There are many ways to measure your success in a fitness program but most people tend to focus on the numbers they read when they step on the scales rather than seeing the clearer picture that some other measurements can give you. This article will cover some of the alternatives.
We all live in the age of social media so i am assuming that everyone has seen a before and after comparison of photos somewhere on facebook – they are everywhere. Well one thing about a photo is, it doesnt lie. You see yourself everyday in the mirror so sometimes you dont see the small changes that are being made. That is why , if you havent seen a freind or a relative for a while they may say ‘wow, you have got lean or jeez you are looking big now’. Thats because they don’t see you on a daily basis. This is the power of taking a picture every few weeks to see the small changes happen.And although you may hate your BEFORE picture at the time, 12 weeks or so down the track you will be glad you took it and kept it just to track how far you have come compared to your AFTER picture .
When you are trying to lose bodyfat or gain lean mass without the added bodyfat, there is no tool better to use than skinfold calipers.
Skinfold calipers measure the thickness of a pinch of skin.Skin is very thin so when you pinch a skinfold any measurement you get is the subcutaneous fat(fat stored beneath the skin). Skinfold calipers can measure this fat and help track your progress. As i said before, clients i meet have always used scales to track there progress so i always use the Calipers to give a truer indicator, for example. a client weighs in at 60kg, and we do her caliper test and her total skinfold measurement is 100mm. 6 weeks later we weigh her and her weight stays the same 60kg, she has been eating well and doing her training but if this was the only measurement taken i guarantee she would be deflated as her weight hasn’t changed. But hold on… lets do her caliper test. Right, now she is down to 80mm on her caliper test. So what does that tell us?. Well it tells us she has lost 20mm in bodyfat but maintained her weight meaning she has increased her lean mass but lost the unwanted fat – awesome result. You can use the results from the caliper test to work out bodyfat percentage but to be honest i just work from the raw numbers. As long as the mm are coming off you are heading in the right direction.
Body fat is another great indication of progress. There are many methods of testing your body fat, and all have their pros and cons. Anyone who is extremely overweight – over 30% body fat – will most likely not get an accurate reading using most methods. There are methods such as water or hydrostatic weighing.These methods are considered fairly accurate.
Bioelectrical impedance, such as hand-held devices or body fat scales, measure body fat by passing a current through your body and are also great for watching trends in body fat. Skinfold calipers are considered the gold standard – inexpensive yet precise – and become more accurate as you lower your body fat
Bodyfat percentage is how much fat you are carrying. When you subtract this from your total weight, you have a measurement called “lean mass”. Lean mass is NOT just muscle tissue – it is everything but the fat in your body. While this includes muscle tissue, it also includes your skeletal structure, other tissues in your body, the contents of your stomach and even water.
Just because your lean mass increases by 5 pounds doesn’t mean that you gained 5 pounds of muscle tissue – you could just have easily accumulated that much water weight or have that much food in your digestive system! Conversely, it is rather common to lose a substantial amount of water weight when you begin a new nutrition and exercise regimen. A rapid loss of 5 – 10 pounds of weight is not necessarily muscle mass – it could easily be water being flushed from your system, and while this is a change in “lean mass” it is not a change in muscle!
Another method that is fairly easy to take is tape measurements. I measure the girth measurements of all clients Arms, thighs, calves, chest,waist and hips as these are really good sites to see changes, for example, someone wanting to lost their beer belly – well a waist tape measurement would be great for this.
Another great way of tracking progress is by keeping a diary/ journal of your workouts. the amounts you lifted, reps etc so as next time you go back to that exercise you can try for some slight improvement whether that be one extra rep or lifting a slightly heavier weight.This can also be used to track cardio fitness – when you do a 3k run, time it and next time make sure you get the same time or in some way improve on it even if by one second – then you are making improvements.
Doing test like blood pressure or a step test to measure heart rates both at exercise and in recovery are great tools to guage to measure your sucess on the inside – if you blood pressure drops and your heart rate improves they are great indicators that you are becoming fitter.