I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
Your body composition and health can change dramatically with no big differences on the scales.
Here are some of the measures I prefer:
1. Performance (Reps, Weights, Times and Distances)
Lifting heavier weights, especially as a beginner, will result in an increase in lean body mass, and generally a decrease in fat mass. Scales may not change but clothes will fit better and you’ll look a whole lot leaner.
Faster times or greater distances in a given time are markers of increased performance. Better performance means better functionality. There’s a lot of things we can’t control, but with consistent effort, we can control our performance.
2. Movement Control
Performing a movement with amazing balance and agility is something that comes with time and practice, and should be the goal of all movements we do.
When first starting out in the gym or even when learning a new exercise it is often clunky and unfamiliar. This is where we can make the biggest improvements when first starting something new, be it a new exercise, new program or even just starting out.
3. Circumferences and Skinfolds
In the first few months, males can expect to increase their chest, arm and thigh size significantly. Females may have slight increases in these sites initially before tending to stabilise or decrease circumferences with extra weight training. This is due to females having a fraction of the testosterone of males.
Both males and females can (and often do) see dramatic decreases in waist circumference, with continual smaller decreases as they get more advanced with their training.
Skinfolds will decrease from the outset, and will continue to shrink as nutrition and training improve. All of this can happen with no change on the scale – muscle is FAR MORE dense than fat.
4. Bloods and Hormones
Without getting too technical, as your performance and health improve, blood lipids (triglycerides) decrease, cholesterol profiles improve, cortisol balance normalises (more waking energy and no 2pm crashes) and testosterone production in males increases (a very important thing!!). Getting a regular blood test can also highlight any nutritional deficiencies.
This one might require some external feedback, but a constantly improving diet is one of the best ways to assure progress is made. Regularly adjusting your diet to suit your needs, as well as having some accountability from someone else, is crucial to making continued progress in the gym and with your body composition.