well – athletes quickly learn that they “earn” progress – you no gimme 8 reps, you no lifty heavier weights.

V) Intensity is not the only way we progress a workout. For energy system intervals, I’ll often record treadmill speed. So if my workout includes 1/4 mile sprints, it looks like this:


Phase Training Sample Workout IIIIf you’re doing 1/4 mile sprints at a track, you’d record your 1/4 mile splits. If you’re doing density training, you would record total sets. If you’re doing timed circuits, you would record the time. If you’re doing progressive distance training, you would record total miles covered. And so on, and so on.

VI) As sure as the grass is green, the sky is blue, and the ocean is wet, if you record your workouts, you’ll get more out of them. Plus, you’ll think twice about skipping your auxiliary sets if you have to write that shit down.

The big take-homes are this: When it comes to training, progress (not variety) is king. That means we need a thoughtful plan, determined execution, and immaculate training log. But if you want to leave your fate up to the gods, that’s cool too…you’ll just never be Hercules.

 

Lemme know whatcha think. Comment with the hashtag #BandanaArmy ’cause it’s our secret handshake. 

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  • jonsey

    Been struggling with finding
    “the right program” and “optimizing” my workouts trying to
    make sure I did everything perfect. They I listened to some clips from Arnold
    and I remembered all the shit doesn’t matter. What matters is waking up and
    going to the fucking gym. So I grabbed a program from Bandana Training, wrote
    the exercises in my workout Moleskin (I can’t handle the digital thing) and
    went to the damn gym. #bandanaarmy #BTX

    • BandanaTraining

      haha. BOOM. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      Shit, Jonsey. I owe you a phone call. My bad…things have been crazy recently. I’ll drop you a note on FB, let’s figure out a time?

  • Dane

    I love incorporating the logs for everything even outside of weight training. That one’s the easy part for me. Incorporating logs to the conditioning (whether a jog, a run, hill sprints, etc.) or to some sort of “metcon” type workout has always been a struggle. #BandanaArmy #BTX

    • BandanaTraining

      Interesting. So you log lifting but have more trouble logging condition / energy system training? Is that what you’re saying?

      • Dane

        To me, it’s harder to see the progress in the conditioning / energy system training. Other than a faster minute/mile time on a jog/run, or more reps of sprints, it’s hard to tell intensity in the training. Where, weight training, it’s easier for me to record weight/sets/reps/rest, and easily vary those for intensity or strength training.

  • Makis

    Great article. It is nice to alternate exercises from week to week for the same muscle group. But I am a firm believer in the big lifts: deadlift, squat and bench. Do these books lay out workouts? #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      They sure do. They’re training guides, so they’re all about that workout. #BandanaArmy

  • Angie Pingley

    Agree with the logs! I also ask my clients to keep an honest and accurate food log. So when they are discouraged with fat loss, we can see what is keeping them from being a fat burning machine. #bandanaarmy

    • BandanaTraining

      #Truth. Most people are shocked when they do a food journal. They be all like, “oh shit. How’d I eat that cookie!?”

  • Mac Thomas

    Logs are what kept my head in the game and coming back for more progress more consistently when Rob was coaching me online. It was worth more than every dollar and every day. Logs are essential to progress – if you don’t keep them, well we’ll just pray for you. #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      I pity the log-less fool.

  • Daniel Vielhaber

    Interested to see what the updates are for this from BF. Also, T-Flex is a strong dude. #bandanaarmy

    • BandanaTraining

      haha. T-Flex bring the pain. T-Flex makin’ gainz. #BandanaArmy

      • Daniel Vielhaber

        Bro, you changed the hashtag on me! That’s alright, though–I definitely support the new program. #BTX

  • Byron Himes

    If Crossfit-style mix it up is the Pharaoh, you are Moses. Lead them to the promised land #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      hahah. hell yea. Thanks Byron.

  • JT

    I will do whatever it takes to make myself the ultimate self of myself. Keep up all the motivating. #BandanaArmy #BTX #Brohugz

    • BandanaTraining

      Yourself will someday thank yourself. #BroHugz

  • Joe Harris

    I definitely need to get back into keeping a workout log. I think it may also be helpful to jot down any significant circumstances that may impact your workout (i.e. lingering soreness from a previous workout or your job, lack of sleep, tendinitis) – as long as it doesn’t turn into a list of excuses!
    Has anyone tried that? I haven’t yet, but I’m a full-time student and a gravedigger, so the conditions aren’t exactly the same from day to day/week to week… seems like a good idea to record significant details that could have affected your performance.

