How to Track Your Fitness Progress
It’s time to embark on a new fitness program. You’ve decided to get into the best shape of your life. You start training hard and eating right, but the scale doesn’t budge? What gives?
Step away from the scale. It doesn’t tell the entire story. Body fat composition can change for the better, and the scale will only show a gain in weight. This can be discouraging, even as your clothing starts to fit better. I suggest keeping track of progress with measurements or pictures.
Measurements can be done on any area of the body. The most common spots are calves, thighs, hips, waist, shoulders, and arms. If there’s a specific muscle group you’d like to keep track of, add it to the list. Decide if you’re going to take measurements flexed or relaxed each time. Write down this decision, as we have a tendency to forget our preferences after a couple of weeks. Try to measure in the morning, if possible. A stomach with a day’s full of meals is going to be larger than a fasted one! If you have a pump from the gym, you’ll also show different measurements. The goal is to keep all variables as close to the same as possible. With each muscle group, decide where exactly you’ll measure. It’s easy to find your natural waist, for example. It’s the smallest part of your midsection. An area like thighs can be tougher to track. I like to measure a certain distance down from my hip bone. This gives me an exact reference each time. You’ll be able to assess your progress much more accurately this way. Use a soft measuring tape and try to measure directly over your skin. Shirts, shorts, and sports bras can skew results.
How to measure each muscle group:
• calves – with your foot flat on the floor, measure the widest area of your calf. Depending on how you choose to do your measurements, either flex your calf or keep it relaxed.
• thighs – as discussed above, find your hip bone and measure to a pre-determined length downward. I measure 10 inches below my hip bone. Wrap your tape around the spot on your thigh. Measure the leg when your body weight is on it. Keep it relaxed or flexed – your choice!
• Hips – measure directly over your hip bones. Stand with both feet evenly on the ground. Make sure the tape is parallel to the ground, from front to back.
• waist – find the smallest part of your waist and measure the circumference. I like to breathe out and measure. It’ll give you a bit of a smaller measurement!
• Shoulders – find the middle part of your delt and measure around your entire upper body. This is where your shoulders are the largest. As with the other measurements, try to keep the tape parallel to the ground. A mirror greatly helps for this!
• Chest – measure the circumference around your chest at the nipples. This will help you see if you’re gaining muscle in your lats. It will also show fat loss, as many of us tend to hold fat in the upper and mid-back.
• Arms – this measurement is almost always done while flexing. Place the tape around the peak of your biceps and flex.
Pictures are another great method for tracking progress. You can compare the photos side by side to really see the changes. The best way to take progress pictures is to choose a spot in your home for it. Decide in advance how you’ll pose – relaxed or flexed. 3-4 poses are enough to track changes.
Here are three common poses:
• Front pose
• Side pose
• Back pose
Make sure you’re wearing a similar outfit each time, you’re at the same distance from the camera, using the same lighting, and set the camera up at the same angle. As the seasons change, pay attention to varying skin tones. If you’re more tan than your previous pics, you might look more defined. I keep a small strip of tape on my office floor and set my camera up on my desk each time. This helps tremendously with comparison photos. Whether it’s measurements or photos, try to record progress every 2-3 weeks.
Write down your measurements or log them into your phone each time. You can also keep a separate folder for progress pics. You see yourself in the mirror every day, so you’re not often aware of the fantastic changes you’re making! With either of these two methods, you will!
Thanks for watching.. until next time, train hard, y’all!
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Train hard, y’all!