How To Measure Gym Progress Correctly

“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been…”

Many men go to the gym and train mindlessly, simply going through the motions of lifting while failing to pay attention to detail. It comes to me as no surprise that these are the same men that often fail to see progress, get discouraged, and quit.

Measuring progress isn’t only relevant to your physique, but also your business revenue and many other aspects of life that you wish to excel in. if you’re not measuring and recording you’re merely going through the motions blindly, and you obviously have minimal care for the outcome.

If you want to be a winner and want to transform your physique, it is paramount that you record your gym progress in predetermined intervals (e.g fortnightly or monthly). Below are the methods I find most affective for measuring gym progress.

Log book

Buy a pre-formatted gym notebook or use a journal or mobile app to enter each exercise, set and repetition you performed on each and every workout.

Keeping a log of your training ensures that instead of wandering the gym like a lost sheep, you’re a lion and you know exactly what you’re doing. You know how many reps you hit on your incline dumbbell press last week and you know you need to add an additional rep to that set this week in order to progressively overload your muscles into both strength and size gains.

If you begin to struggle later down the line you can refer back to your training log and identify sticking points, lifts you excelled on, and find ways to overcome your plateaus.

Your log book can also be used for the purpose of recording your meals. I recommend calculating your calories as per my guide here and then ticking off in your journal as you hit your calorie and macronutrient goals for the day – if you fall short or overeat you’re accountable to your log, so it must be recorded.

Disregard the scales and BMI

Before I delve into the methods I use and recommend to track fat loss and muscle gain, I find it imperative to discuss the use of the traditional scale.


Weight on the scales, just like the popular BMI method, is flawed. Muscle mass, fluid retention, time of day, hormones, and a number of other factors can adversely affect the number being displayed to you when you step on the scales.

For example, I’ve been hovering around the 185lb mark, I remember being 185lbs a couple of years ago too… does this mean I haven’t bulked or made any progress at all since then? Have I hit an unbreakable plateau?

Of course not…

My body fat has decreased, my fluid retention has decreased and my lean muscle mass has increased… resulting in my total mass clocking in at 185lbs (not to be confused with lean muscle mass which is my total body weight minus my body fat percentage… but we’ll get into that later).

According to BMI body composition is irrelevant—two men both 230lbs at 5ft 11” would be deemed overweight as lean muscle mass and body fat are not measured on this scale. There are far more accurate methods to measure your progress.

Take photos and use the mirror

You see yourself on a daily basis, so progress may seem slow or non-existent. This is where taking regular photos comes into play – the mirror doesn’t lie.

Choose a location, time of day, and pose and snap the same photo(s) on a weekly or fortnightly basis. When I’m following my cutting diet I record a video and take several still shots each week, which I find is the most accurate way to gauge progress.

Store these photos in a “Progress” folder on your computer and update them weekly. As you begin to look through and compare your previous weeks’ progress to current you’ll often be surprised at just how much your body is changing without you realizing it.

Take measurements

Grab a tape measure and take note of your body measurements weekly. I recommend performing these upon waking, as measuring your arms etc. post workout can be inaccurate.

The key to taking successful measurements is to ensure you are measuring in the exact same position every time. Using freckles or placing a mark on your skin is the easiest way to maintain a consistent reference point for measuring.

When measuring record the following measurements in your training log or in an excel spreadsheet in centimetres:

  • Neck circumference
  • Shoulder to shoulder (with your arms down by your side)
  • Chest (around nipple level, raise your arms to place the tape measure around your chest and then lower arms before reading measurement)
  • Biceps (measure from the peak of the bicep to the thickest portion of the triceps)
  • Waist (around your belly button)
  • Hips (widest part)
  • Quads (Choose one spot on your quads and measure this each time)

Get a caliper

There are many methods for measuring body fat, some extremely accurate while others are completely inaccurate. The most cost-effective and accurate method in my book is the old caliper test. You can pick up a body fat caliper for $10 online, and it will come with instructions and a chart to help measure your body fat percentage.

Remain consistent

Your measurements, photos, training, and nutrition log should be updated consistently. Don’t slack off and go through the transformation blindly – have reference points of where you’ve come from so you can sculpt where you’re going.

Seeing progress is THE best motivation to keep the fire alive on your journey.

