When it comes to losing fat the scale can be a bit misleading. If you are like most guys your goal is to lose fat while preserving as much muscle as possible. However, when we step on the scale it doesn’t tell us how much fat and muscle we’ve lost – only how much fat. As a result, it can be weeks or months before we realize that we’ve actually been losing mostly muscle. Whether you are looking to bulk or cut it’s important to track your progress in a variety of ways. Check out the article below for 5 things you should be doing to track your progress.
1 – Use Calipers to Measure Bodyfat
With a $5 pair of calipers you can easily take skinfold measurements and get an estimate of your bodyfat percentage. While the calipers won’t be 100% accurate, particularly because people tend to carry bodyfat in different places, they will be able to show you a trend. For example, if you have lost 10 pounds but your bodyfat has barely dropped you know there is a good chance you have lost a fair bit of muscle in the process. Similarly, if you are on a bulk and you put on 10 pounds of muscle but your bodyfat measurement remains stable you know that you put on mostly muscle.
Again, calipers are not an exact measurement. You will find a lot of people with different opinions on how exactly the measurements should be taken. Having said that, as long as you take the measurements in a consistent manner you will get a good idea if your training program is headed in the right direction. Better to find out sooner so you can make the adjustments rather than finding out after wasting several months on a bad program.
2 – Wear Old Clothing
Remember those jeans that use to struggle to fit into. Try them on now and you will see that they are way too big. Same thing goes with that old shirt with baggy sleeves – watch as your bigger biceps fill them out. When you get used to seeing your body on a day to day basis it’s easy to lose sight of just how far you’ve come. Trying on old clothing is a great way to remind yourself and to re energize your training. Those old “fat pants” are a great reminder that you can achieve great things if you put forward consistent, solid effort.
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3 – Progress Pictures
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. While training journals can show your progress in terms of how much you can lift and how your weight has changed, nothing demonstrates progress quite like a progress picture. In fact, many bodybuilders cite not taking progress photos as one of their biggest training regrets.
It doesn’t take long to notice differences in the mirror – but when you look at yourself every day (usually multiple times) it’s easy to lose sight of that. Any time you are discouraged just pull up a picture you took of yourself a few months ago, or even when you started. The changes will definitely fire up your motivation and remind you of how far you’ve come. In terms of the pictures themselves, try to take them in the same mirror, with similar lighting and pose. We all know that lighting and angles can drastically change your appearance (just ask fat girls who somehow manage to look skinny in their online dating photos) so it’s best to keep things as consistent as possible to get an accurate look at your progress.
4 – Tape Measures
In addition to your weight, the actual circumference of arms, chest, stomach and quads are great indicators of progress. By measuring your arms, for example, you can get an idea just how much mass you’ve gained on your biceps which can be hard to gather from a photo. Similarly, when on a cut, you can see just how much your stomach has shrunk. Just make sure you measure the same way each time at a similar time of day. For example, don’t measure one day after a heavy training session and then next time first thing in the morning when your muscles are cold.
5 – Test your Heavy Lifts
If your squat, deadlift, bench press and other lifts are dropping a lot chances are you are burning up quite a bit of muscle. While it’s normal to lose a bit of strength on a cut, any drastic changes in performance are likely the result of poor nutrition. By recognizing that this is happening you can make the necessary diet adjustments so that you continue to burn fat without losing strength and muscle.
When on a bulk, pull-ups and dips are a great barometer of how much muscle vs fat that you are gaining. If you are struggling to do the same number of pull-ups as before it could be because your body is not able to lift up that extra bodyfat. By recognizing a drop in bodyweight exercise performance you can make adjustments to your training program before it’s too late.
Bonus – Take a Fat Burner
When it comes to dieting, it’s normal for your metabolism to drop as your body seeks to hold onto that fat storage. Similarly, because you are consuming less calories you will feel less energetic and struggle to lift as much as you do when on a bulk. Obviously you want to keep that metabolism running as hot as possible and maintain muscle, which is why you should take a fat burner.
These supplements use natural ingredients that help you with your cut in a number of ways. First, the fire up your metabolism so you keep burning lots of calories even when consuming a deficit. Second, they boost your energy levels so you have an easier time getting through those tough weight training and HIIT workouts. Finally, they keep your appetite down so you don’t accidentally go on a binge-eating session. Click here to check out our fat burners page to find out which ingredients are ideal and for a listing of our favorite products currently on the market.