Recording Your Kettlebell Workouts

a group of women working out with kettle bells at the gym
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One of the early steps to take before jumping full throttle into your kettlebell training program, or any exercise program for that matter, is to keep a training journal.

The journal will be one of your most valuable resources because it is a measurable record of what you have done up to any given point in time. Having a reliable form of measuring your progress becomes more important as time passes, because the more you progress, the more subtle the ongoing progress will be.

For both consistency and comparison, the journal will help you to be able to easily look back upon previous training to see how far you have come. It also helps you to identify any areas that are being neglected in your training.

Whether you prefer the traditional pen-to-paper method of writing or the more tech-savvy form of a smartphone or tablet is a personal preference and anyway you choose to record your workouts will be helpful for keeping track of the details of your exercise so you can refer back to them whenever you want to check your results.

What to Include in Your Journal

  • Date - A reference for consistency and timing training cycles. It’s also useful for checking when you last did a particular exercise, if ever, so that you can be attentive to movement-pattern balance.  ​
  • Name of Exercise - So you can easily check what exercises you did and when
  • Weight/load used - This is the primary measure of exercise intensity

Also include in your journal 

  • Warm-up
  • Cool-down
  • Stretching
  • Variants of exercise, if any (e.g. Alternating Press instead of Double Press; Front Squat instead of Goblet Squat, etc).
  • Total “tonnage” - this is the calculation found by multiplying reps x sets x load for a given exercise, or for all exercises totaled together. For example, if you performed 5 sets of 10 repetitions in Kettlebell Swing with a 16kg (35lb) kettlebells, your Total Tonnage of Swings in that session was 50 x 16kg, for a total of 800 kg (1,750 lb) of Swings.

Keep track of your tonnage and compare from one month to the next. Over time, you should see that you are able to perform a greater volume of exercise, which is an indication that you are getting stronger and more fit. Your volume will not always go up. Like most things in life, there will be ups and downs and you sometimes have to rest, decrease volume or decrease intensity. However, keeping track of your total tonnage gives a measure of the general trend over time, which should gradually increase.

Other important data your journal can inform you about is the work per unit of time, which considers rest periods. This can be calculated by summing the total volume of exercise, divided by the total time to complete from start to finish.

An increase in fitness will show that you are able to do more work in the same period of time, or the same volume of work in less time. Work per unit of time is referred to as power.

Lastly, your journal gives you the space to record your physical and emotional states. Was a particular workout easier than expected, or harder? Write it down. Did you feel lazy or maybe euphoric during a particular training? Make note of it. Over time, you will be able to relate mental states with performance and these associations will give you more information about when to push harder or when to back off a little.

By recording both your physical results and mental states, you have a greater ability to access this information for better planning of future programs.