Read More: How To Workout Correctly

58 thoughts on “How To Measure Gym Progress Correctly”

  1. Great article. However, I believe weighing in can be somewhat reliable still. Using the same scale and trying to weigh in at the same time of day increases accuracy. Keep everything the same. If you weigh in your underwear, only wear your underwear when you weigh in. The same goes for weighing in with clothes on. Keep all the variables the same so that your weigh is not inaccurate.
    Also, measuring your progress also depends on what you define progress as. For example, if your goal is to have a six pack, then you would want to lose weight. If you’re losing weight at the scale and you’re dropping body fat percentages, but you don’t see much change in the mirror, then maybe something is wrong. Go back and make sure you are taking your measurements correctly, increase your intensity, or cut back on your caloric intake to a safe level.

  2. This sounds so Beta, walk into any serious bodybuilders gym and you won’t see any half serious bodybuilder recording anything into a log book. Recording every detail in a log book means your either inexperienced, in which case you are a Beta in a gym setting, or have obsessive compulsive tendencies.

      1. Doesn’t sound beta, it just sounds like someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. A beginning lifter has one concern and one concern only: getting stronger and pushing progressively more weight. You shouldn’t be fucking around with things like calipers and measuring body fat. Forget about seeing your abs. Eat, lift and grow for several years then maybe you can think about body fat. Forget about measurements. and keep adding weight to the bar. You have no business even thinking about things like BMI until you’ve built some muscle.

        1. Even as a beginner you’re going to be tracking something, doesn’t necessarily have to be body fat.
          Case in point — I started Stronglifts 5×5 a couple of months ago, and I use the app to keep track of how much weight I’m lifting each workout. Each time I show up to the gym, I have a clear agenda. If I’m struggling with a certain lift, I make a note to do some research on proper form for that particular exercise, and then on the next go-around I can crush it.

        2. I know about strong lifts and it’s a great strength program. I seriously doubt it tells you to think about bullshit like body fat percentage, use calipers or take measurements. I’m guessing that it tells you to lift progressively heavier weight and to eat a caloric surplus and consume lots of protein. THAT is the important stuff, and it’s great training advice. That stuff is barely mentioned in this article. Keeping a log book is fine for tracking progress with your lifts, but only a small percentage of this article is devoted to that. He mostly babbles about stuff that beginning lifters should not be thinking about. One man’s opinion.

        3. Most trainers have not got a clue about what they are really doing and that’s why measurement of both quantity and quality is important. Do you think most people can tell the difference between eating 2,500 calories a day and 2,900 calories a day (that shitty little salad that has extra dressing can make all the difference)?
          However without such understanding achieved through measurement you can easily overshoot or undershoot your goals when the same minor error is compounded. This is why people are often frustrated at their ability to lose weight. Same principle applies in the gym. Until you have a true intuitive grasp of what you’re doing, where you’re going measure is crucial. Think of it as a map.
          Taking photos is also crucial from a psychological perspective – the process of body metamorphosis is gradual, so to you, it can be hard to FEEL like progress is made unless you have tangible reference points over time.

        4. If your goal is losing fat and building muscle (lifting is but one means to this) then it makes absolute sense to track your fat loss and muscle increase, beginner or no.
          You speak like someone who actually cannot control his body fat percentage and is making excuses to cover up your disappointment in yourself.

        5. Worrying about fat is only something you should do if you’re morbidly obese. 90 percent of guys I see obsessing over body fat are skinny and weak. You’re not going to gain muscle without also gaining some fat along with it. The reverse is also true: you can’t lose fat without losing muscle. It’s not going to happen. Try it if you want and keep spinning you’re wheels but you aren’t going to get anywhere.

        6. As I said, tracking your progress is great- IF we’re talking about how much weight you’re moving. In other words, keep track of how much you’re benching, squatting, rowing, dead lifting, etc. But body fat percentage isn’t something you should concern yourself with during the first year (I would even say the first three years) of training. Six-pack abs look good if you have muscle, but you have to build that muscle first and that takes years- unless you’re on performance enhancing drugs.

        7. That doesn’t make any sense. There is wanting six pack abs and there is wanting to reduce your body fat percentage. If your primary goal is reducing body fat then it makes sense to track it.
          You have to consider that you can be increasing your bench and also be increasing in body fat. This is a problem that you may not be aware of if you do not track your BF. This would make it very clear that your nutrition is off. I have had this problem.
          Keep in mind that not everyone’s primary objective is increasing their bench.

