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Matt's 12-Week Transformation Guide, Part 10: Your Transformation

Congratulations! It's a fun journey as you discover new aspects of your body and become inspired to reach new levels in your fitness and life.
Overview | Training | Injuries | Cardio | Supplements | Hydration | Nutrition | Motivation Stretching | Transformation

Congratulations on making the commitment to improve your health and physique. It is a fun journey as you will discover new aspects about your body and possibly develop a curiosity which inspires you to get more involved in the advanced levels of health and fitness.

Either way, you took this first step for some significant reason so let's help you reaffirm your decision! Before you start you should do a few quick things:

  • Take a "before" picture or video of yourself
  • Take your body part measurements (biceps, waist, etc.)
  • Get an estimate of your body fat percentage
  • Take your weight, and make sure that you note the day of week and time of day when you weighed yourself
  • Get a training log (see the chapter on weight training for why this is important)

How To Set Up Your Pictures

Most of us have seen "before and after" pictures advertising dozens of supplements, exercise programs, and pieces of exercise equipment. Many of these photos can be deceptive as they have major differences between them which are not related to the effort put forth by the person in the photographs.

In order to determine your real progress, take a picture of yourself before you start your transformation.
"In order to determine your real progress, take a picture of yourself before you start your transformation."

In order to determine your real progress, take a picture of yourself before you start your transformation. Unlike other "before and after" photos, however, you want consistency among the photographs. That means before Day One of your transformation, be sure to:

  • Choose the same swimsuit or other clothing to use before and after your transformation. If you make a dramatic adjustment in your body weight (either gaining muscle mass or reducing body fat percentage) that the original outfit will no longer fit you, get the exact same outfit but in the new size
  • If you want to be tanned for your "After" picture then be tan for your "Before" picture. Otherwise remain without a tan until your "After" photos are taken. Note that artificial tanning methods (creams or tanning beds) may not be healthy for you. Please discuss this with your doctor.
  • Choose a location and hold the day's newspaper in your hand for your "Before" picture. Take your "After" picture in the same location
  • Make sure that you have the same foot position when taking the picture. Simply by offsetting your feet and twisting slightly at the waist, you can "fool" the camera into thinking you are a few pounds lighter
  • Take a full-body picture if possible, head to feet
  • Take the "After" picture with comparable lighting to your "Before" picture

Body Measurements To Take

  • Neck
  • Biceps - Record your measurements with strictness and that the tape measure (or string) is flush against your skin. No "loose" spots to enhance your measurements! Also make sure that your recordings are done "cold." This means before doing any exercises to pump them up.
  • Forearms - same as biceps
  • Chest - measurements taken cold and without breathing in air to expand your chest
  • Chest # 2 - measurements taken cold, but this time breathing in air to expand your chest
  • Waist - measurements taken about 1/2" to 1" below your navel
  • Hips - measurements taken at the widest part of your hips
  • Thighs/Quads - measurements taken at the widest part of your quads. Make sure that you keep the measurements even and not at "diagonals" in order to artificially enhance your statistics.
  • Calves - same as thighs/quads

Related Video Body Measurements
Watch The Video - 04:43

Record these figures at the beginning of your training log or "Transformation Journal." You will take these measurements once a month to make sure that you are on track.

Body Fat Percentage

taking measurements

In simplified terms, your body's composition is made up of muscle, body fat, and water. From week to week, the mass of your bones, organs, and ligaments will not change, so let's focus on the three aspects over which you have some control: muscle, body fat, and retained water under the skin (i.e. "subcutaneous" water).

Some easy math will help here. There is no exact way to calculate the amount of retained water in the body, so let's combine the measurements of retained water and body fat together.

Remember that these measurements are just estimates as there is no one universal way to determine body fat levels. There are several ways to get these measurement estimates:

  • Under water weighing. This may be done at a major university, advanced fitness facility, or health lab if they offer such services to the general public.
  • Height and circumference methods
  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (either at a lab or with a handheld device)
  • Skin fold measurements using "calipers"
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)

Skin fold calipers are probably the easiest, cheapest way to determine your body fat percentage. Remember that the actual number may not be accurate due to your measurement techniques, minor errors inherent in the calculation, and when you measure yourself. To have some sort of consistency, do your body fat skin-fold caliper measurements once a month at the same time you weigh yourself.

What you want is to be able to determine if you are progressing in the right direction; so do your body fat percentage test before starting; then every four weeks thereafter take the measurements again and note the improvements!

