The 5 Indicators of Progress

There are many ways in which you can track your progress in the gym. This blog post is based on a recent question I received on Twitter where a follower asked me what are the best parameters to use so that you know you’re making progress over time. To break it down into it’s single parts there are five different indicators you can use that indicate progress in one way or another. Lets get into it…


1. Weight increases


If your weight is going up on the scales on a weekly or monthly basis then you can be confident that this is primarily muscle gain (assuming you do resistance training). You can gain about 1-2lbs of muscle per month if you are training hard and eating enough protein within a calorie surplus. The best way to monitor your weight is by simply doing it every day. Just get in the habit of doing it every morning when you wake up after you’ve been to the toilet and before you’ve eaten or drank anything.


Your weight isn’t always an accurate representation of your total muscle mass. This is because your weight can fluctuate based on your water intake the day before and general activity levels. Over the course of the month you will get a better representation of your TRUE weight gain. The best way to get an overview of your weight gain is by tracking your weight daily on MyFitnessPal and taking an average of your total weight gain at the end of the month. The more data you input into MyFitnessPal, the better the graphical representation will be at the end of the month and throughout the year for you to refer back to.


2. Body part measurements


This one is great because it can be very motivating when your total arm size increases from 12 inches to 15 inches. I wouldn’t do body part measurements too often though because this may demotivate you, especially when you have been training for a good length of time and size gains are coming a bit slower now that you have been training for a while already.


The most common and popular body part measurements to take are your chest circumference and arm size. You may even want to do leg size if you really want to. To keep this indicator of progress a good motivator, I would stick to doing body part measurements every six months. Doing them more often than this can lead to you getting frustrated at your lack of progress when really you’ve only just taken some measurements about twelve weeks ago. Give your body time to adapt to your training and re-assess every six months. The difference will be much bigger and therefore a lot more motivating for you to keep making gains.


3. Strength increases


This is one people tend to overlook. You will always get stronger first before seeing visible size gains. If you’re strength goes up from 180lbs to 200lbs on bench press, this will soon start to show in terms of hypertrophy and muscle size in your chest in the coming months. You just have to be patient and wait for the visible gains to come through. Never overlook strength. It is a very important measurement of progress that will soon in the near future translate into noticeable size gains.


The best way to measure your strength increases is by using a workout tracker. This could be a pad of paper, a logbook or a workout app. It doesn’t matter what you use just as long as you use it and stay consistent and honest with your tracking. This is critical because if you have nothing to refer back to in the future you won’t have anything to make comparisons with, which means you won’t know when you’ve gotten stronger on your lifts in the gym.


4. Visible differences


This ties in with body part measurements really but it’s worth mentioning as a separate point. If any body part looks more aesthetic, fuller and more dense then you have gained muscle. If it looks different and you feel bigger there is a high chance you have gained a few pounds of muscle. You’ve got to be taking pictures at the beginning and end of your training program. This will not only show you how much progress you’ve made but it will also motivate you to keep progressing when your 12 week program (for example) is finished.


Visible differences and noticing them is also important from the perspective of noticing lagging body parts. If you aren’t constantly noticing how your body is changing then how will you know what to focus on going forwards? You won’t, so take pictures and take lots of them. By taking pictures often you’ll know what needs to be worked on more and what needs to be emphasized in your future training programs to bring your weak points to the same level as your strong points in order to build a well balanced, well proportioned physique.


5. Faster recovery


Something guys are always worrying about is why they aren’t aching or feeling sore the next day after their workouts. They start out feeling sore and achy at the start of their training program but no longer feel sore after their push workouts (for example). This doesn’t mean you’ve not been training well. It doesn’t mean you’ve stopped making gains. It just means you’re ability to recover is improving and you don’t experiencing soreness to the same degree hat you previously did. This means you’re recovering faster after your workouts and your body is probably ready for a volume and frequency increase in your training program.


Here are the take home summary points:


  • If you’re gaining 1-2lbs on average each month then you’re most likely building lean muscle (rather than gaining fat).
  • Take arm, chest and leg measurements every six months.
  • Track your strength on every lift. Any strength increases from month to month will lead to future size gains.
  • Take pictures and take them often. You’ll identify lagging body parts and emphasize them in your next training program.
  • Lack of soreness doesn’t mean poor training or zero gains. It means you’re recovering faster and better than you were previously.


These measurements are important, but they aren’t as important as following the right training program. Without a training program that is designed for maximum size and strength gains these indicators of progress mean nothing.


So why not start The Spartan Program. It’s a six month program that ensures you will build 5-10lbs of muscle with a 40 inch chest and 15 inch biceps: THE SPARTAN PROGRAM

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