        8. Not just bench press, but squats deadlifts and heavy rows. And if you’re serious about building muscle, you need to be serious about all of those lifts If you’re not, then you’re not going to build any serious muscle. In order to build muscle, you have to get stronger on all of those lifts. And you won’t get stronger on all of those lifts without eating a lot of calories. Eating a lot of calories means putting on some body fat. Not a ton, but a little bit. Most guys I know put on a tiny bit of fat and then right away think they need to “cut” and then never get anywhere. This video is aimed at teen lifters, but it applies to to most people i know

        9. I understand where you’re coming from – don’t fret about tiny details that won’t have the largest impact on your physique. That being said, the guy in your video is a very strong, fat guy.
          I would never, and most other guys would never want to look like that guy. Girls generally don’t want to fuck guys like that. I assume you have several years of serious lifting experience. You may forget what it’s like to be a true newbie. The “basics” aren’t known to these kids.
          It is totally possible to put on a lot of muscle mass without putting on enough fat to even cover a 6 pack. You can consistently get stronger and more muscular without going above 10% body fat. I say if you’re lifting to get laid, it’s a better strategy than bulk and cut (especially if you’re subscribing to the idea that you should be overweight for several years before worrying about cutting). If your goal is to put on the most muscle mass and build strength (assuming you’re not competing in weight classes) then yes, I totally agree with you. Depends on your goals for lifting though.

        10. I hear ya. I’m not saying you should train to look like the guy in that video. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned through trial and error and from talking to others. IMO women notice a guy with broad shoulders, a big chest, and strong legs and a good ass. No one is gonna see your abs until your shirt comes off. Women can see that you have broad shoulders and a stout chest even if you’re wearing clothes. Also, having broad shoulders and well-developed lats creates a v-shaped taper and the illusion of a slimmer waist. Girls don’t like physiques like in this video, but they don’t like scrawny and weak guys either. I the guys I know who obsess over body fat tend to be weak and scrawny.

        11. Instead of bench perhaps I should say “compound lifts”. What I was getting at, is that not everyone’s goal is excelling at these lifts. While I accept that these are the best lifts for building muscles, again that is not everyone’s goal. For some people the goal is modest muscle gain and fat loss (i.e. to get that nice “athletic” look). You don’t need to use compound lifts to achieve that and some of us are disqualified from performing any compound lifts at all due to injury. I agree though that to lift extreme weight you’re going to put on some fat.
          You can also make significant strength gains (particularly “relative” strength) from correctly performed bodyweight training. Combining this with the appropriate nutrition you will actually gain strengths, make modest muscle size gains and lose significant body fat.

        12. Its important if you are fighting (competitively). You don’t want to be carrying “passengers” if you are fighting someone. At your weight you need to be carrying the maximum amount of productive mass.
          Gaining fat along with muscle is not a concern if you are gaining muscle quicker than you are gaining fat. In otherwords, it is the proportion of your body that is fat that matters rather than the absolute amount. As such, BF% is an important indicator here.
          I suspect though that you are of the “you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time” camp. This is a myth and it is built on the calorie myth. If you are consuming the correct nutrition you will build muscle and lose fat.

        13. Absolutely – broad shoulders > six pack. For me (East Coast near NYC) you won’t stand out in a crowd clothed unless you’re 6’+ or on roids so you do the best you can with what you have. I know what you mean though – no point in worrying about your six pack abs if you can’t dead lift twice your weight etc.

    1. When you reach the level of “half serious bodybuilder,” maybe you can feel free to throw out the log book without much loss. Until then, you’re going to have to become acquainted with how your body works, in which case it’s more effective to rely on accurate records than on vague memories.
      Edit: I’m one of the bigger men at my gym and no one sees me with a log book, not because I don’t keep a record, but because I put all of the information into my phone, usually after I’ve left.

        1. mine too bob. When I have a free minute I will look at what i did last week, or read over tomorrows workout or (I skip a page between workouts) write out notes about how I feel..any aches? Feeling pumped?. Sometimes I will jot something down like “1 rm felt easier today…add x lbs on next, whatever, deadlift day…then skip forward to that day and mark “see note from xx/xx/xxxx. While my co-workers are thinking about pizza I am thinking about getting better.
          I will also write out what I ate that day…my calories, my macros and any other thing i can think of.
          It is like changing lanes with a motorcycle. You don’t steer….just look at the other lane…your body and the bike will do the rest.
          Keep your eye on success and getting better and your body will go there.

