Measuring Your Progress

The following methods are used in the Ultimate Health Programme to track your results. These methods are both simple and effective for seeing your progress unfold over time.

Scales

The methods mentioned above are good for measuring visual changes, it also helpful to measure changes in mass too. Using a scale provides numbers, numbers are straightforward and easy to track.

Scales simply tell you how much you weigh, they won't tell you what you've lost or gained. You could have lost muscle and gained fat or lost fat and gained muscle, you can't tell. This is why it is best to combine scales with a more visual assessment like progress shots; one method complements the other.

Information from scales has to be taken with a pinch of salt. What you eat and drink and wear around the time of weighing yourself can make a significant difference to your weight. For this reason it is best to weigh yourself around the same time each day while wearing similar clothes with the scale positioned on the same surface.

Scales aren't all created equal, some are accurate but others aren't. Cheap electronic scales are often less reliable but even the best scales may be slightly inaccurate for individuals with higher body mass. A little research prior to buying one will benefit you and improve the accuracy of your measurements.

Progress Shots

Progress shots are my tool of choice for recording changes of a visual nature. You simply take pictures of yourself each month and compare from one month to the next. You may take pictures of your reflection, use a self-timer or ask someone else to take these pictures for you.

When we take progress shots we take them from the front, the side and the back to provide a complete view of the body. You should strive to keep your posture neutral in all pictures as changes in posture can make it much harder to compare.

Progress shots have another key benefit; it can be very motivating to look back at all the progress you've made. If you feel unmotivated, looking at your achievement over time in progress shots is a great tool to raise your morale, remind you of your achievements and keep you on track.

In The Ultimate Health Programme, members send me their progress pictures each month to stay accountable to their goals. You can easily form a small group with friends and compare for a similar benefit.

The Tape Measure

A tape measure provides a great form of area-specific feedback which is why it is a popular method of measurement with people wanting to gain muscle, lose fat or both. The measurements taken allow us to gain valuable feedback on body composition as well as health and risks of various diseases.

Measurements are best compared to our previous measurements and other sites on our own body. You shouldn’t compare to other people’s measurements as what may be healthy for one person may not be healthy or even achievable for someone else.

Measuring Sites

Measuring Sites
Neck Measure around the widest part of your neck.
Shoulders Measure the circumference of the widest part of your shoulders as you stand relaxed.
Chest/Bust Measure your chest at it's fullest point, the tape measure wraps around the torso and under the arms.
Waist Measure at the smallest part of your waist, this will often be just above your navel. Don't suck your gut in. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to taking waist measurements.
Hip The hips are measured around the widest part of your hips, arounds the buttocks.
Thigh The thigh can, to my knowledge, be measured in a couple of different ways. The first is to choose the largest part of the thigh, the second is to choose the midpoint of the leg. Often the two are the same but this isn't always the case. Whichever method you choose, use the same site each time you measure.
Calf The calf muscle is measured around the widest part of the calf, usually over the belly of the calf muscle.
Upper arm The upper arm is measured midway between the shoulder and elbow.
Forearm Measure the forearm at the widest point.

The Waist-Hip Ratio

The waist-hip ratio is a test that can determine the risk for multiple disease simply from two measurements, the circumference of your waist and the circumference of your hips. There has been much talk lately of central adiposity and visceral fat and it is true that abdominal adiposity is correlated with disease[1].

The simplest way to measure your waist-hip Ratio (WHR) is by measuring waist at the narrowest point and the hips around the widest point. According to the World Health Organisation, abdominal obesity is defined as a waist–hip ratio above 0.9 for males and above 0.85 for females[1]. A WHR of 0.7[2] for women and 0.9 for men has been shown to correlate strongly with general health and fertility.

Measure your waist at its narrowest point, measure your hips at their widest point and divide the first measurement by the second.

 

  1. Consultation, WHO Expert. "Waist circumference and waist-hip ratio." Report of a WHO Expert Consultation. Geneva: World Health Organization (2008): 8-11.
  2. Streeter, Sybil A., and Donald H. McBurney. "Waist–hip ratio and attractiveness: New evidence and a critique of “a critical test”." Evolution and Human Behavior 24.2 (2003): 88-98.