Beginners: How to measure progress

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You know that I harp all the time about measuring your progress accurately and weighing yourself accurately? Well, after years I have discovered that few people have the time, inclination, equipment, and patience to do this. If you are a professional model or bodybuilder, you need to do this but for most people, expecially beginners, there is a much better way. Better because everyone has the equipment to do this accurately and better because it is foolproof. Measuring progress requires the following:

  1. a $2.50 measuring tape
  2. a lifting logbook

Please read all about measuring your fitness progress!

People get all caught up in numbers.  One of the most common questions on forums is someone who posts their photo and asks people to estimate what their bodyfat percentage is.  Seriously, who cares!   Its just a silly, meaningless number.  What IS very important is to be able to measure differences in bodyfat accurately so that you can answer the question:

Is my bodyfat higher or lower than last month?

That is truly the only important thing.  If you are getting leaner each month then you will eventually see your washboard sixpack abs.  So how do you measure this?  Easy and old fashioned, measure your waist!  If your waist measurement is getting smaller, you are losing bodyfat.  If it is getting bigger, you are getting fatter.  What more do you need to know?  Nothing.  To measure your waist, I recommend two measurements actually:

  1. Minimum waist measurement. Measure your waist sucking it in as small as you can and then measure at the narrowest point between your belly button and your sternum.
  2. Maximum waist measurement.  Stick your belly out as far as you can and make it as big as you can and then measure it on your waist where it is at its largest.  Dont cheat.  Try a number of places and find where its the biggest.

Practice till you can repeatedly measure it to within 1/4″ or 4mm.  Take these measurements weekly.

So what about strength?  Your lifting logbook tells all!  You dont have a lifting logbook?  Shame on you, go and get one right now!  If you are serious about getting bigger and stronger you have to keep track of every workouts weight, reps, sets and rest times. If you substituted flat bench dumbbell press for bench press 6 months ago and now you want to go back to bench press, you need to be able to go back and see what you were benching 6 months ago.  Anyway, your logbook will tell you if you are getting stronger.  If you are getting stronger, you will get bigger.  If you are not getting stronger then you need to find a new workout that is better for your needs!

simple way to measure progress

tape measure

tape measure