Tracking Your Progress:
Analysis & Planning.
The first step to measuring your progress is to figure out where you want to be. This is where realistic goal setting is important. And it doesn't have to be fancy.
It could be as simple as wanting to increase your muscle mass by the end of an 8-week training cycle, or as complex as wanting to be in the best pre-competition shape of your life over a 16-week cycle.
You also have to have some flexibility in your game plan. While you're training, it's important to feel your way into the workout.
By that I mean don't let the way you feel get in your way of getting a good workout. For example, let's say you were up partying the night before and the last thing you want to do is heavy squats. As if you weren't queasy enough as is!
The only way to gauge how ready you are to really train is to start your warm-ups and see how they feel. If they're okay, move up, as per plan, and see how the heavier ones feel. If the weight feels lighter or, alternatively, if you feel stronger than usual, then go for that extra mile.
If not, try and stick to the game plan as close as you can. If the weights feel heavy and you just don't feel strong enough, back off and do the best that you can for that day. That'll do the trick. It always did for me because the next workout, or maybe even the one after that, I would do great.
You do need to set some goals, both short and long term, and this is important even if you don't compete. And you have to be both realistic and flexible. Flexible because you might have to adjust your long term goal by using the short term ones as guidelines, resetting both the short and long term goals as needed.
It's important that you reach high enough to stimulate you and your training, and just as important - that you don't overreach and subsequently get discouraged.
One thing that has kept me in good stead over the years is keeping an accurate training log. In my log, I wrote down every rep and set I did for every workout. I also wrote in some brief notes, for example, how I felt before training including if I was tired, didn't feel like training, if I had a cold, or was injured, or ran into anything that might throw off the training for that day.
That training log should be by your side at all times while you're training, and one of the first things you should do after a training set (after you take off whatever is restricting the blood flow to one or more parts of your body), is to mark down what you did. The training log is invaluable for setting up your training schedule and for finding out what works for you.
It's also invaluable to figuring out how you're coming along and if you need to make any changes in your short and long term game plans. I used to pour over my training log all the time, trying to figure out where I was going, comparing my present routine to past ones, and then figuring out if I needed to make some changes or just leave things as they were.
If I was making good progress, I'd analyze the previous few months of training to see what it was that was working so well. And at times when my training staled out, I'd look back again and see what it was that wasn't working and then comparing what I'd been doing to successful phases in the past.
Remember, when you're training don't let anyone or anything distract you. Leave all your problems at the gym or training room door because your sole purpose in life while you're training is to lift the iron in the best way you can, both physically and mentally.
If your training space doesn't allow for that, then change spaces until you find a situation that is 100% geared to training and training alone.
Leave your cellular phone, beeper, and any other possible distractions, out of your training space. As far as having conversations and chit-chats, that's between you and your training partners/comrades that know when it's time to train and when it's time to talk. All the others get a grunt and/or a not now look. Leave all the chit-chatting and horsing around for after the workout.
The bottom line is that your training time is for training and nothing else!
Maximizing Your Training
To maximize the anabolic, performance, and body composition effects of training, and to make sure you don't waste all the time and energy you invest in your training, you need to make sure that your body has all the natural advantages that it can by using the right pre-training supplements.
| What Does Anabolic Mean?
Anabolic refers to the metabolic process that is characterized by molecular growth, such as the increase of muscle mass. Thus, it means "muscle-building" in most common bodybuilding contexts.
Some pre-training supplements may be formulated to influence pathways in the brain to improve concentration and focus and decrease the counter productive effects of stress and distractions. In order to maximize the results you get from your training, you have to be primed - both physically and mentally.
These pre-training supplements not only increase focus and concentration while decreasing distractions, they can also increase neuromuscular functioning, which in turn increases exercise performance and intensity. They may act as musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and central nervous system (CNS) optimizers.
| The Central Nervous System.
The human central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. These lie in the midline of the body and are protected by the skull and vertebrae respectively.
This collection of billions of neurons is arguably the most complex object known.
The central nervous system along with the peripheral nervous system comprise a primary division of controls that command all physical activities of a human.
Neurons of the central nervous system affect consciousness and mental activity while spinal extensions of central nervous system neuron pathways affect skeletal muscles and organs in the body.
With these pre-training supplements you can spend less time in the gym and make your training more productive.
Some of these pre-training supplements will get you mentally ready and able to train effectively. But that's only half the equation: you still need to prepare your body properly to make the best use of your improved mind control.
Improved mind control also represents a new paradigm in pre-training supplements.
To View Supplement Specials Of The Week, Click Here.
