Are You Making Progress?
Remember the client from my popular article, Is Your Scale Deceiving You?
She didn’t track her progress accurately and would get frustrated when her weight hadn’t dropped after a week of hard work. The self-doubt would creep in when she didn’t see changes in the mirror.
She would change her diet and training thinking that she just hadn’t found the magic routine yet; the diet that would solve her entire problem and get her the lean, sexy body she envisioned every night before falling asleep.
Little did she know, her poor tracking was preventing her from achieving her goal. She took 2 steps back for every 2 steps forward.
But tracking can be cumbersome, time-consuming, and frustrating. Here’s how to do it the right way.
Strength and Performance
While it’s possible to get stronger without adding muscle, it’s impossible to get stronger and lose muscle.
Strength is an indirect indicator of what’s going on with your body.
If you’re losing strength, there’s a good chance you’re losing muscle. If you’re getting stronger, you know that you’re at least maintaining muscle – probably gaining some.
Since strength only gives us indirect information, you need to look at other factors alongside it.
The Deceptive Scale
I talked all about the scale and how it lies to you in Is Your Scale Deceiving You?
Briefly recapping, there are many factors beside fat and muscle that go into your total bodyweight. You can fluctuate up to 15 pounds without actually having changed the amount of fat and muscle you have.
This doesn’t mean the scale is useless. Much like strength, the scale is another important data point that helps tell the whole story.
The Emotional Mirror
Improving your appearance is the end goal. Wouldn’t it make sense to track it?
The mirror can be tricky. You get dressed in front of it, focusing on the pudge still hugging your belly button despite a smaller waist and an added inch to your chest.
The mirror relies on memory; Do you see a change based on what you saw yesterday? A week ago? A month ago?
Pictures are more objective.
Take them every other week under the same lighting and at the same time of day so you can objectively compare the before and after to get a good look at any changes you’ve made.
The Best Tool: The Tape Measure
The tape measure gives us solid numbers. If your arms got bigger, the tape measure won’t lie. It’s also extremely cheap and convenient.
Take measurements at multiple points to give you the most accurate idea of how your body is changing.
Here are the 12 points I like to measure:
– Right Arm Flexed, Left Arm Flexed
– Right Leg Straight, Left Leg Straight
– Shoulders at widest point
– Chest at widest point
– Upper Stomach, just below sternum
– Middle Stomach, at bottom of rib cage
– Lower Stomach, just above hip bones
– Hips, at widest point
If you care about the size of your calves, include them in the measurements as well.
Why Body Fat Testing is Usually a Waste of Time
Body fat testing has such a wide variability between instruments.
The cheaper, convenient methods are inaccurate or require a skilled measurement taker. The accurate ones require fancy equipment and are expensive.
Other than skin calipers, I don’t like to include body fat tests in tracking. Even then, I don’t place much stock in caliper numbers as user error can ruin the results.
If you track using the other methods provided, you won’t need a body fat test. You’ll know if you’re making progress and headed towards your goal.
The Right Tools Make All The Difference
Measure progress correctly and you’ll know whether or not you’re headed towards your goal. You’ll know what is providing results and what is simply a waste of time.
Now that my client tracks her progress accurately, she’s been improving rapidly.
She realizes whether or not she’s making progress, even when the scale doesn’t budge.
Without accurate tracking she would’ve gotten frustrated, hopped to another program or diet, and lost progress. Now she smiles whenever she sees herself in the mirror.
How do you track progress? Tell me about it below!