Bodybuilding and physique sports require the task of making minor adjustments to your program on a regular basis to ensure that your progress does not come to a halt. Individuals make these changes based upon weight, body fat readings and other methods. However, the one that trumps them all is the visual aspect. When you are standing on the stage judges have no idea what your weight or body fat is. They are judging you solely on your appearance.
When making visual observations, the mirror never lies. However, the mirror does not show you a comparison of how you looked last week or month. For this reason a perfect picture becomes priceless. Although a good picture is priceless, if you get sloppy with your comparison pictures they are rendered close to worthless. If I am trying to compare a picture I took last week fresh out of bed to a picture this week in the gym after 5 meals and a good chest pump, it holds little value to me.
So what do you need to do to create the best comparison pictures?
1. Time of day
My preference is to have all progress pictures taken first thing in the morning prior to water and food. Although this is not mandatory, the pictures should be taken at about the same time of day each time so that your fullness and water retention is similar. I also prefer to not have comparison pictures taken in the gym after training different body parts. If you take a picture post chest workout and compare it to a post leg workout picture, of course things will look different. Again, I prefer first thing in the morning prior to food and water without a pump.
Location is not really the key here, but more so the lighting. A picture taken in the gym’s fluorescent lights will look different than your home’s natural lighting. For the truest pictures I have found that you need to position yourself depending on the angle of the light. For wall mounted lighting or natural lighting from a window, you want the camera to be between you and the light. For overhead lighting you want the camera to be in front of the light and your body to be positioned slightly behind the light. The goal is to reduce shadows as much as possible. You also want to try to have as clean a background as possible behind you.
Of course it is optimal to have someone take the pictures for you. I find many people struggle to be able to have someone at their beacon call for this task. In this case I suggest a cam stand for your smart phone and a timer app. If you have decent lighting in a bathroom or kitchen and sufficient room you can often prop your phone on a counter top. You can then flip the viewing screen so you can see what the phone camera will be capturing. Using your cam timer, which you can download for free on the App Store, allow yourself enough to properly position yourself for each pose.
When comparing pictures it does not help to change poses on a weekly basis. It also does not help to only take pictures of strong poses. My suggestion is to utilize 3-4 poses that capture both front, back and side. These would basically be your quarter turns. You can also add in a pose that is a weakness you are trying to bring up as your 4th pose if needed.
The final part of progress pictures is utilizing them. My preference here is to compare them side by side with my previous pictures. To do this I again suggest you visit the app store and download a collage app. I use a side-by-side collage and compare the pictures pose by pose. At that point you can easily judge progression rather than just going from the previous memory of how you looked.
- Always take your pictures the same time of day in the same conditions as previous pictures
- Use the same location with the same lighting and a clutter free background.
- If you do not have someone to take your pictures, make technology work for you. Use your smartphone and a timer app to take the pictures yourself.
- Compare your pictures side by side utilizing a collage app.
The saying goes a picture is worth a 1,000 words. If this holds true for any sport, it is bodybuilding. Progress pictures are just another tool in the arsenal for improvement. Use them often and use them wisely.
About the Author
Marc Snyder is an active NPC Bodybuilder and current 2013 Mr Ohio. Marc has created a balance in his life with the sport he loves and the family of 2 kids and a wife that he lives for. Marc has been involved in many avenues of the fitness industry. He is a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach. He also has experience in clinical exercise physiology working in the field for nearly 2 years.
It is now Marc’s goal to educate and guide individuals through yèt-their health and fitness journey by utilizing the knowledge he has gained over the years. He operates SnyderAthletics.com an online nutrition and training website to help people. achieve their goals.
Please follow Marc on his journey of continued progress by following him on his website at SnyderAthletics.com , facebook at www.facebook.com/NPCMarcSnyder and twitter at www.twitter.com/SnyderMarcA. He post his daily lifestyle tips on these feeds for you to access and utilize in your health and fitness journey.