Best way to track workouts/fitness?

So I’ve been life logging for a few years now. Tracking what I eat, pedometer for steps, water intake, sleep, weight, body measurements, etc. I’ve intentionally not exercised/worked out for a couple of years in order to see what my body is like before & after. Like, I want to know what EXACTLY gets me from scrawny to jacked.

So I’m looking for suggestions. I want to know how to measure my strength beforehand as well as the best way to log each workout. I’m thinking reps & amount of weight, but I’m sure you can get way more in depth than that. I really know very little on this subject, so I need your help.

I’m open to suggestions on apps or devices, but the data would need to be exportable. I use an Android phone.

Currently, I log my weight in Excel at least once a day, use a Skulpt body scanner almost every day, & measure almost every part of my body using a MyoTape tape measure once a week.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

Depends on what type of exercise you’re wanting to track and what your budget is. Here’s my two cents:

  • For tracking cardio (or other exercises that are mostly focused on time), there’s plenty of apps out there that will track the start and end times, GPS route, etc. and will connect with heart rate monitors by Bluetooth. Some are better than others when it comes to being sport-specific (i.e. swimming is probably best done with a device/app combo like swimmo that will track heart rate and laps, cycling is probably better done by a cycling specific app, like Strava, even though Strava does other things now). I’ve had to switch between a couple apps as I’ve added new types of exercise to my routine that aren’t in their list of “trackable exercises.” Most of these have exports or will even connect with tools that allow for you to interact with your data, like the Elevate for Strava browser extension (which is great).
  • For tracking strength training (or other exercises that are mostly focused on reps), I’ve found that it’s somewhat dependent on what program you want to use. There’s a couple specific apps that require you to follow their program (like Stronglifts 5x5) and most of them will have exports if you pay for it. If you want to be able to have it customized, then I’ve actually found Progression to be a great app, even if it’s not always the most intuitive. There’s also an export if you pay for the “full” version.

Here’s my personal setup, but I’m a bit weird because I like redundancy (i.e. if one option fails, I can still track):

  • Cycling Commute/Hikes: tracked with Cyclemeter/Heart Rate Strap and with Withings HR Sport
  • Run/Jogs/Yoga/Strength Training(HR and time): tracked with Runkeeper/Heart Rate Strap and with Withings HR Sport
  • Strength Training(Reps, sets, and weight): Progression and Stronglifts 5x5 (for my current Stronglifts experiment).
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I now use GymGoal Pro for everything.

It is very customizable (not tied to a particular program), and it connects to bluetooth and various HR monitors (I use a Polar H7). It can log both cardio and weights extremely well.

Here’s what (fits on one screen) that I logged today:

It will calculate 1RM’s for anything less than 10reps:

Or show you the total weight you lifted:

And track cardio sessions:

I love this app :wink:

You can export almost all the day into usable form (like excel). I think I haven’t figured out how to export HR data in gory detail. But it shows the plot–it must be there? Right? :wink:

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Thanks for the responses, guys.

GymGoal Pro appears to be iOS only, so I’ll have to scratch that one off the list for now.

And great post @quantifiedketonian. A lot of useful details. I know some apps charge for data export. I prefer free, but if it’s the kind of app that costs $1-$2 to upgrade to premium, then that’s fine. I just hate when apps charge monthly/yearly subscriptions; I usually find that excessive.

Stronglifts 5x5 is actually something I had stumbled across on Google Play & had bookmarked because it looked pretty good. Glad to hear someone is using it. I also like how it supports WearOS (which I have), so it should make logging more seamless than relying just on my phone. If I’m reading the description correctly, it seems like the free version gives me everything I need & the subscription just adds more workouts.

For Progression, is it Progression Workout Tracker? I hadn’t heard of it before, but I’ll consider that as well. What does the “full version” cost if I want to export?

Also, do these apps log times of each workout? I know rest periods are something to look at & was wondering if these apps handle that.

I imagine heart rate is a concern as well with strength training. Do those apps link to heart rate monitors? I have a Polar H7. If they don’t, then are the time stamps specific enough that I could cross reference each workout with the data from an app like Elite HRV?

Thanks again for the responses, guys. Lots of good info. If anyone else wants to chime in, feel free. :slight_smile:

Heart rate doesn’t seem as useful for strength training as it is for endurance training: When doing short sets, you’re often done before your heart rate goes up much :slight_smile:

There have been some devices to measure muscle oxygenation/activation/lactate, which should be more useful for strength training, but I don’t know how well they work in practice.

Hmm. Good to know.

I find lifting HR data very interesting, though I haven’t done a lot with it. It’s one of the things on my list :wink:

Here’s a sample: the first four peaks are four sets of squats, the second set of sets (harder to see peaks) is multiple sets of leg presses. Not surprising, but still cool to see: compound exercises like squats and deadlifts (next set of high peaks) definitely have more of a HR effect.

