On this second anniversary of Workout Nirvana, it’s time for a reality check: How far have you progressed in the last year? Are you making steady progress or have you let circumstances get in the way? And where will you be a year from now? We don’t have to slowly decline as we age if we track how we’re doing and take action. There are many ways to track your progress, so here are just three to help you determine where you really stand today.
Without strength training or other athletic endeavors, adults over age 35 lose about .5 -1 percent muscle mass per year (NASM). If you’re not actively trying to build more muscle, you should at least be trying to maintain it.
What happens when your muscle atrophies? Your metabolism slows down, which results in weight gain. Don’t be one of the many who lets that happen. Stay on top of the game and lift weights for all major muscle groups at least twice a week.
To find out how much muscle mass you have, check this. Or subtract your fat mass from your body weight, if you know your body fat mass (to calculate your body fat mass, multiply your body fat percentage by your weight). Recheck your lean body mass every six to eight weeks – if it increases, that’s a good thing! Or if you prefer, check your body fat percentage instead – just be sure you are adding muscle while losing weight.
Has your grip strength increased?
Grip strength is a good indicator of overall health (2). It also tends to decrease as our strength decreases, so it’s a good measure of where you stand from year to year. The most common way to measure grip strength is using a dynamometer, a spring-loaded squeeze device that measures force (ranging from $30 to over $1,000 and used by physical therapists and other specialists).
If you don’t have access to a dynamometer you can create your own test while increasing your strength at the same time. For example, test how long you can hold a weight plate in each hand by pinching the outside curve of the plates. Start with 2 ½ lb. plates and gradually increase the weight as your grip strength increases. There are many types of grip strength and ways to measure and increase it, so check this out to learn more.
You can also purchase hand grippers in different weights (100-300+). Choose a weight you can close fully 5-10 times and work up to more weight. This is a great way to test your grip strength over time because the more you use it, the stronger you get! Train your grip (and forearms) three times a week and watch not only your lifts improve but your strength in daily life.
Are you lifting more?
Do you track how much you’re lifting compared to months or a year ago? If not, start keeping a training log now – on a smart phone, your computer, or via hardcopy (*raises hand*). A log not only helps you figure out where you were a year ago but from workout to workout. Weight lifting is about progression – getting stronger (and/or bigger) by continually challenging your muscles more and more.
Estimating your one rep max is an effective method for gauging your strength. Whether you use this method or simply track how much weight you’re lifting over time, a log will help you see how you’re progressing.
Looking back at my log from a year ago, it’s encouraging to see how much certain lifts have increased, notably my shoulder press (66 percent) and Romanian deadlift (73 percent). I can see the results too. But I haven’t progressed much in my bench press (only 25 percent). Knowing how much my shoulder presses and deadlifts increased, I know I’m probably just not pushing myself as much as I could with bench presses.
Most everyone has at least one setback each year, such as injuries, schedule changes, and lagging motivation. What’s important is that you make a comeback. Don’t let an injury cause you to lose confidence or a change of schedule cause you to permanently lose your old routine. Keep your eye on your goals and strive to get back to where you were and then some.
As always, I love hearing from you. What other methods do you use to measure your progress?
You may also be interested in One Year Later: Are You Doin’ It?