These should also provide anticatabolic and anabolic effects by increasing levels of testosterone and growth hormone (HGH), decreasing protein breakdown, increasing protein synthesis, and providing cell volumizing effects that increase muscle growth.
In addition, they should also maximize energy levels, ATP and phosphocreatine (PC) functioning, as well as gluconeogenic, TCA Cycle flux, and other processes, allowing for more strength and stamina.
| What Is The TCA Cycle?
The Krebs Cycle (a.k.a "Citric Acid Cycle", "Tri-Carboxylic Acid Cycle" or "TCA Cycle") is a complex sequence of biochemical enzymatic reactions that is known to be responsible for how much fat is lost through the dissipation of Acetyl-CoA.
If the TCA cycle slows down, then fat loss is prohibited (fatty acids cannot be fully degraded). The Krebs Cycle involves oxidative metabolism of acetyl units and produces high-energy phosphate compounds, which serve as the main source of cellular energy.
The Krebs Cycle is named in recognition of the German chemist Hans Krebs, whose research into the cellular utilization of glucose contributed greatly to the modern understanding of this aspect of metabolism.
As well, they should provide potent thermogenic and fat loss properties, increasing fat breakdown and utilization, as well as a decrease of fat buildup.
And finally, they should exert a potent antioxidant, buffering, and cytoprotective effect to decrease muscle tissue injury and soreness, and improve recovery.
Two examples of these types of pre-training supplements are Metabolic Diet's InControl and Resolve.
Tracking Your Progress:
Measuring Body Composition.
One of the easiest ways to measure progress as far as body composition (more muscle and less fat) is to look in the mirror and to honestly assess what you see. Couple that with the way your clothes fit and you get a pretty fair idea of whether or not you're getting anywhere. On top of that, remarks that people make about you, may reflect changes as well.
Another way is by your workouts. If they're progressing and you're handling more weight and/or doing more reps on a steady basis you're doing fine, as long as you're not fooling yourself (you've got to be realistic). Eventually you're going to see the results as far as increased muscle mass.
It's important, however, that your measure of how well you're progressing is a constant one and that you're comparing apples to apples. For example if you're handling more weight in the bench press but you're cheating more by bouncing the bar off your chest, then you may not be making any progress at all.
The problem with all of the measures we've mentioned so far is that they are subjective and as such can steer you wrong. What's also needed are some objective measures of how well you're doing. One of the best objective measures of your progress as far as body composition is to find out how much fat you've carrying as a percentage of your total weight.
The most accurate and scientific way to determine your body fat percentage is by hydrostatic weighing. This test is conducted in special tank and compares your weight completely under (with all air exhaled out of your lungs) and out of water.
Without going into details suffice it to say that hydrostatic weighing is based on the concept that the density and gravity of lean tissue is greater than that of fat tissue.
While hydrostatic weighing is the best measurement, it's costly, inconvenient and time-consuming. Other methods of determining body fat levels, such as such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and even the Bod Pod, a device that uses air displacement instead of water, while more convenient are also costly and unavailable to most of us.
The cheapest and easiest ways to measure body fat percentage is with anthropometric measurements. Measurements are taken with a measuring tape at sites where fat is usually distributed, such as the waist and thigh. Specific equations are used to calculate the body fat percentage. These measurements while less costly and easier to do but are not very accurate.
Overall, body fat percentage can best be measured with skin fold calipers. If done correctly calipers are an accurate, inexpensive and convenient way to measure the thickness of subcutaneous fat.
This technique involves measuring fat levels in the body by assessing levels at certain key fat depots with the skin calipers.
You can have the skin fold test performed by a professional, or you can do it yourself by purchasing a set of calipers.
Although skin fold thickness measurements using calipers can be taken at multiple locations and then entered into a formula to give you a more accurate body fat assessment (see Parilloiii method calculator, below), for the sake of convenience, and to measure progress, one site can be used as a relative measure over time.
For example, if you use the Accu-MeasureTM Calipers you can get a pretty good idea of your body fat level by taking skin density measurements of the suprailiac area.
| Where Is My Suprailiac Area?
The area at the top of the pelvis, on the side of your waist, just above the point of the hipbone and a inch or so forward, midway between the hip joint and the bottom of the rib cage, above the iliac crest, in the midaxillary line.
While knowing your body fat level is a step forward, it tells you nothing about your level of lean body mass. To get the complete picture and accurately measure your present status and progress we need to find out more.
|Recap: Ways To Measure Body Composition Progress.|
The MD+ Metabolic IndexTM (MIDx)
Copyright © 1999-2006 Mauro Di Pasquale, M.D.
