I was thinking about this today whilst standing on the scale and looking that the flashing number on the digital dial. Am I actually making gains at the gym, or just adding on a combination of muscle and fat?
And how do other personal trainers track their progress (or their client’s)?
The easiest way is with a caliper.
I got my caliper from Amazon for around $15, but they’re tricky to use if you try to take measurements by yourself. (Like trying to get a skin sample on the back of your arm- good luck with that contortionist move!) But they really are the best way to get accurate measurements.
To use them, simply have your partner take three (3) skin fold measurements per location, and average the three numbers together. The main areas most people use are: the chest area around your pectoral muscle, the tricep, the front upper portion of your thigh, and the skin 2″ away from your belly button. The results of these averages will give you the number you can then input into the age range table (which is included with any caliper) and you can find your percentage of body fat.
However, if the thought of using a caliper by yourself sounds a little too daunting, there is another way.
Hop online and purchase a scale and body tape measure. Now, all you need to do is weigh yourself at the same time of day three (3) times a week and average the numbers like we did with the calipers. This will give you the rough estimate of your weight. The reason you want to try to do it at the same time each day is because of lifestyle factors. Things like drinking lots of water, eating a big meal, etc. can all have an effect on how much you weigh- so trying to do it at the same time each day helps make the measurements a little more accurate. I like to weigh myself right before I go to bed at night, but some people like to weigh themselves first thing in the morning. Just do what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Next, and preferably around the same time you weigh yourself, take the body tape and measure around your chest, waist, and hips. You can even measure around your biceps and thighs if you’d like- the more data you can collect the better!
I like the write these numbers down so I don’t forget, but all you need to do after that is keep up with your normal workout routine. If you are indeed gaining muscle, then the scale measurement should stay the same or increase (remember, muscle weighs more than fat), while your waist measurements should be decreasing. Chest, thigh, and arm numbers may increase depending on the type of workout you are doing.
For example, if you are aiming to be a powerlifter, then your chest and arm measurements should increase while your waist measurement decreases. Conversely, if you are a long distance runner, then your overall body measurements should decrease while your weight stays the same or increases.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it does point you in the right direction. Because there are so many factors to take into account, please feel free to write me and I will help you determine if you are indeed gaining muscle or not from your routine.