Weightlifting X Weighing Scales
How come the more you go to the gym, the heavier you get? In all these years as a personal trainer I have been constantly getting these comments from my students and also around the gyms – people keep complaining they gain weight even after a lot of weightlifting.
If you´re one of these, calm down. You are not getting fatter! Weight increase isn´t always related to fat. The thing is, when we start training hard we work on our muscles. They grow, they get heavier and that it why when you go up on the scale you see you´re heavier – but not necessarily fatter.
In many cases, the loss of body fat occurs at the same time as the gain of muscular mass. Which means that even when you lose fat, your weight increases due to muscles development. It doesn´t mean you´re going to look fatter – nor thinner, for that matter. It changes inside your body and you can certainly feel it.
For that reason, don´t use the weighing scales as the unique parameter for measuring your progress. Scales aren´t very fair, for they offer you only one reference number. This number (your weight) includes all your body components – such as muscle tissue, fat, bones, organs and water.
The ideal is to go through a complete body-composition test which should analyze each component separately. This can be done at the gym – most of which call it physical assessment.
This assessment, besides estimating your total body mass, also estimates your lean body mass, your fat mass and your fat-free mass separately. Having that in hand, you´ll know what your fat percentage is – which is the number that really matters.
There are several different methods for estimating your fat percentage. The most common ones are:
- the method of skin folds (caliper);
- the one called bioimpedance (electrical conduction by electrodes).
These are the most used ones. There is a better option, though. When you´re about to go for your next check-up, remember this: tell them to include DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry – it´s all about bone densitometry).
This is a great option, because besides being an accessible method, it is also known as a gold standard.
| Level / Age
||18 - 25
||26 - 35
||36 - 45
||46 - 55
||56 - 65
|Excellent||4 to 6 %||8 to 11%
||10 to 14%
||12 to 16%
||13 to 18%
|Good||8 to 10%||12 to 15%
||16 to 18%||18 to 20%||20 to 21%|
| Above average
||12 to 13%||16 to 18%
||19 to 21%||21 to 23%||22 to 23%
|Average||14 to 16%||18 to 20%
||21 to 23%||24 to 25%||24 to 25%|
| Below average
||17 to 20%||22 to 24%||24 to 25%||26 to 27%||26 to 27%|
|Bad||20 to 24%||20 to24%
||27 to 29%||28 to 30%||28 to 30%
| Really bad
||26 to 36%||28 to 36%
||30 to 39%
||32 to 38%||-
The chart above was created by Pollock & Wilmore (1993) and should help you with the references of fat percentage for men according to the age. The ideal, for men, is to keep it between 15% and 20% - anything below that goes to the aesthetic levels.
Anyway, don´t worry too much with the scales. After all, it doesn´t matter the number it shows but how much of that is fat and how much of it is muscle – and muscles are always welcome!