I've devised the Metabolic Index specifically for the purpose of determining how much lean body mass you have in proportion to your height, weight, and body fat levels.
So what, then, is the MIDx and what does it measure? The MIDx is a ratio I derived by considering not only weight and height but also your percentage of body fat. As a result, it takes into account the amount of lean body mass you're carrying, and even more important it tracks whether or not you're improving as far as your body composition.
The MIDx is much more advanced than the commonly used and accepted body mass index (BMI). The trouble with the BMI is that it can't tell if you are overweight because you're fat or if you're heavier than they figure you should be because you've got more muscle mass than the average couch potato:
|BODY MASS INDEX (BMI) CALCULATOR|
- Normal Weight = 18.5 - 24.9
- Overweight = 25 - 29.9
- Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
And the MIDx also tells you a lot more than just a body fat measurement since measuring your level of body fat tells you nothing about how much muscle mass you have.
The Metabolic Index (MIDx) is the best way to measure your progress as far as body composition. The MIDx takes into account all the variables that other methods can't. Not only does it address the height/weight issue but also the degree of muscle mass and body fat.
With the MIDx you get a snap shot of your body composition and progress. The MIDx is a ratio derived by considering not only weight and height but your percentage of body fat. Just plug your information into the formula (below), using the Metric System or the English Imperial System, or use the handy calculator (near bottom of page).
Figuring It Out:
The Formula For MIDx.
|Figuring Out The MIDx: The Formula.|
In reality, the MIDx is an indicator that when you're losing weight you're close to maintaining or even increasing lean body mass as you lose body fat. In fact, the more lean body mass you have and the less fat, thus a better index. If someone loses a lot of weight but loses too much lean body mass, the index won't improve very much. What that means is that even though the person has lost weight they will likely look pretty flabby as they've lost the weight by sacrificing muscle mass.
The important thing about the MIDx is that it will give you a starting point and from there an indication of how you're progressing every step of the way. Once you've established your baseline MIDx it is easy to objectively see if you're making progress and if you're losing body fat but not at the expense of important muscle mass. If the MIDx is going up, even minimally, you're making progress.
The higher the Metabolic Index, up to a point, the better your improvement and the closer you are to your goals. The lower the Metabolic Index is, the more room for improvement there is and a determination of just how much more you have to go to reach your goals.
The ideal for the average woman is different than the ideal for average man. For women, the ideal is around 13 to 20, while for men it's between 22 to 32. In reality, the final point doesn't really matter since it's the improvement that counts. As long as the index keeps going up then there is some improvement being made.
Once the index gets above 18 for women and 32 for men, you're looking at muscle mass and body fat levels that are bodybuilding aspirations. Competitive bodybuilders will be looking to get their MIDx well over 40. Olympia-level bodybuilders will have a MIDx over the 100 mark.
The big difference, besides the obvious aesthetics, is that while the couch potato has to carry his fat, my muscles carry me. If I use the MIDx, not only do I get a more realistic look at my body composition, but I can also track my progress to improving even further.To show you how the MIDx works, I'll use my stats as an example. Even though I'm heavy for my height, I have a fair amount of muscle mass and a low body fat level. So rather than looking fat I look trim and muscular. A couch potato with the same height and weight would definitely be fat.
Right now I weigh 185 lbs with 10% body fat. My MIDx is 30.8. Now, let's say that I diet and get down to a minimal 175 lbs and 8% body fat. My MIDx would then be 36. The increase in the MIDx shows that at 175 lbs. and 8% body fat I'm carrying less fat in proportion to my muscle mass than at 185 lbs. with 10% body fat.
If I was able to increase lean body mass while losing body fat to the point of maintaining my weight, then the MIDx would increase even more. At 185 lbs and 8% body fat, my MIDx would be 38.5. When the MIDx increases, regardless of the starting point, it shows that you are making progress because you are increasing the ratio between muscle mass and body fat by decreasing body fat and/or increasing muscle mass.
The best way for maximizing muscle mass and minimizing body fat is through, and all about, manipulation. This is done by causing metabolic changes and altering the body's anabolic and the catabolic hormones and growth factors.
| What Does Catabolic Mean?
Catabolic refers to the metabolic process that is characterized by molecular breakdown and energy release, such as the decrease of muscle mass. Thus, it means "muscle loss" in many common bodybuilding contexts.
By following good training, diet, and nutritional supplement guidelines you'll pack on incredible amounts of muscle mass and get your body fat down to the low single digits!