The Math Behind Weight And Muscle

To keep it simple, let's assume that you are a woman who is 5'4" and weighs 140 pounds. Here is a breakdown of what your muscle mass would be if you measured your body fat at different percentage levels:

  • Example at 35% Body Fat: 140 pounds x 35% (Body Fat + Retained Water) = 49 pounds of body fat and retained water. You would then have 91 pounds of muscle, bone, etc. (140 pounds - 49 pounds = 91).
  • Example at 30% Body Fat: 140 pounds x 30% (Body Fat + Retained Water) = 42 pounds of body fat and retained water. You would then have 98 pounds of muscle, bone, etc. (140 pounds - 42 pounds = 98).
  • Example at 25% Body Fat: 140 pounds x 25% (Body Fat + Retained Water) = 35 pounds of body fat and retained water. You would then have 105 pounds of muscle, bone, etc. (140 pounds - 35 pounds = 105).
  • Example at 20% Body Fat: 140 pounds x 20% (Body Fat + Retained Water) = 28 pounds of body fat and retained water. You would then have 112 pounds of muscle, bone, etc. (140 pounds - 28 pounds = 112).
  • Example at 15% Body Fat: 140 pounds x 15% (Body Fat + Retained Water) = 21 pounds of body fat and retained water. You would then have 119 pounds of muscle, bone, etc. (140 pounds - 21 pounds = 119).

Even though you see lessened amounts of "retained water" in these examples, it does not mean you should reduce the amount of water you drink!! Drinking adequate amounts of water will help to "flush out" waste products and actually help your body REDUCE "retained water" under the skin. Please make sure that you understand this!

Steak Versus Butter (Or Why Muscle Weighs More Than Fat)

You have probably heard the expression, "muscle weighs more than fat." Let's translate that so you know what it means in terms of helping you fit into your jeans!

The expression means that one pound of pure, lean muscle is denser than one pound of pure fat, so the muscle will take up less space than body fat. To determine this easily, simply find one pound of the leanest steak you can find. Compare this to one pound (4 sticks) of butter. You will note that the lean steak takes up less space (volume) than the butter. For you to have equal amounts of space (volume) of butter and steak, you need to have more ounces of steak than butter. That is where the expression, "muscle weighs more than fat," gets its origin.

Going back to the body fat math in the earlier section, you will note that the woman's scale pounds (her weight) did not change one ounce! Yet she increased her muscle mass (because the bone mass weighs the same) as she reduced her body fat/retained water percentage.

The expression “muscle weighs more than fat” means that one pound of pure, lean muscle is denser than one pound of pure fat.
"The expression “muscle weighs more than fat” means that one pound of pure, lean muscle is denser than one pound of pure fat."

Since one pound of muscle takes up less space than one pound of pure fat, she "weighed" the same but actually took up less space (volume). This means (you guessed it!) a reduction in clothing size even though she didn't "lose" a single pound on the scale.

Please make sure that you understand this concept, as it is possible to stay the same weight, or even gain a slight amount of weight on the scale, and still "get smaller" due to your increased muscle mass and reduced body fat/water retention levels.

Your Weight Fluctuates Every Day

Did you know that your weight fluctuates every day? An obvious example is if you weighed yourself just before sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner, and then weigh yourself immediately after the last morsel of dessert! While this is an extreme example, the point is that your body weight fluctuates within the day based off several factors:

  • Your water intake
  • The amount of food you eat
  • How frequently you eat
  • Stress levels
  • Soft drinks or other foods with chemicals which "trap" water under the skin
  • The time between trips to the bathroom
  • How much you exercised during the day
  • Perspiration due to exercising in hot weather

This is just a very simple list as other factors come into play as well. If you must weigh yourself do so once a week at roughly the same time of day; first thing in the morning is as good a time as any.

After Your Transformation

If you made it through the full transformation, take note of what you accomplished! Congratulations on making it through the whole process and making terrific strides. Hopefully you are healthier (your first priority) and made terrific progress in your other goals. Go back to the section about what to do WHEN you reach your goals and reevaluate.

Assuming you have made proper eating, exercise, drinking more water, and getting good information into long-term habits then you will be ready for the next phase. Ask yourself:

  • In what areas do I want to improve?
  • In what activity or sport have I always wanted to participate?
  • How can I have more fun exercising?

These questions, and any others that you ask, will guide you to the next phase of your transformation. Just remember that "body building" includes your mind, so be sure to include some "mind building" exercises in whatever you decide!


Thank you for following this guide and we hope that you can use your transformation to inspire others and make health and fitness a priority in the lives of your friends and family.

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