    • BandanaTraining

      Totally. Almost like a workout journal. I used to do that when I was training hard. Like INSANE hard and I found it to be super effective.

  • Glad to see you finally found time to write a new post here! I know how time consuming it is to take all those running selfies! Love this post though, bro. As a fitness coach myself, I agree with what you’re saying here. I definitely teach my clients the importance of changing things up and challenging their bodies in different ways, but I still run my programs for 4-6 weeks at a time. I mean, how can we see progress is we change the workouts every time?

    I won’t get into CrossFit but suffice it to say, I am not a fan of how they program and what it does to the average Joe..#BTX #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      4-6 weeks is that sweet spot. Good stuff Steve.

  • pulse40

    Progressive Overload ! Follow a strict compliance with Training, Diet and Sleep and you will reap the benefits with all other aspects of your life

    • BandanaTraining

      boom shaka lacka.

  • Krista

    Awesomesauce Article! I so guilty of ADD workouts when I don’t have my plan in place before I get to gym. U mentioned using your iPad to record workouts. Did u make a spreadsheet? (*giddy nerd giggle*) Or do u use a particular app? #BandanaArmy #BTX #IHopeIWin

    • BandanaTraining

      I sure do. I had some pro’s layout all of my programs, but then they converted them to Pages documents so you can modify them on an iPad (PDF’s also included.)

  • Colin Hurd

    I love filling up the log book! #bandanaarmy #btx

    • BandanaTraining

      Arnold used to put / / / / / for every set he was going to do and then X them off. He loved seeing the X X X X march across the wall. #motivation

  • Jodi

    Logs are a must if you want to improve across any modality you choose- how else can you see your progress unless you keep track??!!

    • BandanaTraining

      Amen.

  • onlytemporary

    Awesome article…what’s the good word?! #BTX

    • BandanaTraining

      Thanks. Appreciate the read.

  • Nic

    not only will logs let you know how you’ve done, they can keep you on track to hitting those future goals. #BTX

    • BandanaTraining

      So true. Thanks for reading Nic.

  • Helena

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with too much variety. I’m the type of person who wants to get REALLY good at something before moving on. As always, I loved reading your article! Go Bandana Army! #BTX

    • BandanaTraining

      Thanks for reading Helena. Maybe you’re at the other end of the spectrum and a little more variety could help elicit some additional progress. Maybe. …Worth a thought.

  • Aaron Lubarski

    #BTX logs are the key to immortality!! Awesome post man.

  • Steve Shields

    I really need to start writing sh*t down #BTX I think logs will helm me see what I am missing and what I may be doing incorrectly. cheers!! Oops that for a umm protein shake… yea…..

  • Makis

    Recording is important. Although i find it tough to record every little rep/weight. At times, i can always pump out a few extra or have an off day, where i do much less #BTX

    • BandanaTraining

      I hear that. I’m a bit OCD about recording keeping ’cause I find that it helps me know exactly what my goals are going into the next workout.

  • Mac Thomas

    If you’re wondering if what Rob teaches is “for you,” here’s a 2-parter why he’s awesome and on point with monthly cycles, or “periods,” and diligent logging.
    1) Each month you’ll train a particular way. This is to get good at a particular way of moving and to prepare for the next cycle.
    2) Logs are how you keep track of “how to be” for the next cycle, whether to go harder, stay the same, or dial it back. It’s training intelligently and sensitively so you’re not spinning your wheels with exercise that don’t make sense.

    In conclusion, TRAIN WITH ROB AND WRITE YOUR STUFF DOWN TO BE AWESOME.

    • BandanaTraining

      Well said Mac. Well said. #BandanaArmy

  • John Fawkes

    Interesting. I’d been thinking about trying Crossfit- I know the constantly changing workouts make tracking progress difficult, but I was never clear on the extent to which that actually slows progress vs just making it hard to gauge. So how often do you recommend switching workouts- every 2-4 months?

    • BandanaTraining

      ~4 weeks seems to be the sweet spot. I really love this idea of new month, new training, newfound enthusiasm.

  • Andy

    Im currently an unemployed high school student who can’t afford the BTX plan. Are there any less expensive (preferably free) plans you would reccomend?