One thing everyone who walks into Fitness First does is step onto the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer. This neat little device uses electric signals to determine body fat percentage, specific fat and muscle masses, metabolic age, and a couple of other health indicators. Every member will at some point have a trainer sit them down and discuss what these numbers mean for their health. In fact, at least three people have signed up for memberships after being frightened by my explanation of their readings.
Most trainers also use the Tanita readouts as progress trackers. Weight loss is commonly checked, but the focus lies more on fat loss, muscle gain, and metabolic age improvements. At least one member has her body composition checked every single day.
Now I do think the Tanita is pretty nifty, and I see the value of using the readings as a measurement. However, I find it to be an incomplete measurement of a person’s health and fitness. I think body composition – while certainly what most people seem to want to track their progress by – doesn’t say enough about what a person can do, nor do I think better numbers on that tiny strip of paper should be the goal of everyone on a fitness regime.
This is one of the reasons fitness is interesting. Find a dozen trainers and ask how they measure progress, and you’ll hear multiple answers. In the club, for instance, most trainers use muscle mass gain and fat mass loss for their clients, who generally are looking to lose extra weight. Some, however, have clients who already fall into the ranges considered healthy, and so their progress cannot be so easily measured by the machine. They turn to another set of numbers, this one performance-based.
Even here, we find multiple measurements. The runner tracks his fitness by mileage and speed. The powerlifter chases poundages. Duffy Gaver – trainer of Chris Hemsworth (Thor and the rest) and Brad Pitt (Troy) among others – measures his clients’ progress through their exercise performance.
I tend to agree with Duffy: the man who can do twenty pull-ups looks very different from the man who can’t even manage three. For reference, my own list of metrics required the creation of an Excel spreadsheet to track everything.
The main thing here, though, is that your metrics have to make sense. Except for bodybuilders and gymnasts, athletes don’t need to pay attention to body composition. Conversely, a middle-aged housewife doesn’t need to be able to do ten pull-ups, nor would she probably want to look like she could. A key to progression is developing a personalized list of goals and means of tracking, which will be far more exciting to improve than some bit of paper.
Figure out what’s important to you, and the rest will follow.
5x Pull-up + 2x per round
10x Push-up + 2x per round
15x Close Squat + 2x per round
Combination of Single-leg Romanian Deadlift into Pistol Squat into Lunge per step
10m @ no weight
2x10m @ 2x6kg
2x8m @ 2x8kg
2x4m @ 2x10kg
5 rounds / 2min rest
1x Kipping Muscle-up
5x Behind-the-back Clap Push-up
- I really hate that SLRDL-Pistol-Lunge combo – it leaves my legs barely functional and sore to an incredible degree. I need the balance and unilateral work – which is probably why I hate it so much.
- I told myself I wouldn’t make it a habit to practice my stilll-sloppy muscle-ups with a kip, but I find it requires so much explosiveness from my lats that I don’t need to do more than 1 rep at a time to feel the effect. Also, my form is improving – by keeping rep count low and rest relatively high, I’m able to almost hit the smooth glide Stephen Amell has in his (at least in Season 1 – nowadays he can still hit good numbers, but they aren’t as clean).
I spent the last hour of last night’s shift chatting with a member who hasn’t been able to frequent the club due to a busy schedule. It started with a casual remark about her having been sat in the same spot for about fifteen minutes: “You’re either really tired from working out for about 3 hours, or you’re thinking of something very deep.”
Initially she denied either one, but eventually it turned out to be the latter.
I won’t give specifics, since it isn’t my story to tell, but the conversation involved a lot of reflection on goals, transformation, and self-worth. It’s the kind I like to have, and one I don’t have very often, since most people are either not introspective enough or unwilling to open up to that level.
Coincidentally, the previous day, I’d also had a long (though not quite as much) talk with a member that similarly touched upon the ideas of transformation and self-worth. Both these people reflected on the psychological changes that came with physical transformation, wondering how much more they could have done before had they known what they could do.
That has always been one of the key elements of a fitness journey for me. People seek out smaller waistlines, slimmer tummies, and lower weights, but the actual difference on which others comment is a difference in how you carry yourself. There are physiological reasons, yes – your back is straight because your spinal erectors and shoulder retractors are stronger, and you walk differently because the imbalances between your external and internal hip rotators have been addressed – but there’s also a newfound confidence that comes from knowing how much you can do when pushed.
Once you’ve undergone a dramatic transformation – dropped half a foot from your waistline, gained kilos of muscle, learned to pull 385lbs from the floor – you will have learned how far and how hard you can push yourself. You can face new challenges and be assured that whatever you decide to do, it will lead you somewhere better.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the path ahead will be any easier, just that you are far better equipped to handle it. Regardless of the means at your disposal, you have the internal drive – and that’s what counts.
30x 4-way Jumping Jacks
3 rounds @ 2x12kg
6x Double Swing
6x Double Clean
6x Front Squat
6x Double Jerk
KB One-arm Complex
Work through 4 total ladders of 2/4/6, alternating arms after each rung
Use a 16kg KB if you’re me today, 20kg if you’re me from 2 years ago
Offset Front Squat