5 Simple Ways to Measure Progress

5 Simple Ways to Measure Progress

There is a well-known coach proverb, “if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.”  This is true, especially for those individuals consistently working hard within the gym week in, week out.  However, even if you aren’t a gym rat, you probably want to know what progress you’re making. Why should you measure your progress? There is no feeling quite like seeing how far you have come since started training.   

While there are a multitude of ways to assess your overall progress, however these are my five preferred methods of tracking overall progress.  

1) Progress Pictures

“If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, what difference does it make what the scale says?” – Vince Gironda

      In my opinion, this is the best way to track progress.  Let’s be completely honest here: you are working out to both look and feel better. While I want you to focus on how you feel and look in your clothes, I understand you want to look better naked too.  During your honorable pursuit, there will be days when you are lacking motivation.  You’ll feel what you’re doing isn’t working, you are tired of tracking your nutrition, and you hit a plateau.  I get it. I have been there.  During those moments, looking back at your progress pictures will help you realize the progress you’ve made. For that reason, I highly suggest you take a baseline photo. 

   Use your smartphone in good lighting, saving the photos in their full size, without additional texts or filters.  Either have someone else take the photo or use your phone’s self-timer.  Stand behind a plain background or white wall for we want the attention to be on your, not the clutter in the background.  Make sure you include your face in the photos, so you can plainly see your transformation in your before and after photos.   

   You want to take two photos: straight on and from the side.  These two perspectives will give a good overall view of your physical changes.   

   Make sure you are in the same pose in the before/after photos so we can accurately see your transformation.  Don’t suck in your gut or push it out; it’s time to see the REAL YOU!  

 When to take your progress photo 

   Progress photos should be taken at the beginning of your fitness journey, then preferably every 4-6 weeks in regular intervals.  Here’s a couple of tips when taking your photo: 

  • Take photo at the same time
  • Wear the same clothes
  • Use the same lighting and background

2) Body Circumference Measurements

   You should take your waist measurements once a week at the same time each week.  For example, if you are taking your measurements on Wednesday morning at 6am, then next week you’ll be taking your measurements on Wednesday morning at 6am.  Record each measurement to the 1/8 inch and write them down in the table below.  

   Here is a great video how to measure your waist.  Click here.

  In addition, for a whole-body measurement, Click Here. 

*Grab your Free Progress Checker by Clicking Here!*

3) Body Fat Percentage

   While losing weight is a decent goal to have, reducing overall body fat is ultimately what you should strive for. Your training should be helping you look and feel better while reducing your overall body fat percentage.  Being overweight has a cascade of negative health effects from increased risk of heart disease, and higher rates of cancer, so the more body fat you lose the better it will be for your overall health.    

   Body fat measurements are a common form of measurements.  In fact, body fat measurement is my preferred indicator of overall progress.  Unfortunately, body fat measurements are more difficult and in-home devices are a minefield.  The ideal measurement tools are either underwater measuring stations or DEXA machine, however these methods can be expensive and hard to come by.  The most common low-cost body fat measurement tools are bioelectrical impedance.  These tools come in all shapes and sizes and work by measuring the flow of electronical current sent through the body.  Unfortunately, these tools have a wide range of being inaccurate.    

   So, what is body fat?  Simply put, body fat is the amount of fat in your body compared to everything else, including your organs, muscles, tendons, water, etc.  Both men and women carry different amounts of body fat percentages due to…. well… being different.  

Even if you don’t possess a body fat measurement tool, you are able to visually estimate your current body fat percentage. All you need to do is take off your shirt (first find a private spot to do so), look at yourself in the mirror and compared yourself to the pictures below. 

 4) Not Writing Stuff Down

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see hard working individuals busting their asses in the gym, yet not taking the 5 seconds to write down either their workouts, weights, or anything.   

Quick question: how do you know if you are making progress, if you don’t any data to look back upon?? Do you actually know what you are doing and how long your workouts should be? Or are you wondering around the gym like a lost sheep, looking for what’s the next “fun” thing you can do? If you are serious about getting results, you’ll need to start tracking your workouts.  What does tracking your workout and progress looks like?  It begins with having a workout plan in place and writing down what you did.  For example: 

  • If you did 5 sets of 5 reps of back squats at 225 last week, then you’ll need to do 5 sets of 5 reps of back squats at 230+lbs the following week to get stronger. 
  • If you did 3 sets of 5 pull ups last week for a total of 15 pull ups, then you’ll need to do 16+ pull ups the following week to get stronger.  

   This ultimately boils down to having a plan of action while in the gym.  You should know what kind of goal you want, whether it’s to build muscle or shred body fat, or a performance goal (i.e. bench press 225lbs, or squat 315lbs).  Whatever you goal is, devise a plan of action and follow it will both passion and intensity.  Ultimately, you get what you put in.  Period.   Avoid this classic rookie mistake and others by Clicking Here.  

5) The Scale

   Finally, we have the scale.  For the record, I am not a big fan of using bodyweight as a metric of tracking progress.  You may be asking why.  Well the primary reason is our weight fluctuates daily.  A typical weight fluctuation ranges anywhere from 2-5 pounds A DAY! Yup.  You read that correct; 2-5 pounds a day. In addition, too many people allow the number on the scale to radically impact their mood and how they feel about themselves.  For those reasons, I am not a big fan of using bodyweight to track progress. 

   However, if you choose to use the scale to measure progress, step on the scale the first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom and before drinking or eating anything.   

   Remember, the scale is simply another tool in your toolbox to assess progress, along with pictures and measurements, so you can know if adjustments to meal size, portion size, or meal frequency need to be made. Again, the number on the scale in the morning should not have any impact on how your feel or mood.   

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