Page last updated: September 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
The clients that are diligent with tracking are the clients that end up getting their best results.
Furthermore, tracking doesn’t take much time at all.
You can track your training sessions while doing them.
You can track your BioFeedback in a few minutes while eating.
You can do the body-measurements and photos I’m about to write about, in less than 5 minutes per week.
So really, tracking isn’t that difficult once you get into the habit of doing it.
On this page, I will show you how to track body-composition progress.
It’s crucial to track body-composition progress through measurements and photos because if you don’t track your measurements and take photos, how will you know if your physique is changing?
The mirror does not show a 1 inch (2.54 CM) increase in the size of your chest and biceps, but measurements do.
In addition, it takes too long time to see muscle gains in the mirror.
A genetically gifted guy can gain at most 2 pounds (0.9 KG) of muscle mass per month in his first year of training.
After that gains slow down to less than 1 pound (0.45 KG) per month.
A guy with below average genetics can gain around 1 pound (0.45 KG) of muscle mass per month maximum in his first year of following a good training program and diet.
When you take 1-2 pounds of muscle mass spread over your whole frame, it’s really not that much at all.
In other words, you won’t see your muscle gains in the mirror and it will take a long time before your friends and family notice them.
Furthermore it takes a certain amount of muscle mass before you start seeing increases in your musculature.
When you start training, you often lose a good amount of body-fat while gaining muscle mass.
This means that you stay at roughly the same size and thereby you won’t appear bigger compared to when you started.
In addition, if you start training with a below average level of muscle mass and you build yourself up to carry an average amount of muscle mass, the difference won’t be big because you are just going from below average to normal.
The real difference comes in once you go from being “normal sized” to looking “muscular”.
This is when most of your friends and family will start noticing your muscle gains and commenting on them.
Reaching this point will take 6 months-1 year for most skinny-fat guys, therefore you need something that can give you a realistic view of your progress during all that time and thereby keep you motivated to keep pushing for more progress.
The best tool here will be body-measurements.
With body-measurements, you can see progress on a more regular basis, often once every 2-4 weeks.
And measurements are an amazing tool for evaluating both fat loss and muscle gains.
For example, if your shoulder, arm and chest size are increasing it means you are becoming more muscular.
Similarly, if the goal is fat loss and your waist and hip measurement are dropping, you are losing body-fat.
Other people may not see it yet and it may not be visible to you in the mirror, but at least you know that you are getting closer to your goal.
Knowing that your work is paying off will motivate you to keep pushing through the hard times where you’re about to give up and it will enable me to make adjustments to your training and diet plan whenever it’s needed. (Without your progress reports my hands are tied and I’m not able to properly coach you).
Therefore, you need to track your body-measurements with a measurement tape to keep good track of your progress and stay motivated.
Each Sunday morning, I want you to take the following measurements:
- Flexed bicep circumference (put the tape around the peak of your flexed biceps).
- Relaxed shoulder circumference (put the tape all the way around the shoulders, chest and back).
- Relaxed chest circumference (put the tape under your arm-pits and around your chest and back).
- Relaxed waist circumference at the widest point (put the tape around the widest point of your waist).
- Relaxed waist circumference at the belly-button (put the tape around the belly-button).
- Relaxed hip circumference (put the around the widest point of your hips).
In addition to the measurements, I also want you to check your bodyweight just to have as much data as possible. (The measurements are far more important though since they show changes in body-composition while bodyweight doesn’t show much without the measurements to go with it).
Here’s an example of how your weekly check-ins should look in our shared progress sheet if you’re on my Online Transformation Program for Skinny-Fat Guys:
You can take all these measurements without a partner. The only tricky one is the shoulder measurement, however with some practice you will get it right.
I recommend that you take all measurements in front of a big mirror.
Here’s a video showing how to take all the measurements:
In addition to the video, here are some specific comments from me for taking your measurements:
- Biceps measurement: Measure arms flexed. Everything else relaxed.
- Waist measurement: For the waist measurement you’ll want to measure slightly below the belly button where you hold the most body-fat. This way, you will be able to use that for reference and see at what rate your body-fat is increasing. In addition, some people make the mistake of intentionally sucking the stomach in or distending it out. To get the most accurate measurement, keep the stomach relaxed like you would throughout the day.
- Use the maximum measurement: Try to position the tape by in different places of each body-part (while keeping it even) until you find the position that gives you the biggest measurement. For example, on the shoulder measurement you can start with positioning the tape on the top of the shoulders and then gradually place it lower until you reach the bottom of the shoulders. While playing around with the position of the tape, you will find that one position gives the biggest measurement. When you find that position, make sure that the tape is even and then use that as your measurement.
- Want extremely high precision? If you want to get an extremely precise measurement, take 3 measurements of each body-part and then take the average. I don’t do this but I know some of you want to be super precise so this will help.
Also, you want to track your measurements and bodyweight under consistent conditions.
Here are the 3 conditions that will give you the most precise measurements:
- Clean eating: Do not take your measurements and bodyweight the day after you’ve eaten a junk food meal because junk food meals are high in sodium and sodium makes you hold on to water. Extra water retention will skew your measurements. Instead, wait until the next day and make sure you follow your diet well on the day before taking body-measurements and bodyweight.
- Empty stomach: Do not eat breakfast before taking your measurements and bodyweight and go to the toilet first if you feel the need.
- Relaxed muscles: Do not workout before taking measurements because the training pump will add to the muscle measurements.
If you follow these conditions, you will get VERY precise data to evaluate your progress and set yourself up nicely to succeed in your bulk.
Make sure to share your measurements with me in our shared Google Sheet so I can keep track of your progress.
Also, it’s important that you do the measurements honestly and consistently.
Don’t hang the tape loose around your biceps to get a bigger biceps measurement or squeeze it tight around the waist to get a lower waist measurement.
We use measurements as a reference point to evaluate your progress. The only way we can do that is by having accurate measurements.
On the other hand, don’t stress about whether you’re doing them perfectly every-time.
We don’t make adjustments to your plan based on just one measurement. We make them based on the whole big picture where measurements are just part of it.
How to Take Progress Photos
For optimal progress tracking, you want to combine the measurements, bodyweight and strength stats with monthly progress photos.
These help me evaluate your progress better and they’re great for you because once every 3-4 months you can put them side-by-side and see your actual progress.
You want to take a shirtless photo from the front, side and back every month.
You will have one photo in each angle where you’re relaxing and one where you’re flexing
This means you want to take 6 photos each month:
It’s important to take photos from a variety of angles because sometimes you won’t see much muscular development from a certain angle, but then when you look from another angle it will be a completely different story.
Instructions for taking progress photos:
- Take the photos in the morning on an empty stomach and before working out.
- Use a decent camera.
- Stand in an uncluttered environment, e.g. by an empty wall.
- Make sure there’s a good amount of natural lighting in the spot you take the photo.
- Do not suck in your gut or flex, unless it’s a flexed photo.
- Take a vertical full body photo where you can see your whole physique. (Make sure your body takes up most of the space in the photo).
- Always take the photos in the same place for consistency.
It’s best if you have someone to take the photos once every month.
After taking your progress photos, I’d like you to set up a shared dropbox folder where you upload your photos every month and share it with me.
Finally, if you want to do some extra work, you can take your progress photos every week. Taking progress photos every week won’t show a significant change in your physique, however it will keep you accountable to the training and diet regimen. When you can see how you look every week, it motivates you to adhere to your training and diet regimen.
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer