Quantitative and Qualitative Measures for Muscle: 4 Approaches to Ensuring Your Success
Bodybuilding is all about the process and journey towards accruing new muscle mass, blended with aesthetics and size, culminating in a lean and healthy physique that is strong and can withstand many of the resistant forces that will be placed upon it. Knowing that you are progressively moving down the correct path for all of this to occur, is an extremely important part of the entire game you’re playing. So how to you measure whether or not progress is occurring? Well, you take both a quantitative and qualitative approach to evaluating your efforts and the best four ways to do this would be by maintaining a logbook, by measuring body composition, by using the mirror or taking pictures as a guide and by having a trusted set of experienced eyes watching over what you’re doing. Let’s take a closer look at each of these measures.
Many hard training athletes out there right now, are using this very useful tool as a means to determining their progress from week to week. The numbers that you input into your logbook are significant in that those are the measures that tell the story of your efforts in the gym with respect to gains in strength. The notion is, if the numbers continue to go up from week to week (the weight you’re using for each exercise increases or you complete more repetitions with the same weight), then you are getting stronger and therefore experiencing gains. Beating the logbook then becomes a challenge within itself as the main priority is now shared with not only building muscle, but by beating those numbers. That can serve as a significant fuel source for your intensity in the gym which is why the logbook is a popular approach to use within our weight training world. Second to the numbers you’re lifting, would be everything else you do during the day that can be recorded here using numbers. Your meals, your Advanced Genetics supps, recovery times etc., it can all be recorded and used here.
Perhaps more importantly than any other measure, is the measurement of the ratio of muscle mass to body fat that you currently possess on your physique. In bodybuilding, the goal is to pack on as much muscle mass as you can and negate the addition of unwanted body fat all at the same time. This is no easy feat, and typically speaking, the ratio tips a little bit one way or the other depending upon whether or not you’re in the offseason or getting ready for the stage. In either case, to know exactly where you stand with this, you have to take body composition measures all along the way. In doing this, you will get real numbers that represent these ratios. You can calculate your body composition using many different methods that include but aren’t limited to Dexa Scans, Hydrostatic Weighing, Skin Fold Calliper tests and even hand-held bio-impedance tools. Some of these methods are better than the others but with all, you’ll get some sort of numbers by which you can keep track of along your way for determining your progress.
Many times, you will hear people in the bodybuilding world who will say that a mirror is the only thing they need to measure their progress. Others will rely heavily upon check in pictures that they use to compare their progress from week to week using what they see in the pictures. Either approach is acceptable in our world and in many instances, people will use both. With the mirror, you get real time imaging that you can see moving. With pictures or videos, you get essentially the same thing but instead of having to be in front of the mirror for however long you want to analyze how you look, you can just go ahead and kick back on the couch and take a look at the pics and videos instead. The caution here though is that sometimes what you see in a picture or video isn’t a true representation of how you look, so just keep that in mind as you make your adjustments based off what you are seeing. In any event, it’s one more tool on your weight belt for determining progress.
A Trusted Eye
Finally, having a trusted set of eyes that belong to an experienced trainer or coach within our sport is probably the most beneficial of all. When you are trying to be your best and trying to beat the best, you need to know and have a real understanding of what you actually look like and how that will stack up against those you are trying to beat. The subjectivity of our sport relies heavily upon knowing exactly how you look as once you get on stage, no one cares about the numbers in your logbook or the numbers on your Dexa Scan or even, what you looked like in your last set of check in photos. All that matters is how you look right now and under those lights and having that set of experienced eyes watching over you then and prior to competing, is an incredible asset to have while you prep. Again, if you don’t have this, at least you have the first three measures helping you along as you continue to improve upon your physique.
The most important thing to remember within all of this, especially when progress is the motivating and driving force, is that whatever you can have at your disposal for measuring your success or lack thereof, will be ultra-important for the decisions you make next. If you go off bad data, then much of what you already worked for and achieved, may dissipate faster than you even realize. If you are consistently making decisions based upon good data collection, concrete numbers and honest subjectivity, then I have no reason to believe that you will find yourself struggling with making significant progress and that right there, is a measure I hope to see for you.
Author: Dana Bushell
Dana Bushell, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University (BAHK, B.Ed) is an Educator, Writer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Nutrition Advisor, Contest Prep/Lifestyle Coach and former competitive bodybuilder, who has been involved in the Fitness Industry for over 25 years. He has worked and written for major fitness publications and many popular bodybuilding sites, is a Gym Star Team member and works hard at teaching and promoting a fitness-based lifestyle in his career as a Physical Education Specialist.