I often get asked “Why should I take ALL these measurements?” The simple answer is, we need a baseline to compare progress against. The actual answer (to me) is, the more data we have, the better we can assess your current state and then develop a proper fitness program. So, get to measuring before you: begin a program, every few weeks to see your improvements (or lack there of) and at the end to see what you accomplished (or didn’t).
And more importantly: Don’t measure yourself every week. That is just a waste of time. once every 3-4 weeks will do.
What should you use to measure? Start by finding a good tape measure that will fit around the largest part of you. A cheap 4-5ft+ long tape measure is great to have around the house for LOTS of things. You will aways find something to use it for. Avoid yard sticks, meter sticks and rulers. Not very accurate unless you are measuring a string you are wrapping around yourself.
Where and how you should measure:
Technique is key here. You need to be consistent not only where you measure, but the tension on the tape as well. You want to tighten the tape so it won’t slide down your skin. Not so much that it is changing the form of your body. (Don’t pull the tape tight. Don’t dimple your skin) Over time you will get the hang of it.
I like to have a number of measurements to use as a baseline. These are very similar to what a tailor would take when making custom clothes for you.
For these measurements, don’t flex, just relax. Stand up straight, but don’t be tense.
- Neck: Standing up straight, take a measurement around the widest part of your neck.
- Shoulder: I like to take this standing up. Someone help you. With your arms down at your sides, and with your shoulders back (stand up straight), measure around your shoulders. This means the outside of your arms, at the shoulder. Not the at the bicep. At the shoulder.
- Chest: Standing up straight, take this measurement just above the nipple line. (Yeah, I said it. NIPPLE) This measurement does not include the arms. So keep your arms down, set the tape, take a breath and then exhale. (you don’t have to force out all your air) Take the measurement before you take your next inhale.
- Waist: Standing up straight. Take this at the narrowest spot, or midway between your lowest rib and your hip bone. This may be very close to your abdomen measurement. Take it anyway.
- Abdomen: This is my first men/women variation. Standing up straight. Men, take this measurement around your body at your belly button. Women, take this at the NARROWEST part of your abdomen.
- Hips: Standing up straight. Take this around your hips at the point where your butt is at its widest.
For these measurements, you can take them with the muscles relaxed or flexed. Heck, take the measurements both ways. Just document them as such. You should really do both arms and legs, you probably have 2 of each. For the record, your dominant side is usually bigger.
- Thigh: Standing up straight. Take this measurement below the butt, but above the knee around your thighs widest point.
- Knee:Standing up straight. You want to take this measurement around your knee. Take it over your kneecap and around the back of the joint.
- Calf: Standing up straight. Take this around the widest point of your calf, below your knee and above your ankle.
- Ankle:Standing up straight. (I want pressure on your ankle for the measurement) Take this around the widest point. (Side note: If the measurement from your knee to calf to ankle are similar, then you have cankles. And it will be my mission to help you change that!)
- Arm (Bicep): Take this around the widest part of your arm. (flexed or unflexed or both)
- Forearm: Take this around the widest part of your forearm. Below the elbow but above the wrist. (Unless you are Popeye, it will be closer to the elbow)
- Wrist: This is really hard to flex. Just a FYI. So take this measurement about 1-2 inches from where your hand is connected to your arm. Again, at the widest point.
Consistency of measurements is just as important as accuracy. You need to take your measurements at the same spot every time. (Unless you should be taking the measurements at the biggest or narrowest part, heck, this may change over time) So make sure you remember where you took the measurements!
Final Side Note: If you don’t have someone to help you, there is a pretty cool measuring tape tool called MyoTape. It makes taking measurements alone easier. Check it out.