How to Measure the Success of Training
Now’s the time to sit down and evaluate your entire training philosophy. During this time, it’s very beneficial to have training records to refer to. Training record scan then help you answer such questions as: “Am I including enough variety in my training? ”“Are my protein and carb intakes adequate?” “Do I get enough rest between workouts for full recovery?” It’s very difficult to answer these questions if you don’t have notes or records to refer back to. Only by reviewing all aspects of your training can you objectively identify the problem and take steps to fix it. Bodybuilders use three primary types of records: written notes, photographs, and tape measurements. You can use one or all three to chart your progress and ensure your training is yielding results. One of the best ways to know where you’re going is to know where you have been!
Most top amateur and professional athletes keep training journals. Why should bodybuilders be any different? You can look back every couple of weeks and see how things are progressing. You can see what’s working and what’s not. A training journal also serves as a source of motivation because you’ll have proof of the progress you’re making (besides your physique of course). What can be better than finding out that over the past two months you’ve increased your bench press by 50 percent? Your training journal can be a cheap spiral-bound notebook or an expensive executive-style day planner.
You can also buy specially designed record books through the various muscle magazines, including MuscleMag International. Not sure exactly what you should be recording? To start, record the date; time of the workout; the exercises performed; number of sets, reps, weights; and the amount of cardio. If you really want to get detailed you could also include how much sleep you got the night before; what you ate that day; any supplements you used; and how you felt before, during and after the exercises. You may even want to write down daily activities that at first don’t seem to be relevant. For example, perhaps after reviewing your notes you discovered that your worst leg workouts always seem to follow your late shift. You can use this insight to redesign your workouts.
No doubt you will find other patterns emerging as you analyze the data you’ve collected over the months and years. Like most professions, bodybuilding has its own form of shorthand. The general format is to list, from left to right, the exercise name, weight, and number of reps. Here’s a typical example for three working sets of the bench press. (We do not normally write down the warmup sets, but you can if you like.)
No doubt you’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, in the bodybuilder’s case, this is certainly true. Numbers in a book will be useful, but to really capture the look of your physique you need a photo. I should warn you that your first photo shoot will probably depress you. Once you get to the point where you are receiving lots of compliment son your physique from your gym buddy, girlfriend or the photographer, you’ll probably start comparing your photos to the ones in MuscleMag International.
Don’t bother. Odds are your photos won’t measure up to what we present every month. For one thing, top magazines use professional photographers who have expensive equipment and perfect lighting conditions. Besides, a couple of months (or even years) of training won’t turn your physique into what you see in the magazines.
However, you can figure out how to get there if you analyze your photos seriously and use them to determine your weak areas. One close look and you should be able to see which areas of your body need work.“Jay Cutler and Milos Sarcev are two friends that come to mind when I think of smart career moves. They truly do have a good work ethic embedded in them. They both show up on time and will continue shooting until I’m the one who can’t take it anymore.”– Alex Ardenti,top physique and swimsuit photographer.
You may flex a mighty set of pecs in the mirror, but how does your back stack up? Unless you set up multiple mirrors, you won’t be able to see it. However, a couple of photos will show you what you need to know. Photos enable you to objectively scrutinize your physique. They are also a great way to track your progress over time. Again, the first set probably won’t flatter you, but the next set in a couple of months will show the fruits of your labor. You’ll be able to clearly see the progress you are making. (I’ll be saying a lot more on photography in the section on competition.)
Unless you are one of those genetically blessed individuals, odds are you won’t see huge changes in your measurements on a month-to-month basis. If you do decide to throw a tape around your muscles, do so only every four to six months (even then the changes may be slight). The average hardworking, properly eating natural bodybuilder (as opposed to someone using large amounts of anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drug) can expect to gain about 10 to maybe 15 pounds of muscle per year. You may gain a little more in your first year, but for most that’ll be about one pound a month, or a quarter pound per week.
Now, all this muscle won’t be going to your biceps – it will be evenly distributed over your entire body. If you gain this much muscle, you can expect to gain about an inch on your arms and a couple of inches around your chest in a year. Now this doesn’t seem like much, but it means that those average-looking 15-inch arms could be 20-inch guns in five years. As the years go by,you’ll gain less and less in overall size. This is because most bodybuilders gain about 90percent of their total muscle mass in the first five years of training. Yes, there will be exceptions to this rule. For example, the bodybuilders you see in books and magazines were almost invariably the exceptions.
Muscle hardness, quality, and separation make plenty of impact on the judges these days,perhaps even more than sheer size. However, bodybuilders do like to compare statistics. If you decide to see how you stack up, grab a fabric measuring tape and wrap it around the middle of the flexed muscle. If you want a “true” measurement, take the measurement before your workout, because the muscle will fill up with blood and be larger after the workout. If you want,you can take measurements of your muscle relaxed before and relaxed after, and flexed before and flexed after. Bodybuilders normally measure the biceps (really the total upper arm); chest(really chest and back); waist, neck, legs (thighs); and calves.
Besides all the reasons just discussed, there is a final, though less obvious, reason for keeping a detailed record of your progress. If you have that great combination of training drive, genetics and competitive spirit, sooner or later you may be placing high or even winning some big contests. When that happens, it won’t be long before you catch the keen eye of MuscleMag Internationale's art and editorial team. Virtually every superstar bodybuilder, from John Grimek and Steve Reeves to Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman has been featured in the muscle magazines over the years. A record of your early years makes great reading and will actas inspiration for the next generation of bodybuilders. So get out the camera, pen and paper,and start recording now!
Robert Kennedy: Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, TheComplete A-Z Book On Muscle Building. 2008
Nick Evans:Bodybuilding Anatomy. 2012
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, 2013