Measuring your body size: what your body measurements tell you about your progress (and what it doesn’t)

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Should you measure your body size to track your progress? How to benefit from measuring your body size regularly and what you need to know.


After all, a feedback system is a powerful tool.


It tells you whether your efforts are bearing fruit and whether you are still on course to your dream figure.


The exciting question is whether your body measurements give you the right feedback – or whether they keep you poking around in the fog.


Let’s start with the first question.


Why measure body size?

Why measure body size?

By changing your body size, you can determine how certain body parts – arms, legs, hips, stomach – are changing.


So tracking your girth is another feedback system.


However, circumferences say as much – or just as little – about your physique as measuring weight. In other words:


The increase or decrease in body circumference tells you nothing about the type of tissue that caused the change.


If the circumference increases, this can be due to muscle build-up. But it is just as possible that the layer of fat has grown or water has been stored.


Nevertheless, depending on the objective, measuring the body circumference can be very helpful.


For example, if you want to fit into your favorite pair of jeans again, you can see how fast you are approaching your goal by looking at your waistline.


And if you want to increase your arm circumference without breaking the waistband simultaneously, you can also measure this wonderfully using your body circumference.


I usually recommend the following to my clients:


If you want to build muscle, it makes sense to measure body circumference and body fat percentage.


Circumferences are nice to know when it comes to losing weight, but they’re unnecessary.


Can you measure your body fat percentage based on your circumference?

Can you measure your body fat percentage based on your circumference?

You may have seen one of these body fat calculators on the Internet: You measure the circumference of one or more parts of your body, feed it to the calculator, and – voila – it spits out your supposed body fat percentage.


How meaningful are such values?


If you have encountered such tools with a healthy skepticism so far, you should continue to do so:


You can’t measure your body fat percentage with a tape measure.


Why is that? 


Let’s take a look at what significantly influences the circumference of our limbs: 


  • fat mass,
  • muscle mass,
  • bone size.


The water balance also plays a role. In the case of the abdominal circumference, the contents of the stomach and intestines are added.


So there is a correlation between body size and body fat percentage. But other variables also influence the circumference value.


Correspondingly imprecise are conclusions from the body circumference to the body fat percentage. 


The BIA and skinfold measurement can draw a much sharper picture here.


The body fat percentage can only be measured comparatively well using the body circumference if you are overweight. 


Therefore, I only recommend measuring circumference to determine body fat percentage for those of us who are still very overweight.


PBF is the full name for the percentage of body fat, which is the body fat rate. This is also the most important data for many fitness parties.

percentage of body fat

It represents the percentage of body fat in body weight. The lower the value, the lower the body fat content and the more pronounced the muscle lines will be in appearance.


For everyone, the lower the body fat rate is, the better. The healthy body fat rate for men is 5%-20%, and the healthy body fat rate for women is 13%-25%.


For everyone else, it is only an alternative if you have no other option or if high accuracy is not that important to you.


Nevertheless, there is a connection between waist circumference and body fat percentage.


So, if, for some reason, you refrain from calculating your body fat percentage, you should at least measure your waist circumference and your weight.


Because if the waist circumference decreases, this usually also applies to the body fat percentage.


Waist circumference is also an important health marker because the visceral fat stored in the abdominal cavity is associated with testosterone deficiency and diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.


The risk group includes men with a waist circumference of more than 102 cm and women with a waist circumference of more than 88 cm.


What equipment do you need for the circumference measurements?

What equipment do you need for the circumference measurements?

A simple tailor’s tape measure is sufficient to measure all body circumferences. 


Here is an example of a suitable and cheap model.

tailor's tape soft 60-inch


Depending on measuring your body size point, measuring the circumference of your own body can require some skill.


If you want to simplify things, I recommend a special circumference measuring tape. 


I use a MyoTape that was specially developed for the fitness area.


It is cheap, handy, and encloses the respective body part with a preset constant tensile force.


This makes it easier for you to get accurate and reliable readings.


Note:  With MyoTape, you may wonder why the scale only starts at 4.8 cm. This is exactly the length of the curved section on the case, which counts when you want to measure a body circumference.


Forcefree+ body measuring digital tape with App

Forcefree+ is for the sports enthusiasts who appreciate the last fitness high-tech gadget or simply want to see all progress results online in their mobile app.


Body water content

Body water content refers to the weight of fluid in the body. For a healthy person, 50%-65% of their body weight is water, so not only girls but boys are also made of water.


Maintaining a normal total water content can ensure normal body functions and reduce the risk of health problems.


Body water content

Tip: As your body fat percentage increases, your total body water percentage will gradually decrease.


At what points should you measure the body dimensions?

If you want a complete overview of the changes in your body dimensions, I recommend that you measure the circumference of eight body parts.


Let’s start at the head. From there, we work our way down step by step:


1,   Neck Circumference: Measure the circumference below Adam’s apple, around the seventh cervical vertebra.


