How to Properly Track Your Progress with Weigh-Ins and Photos

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For fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders alike, tracking your progress is arguably the most important task on a weekly basis. If you’re not consistently keeping tabs on quantitative and qualitative changes in your physique, then you’ll never know what’s working and what isn’t. Therefore, we put together this handy guide that will show you how to properly track your progress each week with weigh-ins and photos.

Quantitative Measure: Properly Weighing Yourself

Body weight is the most easiest variable you can use to track your progress, since it’s a quantitative measure and the scale doesn’t care what you perceive. A couple things you must know before you begin tracking body weight:

  • Muscle tissue is more dense than adipose tissue
  • Fat loss is not linear (especially when contest prepping)
  • It’s best to aim for a loss of 1 - 2 lbs per week
  • The more overweight you are, the quicker and easier you will lose fat
  • Fat loss will stall at some point, but don’t be discouraged
  • Certain foods and activities will cause you to retain more water than usual, but this is completely normal so don't panic
  • Weigh yourself on an empty stomach upon waking, ideally after going to the bathroom

It’s important to measure your body weight at the same time and under the same conditions every day. If you go to the bathroom every morning before you weigh yourself, make sure you do it every time. If you can’t go to the bathroom and weigh yourself, don’t panic if your weight has gone up; just be mindful of the situation and make a note of it.

Since your body weight will fluctuate on a daily basis, you want to weigh yourself daily and use the average for the week to calculate your weight. I recommend weighing yourself first thing every morning then writing down that figure; when it comes time to check in at the end of the week, calculate your average weight over the seven days.

You can download an app called Happy Scale to do this for you, or you can search for average calculators to assist if you’d rather not deal with the math. You can also use a spreadsheet if you’re tech savvy. Remember though, it’s not your weight every day that you should care about; rather, it is your average weight at the end of the week which matters.

Below is an example how you might lay it out:

Day

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Monday

177

176

175.2

Tuesday

176.9

176

175

Wednesday

176.7

175.8

174.8

Thursday

176.9

175.7

174.8

Friday

176.5

175.8

174.5

Saturday

176.2

175.4

174.3

Sunday

176.1

175.2

174.1

Average (in lbs):

176.6

175.7

174.7


You can see how the weight fluctuates throughout the week--some days it goes down, some days it goes back up. But taking an average will help reduce confounding variables in those fluctuations and give you realistic benchmarks about your progress.

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Qualitative Measure: Progress Pictures

I can't stress enough the importance of progress photos. I work with many clients that are hesitant of taking photos because of where they are at now, but trust me, you won't regret it down the road when you can compare photos and see how far you have come. Progress photos and looking in the mirror are fantastic tools to keep track of your progress, in tandem with the aforementioned daily weigh-ins.

How to take photos: Wear something small, for females I recommend a sports bra and shorts. For males, boxer briefs should do just fine. It's important that you show as much of the body as possible to see how far you have come when looking at future photos. So many clients have reached their goals and never took “before” photos, later regretting not capturing their progress.

Keep photos consistent: Try and keep the photos consistent with what you wear, your stance, your location, your lighting, everything! It will be easier to see the progress you have made and avoid any extraneous variables.

Work on the lighting: Make sure you choose a suitable location and make sure the lighting is right, and use this same location/lighting in EACH photo you take. Be wary of the source of light and the shadows around you that will make it hard to see the outlines of your body. Keeping the space clutter free will also help with this.

Proper angles for photos: There are 4 angles needed in total: Front, back and both sides. Make sure you are standing straight in front of the camera and that someone else is taking the photo for you (or you’re using the self-timer function if you don’t have someone else to help). Generally, selfies and mirror photos are an absolute last resort. 

It’s really that simple to track your progress thoroughly; oddly, many people put so much time into their diet and exercise plans but don’t take the few minutes each week to track their bodily changes. Don’t overlook this aspect of your fitness, it’s ultimately what helps you determine if you’re getting closer to your goal(s).

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