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If You Don’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It

What you measure gets better. This is a proven rule in business.

And it works in fitness as well. So get to measuring and reap the benefits.

General

Consistency is the key to good ?metrics. Try to minimize error by taking your measurements the same way each time. The same time of day is important because you’ll be similarly hydrated, food intake will be similar, energy levels consistent, etc.

For photos, magnification and lighting are important. Try to keep these variables the same each time.

Body Weight

While not a terribly important metric, it is easy to measure and quite accurate. So you might as well do it.

Body Fat Percentage

Body fat is a much better gauge of fitness than body weight but it is more difficult to measure.

The body fat scale is easy to use however the accuracy is questionable. Since it measures body impedance to calculate your body fat percentage, the hydration level of your body can really affect the measurement. This is why it is very important to take your measurements at the same time each day. For body fat using a body fat scale, first thing in the morning is going to be best.

A body fat caliper measurement takes a little more effort but the accuracy is better and more consistent than the scale method. This caliper is accurate, inexpensive and it comes with full instructions for proper use.

The hydrostatic or immersion method is the most accurate and repeatable however it is both expensive and difficult to find a facility that can administer it. So it is seldom done.

This body fat calculator from the US Navy is pretty accurate. Men will need height, weight, neck and waist measurements to get their estimation. Women need height, weight, waist, hips and neck to get their body fat estimation.

Use this calculator if you don’t have any direct measurement of your body fat.

Physical Measurements

Some basic measurements are easy to do and very good for assessing your progress over time. Get someone to help you measure for ease of getting it done (and for accuracy) or get this handy Myotape measuring tape that has a built in locking feature that makes self-measurement a breeze.

At a minimum take your chest, waist and hip readings (and neck if you’ll be using the body fat estimator). The key is to keep the tape parallel to the floor all around your body. Just pull it snug. Don?t cinch it down to minimize the reading. The purpose of these measurements are to see the changes over time, not to get the smallest possible measurement.

Chest Measurement

For men, measure right across your nipples. For women, measure just below your breasts.

Waist Measurement

Measure about an inch above your belly button where your waist is the smallest.

Hips Measurement

Measure at your widest point. For women, it is typically the widest point when viewed from the front. For men, it usually is the largest circumference when viewed from your side.

Neck Measurement

Measure at the narrowest point.

Photo Documentation

Photos may be the most informative metric you can use. Even though only qualitative in nature, there is nothing better than side by side analysis using your own eyes. You can really see the changes over time.

You gotta show some skin so for men, just a pair of shorts is fine. For women, a two-piece bathing suit or sports bra and shorts will work fine.

The “cell phone mirror photo” is easy to do but not the best. But if it is all you can muster, it is better than nothing.

It is better to have someone photograph you against a light-colored background without clutter, like a white or beige wall. Lighting is important. Don?t be in a shadow when photographed. Get the light shining on your face and body.

Magnification is important when comparing one photo to the next. So make sure the photographer and you are both standing in the same spot each time you photograph.

Don?t suck it in for the photo. Just relax and stand normally. Again, you are trying to assess change over time, not pose for a magazine cover.

Get a full height shot from head to toe and get at least 3 poses:

  • Front View (arms at your sides or on your hips)
  • Back View (arms at your sides or on your hips)
  • Side View (arms at your sides or on your hips). Just one side is fine.
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