2,   Shoulder Circumference: Measure your shoulder circumference at the widest part of your shoulders so that the measuring tape covers the entire shoulder area. Read the value after exhaling normally (not forced).

how to measure chest circumference

3,   Chest circumference: Measure the circumference of your chest at the level of your nipples. To do this, stand up straight and wrap the measuring tape around your chest so that it runs over your shoulder blades but under your armpits. Read the value after a normal (not forced) exhalation.

measuring Upper arm circumference

4,   Upper arm circumference: Measure the upper arm circumference in the middle of your upper arm, i.e., halfway between the elbow and the bony point at the top of your shoulder. If you’re unsure where the middle is, measure the distance and take half the measured distance.

measuring Waist circumference

5,   Waist circumference: You measure the waist circumference horizontally at the height of your navel. Stand up straight and breathe normally. The abdominal muscles are relaxed. Measure a normal (unforced) exhalation.


6,   Hips: Measure the hips horizontally at the widest point of your butt (= Glutaeus Maximus).

hoe to measure Thigh circumference

7,   Thigh circumference: Measure the thigh circumference halfway between the midpoint of your kneecap and the sloping line at the level of the inguinal canal where your leg meets the torso (this point is approximately halfway between the crotch and the upper iliac crest). If necessary, you can also measure the distance here and thus the center point.


8,   Calf circumference: Measure the circumference at the widest point of your calves.


You should measure the body circumference on both the right and left of your arms and legs. 


It’s a great way to identify imbalances and adjust your training accordingly.


Measure body size in 5 simple steps: The ultimate guide


Decide where you want to measure the circumference


#1 Measuring Your Body Size – Decide where you want to measure the circumference

In the last section, you get to know all eight passages, which you can use to get a complete picture.


But if you have more specific goals, you can, of course, limit the measurement accordingly. 


For example, you could also:


  • measure only the circumference of your upper arms if you are doing targeted arm training to get your biceps and triceps to grow.
  • measure only the waist and hips if you want to fit back into your favorite pants.


Here, too, it depends on your goal. If you have a clear goal, you can derive your feedback system from it.


If in doubt, you can measure all eight body circumferences at once – after all, you’re already there.


Measure Body Size – Loop the tape measure around the body part

#2 Measuring Your Body Size – Loop the tape measure around the body

When using the MyoTape recommended above, stretch the end of the tape around the body part you want to measure.


The best way to do this is to press the button in the middle of the MyoTape – that makes things easier.


Then you place the plug at the end of the tape measure in the circular recess on the tape housing.


Measure Body Size – Tighten the tape measure until it is snug

#3 Measuring Your Body Size – Tighten the tape measure until it is snug

Press the button in the middle of the tape measure. This automatically tightens the measuring tape so that it fits your body.


Ensure the measuring tape runs parallel to the floor and perpendicular to the body part to be measured.


Using a simple tailor’s tape measure, you should try to create the same tightening with each measurement.


#4 Measuring Your Body Size  – Read the circumference value

Now you can read the measurement at the end of the measuring tape.


With the MyoTape, this is where the measuring tape comes out of the housing (opposite the locked end).


Record your measured values

#5 Measuring Your Body Size – Record your measured values

Record all measurements in a table structured as follows:


  • You use a new line for each date.
  • The columns are intended for the measurements: date, neck circumference, shoulder circumference, upper arms right, upper arm left, etc.


You can create a table in Excel or Evernote. You can enter the table in a notebook if you prefer it analog.


Note: To keep measurement errors as low as possible, you should proceed in the same way as when measuring weight and calculating body fat percentage. 


When you are through with all measurements, you repeat them twice and form the mean value for each measuring point.


Measure body size in 5 simple steps

Measuring Your Body Size – Conclusion

Your waist circumference will not give you an exact picture of your body fat percentage, but we all probably know from our own experience that there is a connection between body fat and the waistband of pants.


If your waist circumference decreases continuously, this also applies to your body fat percentage in most cases.


Also, waist size is a crucial health marker: Excess fat on thighs and triceps might be annoying, but “too much” on the stomach can be deadly.


There are several ways to calculate your body fat percentage, including ones based on girth measurements.


To determine body fat, I prefer skinfold measurement with a caliper.


It is simple, reliable, and usually provides more accurate values ​​than the tape measure.


But that doesn’t mean that measuring circumferences is superfluous. 


You can track the waist circumference as an additional value when losing weight.


If you want to build muscle, measuring your body size, and the circumference of different body parts can be helpful.


Then you should measure not only your stomach but also your hips, thighs, arms, chest, and shoulders and keep the following in mind: fewer centimeters do not always equate to muscle loss or less body fat. 


They can also be due to dehydration.


Building muscle can increase girth. 


However, muscle gain in combination with fat loss can mean that you will not notice any difference in a circumference measurement.


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