Most of us go to the gym or workout to achieve a result. Most goals can be put into 1 of 2 categories; the add muscle or to lose fat. One reason why a lot of people don't achieve their goals is because they give up after not seeing good enough results along the way. This can be the scales not moving enough or not seeing any changes to their physique. One thing all good trainers will do with clients is to regularly test and measure. Why do good trainers do this? Simple, while you're about to give up because you don't think you've seen any changes, your trainer is about to see the cm's you've lost and the improvements you've made physically. Seeing this improvement will motivate you to achieve your goal instead of giving up.
I'm going to let you in on what kind of testing, and measurements, you should be doing and how often you should be doing them.
Body Fat %
Firstly, lets start with the measurement people are scared of - body fat! There are lots of different ways to measure your body fat but the one you find in 99% off gyms or trainer studio's is to use skin calipers to measure your body fat. Skin calipers are the claw looking tool that pinches your fat and tells your personal trainer the amount of body fat in that certain area of your body. Once enough measurements have been taken around your body, the trainer does some “very complicated” math with all your numbers (Or uses awesome their cheat sheet from Uni) and can tell you your body fat percentage.
First thing to remember is that it's just a number, don't let your percent rule your life after hearing it! Things to remember about using skin calipers;
2 different trainers can measure the same spots and the percentage can be different by several points Using different skin calipers can also change the percentage trainers can get by up to 8% Skinfolds have an accuracy of + or - 3.5%
How often you get your body fat done depends on your goals but also how seriously you're taking your training. If you are training really hard and taking your fitness really seriously then I'd look to get your skin folds done every 4 weeks. If you aren't taking it so seriously or you hate testing then about every 8 weeks is good.
These measurements are done by a measuring tape that measures the circumference of your body at different points according anatomic sites on the body. Although most trainers are going to measure the same spot on your body (or at least should be) it is still going to be somewhat subjective. Most trainers aren't going to be using a tape measure like you'd find in your garage, they'll be using one like the Sequoia OrbiTape. By doing this kind of measuring along with body fat testing you and or your trainer is able to tell if you are losing fat and gaining muscle or not.
Girth measurements should be done the same time frame as your body fat and should be done on the same day.
The scales are the most abused piece of equipment in all gyms. Now before I say anything more about scales again everyone must remember that whatever number the scales give you is just a number. Don't let it rule your life. That number is nothing more to you and or your trainer expect for your starting point. It's about the progress you make either up or down from that number that matters. It's very normal for your weight to change up to a kilo or 2 during the progress of one day. A lot of people give up on their fitness goals because they don't see the scales moving enough. The problem with this is it doesn't tell the full story. Your weight might not change but you might be losing fat and gaining muscle which is what we all want.
Goals that want to lose fat and gain muscle
- Anyone wanting to add muscle.
- Anyone wanting to lose fat.
- Anyone wanting to tone up.
Now there's no need to weigh yourself daily, once a week is fine. Things to remember when weighing yourself is always do the same thing. Weigh yourself at about the same time of the day (first thing in the morning before you eat is good), wearing the same kind of clothing (more clothes on means you'll weigh more) and use the same scales each time.
The type of physical testing you do to track your progress will depend on your trainer and your goals. If your trainer hasn't or didn't do any testing with you at the start of your journey well, good luck. With no physical testing done before you start you'll never know how much you've improved. I've had clients who hadn't achieved as much change as they thought they would in loss of body fat but because they got such great results on their physical testing they were highly motivated to continue striving to achieve their goal. Other people I've seen in gyms when they don't get the results they thought they would and there's no physical testing done can often feel disheartened and give up. The basic kinds of tests that should be covered in the physical testing include the likes of bench press/push-ups, squats/leg press, a speed test, a jumping test, flexibility, agility and a fitness endurance test.
A lot of people only go to the doctor when there is something actually wrong. But in order to make sure we are actually fit and healthy we should all go for regular check-ups to make sure that we are actually healthy. Now some say we should go once a year to get a check-up from our doctor and others say you can go longer without needing to see the doctor. Obviously if you feel like something isn't right with your body then you need to go and see your doctor. When it comes to your physical goals, I would also suggest a visit once or twice a year to a good physiotherapist as they can fix little niggles you might have.vWhen it comes to these health checks, make sure you go to the professionals, don't listen to your gyms “know it all guy”.
Now by knowing what kinds of tests, and measurements, you should be doing you should now be better equipped to achieve your goal. Remember that while one part of your testing might leave you disappointed if you do all your testing you might have great results in other testing which makes you more hungry to achieve your goal!