Tracking your progress

I, along with many others have returned home for the festive period. Back in my old house I have been actually rather bored. Other than writing articles and watching TV I haven’t had a whole load to do. It was this boredom that led me to looking through some old photographs. It was then that I realized how much my body had changed over the last few years. Unfortunately I don’t have any images on the computer that I can show you but if I could I am fairly sure you readers would be shocked as well. When I was younger I was THIN. I mean really thin. At the age of 13 I weighed less than my sister and I remember being unable to do a single chin up. I even lost to my step-grandma in an arm wrestle that Christmas. These horrific memories (horrific may be a bit strong actually) made me think about how much progress I have made in terms of my physique and strength. I then thought about why I hadn’t ever kept good track of my progress and wasn’t aware of such massive improvements I had made from this sub-standard starting physique.

This train of thought led me to this article. I am going to look at different methods of tracking progress and why it is extremely important to do so. To see progress is to see direction. It keeps you focused, it allows you to set realistic goals, it keeps you motivated and feeling happy with yourself.

So my top 3 ways to keep track of progress that I feel everyone who trains MUST do (I will be included in this as well from now on).

1. Take pictures -

Progress pictures are a fantastic way to see aesthetic improvements in physique. When you look in the mirror every day there is so little difference occurring from day to day that you will never be able to tell if you are even improving. The progress is slow and you will only ever see the improvement from the previous day, rather than the previous month or year. I recommend you take pictures of your physique from every angle and performing every pose you can. Then instead of looking at these pictures every day, hide them away. Don’t look at them for at least 2 months. If you take the pictures out 6 months down the line of a strong training and diet plan I can guarantee you will be amazed with the progress you have made. Then take some new pictures and do the same thing. The timeline of training progress will be very impressive to see in  a few years time once you have built up a catalogue of progress. It will show that you are moving in the right direction. Comparing the first picture to the last picture after a few years of cataloguing is also rather amusing.

2. Take measurements –

Sometimes just looking at a physique can lead to misrepresentations of progress. We are all our own biggest critics. I can look at myself in the mirror and be convinced I haven’t got any bigger in the last 5 years. I can look at photos and be appalled by how bad I look. When in reality I look better than I ever have and I am bigger than I ever have been. The only way to know for a fact that you are getting bigger, leaner and better is to measure your body. Use a tape measure and measure your arms, chest, waist, quads, calves, neck and anything else you feel like measuring. Write down these numbers and then re-measure every month, 2 months or 6 months. The progress in the numbers is undeniable (unless you are just getting fatter). Getting fatter leads me to my next measurement. Measure your body fat percentage. If this is staying the same or going down then you are gaining quality weight and the increase in numbers of your other measurements are positive improvement. I don’t even know what my arms measured when I started the gym but I have a strong feeling they were about 10 inches on the peak of my non-existent bicep. They now measure a slightly more respectable 17 inches at 13% body fat (I’m a little fat at the moment due to xmas).

3. Keep a training diary –

After all, progress is not necessarily just down to how you look. The most important aspect to making progress (other than obviously a good diet) is keeping a progressive training plan. If your training sessions are getting progressively better, your weights are increasing and you are getting physically fitter and stronger then you will see progression in all areas. If you are stronger, it is likely you will be bigger. So if you can keep a training diary to track progress of the weights, reps and exercises you have performed, day in day out, then you will be able to see where you are improving. You can plan short, medium and long term goals effectively by looking at previous goal targets that have been achieved. You can also set training plans to work on your weaknesses and lagging areas. Its also a great way to catalogue loads of different exercises to put into future training plans.

So there you are. 3 great ways to keep track of your progress and to ensure the progress keeps coming. After all, in this game the only way to go is forward. If you don’t know what direction you’re going in you aren’t really bodybuilding.


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