Ways to Measure Progress Without the Scale

Have you ever worked with a client that was so scale-obsessed that you simply had to take their scale away? I have, more than once. As much as I encourage feeling good as a form of measurement, when someone is on a weight-loss journey, that scale has enormous power. Like most humans, our clients are often looking for external signs that prove that they’re making progress. They don’t trust their own judgement of self-improvement. This is where we come in. Personal trainers have a huge responsibility to help re-shape how our clients’ measure progress without taking the Biggest Loser approach of assessments for massive amounts pounds lost every week!


Non-scale victories or NSVs are very real ways that you can keep your clients coming back for more! For your clients that are new to the workout scene, these things are NOT obvious. Sh*t, they’re not obvious to even the seasoned athlete! Everyone needs to be reminded of their progress, when they’re kicking ass, and great personal trainers know how to find those NSVs and make them shine!

Challenge yourself as a trainer to come up with a list of NSVs that coincide with your training style and highlight them often. Some great examples include:

  1. Being able to LIFT MORE WEIGHT during a particular exercise than they lifted the last time. Simple right? Super simple. But that IS progress. Don’t discount the fact that their workouts will progress in complexity or difficulty as they get stronger. Training 101 right? Well, amazingly personal trainers take this for granted. Don’t be that trainer.

  2. Feeling weird when they MISS a workout. That’s right! When your client tells you that they felt like something was missing, they broke their habit of the regular routine and they felt “off” all day… BIG WIN! Creating that new habit of working out is one thing, finding oneself LONGING FOR THE MISSED WORKOUT is another. That is proof of progress and deserves all the high fives and fist bumps!

  3. THE TAPE MEASURE is a tool that’s can be just as powerful, if not MORE than the scale. Personal trainers know that a person’s weight can increase from time to time. You can POOP five pounds for God’s sake! With that said, using 6 to 7 measurement sights, and then remeasuring those same places from time to time can yield jaw-dropping, jump-for-joy results. I’ve asked clients if they’d rather lose 5 pounds or 10 inches…. virtually all of them say the same thing. They always respond to the inches baby!!!

  4. Feeling STRONGER! Your client walks in and talks about having to pick up something and move it and they were SHOCKED at how easy it was. That six months ago there’s no way they could have done that. Again, seems super obvious measurement of progress, but it’s absolutely one that gets overlooked. As a personal trainer we make magic happen, outside of the gym. When your client connects the dots between the workouts and living a stronger healthier life, priceless. Would you say that’s a measure of progress? Hell yeah it is, and it should be celebrated.

  5. One of the greatest revelations a client of mine experienced was FEELING SAFE in her body. She explained that she no longer worried about her body when performing simple tasks. She could dash across the street without tripping, or having to stop half way to walk. She trusted that she could do things that she couldn’t do before. I am so proud of her reaching that level of fitness and now I point it out to other clients as they reach that similar stage, reminding them of where they were and how far they’ve come. This NSV cannot be overstated.

  6. Clothing that FITS BETTER! Now interestingly, there are some people that have always hidden behind baggy clothes. Loose-fitting clothing can make it difficult to identify how the fit is changing on your client’s body, unless YOU notice it. That grubby, baggy T-shirt they workout in - suddenly they’re swimming in it. Point it out!

  7. CHOOSING HEALTHIER FOODS because they’ve worked so hard, rather than eating fast food because they just worked out and they “earned it”. I love when my clients start to ASK for ways to continue making healthy choices, and when they come to ME about diet before I even mention food… that’s a huge win!

  8. REDUCED BLOOD PRESSURE! Major cause for celebration and a non-scale victory that is not only important, but a giant validation that all of your client’s hard work is paying off. I cannot stress enough - some measures at the doctor’s office PISS ME OFF! BMI? Crap! But going from a scary, life-threatening blood pressure to a nice boring 120/80… serious jumping for joy!

  9. SHOWING UP EARLY for their workout so they have plenty of time to warm up. This is a level of commitment can start off strong, but when you know this person is going to show up at the gym guns-a-blazin’.

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What Non-Scale Victories do you use in our practice?

Create added value for your clients by measuring their progress in a number of ways AND teach them to really celebrate those Non-Scale Victories! If you don’t shout it out loudly and often, your client might minimize their own victories and subsequently think that they’re not doing as well as they really are. You are their cheerleader, their coach, and probably a little bit of a therapist. Finding creative new ways to measure their progress and successes is part of what makes you a great personal trainer!