Monitoring Your Fitness Progress: Don't Guess - Measure!
article by Anthony Ellis
No mass gaining program is incomplete without the timely measurements to monitor your progress. The only way to know if your mass or fat loss program is successful is by monitoring your measurements, weight and body fat levels.
'One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions'
- Admiral Grace Hopper, U.S. Navy
Depending on the program, I recommend that everyone take their body fat levels every 1-2 weeks.
There's a lot that these readings reveal to a trained eye! For example, I was recently on a fat loss diet, and I did not lose any weight for three weeks. At first I thought that I needed to drop my calories further because the current levels were not working for me. I did not want to do this because as a hard-gainer, dropping my calories too low can result in too much muscle loss. So, before I committed to a more drastic diet, I checked my body fat records.
Was I in for a shock! According to my body fat calculations I was actually getting leaner. Even though my weight did not change during that three-week period, my body fat levels went down 3%! Since I did not lose any weight during that time, the fat must have been replaced by muscle (an added benefit, but this does not happen most of the time). I would have never known this by simply looking in the mirror.
Another example is last year when I was on a mass cycle. I was eating a tremendous amount of calories and gaining weight like crazy. I stopped the diet once I began to notice that my fat gains were larger than my muscle gains. I would never have noticed this if I had not closely monitored my body fat levels.
I expect to gain some fat on a mass diet, but I always want to gain more muscle than fat. If I had not kept track of my body fat levels, I would have gained too much fat.
There are many methods of measuring your body fat and some are quite expensive. While many consider underwater weighing to be the most accurate, no method is 100% precise -- they all have some margin of error. It's not important to know the exact number -- what's important is to use the same method each time you take your measurements so you can have a consistent record of your progress. I just use an inexpensive skinfold caliper. They cost anywhere from $29-$80 and are simple to use.
A good caliper is essential. Without it, you won't know how exactly your body is responding to your diet and training routine. You may also want to consider using a tracking software like The Composition Tracker at http://www.comptracker.com ... It will help you analyze your data and tell you if you are actually building more muscle and losing more fat!
Just looking in the mirror and guessing is not acceptable!
If you want to start getting great results, you must develop the habit of accurately tracking your progress. If you don't, you will continue to go in circles. This may seem like a 'hassle', but nothing worth having is ever easy to attain.