If you want to grow you have to know!
This means that there must be some sort of objective means by which to measure your results. Without this you could be making no progress at all and not even knowing it.
Now, some people measure their muscle gain by scales. While this is better than nothing, total body weight fluctuates too much to be a reliable marker of muscle gain. Also, what if you lose fat and build muscle at the same time? This is a GREAT result, yet you may actually think you’re getting nowhere. I wrote an article here on why not to use scales to measure increases in muscle mass.
Another measure is the tape. This is a great tool (I recommend the ‘Myotape Body Tape Measure‘ for accurate results without the need for a second person) but suffers from the following:
- What if you’re losing fat on the same area that you’re building muscle e.g. the arms
- Small increases week on week are hard to detect with the tape and you may be fooled into thinking you’re not progressing at all
- If you hold the tape at a slightly different angle you can come up with very different results
So what do we do?
The key to measuring muscular gains is by measuring strength gains.
Any bodybuilding program worth its salt is essentially a strength building program and will centrally focus on the principle of progressive overload.
Here’s why you can count on strength gains as a good indicator…
The cross section of a muscle is directly proportional to its strength.
- In a man it’s about 140 pounds per square inch
- In a woman it’s about 105 pounds per square inch
Basically this means that strength gains correlate positively with muscle size. It does NOT mean, however, that everyone that can curl a certain weight will have the same size biceps – never make that mistake. We all start out with different strength levels, differing muscle fiber density, differing neuro-muscular efficiencies etc.
Always remember that it is YOUR job to make YOUR body as good as it can be. Stop looking over your shoulder at what the other guy can bench or squat or whatever; it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Get your ego out of the road to succeed.
Your only concern is yourself. Ensure that YOU are progressing over time, regardless of what the absolute poundages are. If you could only bench 45kg to failure on the 8th rep, that’s fine so long as you see a progression (even a small one) each and every workout.