        2. Yep. My log includes reps, sets, and my weight. I don’t currently track BF% directly because its very consistent although when I was trying to burn fat I did. And actually, I find that I can judge it now by looking in the mirror, which belt notch I am using etc.
          I also often track my state of mind and pain level (to judge injury healing if applicable).
          My weight is actually important because I have to make weight for competitions.

        3. Makes sense.
          I track BF and Weight (though I don’t ever compete) mostly because I like the numbers. Having these things to keep my mind occupied means I am focused. I also set arbitrary goals (gain 5 pounds while loosing 3% bf) just to challenge.
          State of mind, I find, to be the most important one.

      1. When I got into the 200-300 pound range, I didn’t need to write it down anymore. When I dead lifted 315 for the first time, it was burned into my memory permanently. It isn’t something you’re likely to forget. Once I got one rep with 315, my next goal was to get 2-3 reps, then 4-6 reps, then eventually slapping on another plate.

      1. I don’t like the apps either. For whatever reason, i feel better writing it down with a pen. Somehow that makes it more real to me. Maybe because I am old. Who knows. Still, tracking < not tracking 100% of the time.

    2. Real bodybuilders count their calories and macro-nutrient intake. I honestly don’t know what kind of hippy-ass -beta-ass gym you go to…but if I were to guess, it would be planet fitness LOL
      For those of you that don’t know what planet fitness is here’s a link:

    3. This is perhaps one of the stupidest things I have ever read in a comment section. Name me one serious bodybuilder who does not track his progress.

      1. Don’t you remember the last strongman competition where the winner squatted a lot of weight…not sure exactly how much…he wasn’t counting, but it was a lot.

    4. I have a lot of room for men with different experience and education from me to add diverse opinions, to debate, discuss and take them all seriously so long as they are men of substance…however, this comment is just plain incorrect. First of all, not sure how the alpha/beta binary even gets into this discussion. Secondly, “Guest” must consider Planet Fitness to be a “serious body builders gym” (building body with Pizza and contempt for compound lifts) because saying serious lifters don’t use logbooks is such an asinine comment that I can only imagine that Guest is either an idiot or a troll.
      For the record:Keeping a log book a) will help you mentally focus as you study it prior to a workout b) will force you in non gym hours to keep your mind on your workout c) will help you learn from what you have done in the past and d) give you goals to shoot for in the future.
      Don’t believe me, read the Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. Lifting without clothing would be more advisable than lifting without a logbook.
      Pictured Below: Total “Beta” punk who never was in a “real body builders gym” and wasn’t even “half serious” about body building. You could totally tell by the scrupulous nature of his logbook.

  3. Seen the exact same article on a woman’s fitness forum. How about just wake up ever day bang out 100 pushups, sit ups, and squats. Then go for 15 pullups. do that for a month straight and see what happesn

    1. I also read what you said on a form for 12 year old girls… If you want to get big you have to hit weight, there’s no other way..

      1. Your cardio probaby consists of 5 minutes on an elliptical and you probably consider curls a legit excercise

    2. That is a great workout. I bet you really turn heads at the pussy faggot club. Call me if you need a pickle jar opened.

      1. Hahah lets meet up in real life. I wouldnt mind seeing what all.3 of you dweebs look like on person

        1. I actually would. Would be nice to see how much of a nerd virgin you are in real life. If you are “alpha” you will

        2. I would. Would like to see how much of a nerd virgin you are in real life because on here you sound like a huge one.

        3. Whatever you say after i called you out is null and void. Either you’re about it or just another internet gangster

  4. Good read !
    One question.
    For those of us that workout at home (push-ups, squats, crunches) the home work out is effective on the body and tones the muscles but what routine or what exercises can we use to gain more muscular mass and properly work all muscles?
    Any takers?
    Have a nice day!

    1. Convict Conditioning. Brooks Kubik Dinosaur Bodyweight Training. The Naked Warrior.
      And good nutrition.

      1. Why, thank you dear sir. But I’m not american and I find it difficult making on-line aquisitions where my CC is required. Is there a more easyer way to get access to the juicy info from those books without literaly purchasing them? some insight perhaps, reviews?

        1. You can get push up bars and what not to increase ROM but you’re not going to lool like a body builder doing calisthenics. Throw pullups , pistol squats, hindu pushups and hand stand pushups in if your regular routine isnt doing it. Or just go up in reps. Ive gotten up to.about 250 of each a day

        2. The Naked Warrior is available for free I believe. Just google it. The others, I am not sure. If you contact Brooks Kubik directly I am sure he can help you.