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I use progression and I’ve used strong lifts 5x5 in the past. I like progression with premium (it was like $10) because of the little graphs and custom workouts etc.

Tracking lifting progress is a weird one, because there are a lot of things one might want to measure, and some that would be interesting but especially hard to measure.

I’ve read that it is likely the rapid increase in weight one can lift early in a program is largely neurological adaptation. I’m not sure what one does with that.

Measuring strength increases is a little tricky. 1 rep max is one way, total volume is another, but it’s easy to see how 10 reps at 200 makes more volume that 1 rep at 300, but more people can probably bench the former than the latter.

Muscle mass increase is hard. There are ways to fudge it, which I often do, but if you care enough, you may want to do dexa scans periodically. Most other biometric measurements are unreliable, although there is an ultrasound technique and dunk tanks that are reasonably good as well.

Percent body fat is another one people who lift like to track. That can also be facilitated via the scans above, but I often use appearance as a guide. Males with just visible abs are 10-12% bodyfat, females about 5% higher, varying degrees of vascularity and fiber visibility are cues about lower fat masses.

It could be fun to try to suss out the effectiveness of certain supplements. In the lifting community there are tons, but most have poor data and probably do nothing. Creatine is well documented and most swear by it, beta alanine probably is the second most attested…maybe others. Of course whey and pea protein (the latter for vegans or people on a budget) are almost essential if you’re following most lifting protein intake guidelines.

Anyway, there’s lots to track in this space, diet is at least as important as lifting in this space, and one really needs to know one’s goals going in to know what to track. Good luck!


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Solid advice, guys.

For the HR data, I’ve been wearing a Polar H7 & using Elite HRV to track my heart rate 24/7 throughout the day, I’ve only done it the last few days so far, so it’s pretty new to me, but I’ve noticed it stopped on its own a couple of times, so we’ll see how this goes. Might have to look into a new app.

For the measuring of muscle mass & body fat, I have a Skulpt Aim. It’s a cool device. I just press it to different muscles of my body & scan for a few seconds & it tells me the muscle mass & body fat for that particular muscle, as well as overall for my whole body. I do this once a day & it takes about 10 minutes total. I believe it’s supposed to be a budget alternative to DEXA scans.

I also use body measurement tape around different parts of my body (waist, chest, hips, upper arm relaxed, upper arm flexed, etc.) to get an idea of changes as well. I do this once a week.

I’ve also considered a body caliper, but I’ve heard those are kind of finicky & results are very skewed even if you’re just slightly off. And they’re also difficult to do on yourself for certain areas.

I’m pretty budget conscious, so I feel like these are good tracking methods for me right now. Just want to make sure I’m not missing anything.

I just want to be able to keep track of log the entire journey. To see where I was at certain points & see what exactly went into getting to each stage.

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I would be very skeptical of impedance testers for body fat. I’ve found even high dollar units are terrible. Lots of factors can throw them off. Even dexa scans can be thrown off by hydration difference etc. although they are, along with submersion, the gold standard.

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There are so many apps now that provide easy ways to track progress, and they’re pretty much all the same. If you’re tracking lifts, your notes will do fine! If you want to track running progress (speed, distance, elevation, etc) then any basic, free running app will do this!

If you’re just looking to log weights and reps over time, then just use your notes. There’s no need to over-complicate things when you’re literally writing down 2 numbers at a time and then sending it in an email to yourself.

You can get more in-depth if you want, but I don’t think it will add much to your strength progress. You could track your RPE (rating of perceived exertion) which measures how “hard” a lift was. This allows you to program intensity rather than simply weight and reps. But even then, you’re just writing “6” or “9” after “3 x 3 @ 180”, so you can still just use your notes.

If you want to know what gets you from scrawny to jacked, I’ll tell you; it’s going from “5 x 5 @ 100” to “6 x 8 @ 160” while eating a lot of food and getting a lot of high quality sleep. As such, you might want to put more effort into tracking calories and sleep and less into finding elaborate ways to track lifting progress.

Good info. I didn’t even know about RPE, but it definitely seems useful to track. I think I might have to use that. Anything else I might want to add?

I do also have a focus on food & sleep tracking as well, although I feel like there are likely better ways I can track both of those. I know that working out is only one piece to the puzzle.

What’s the best way to find out how strong I am currently? Should I just go to the gym & see what’s the most weight I can handle & measure the RPE?

I’m still looking into apps, but downloaded Stronglifts 5x5 & Progression Workout Tracker to see how they look. It looks like both require payment to export the data to CSV, but Progression is just a one-time of $5.99 & Stronglifts has a subscription-only option which also unlocks more features.

They both do integrate with Google Fit for free. I’m not sure how that works, exactly. I want to test it & see, but I don’t know if I can delete an entry after the fact on Google Fit. Also, can I just export the data from Google Fit? Would it give me the same information as if I exported from the original apps?