How to Track Your Progress

Beginning a fitness journey can be daunting when your ideal physique seems so far way, so there’s one thing that makes us glow like a child in a candy store: 

Seeing that first little bicep peak after a work out.

Or having a friend or family member pay you compliment.

They’ll be some of the most rewarding feelings along your fitness journey and are ultimately why we do this in the first place; to make progress.

Progress is what keeps you motivated and fired up to keep going to the gym. It’s what keeps you doing what you do even when people around you don’t understand and look at you in disbelief once again as you weigh your food and tell them it’s because you’re counting your macros!

Making progress is the ultimate motivation and drive that keeps us going when we could be doing anything other than going to the gym, so it’s important to actually track it!

Why Tracking Progress is Important

People that begin exercising for vague general “health reasons” or “to keep fit” with no measurable goals, however well intentioned, quite often don’t see any measurable progress, even if they are technically improving.

These people have a hard time staying in the gym or leading a healthy lifestyle.

Tracking your progress is probably the number one thing that’ll determine if you’ll ever achieve your fitness goals because without measuring progress accurately, you’ll never really know if you are getting closer to your goals or just spinning your wheels.

Measuring your progress allows you to get an understanding of where you are currently at now, how far you’ve come since last time, and if there is maybe something you should change to progress much faster.

Let’s talk about some of ways you can track your progress, because you need to do it right and some ways are better than others.

Tracking Your Weight

If you have ever weighed yourself before at different times of the day, you’ll know how unreliable it can be. One day you’ll weigh yourself and you’re 3lbs lighter, only to come back only the next day heavier than you were originally!

One thing you need to bear in mind with your weight is that it can fluctuate significantly within each day, let alone each week, depending on what food you’ve eaten, what you had the day previous, how much salt you’ve consumed and how hydrated you are, among other reasons.

With that in mind, don’t give yourself too much of a hard time with your actual weight, whether you’re wanting to add it or lose it.

When it comes to weighing yourself, what you’ll want to do is weigh yourself first thing upon waking before eating or drinking anything, and only at this time each day.

Even weighting yourself in the morning can still have minor fluctuations depending on what you ate the previous day but as long as you consistently weigh yourself around the same time each day, you’ll get a better idea of progress compared to taking measurements at different times in a given day.

You can then calculate your average weight for the week and go with that.

Measure Specific Body Parts

Tracking the weight scale can give you an idea of whether you’re gaining or losing weight (depending on your goal), but it really doesn’t tell the full story.

What will likely happen is that your body composition will change ie. you will add muscle whilst losing fat. You will add weight in the form of muscle which could make it seem like you’re not losing weight in the form of fat.

The solution to this, and a better way to track your progress, is to measure specific body parts.

That 5lbs you gained on the scale could be all fat and water weight. And here you were thinking that you were going to become the next Mr.Olympia.

Or the 20lbs you lost on your last cut for all you know could have been 10lbs of muscle and 10lbs of fat. 

Measuring and tracking body measurements gives you a better idea of how your body composition is changing.

I believe there are 4 main points on your body you should keep a track of, using a simple tape measure:

  • Waist (At the belly button for men, and slightly below the below button can be helpful)
  • Arms (Right around your bicep, you can do both flexed and unflexed at the widest points)
  • Neck (Right around where the Adam’s apple is for men)
  • Chest (Lift your arms up, wrap the tape measure around your chest above the nipple, and then lower your arms)

If you want to go the whole mile, you can also measure your shoulders circumference, your thighs, calves and forearms.

Your waist measurement will let you know if you are gaining or losing fat. Gaining 1 inch on your waist generally indicates a body fat gain of around 5lbs.

An increase in your arms, chest and neck measurement usually means an increase in muscle mass. Again, all relative to your body weight.

Track Your Workout/Relative Strength

Often when I strike up conversations with random guys in the gym, it amazes how often I hear that they don’t have a strict routine and just do what ever they feel like that day.

Or if not that, they’re following some bro split routine but aren’t actually taking the time to record each workout.

Tracking your workouts is HUGE!

Either during or after finishing my workout, I will record the amount of weight I did on each exercise, and for how many reps and sets.  

Of course, I’ll be following a well designed workout plan to begin with. But even the workout plan designed by Hercules himself won’t do squat, unless you track the progress on each workout.

Knowing how much you hit on a certain exercise last time is important so you know what you need to beat this time, and you should aim to beat it.

Your strength is a great indicator of the progress. Generally, if you’re getting stronger then it usually means you’re gaining muscle mass.

If you haven’t gained strength in a while – which you’ll know from tracking your workouts – then you know it’s time to make some adjustments.

Lost some strength? Similarly, assuming that you’re just not having a bad week, then it’s time to look into your diet and training protocol since it looks like you might be losing muscle mass.

As another general guideline, for every pound you gain, you should be adding about 1-3lbs to your bench press, 1-2lbs for standing press, and 3-5lbs on your squats and deadlift.

Relative strength is all that matters and it is a great indicator of how much of the weight you’re gaining is actually muscle.

In The End…

If you’re serious about seeing results and achieving your goals, tracking your progress is hugely important.  

The mirror will only tell you so much, and is usually one of the worst ways to measure progress because you won’t notice changes over short periods of time.

Weigh yourself every morning, keep track of your neck, waist, arms, and chest with a tape measure, and track your workouts to make sure you’re consistently gaining strength.