The 5 Best Measurements for Body Transformation

training-for-successMeasuring your progress can be one of the single most effective strategies to use when trying to achieve your dream body.

The trouble is, with so many things you can measure where should you start?

Do you measure height, weight, waist:hip ratios, BMI, spinal curvature, 1.5 mile run time, lung function, metabolic rate, grip strength, core function, blood pressure, 1 Rep Max, etc, etc…

The list goes on and on!

To be honest, almost any measurement you take or have measured can have some benefit but what should be used to determine whether or not you bother with it is the relevance of that measurement to your chosen outcome goal.

NOTE: Your Outcome Goal is the thing you’re trying to achieve. e.g. Lose 30lbs, Squat 2x your body weight, get a 6-pack, etc.

As I like to keep things as simple as possible for me and my clients, when it comes to training for success and measuring that success in relation to your body transformation (whether fat loss, muscle gain or both), there are 5 main measurements I use to help guide my recommendations.

So what are the 5 Key Performance Indicators for Body Transformation?

The following aren’t listed in any specific order because depending on your goal – fat loss, muscle gain or both – different measures have differing levels of importance to each.

Measurements to use when Training for Success

1. Body Fat %

Body fat percentage is a great indicator of not only your progress but it’s also a much more accurate indicator of your level of health relative to being overweight or obese than measurements such as BMI.

Unlike BMI, body fat % actually lets you know what percentage of your body consists of fat tissue.

Below is a chart detailing the various body fat percentages and their classifications for different age groups.

  MEN    WOMEN   
AGE 20-30 31-40 41-50 51+ 20-30 31-40 41-50 51+
Very low fat <9% <11% <12% <13% <17% <18% <20% <21%
Low fat 9-12% 11-13% 12-15% 13-16% 17-20% 18-21% 20-23% 21-24%
Average fat 13-16% 14-17% 16-20% 17-21% 21-23% 23-25% 24-27% 26-28%
Very high fat 17-19% 18-22% 21-25% 22-27% 24-27% 25-29% 28-31% 31-35%
Overfat 20%+ 23%+ 26%+ 28%+ 28%+ 30%+ 32%+ 36%+

Below is another Body fat % table. This table shows the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Body Fat % Norms.

Classification Men (% fat) Women (% fat)
Essential Fat 2-4% 10-12%
Athletes 6-13% 14-20%
Fitness 14-17% 21-24%
Acceptable 18-25% 25-31%
Overweight >26% >32%

As you can see, by knowing what your current body fat % is you can make a plan to get into the specific range you would like to be (or maybe should be) in.

The easiest way to find out your body fat % is to have one of the Gym Instructors at your gym take the measurements for you or to buy yourself some body fat calipers on your countries Amazon store. Prices start very low and at least by having your own calipers you can take the measurements as and when you need to without having to book in with a trainer.

2. Body Weight

Now although not essential by any means, monitoring your body weight alongside your body fat % is perfect for establishing how much of your weight change is from changes in Lean Mass (bone mass, muscle mass, water mass, organs mass) and Fat Mass (adipose tissue and intra-tissue fat deposits).

This is very important information that can help to influence the nutritional and training changes you choose to make each fortnight in order to achieve your goal.

For those of you who are already lean but are wanting to gain muscle mass, ensuring your body weight is increasing each time you measure is a good indication that what you’re doing is working.

TIP: Please don’t get hung up on the specific number in the scale. More often than not it means very little in regard to your health and goals without taking into account what that weight is made up of. Instead, view it as an objective measure of your progress alongside the other measurements listed here.

3. Circumference Measurements

Circumference measurements are also a good measurement for indicating if what you are doing is taking you towards your goal or away from it.

Circumference measurements include the likes of your Shoulders, Chest, Waist, Hips, Thighs, etc..

Generally speaking if your goal is fat loss, you’ll be wanting your measurements to go down and those looking to gain muscle mass will be trying to increase their circumference measurements.

4. Photographs

If your goals are body transformation based, in real terms the only thing that matters is that you’re happy when you look at yourself in the mirror or on a photograph.

The numbers on the page – body fat %, body weight, circumference measurements, etc – although they can be use to identify if you fall into healthy ranges based on statistical norms, if you aren’t happy with how you look then you’ll likely feel like you still have work to do.

This is why (alongside the measurements above) I also encourage you to take photographs of yourself every 4 weeks so that you can visually track the changes in your body.

5. Training Performance

Even though your goal may not be performance based, I encourage you to keep track of your week-to-week performance and also your performance over time.

Tracking your week-to-week performance is very easy.

You simply write down what you do in your training sessions (ideally as you do it). This includes amount of weight lifted, set and reps completed, rest taken, etc. Then all you have to do is ensure that next week when you repeat that programme, you try to do a little more or a little better.

For example, “a little more” could simply be an extra rep or 2 each set, using slightly heavier weights, running for a few minutes longer or a couple of mph/kph faster, etc…

If on the other hand you don’t feel ready to increase the load or volume one week, you can instead do “a little better”. This would be where you repeat the session with the same sets, reps, rest, etc. but you do your best to improve the execution of each exercise. Here you would focus on improving aspects such as your posture, movement quality, positional awareness, control of the weight, range of motion used, etc.

By doing a little more or a little better you continually encourage the body to keep improving which in turn will help contribute to continued results.

So, those are the 5 key indicators that I recommend you use to keep track of your body transformation progress.

Of course if you have more complex health challenges and goals than simply improving your physique, additional measurements should ideally be used. If this applies to you but you do not currently have a coach or trainer that can discuss this with you I would recommend you check with your GP on the measurements that may best suit your needs.

With my own clients I will assess the likes of Heart Rate Variability and Blood Pressure, Structural Anomalies and Postural Aberrations, Core Function and Muscle Balance, Functional Movement Screening plus more as and when needed.

How often should each measurement be taken?

Body fat %, Body weight and Circumference measurements should be taken once a fortnight first thing in the morning after going to the toilet for the first time and before food or drink.

Photographs should ideally be taken every 4 weeks. This should generally allow enough time for you to see visible change providing you have a good plan and that you’re following it.

Performance measurements – As mentioned you should ideally track your sessions and try to improve a little every week. This improvement should be a minimum of 1-3%. I also recommend you do some sort of fitness test every 4-8 weeks to ensure that your programmes are improving your performance as well as your physique. This could be a simple cardio, muscular endurance, or strength test. Anything relevant to your training really.

Keep training for success. Consistency in your efforts and monitoring your progress is what brings results.

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Thank you for your time,