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What is Body Composition?

Your body is made up of fat mass and fat-free mass. Fat-free mass includes lean muscle, bones, organs, tissue and water. When people refer to body composition, they are generally talking about body fat percent, or the percentage of your body mass that is fat.

You can’t change the part of your body that is bones, tissues and organs, but you can change the ratio of fat to muscle with good training and proper diet. Lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat, shapes your figure, and helps your body to function more efficiently throughout your daily activities. So increasing your muscle mass is in your best interests if you want to lose weight, look better in your clothes, and feel better during the day.

How to measure body composition?

There are several different methods used to determine how much fat your body is carrying:

  • Dexa Scan is a new way of measuring your body fat but is very expensive
  • Bioelectrical Impedance is an electrical current through the body to measure lean body mass and determines body fat. The most common BIA devices are body fat scales.

The thing everyone hears about the most though is BMI. Does BMI actually measure body composition? The answer is NO.

BMI, or body mass index is an assessment of body weight, but it is not a measure or body fat. BMI is often used in clinical settings such as a doctor’s office to determine if your weight is healthy. BMI is determined using your height and weight. So now that you know a little bit about what it is and how you can measure it lets talk about the characteristics of it.

Full Or Flat, Hard Or Soft?

Those are the 4 things you can be on a daily basis. Most of the time this pertains to competitors but it can pertain to athletes as well. Each of those 4 things has some unique characteristics. And the hard part is that you can be more than one of them at the same time. So let’s dig in and define all this.

Full vs. Flat

These two terms refer to how much carbohydrate (muscle glycogen) and water are INSIDE the muscle. So obviously, if the muscle has all the glycogen and water it can hold, it is full. If it’s devoid of those carbs and that water, it is flat. So the concept is pretty simple: If you want to be as big and as hard as you can be the day of the event, you need your muscles full of carbs and water. How do we identify it though? There are two tests.

First, appearance. Assuming the competitor is in shape (and thus very lean), a full muscle will look different than a flat muscle. The full muscle will be rounder and you will see more striation within that muscle when flexed. The reason for this is much like air in a balloon. When the balloon is very full of air, the rubber is stretched and it’s very thin. Your muscle is like the air in that analogy. And your skin is like the rubber. When a muscle is full of carbs and water, it’s as big as it can be (physically) and thus it stretches the skin a small amount, revealing that striation that everybody wants. However if the muscle is flat, it will look smaller to you. And regardless of how hard or soft it may be, it won’t have the level of striation that it would have if it were full of carbs and water.

Second, feel. If you have dieted to this point, you know what flat feels like, though you may not have thought about it in those terms. When you are flat, you feel tired, you feel depleted and you can’t get a pump in the gym as well. Your works are not good (generally speaking) and backstage you just feel small. You are not likely to be as vascular in this scenario either. More on vascularity later – it’s not the marker a lot of folks think it is.

Hard vs. Soft

When you flex that muscle, does it literally feel as hard as a rock? Or is it slightly soft? Or even just a hair softer than your previous best? If it’s anything but rock hard, it’s not full. The best muscles to use for the test tend to be quadriceps and triceps, because it’s easy to lock them out and flex them at maximal levels. That one test will give you a lot of feedback on the hard/soft issue. But it goes a little further.

There are many versions of the type you can be, here is a list:

  1. Soft and Flat – This represents a total failure of the peaking process for sure. And it likely represents a total failure of the diet too. Most people in this situation are not lean enough. This is the one you don’t want to be! It gets a sad face L since you are soft and flat you will probably be beat.
  2. Soft and Full – Soft and Full again is one of two issues. First, you are not lean enough and you are full of the right amount of carbs. This means that your muscles are where they need to be but your body fat is not. You just are not lean enough to be on the stage. You needed to diet longer. This is the most common scene with Soft and Full. Second, It means your diet was great and you are lean enough to be on stage, but you are spilled over. “Spill over” is the term we use to describe a muscle that is 100% full of carbs and water – and then some. This is not a good place to be in either.
  3. Hard and Flat – If you are Hard and Flat, you’ll place well. But your only way into the winners circle is again, if there is nobody good enough to beat you that day because you are not at your best. Hard Body beats a soft body any day! So still a loser L
  4. Hard and Full – this is the bulls-eye. You are lean enough. Your muscles are full of carbs and water in just the right amount. Your skin looks grainy all over your body, because the “air“ in the “balloon“ is as full as it can be and every little muscle fiber is pressing against the already-tight skin. You have deep, visible striations in every muscle you can see. This is how its done!


Body composition is the body’s relative amount of fat to fat-free mass. Those with optimal body composition are typically healthier, move more easily and efficiently, and in general, feel better than those with less-than-ideal body composition. If you can achieve a better body composition it goes a long way toward improving your quality of life and overall wellness.

Assessing Body Mass Index (BMI) is a commonly used method of measuring body fat. While BMI does not measure body fat directly, it helps to assess health risks related to body mass. Ways to assess your body composition and body fat percentage more directly include measurement with fat calipers and tests such as underwater body fat tests the BodPod, DEXA Scan, and Bioelectrical Impedence

Weighing yourself on a regular bathroom scale does not truly assess your body composition, because a regular scale cannot tell the difference between how much of your total weight is comprised of water, fat, or muscle.

Scales are not the way to go.

No matter what the scale is just a number isn’t it all about the inches and the size of the pants you can put on. Stop covering those rolls with your jeans and start making a better life for you.

You can choose the type of body you want, you may have to work more than others. Some are genetically gifted and some are not. If your one whose not then you just work harder to be what you want to look like.

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