Ways to Measure Success at the Gym


5 minute read

September 1, 2020

          Think about it, why do you do anything? Okay, that was a pretty random question I guess, but the answer I was going for is because you have goals. Everything we do in life is because we are trying to reach some goal, whether it’s a conscious goal or an unconscious one, it’s there, nonetheless. Why do you study? Because you have the goal of passing a class so that you can graduate college and get a good job. Why do you brush your teeth in the morning? Because you want your breath to smell good so that you can reach your goal of finally kissing that cute girl/guy in your bio class.


          Why do you work out? Because you have a goal of gaining muscle or losing fat, or simply being healthy. Either way, it’s helpful to measure our success along our journey so that we can be sure we are on target to meet our goals. Otherwise we’ll never know if all the pain and suffering is worthwhile or not. So how do you measure success at the gym? Well in this blog post I will cover my 3 favorites and how to do them!


The Scale

          Older scales will just tell you your body weight, but the newer, fancy schmancy scales tell you dozens of other numbers like BMI, body fat percentage, visceral fat and more. They’ll even send all the information directly to your smart phone. But are these scales accurate?


          A 2016 study performed by Consumer Reports found that most bathroom scales (5 out of 6) were able to determine body weight accurately when compared to a professional laboratory scale.


          However, body fat percentage (BFP) is a different story. First, a quick understanding of how these scales measure BFP. Fat has less water than muscle which makes it denser. Dense things are hard to travel through, so a current can’t travel through fat as fast as it can travel through muscle. The scale sends a light electrical current up your feet and around your pelvis to measure the amount of resistance. The more resistance it encounters, the more fat (Cherney, 2019).


          The same 2016 study concluded that bathroom scales are extremely inaccurate when determining BFP. When compared to a BOD POD, a device that expertly measures BFP through recording changes in air pressure when the body is placed in a sealed chamber, at-home scales were at best off by 21% and at worst off by 34%.


          That being said, these scales were still proven to be consistent and this is still a useful metric in tracking progress overtime. Still, it can be easy to get obsessed over a number and it is important to remember that these scales are not 100% accurate. You should always listen to your doctor and other professionals when trying to decide if you should lose or gain weight.


The Measuring Tape

          A more accurate way to measure success is the measuring tape. Measuring tape can be a great way to measure progress for both those who are trying to lose fat and those trying to gain muscle.


          If you do decide to take body measurements with a measuring tape, make sure you are using a cloth measuring tape that’s nice and flexible. Take the measurements in the morning, before you eat or drink and do it while wearing either loose clothing or no clothes at all. Also make sure you take your measurements at the same time of day every time, so you have accurate numbers to compare. (Waehner, 2019).


          Personally, I haven’t used this method much in the past, but after reading about it, I definitely see the benefits of doing it. It’s hard to tell just from looking that your biceps are getting bigger or that your waist is getting thinner, but by taking measurements you can see the numbers slowly go up or down and you will know for sure you are improving. This will help keep you motivated during the course of your fitness journey!


          Some places that you can measure to track your success are the abs, arms, chest, waist, calves, hips, and thighs.


The Before and After Picture

          Finally, what I think is the most satisfying way to track progress: the before and after picture! The before and after picture lets you compare yourself to the person you are in constant competition with; YOURSELF!


Here are some of my pointers on taking before and after pictures:

          -Take them in the same place, at the same time of day, wearing the same clothes, with the same lighting.

          -Take multiple pictures from different angles of both you flexing and relaxed.

          -Don’t compare a relaxed picture to a flexed picture like they do in the fitness ads. The only person you’ll be cheating is yourself!


          I think these pictures are a great way to notice little changes in your body that you didn’t even know you were working. Maybe you lost a little fat somewhere you weren’t expecting or maybe you have increased muscle toning in spot you didn’t even know there were muscles!


          All this being said, I think it’s still important to use all of the measuring techniques I have mentioned: a mix of the scale, the tape measurer, and the before and after picture. It’s also important to realize that results take time. Don’t weigh yourself every morning or take bicep circumference measurements every week. Your body doesn’t change that quickly!


          I would personally recommend weighing yourself once a week and taking measurements and before and after pictures on a monthly basis or even only at the beginning and end of your program. The scale will help make sure you are on track to reaching your goals, so that you can see if you need to change anything and the measurements/pictures will give you satisfying evidence that you did indeed improve and all your suffering wasn’t for nothing!


Happy Thinking,

           Seagull Strength

Works Cited

Byrne, Sue. “Body-Fat ScaleReview.” Consumer Reports, 2016, www.consumerreports.org/body-fat-scales/body-fat-scale-review/.

Cherney, Kristeen. “How AccurateAre Body Fat Scales?” Edited by Daniel Bubnis, Healthline, Healthline Media, 22 July 2019, www.healthline.com/health/body-fat-scale-accuracy#how-they-work.

Waehner, Paige. “How to ProperlyTake Body Measurements During Weight Loss.” Edited by Tara Laferrara, Verywell Fit, 6 Dec. 2019, www.verywellfit.com/how-to-take-your-body-measurements-1231126.

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