    2. Balance the pushups with inverted rows, you can use a desk or table top if you don’t have a suitable bar. Hanging on to an edge rather than a bar will stress your forearms as well.
      Start working the progressions for handstand and planche pushups. You can find them online, both text and video.
      Progress your squats to Bulgarian splits and pistols.
      Pull ups. Ditch the crunches and do leg lifts with your pull ups.
      Dips. Can be done between two sturdy chairs if you’re careful. Me, I use a walker. Got it for free from someone who, as they say, didn’t need it any more.
      That’s all you need to go all drug free male model. It’ll take you about a third longer to max out your potential than you would with weights, but you’ll get there.
      You can add resistance bands to the above, They’re cheap, safe for working out alone and work just as well as weights for building muscle. If you have these you can do an overhead press instead of the handstand pushups. The only thing they won’t do is train you to lift weights, so I add the caution that just because you have the strength to lift weights doesn’t mean you should. If you switch from resistance bands to weights you have to start working well below your strength level, focusing on form, until you’ve lifted enough to have the skill to lift weights safely.
      I’d add these three isometrics:
      Stomach vacuum, it’ll enhance the effect of the leg lifts.
      Pelvic tilt. The very best exercise you can do for your lower back without a MedX lumbar machine. Good luck even finding one of those outside of a few rehab facilities.
      Glute bridge. Do it for reps, but really contract until your ass burns on the last few, making it an isometric.
      If you fancy being a HIT Jedi, do these just once a week to failure, with a slow negative at failure.
      If that sort of suffering isn’t your bag, do them twice a week to about a rep short of failure, again with the slow negative on the last rep.
      Make sure you eat enough to support the growth, but no more. You want to get muscular, not fat.
      That said, don’t even think about the six pack thing until you have the muscle mass you want. For that matter, in terms of general health and fitness, 10 to 15 percent body fat is where you actually want to be. Using the mirror test, that’s right in the range where you can tell you have abs . . . if the lighting is right . . . and you contract a bit.
      Eat steak, eggs and a few ounces of liver once every month or three. Don’t drink milk. Hard cheese is OK in moderation (below the point where it causes constipation). Butter is great.
      If you feel like you must supplement, take some vitamin D against Seasonal Affective Disorder.
      There ya go. I’ve just put the Fitness Industry(tm) out of business and didn’t make a fucking dime to put in my pocket.

      1. Thank you. After I master these I’ll pass the knowledge further. You did not make a dime, sure but you helped me improve my life to point of reaching the state of example for others. You will not get a dime but you did change the world in a very small but profound manner. You might not feel you do any good, but think about it when instead of seeing fat bastards & fat women around you’ll see people who stay fit, thanks to people like you.
        A pleasant evening.

  5. For anyone who is starting out the best advice for you is to learn how to work out before going to gym. This is fucking super important but I have never heard anyone say it before.. Maybe its was because I young but I wasted almost year because I don’t know wtf I was doing. Never did back, shoulders or hammer curls. Looked fucking deformed for like a year and half..

  6. Don’t lose the scale. Do use your smartphone. Do track your activity.
    Fitbit or similar: you’ll start off low, and use it to set motion goals for the day. You’re hitting 10k steps easily now? Bump it up to 15k. You’re hitting 15k easy? Go for 20k. One thing: take it off in the gym. The gym doesn’t count for that item, that’s purely gym time, the activity tracker exists to make sure you aren’t a lazy ass outside the gym.
    Scales can be useful both for tracking weight loss and gain. Withings has a decent scale. It isn’t perfect, you just use it to track trends versus the picture you’re taking. Remember, sometimes you want to gain weight.
    That interminable hellish device known as a smartphone can be a useful tool. Selfies to track progress. Something like myfitnesspal to track eating and workouts. I use that program to track my eating (unless you want to go psycho on weighing portions and such, overestimate about 10% to be fair about what you eat, unless it’s prepackaged) and workouts. I can even preset my workouts before I get to the gym.
    Do take time with a good trainer to get a good 3-4 day workout.
    I forgot: avoid the fucking fad diets. I was lucky enough to not fall into that or the supplement trap. Now supplements can be useful to help hit an overall nutrient value. A better idea is to try and eat healthy meals packing the nutrients. Your body will thank you for learning healthy eating.

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