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Where Are You Now?

After you have worked out what you want and why you really want it you need to know where you are now as just like any journey it is important to know exactly where you are at the moment so you can track your progress as you move forward towards your target. Keeping track will make it seem more real and I always find that having measurements or photos to look back on as the weeks pass make sticking with a program such as my 12 week body transformation far more doable.

There are many ways to track your performance both aesthetically and physically when it comes to getting the body you want but the most effective are listed below:

Photo – What really impresses most people is the sight of before and after photographs so I would very much encourage you to get some taken. The photo is just for you and you can take it yourself with a timer or get someone else to take it for you. When you take the shot you should be just in underwear or if that is a too daunting right now then wear a vest. I would urge you to just wear underwear though as remember this is the body you are leaving behind and not the one you will have in only a few months time. That is the best part of this as I have full confidence that once you start this journey you will be secure enough to look at the photo and laugh about how you USED to look.  Make sure you take the photo in the morning before breakfast and on an empty stomach as depending on what you do or what you eat during the day you could look surprisingly different. Take a shot from the front, side and back then file it away or use it somewhere you can see it for motivation.

Body Measurements – When it comes to getting a great body weight often means absolutely nothing, as you can be 80kg and very out of shape or the same height at 80kg with an adonis like physique.  During my years of training guys over the last decade or so I have formulated some ratios that you can use to get an idea of exactly what measurements you should aim for to get an impressive frame with the help of one ancient rule. For centuries the perfect ratios for the most aesthetically pleasing body has been known and it’s called the “golden ratio”, or Phi. This ratio is the dividend of two measurements that are equal to 1.618. This golden ratio is found all throughout nature such as in the shape of a seashell, the seeds in a sunflower and in the design for the perfect human form as
depicted by Leonardo da Vinci.

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This ratio is already found all over your body such as; if the distance from the floor to your belly button is 1 then your overall height would be approximately 1.618 and the same goes for your hand to forearm ratio, face and even the cross section of your DNA has been found to be based on the Golden rule. Recently American trainer John Barban wrote in a Men’s Health article that an Archive of Sexual Behaviour study revealed that women were most attracted to men whose shoulders measured 1.6 times the size of their waists. This is the coveted V shaped torso that most of us strive for but when it comes to getting the rest of the body looking amazing I have found that the golden ratio does not quite fit the bill in all cases.

Take measurements from the sites below with a tape measure in centimetres and then compare the results with your ideal measurements as I describe. I prefer centimetres here as it enables you to be more exact and it feels better to lose four centimetres than it does to lose one and a half inches:

Measurement Sites

  • Upper body – measure around the whole upper body with your hands by your sides at the widest part of your shoulders.
  • Chest – across the nipple line
  • Waist – across the umbilicus or if excess weight has caused the umbilicus to move just line the tape so the bottom edge touches the top of the hip bones.
  • Upper arm – Lift the arm up so the elbow is in line with the shoulder with the forearm perpendicular to the floor (bicep pose) measure the largest part of the bicep relaxed and then squeezed as hard as you can. Do both arms if you feel there might be a difference.
  • Thigh – Depending on height aim to measure the circumference of the thigh 20-25cm up from the knee cap. Do both legs if you feel there might be a difference.
  • Calf – As with the bicep just measure the largest part of the calf from a side view. Do both legs if you feel their might be a difference.
  • Neck – Around the thickest part of the neck which is normally the Adams apple.
  • Wrist – Measure the smallest part of the lower arm next to the hand.
  • Knee – Measure around the knee cap where there is no fat or muscle. If you do have fat on your knees don’t worry here.

You can take these measurements yourself but it will always be more accurate if you have someone do it for you because it is a real struggle to measure the chest, arms and calves with accuracy. If you are not ready to let someone see you in your underwear then you could let them take measurements over a vest or t-shirt but you must make sure you use the same clothing in all measurements, even when you are more than happy to unveil your abs.

Once you have all these measurements you can work out where you should be if you want a jaw dropping body. Obviously some of you will just want to shed a few kilos of fat or just trim the waist a bit but you never know how your goals will change and its always fun to see how close or far away you are at any point.

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Body fat – This is another tracking tool that is very effective at monitoring your progress as the main goal is always to lose fat and to increase lean mass. If you just try and lose weight then it can be off putting to see the scales stay the same when in reality you could have lost a few kilos of fat and put on a few kilos of muscle. The best method of fat testing that is readily available is that of skin fold measurements. This involves having a trained medical or fitness practitioner pinching folds of your skin from different
areas of the body and running them through an equation to calculate your overall fat percentage.

If you cannot get access to this method of fat measurement then the next option is fat analysis via a machine you stand on or hold. This method is never as accurate as the skin fold method but it is much quicker and will give you a ball park figure of where you are in regards to fat percentage. I suggest that if you do go for the machine option that you note down the time of day that you get it done and that you make sure you are well hydrated each time that you do it as a dehydrated or well hydrated result can be up to 5-10% different.

Weight – This is the most obvious choice for anyone who wants to measure where they are now and where they want to get to but it is a very flawed way of tracking progress if it is your only method. An example of this would be myself and my old flatmate as we were pretty much the same height and weight but he was very out of shape and looked far heavier than me at first glance.

If you are very overweight then the weighing scales will be much more important and again if you are underweight this method will be useful. When weighing yourself always make sure that you do it on the same day, preferable on an empty stomach and make a note of any clothing you might be wearing if full nudity is not appropriate i.e. in a supermarket. As with the electronic fat tester it is important to watch your hydration levels as well because you will weigh much more when hydrated (potentially up to 5kg more) than if you are dehydrated.

BMI (Body Mass Index) – This is a good tool when measuring very overweight or underweight individuals who do not train at all but it quickly loses meaning the more you exercise. If we were to go by BMI alone, as most doctors do, then most professional rugby players, bodybuilders, strongmen, sprinters or wrestlers would be erring on the side of obese/morbidly obese. My friends and I also joke that our aim is to become obese by BMI standards as if you are lean and muscular a high BMI means a more muscular body! In short do not worry about using this method as it will become useless very quickly.

Once you have measurements from at least three of the above methods it is much easier to take a step back and look at the journey ahead in a far more clinical fashion without the bad emotions of “look how bad I look” or “I’ve got a pigeon chest”. Instead you can look at it as a number you need to lower or increase and you can watch those figures change in a positive way as they definitely will.

I did say that this was all about aesthetics but I also said you will get fitter over all areas and it’s always motivating to see your physical prowess improve as well. In the next installment I will be showing all the best of the different health and fitness tests plus I will send a body composition sheet to your inbox if you have sent me your address. Happy measuring!