“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been…”
Many men go to the gym and train mindlessly, simply going through the motions of lifting while failing to pay attention to detail. It comes to me as no surprise that these are the same men that often fail to see progress, get discouraged, and quit.
Measuring progress isn’t only relevant to your physique, but also your business revenue and many other aspects of life that you wish to excel in. if you’re not measuring and recording you’re merely going through the motions blindly, and you obviously have minimal care for the outcome.
If you want to be a winner and want to transform your physique, it is paramount that you record your gym progress in predetermined intervals (e.g fortnightly or monthly). Below are the methods I find most affective for measuring gym progress.
Buy a pre-formatted gym notebook or use a journal or mobile app to enter each exercise, set and repetition you performed on each and every workout.
Keeping a log of your training ensures that instead of wandering the gym like a lost sheep, you’re a lion and you know exactly what you’re doing. You know how many reps you hit on your incline dumbbell press last week and you know you need to add an additional rep to that set this week in order to progressively overload your muscles into both strength and size gains.
If you begin to struggle later down the line you can refer back to your training log and identify sticking points, lifts you excelled on, and find ways to overcome your plateaus.
Your log book can also be used for the purpose of recording your meals. I recommend calculating your calories as per my guide here and then ticking off in your journal as you hit your calorie and macronutrient goals for the day – if you fall short or overeat you’re accountable to your log, so it must be recorded.
Disregard the scales and BMI
Before I delve into the methods I use and recommend to track fat loss and muscle gain, I find it imperative to discuss the use of the traditional scale.
DO NOT BASE YOUR IDEA OF PROGRESS ON WHAT THE SCALES SAY
Weight on the scales, just like the popular BMI method, is flawed. Muscle mass, fluid retention, time of day, hormones, and a number of other factors can adversely affect the number being displayed to you when you step on the scales.
For example, I’ve been hovering around the 185lb mark, I remember being 185lbs a couple of years ago too… does this mean I haven’t bulked or made any progress at all since then? Have I hit an unbreakable plateau?
Of course not…
My body fat has decreased, my fluid retention has decreased and my lean muscle mass has increased… resulting in my total mass clocking in at 185lbs (not to be confused with lean muscle mass which is my total body weight minus my body fat percentage… but we’ll get into that later).
According to BMI body composition is irrelevant—two men both 230lbs at 5ft 11” would be deemed overweight as lean muscle mass and body fat are not measured on this scale. There are far more accurate methods to measure your progress.
Take photos and use the mirror
You see yourself on a daily basis, so progress may seem slow or non-existent. This is where taking regular photos comes into play – the mirror doesn’t lie.
Choose a location, time of day, and pose and snap the same photo(s) on a weekly or fortnightly basis. When I’m following my cutting diet I record a video and take several still shots each week, which I find is the most accurate way to gauge progress.
Store these photos in a “Progress” folder on your computer and update them weekly. As you begin to look through and compare your previous weeks’ progress to current you’ll often be surprised at just how much your body is changing without you realizing it.
Grab a tape measure and take note of your body measurements weekly. I recommend performing these upon waking, as measuring your arms etc. post workout can be inaccurate.
The key to taking successful measurements is to ensure you are measuring in the exact same position every time. Using freckles or placing a mark on your skin is the easiest way to maintain a consistent reference point for measuring.
When measuring record the following measurements in your training log or in an excel spreadsheet in centimetres:
- Neck circumference
- Shoulder to shoulder (with your arms down by your side)
- Chest (around nipple level, raise your arms to place the tape measure around your chest and then lower arms before reading measurement)
- Biceps (measure from the peak of the bicep to the thickest portion of the triceps)
- Waist (around your belly button)
- Hips (widest part)
- Quads (Choose one spot on your quads and measure this each time)
Get a caliper
There are many methods for measuring body fat, some extremely accurate while others are completely inaccurate. The most cost-effective and accurate method in my book is the old caliper test. You can pick up a body fat caliper for $10 online, and it will come with instructions and a chart to help measure your body fat percentage.
Your measurements, photos, training, and nutrition log should be updated consistently. Don’t slack off and go through the transformation blindly – have reference points of where you’ve come from so you can sculpt where you’re going.
Seeing progress is THE best motivation to keep the fire alive on your journey.
Read More: How To Workout Correctly