Like a lot of guys, I originally started training with the goal of building muscle. I read bodybuilding magazines and, of course, the Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. Over the course of a couple of years, I did ok and went from 175 lbs to 230 lbs at 6'1", but at 20% body fat. One thing I struggled with is determining if my training was working, so I based it on if my weight, measurements, and strength were going up. This lead to putting on a lot more fat than necessary.
A couple of years ago, I switched over to a powerlifting/strength focus, one of the draws of it being the objective measure of improvement.
About a month ago, I came to the realization that it had been a long time since I was able to kneel down without stiff, aching knees; my lower back wasn't constantly tight; and I felt athletic, etc. I'm 37, but felt a lot older. All of that and I didn't end up much bigger or stronger than when I just trained for size. I know a lot of it was my fault, not the programs I used, but at this point it is what it is.
I have decided to go back to what originally drew me to training and made me fall in love with training and the process. First off, I'm dropping a lot of this fat, down to around 10%. Once I get there, the plan is to go back to focusing on hypertrophy. I can say that already, my knees, back, and shoulders feel better than they have in a long time.
What I need to figure out is how to judge progress properly and determine if I need to tweak my training. Building muscle takes a long time, especially at 37 and after 23 years of training. After say, 12 weeks, how do you know if the couple of pounds you've put on is muscle or fat; if the exercises for chest, quad, back, arms, etc are working or need to be changed; if the intensity techniques are working or not; and so on.
Do guys take regular measurements, such as body fat, tape measurements, etc and base decisions off this? How often? 6 weeks, 12 weeks, longer?
Thanks in advance for any advice anyone can give me!