When it comes to muscle growth, it's wise to keep in mind this common adage:
“You cannot improve what you do not measure”
If you don’t know how to measure muscle growth, you’re going to be hard pressed to do so even with proper training, nutrition, and sleep.
If you know how to track your muscle growth, you can appreciate all of the real progress along the way, and ensure it continues. This can be a huge help in the emotional battle of achieving your muscle growth goal, which is often very gradual.
In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how you should be tracking your muscle growth so you can stay locked on and motivated during your muscle growth journey.
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Different Methods of Tracking Muscle Growth
The most reliable way to measure muscle growth progress is using a combination of four methods.
In this section, we’ll walk you through each of those methods, and then show you how to combine them to create a muscle growth progress measurement system that is sure to keep you on track.
Method 1: Record Your Weight
To start recording your muscle growth progress, you’ll want to record your weight every morning, just after you go to the bathroom.
We mentioned in step 2 of our Muscle Growth Journey that you should aim for 1-2 pounds of muscle gain per month, or 0.5 to 1 pounds of muscle if you’re a woman. This is an ideal rate of muscle growth for most people because it helps prevent excessive fat gain in the process.
You’ll want to take the average of your recorded body weights each week to see how much weight you are gaining. That means taking each of your daily weight recordings Monday through Sunday, adding them all together, and then dividing the total by 7. That will give you your average weight for the week. From there, you’ll just want to see how that average is changing week to week.
If you aren’t much of a mathematician, we recommend using this spreadsheet created by redditor 3-Suns, as it will automatically calculate the averages of your weekly weights and show you whether you are headed in the right direction. If you enter how many calories you are eating each day, it will even give you a constantly updated estimate of your TDEE!
In any case, once you have a few weekly averages, you’ll get a good idea of how quickly you are gaining weight. As long as the weekly average is going up by the ideal increment, you’re likely to be on the right track.
You should remember, though, that weight is just one part of the story. You may be gaining the ideal amount of weight, but you also want to make sure that weight is muscle. That's why we also recommend using other methods in combination with recording your weight.
Method 2: Take Muscle Measurements
Another great way to track your muscle growth progress is taking muscle measurements!
If you track your muscle measurements once a month, you should have a concrete idea of whether or not your muscles are increasing in size. Together with your weekly weight averages, this should give you an even better idea of your muscle growth progress.
We recommend taking the following measurements, and logging them on a monthly basis.
To take your neck measurement, wrap the tape measure around your neck, just above your Adam's apple.
To take your waist measurement, wrap the tape measure around your waist, just above your belly button while standing. Take a breath in, let your breath out, and then take your measurement. Don’t suck in your gut!
To take your shoulder measurement, wrap the tape measure around your body at the widest point of your shoulders.
To take your chest measurement, wrap the tape measure around your torso just under your armpits and scapula, just above or on your nipple line.
Bicep Measurements (Relaxed + Flexed)
To take your bicep measurements, wrap the tape measure around your bicep with your arm relaxed and at your side. Then measure the same area around the widest point of your flexed bicep.
To take your forearm measurements, wrap the tape measure around the thickest part of the forearm, just below the elbow.
To take your hip measurement, wrap the tape measure around the largest part of your glutes while standing.
To take your thigh measurements, wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your quad, just below your glutes.
To take your calf measurements, wrap the tape measure around the widest point of the calf while seated.
Method 3: Track Your Lifts
Another way to track muscle growth progress is to track your lifts! While muscles tend to grow at a fairly slow rate, the right muscle growth training plan can lead to weekly improvements in strength, which often accompanies muscle growth.
If you know your weight is going up at a steady rate, and your lifts are also improving, it becomes much more likely that you are gaining muscle.
Method 4: Take Progress Pictures
The final way to keep track of your muscle growth progress is to take progress pictures! While it may be tough to judge how much muscle you are gaining day to day, taking a monthly progress picture allows you to compare your body over different periods of time, side by side.
If you are taking progress pictures, you’ll want to make sure you are taking them in a consistent environment. Finding somewhere indoors you have access to like your bathroom or the gym locker room are great picks for a location because they will have consistent lighting and mirrors that will help you snap a photo on your phone.
Just like with the other methods of measuring progress, you’ll want to take your picture under consistent circumstances as well. Right after a workout can be a great option, as you likely will not be bloated with food, and your muscles will have a bit of a “pump” so you can admire any newfound muscle growth.
If you’re making a serious effort to gain muscle, measuring your muscle growth progress is key. In this article, we covered:
- To measure your muscle growth progress, we recommend combining the following methods of measurement:
- Take recording your weight daily. You want it to go up 1-2 pounds every month. Use this spreadsheet to track your progress!
- Take muscle measurements every month
- Track your lifts every workout, and ensure they are going up (while keeping proper form)
- Take progress pictures every month
More than anything, muscle growth requires patience since it is a fairly slow process, especially for the more advanced lifters. This makes tracking your progress all the more important to keep you motivated and trust your muscle growth plan!
For all the information you need along your muscle growth journey, be sure to visit our Muscle Growth Journey page!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about measuring muscle growth progress!
How often should I take measurements?
How often you take measurements will depend on which method you are using.
We recommend measuring your weight every day if you want to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
Since your muscle measurements are slower to change, you’ll only want to measure that once per week or even once per month.
You should track your lifts every workout to make sure you are improving between lifts.
You’ll want to take progress photos about each month as well.
What time of day should I take measurements?
What time you take your measurements also depends on which method you are using. In all cases, though, you want to make sure you take the measurements at a consistent time of day or under consistent circumstances.
We recommend measuring your weight and muscle measurements just after you wake up, after you go to the bathroom. This ensures that you have been fasting for at least 8 hours (if you are getting enough sleep), and won’t be bloated with food or water.
You’ll want to take your muscle measurements under the same circumstances as you take your weight.
You can track your lifts whenever you grab a workout, ideally right after each set so you don’t forget.
You can take your progress photo whenever you’d like, but make sure it's with consistent lighting! Lighting can make a huge difference.