Measure Physique Fats With Skinfold Calipers: Strategies & Formulation

Measure Physique Fats With Skinfold Calipers: Strategies & Formulation
Measure Physique Fats With Skinfold Calipers: Strategies & Formulation

Some well being and health “authorities” make utilizing physique fats calipers sound like a difficult enterprise, as if it’s past the grasp of the typical gymgoer.

In fact, measuring physique fats with calipers is definitely fairly easy: you pinch and measure particular “websites” in your physique, then use equations or a physique fats calipers calculator to reach at an estimate of your physique fats share.

In fact, to get correct outcomes it’s important to understand how to do that appropriately. You even have to know and determine on which technique of measuring physique fats with calipers to make use of. 

And that’s exactly what you’ll be taught on this article. 

You’ll uncover every thing that you must learn about methods to use calipers to measure physique fats precisely, together with methods to do the commonest physique fats calipers exams such because the 3-, 4-, and 7-site Jackson-Pollock skinfold strategies, the Parrillo skinfold technique, the Durnin/Womersley skinfold technique, and the Navy tape measure technique.

What Are Skinfold Calipers?

Skinfold calipers (or “physique fats calipers”) are gadgets used to measure your body fat percentage (a caliper is any device that measures the dimensions of an object).

To estimate your body fat percentage with skinfold calipers, you measure the thickness of the skin and fat underneath (subcutaneous fat) on particular points of your body, then plug these measurements into a mathematical formula that estimates your body fat percentage. 

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Are Skinfold Calipers Accurate?

For people with average or above-average amounts of body fat (15% and higher for men, or 25% and higher for women), body fat calipers are a fairly accurate way to measure body fat percentage. 

In leaner people, however (less than 15% for men or 25% for women), body fat calipers tend to underestimate body fat percentage, with the results becoming more skewed the leaner you get. 

For example, if you’re a man around 8 or 9% body fat, skinfold calipers will likely give you a reading closer to 5%. And if you’re a woman around 19-to-20% body fat, you could get a reading closer to 12 or 14%.

This doesn’t mean body fat calipers are useless if you’re lean. You just have to look at them as a tool for assessing trends rather than as a precise method of measuring your body fat percentage. 

That is, although calipers might not accurately estimate your body composition, they can reliably indicate whether you’re losing fat, gaining fat, or maintaining your body fat level based on whether the measurements go, down, or stay the same.

Remember, too, that accurately measuring your body fat percentage isn’t necessary or even all that useful for getting into great shape. Although setting a body fat percentage goal can be motivating (e.g. “I want to get down to 20% body fat”), what matters most is that you’re happy with what you see in the mirror. 

Provided you are, your precise body fat percentage is irrelevant. 

How to Measure Body Fat with Calipers

Measuring body fat with calipers isn’t as tricky as some would have you believe. That said, it takes a little practice before you can do it quickly and accurately. 

Until you’ve mastered the process, it’s sensible to refer to this guide whenever you measure your body fat. That way, you can be sure the measurements are consistent and reliable. 

Here are the steps you need to follow to take body fat caliper measurements:

How to Use Body Fat Calipers

1.) Pinch your skin by placing the thumb and forefinger on your body about two inches apart, firmly pushing them into your flesh like this:

Caliper instructions step 1Caliper instructions step 1

(Note: If there’s a lot of fat in the area, you may need to increase the distance between your thumb and forefinger to grasp and pull the skinfold).

2.) Push your fingers together, then gently pull the skinfold away from your body, like this:

Caliper instructions step 2Caliper instructions step 2

3.) Measure a pinched skinfold by placing the tips of the caliper in the middle of the skinfold about an inch from your fingers. For example, the illustration below shows someone taking a suprailiac skinfold measurement: 

Caliper instructions step 3Caliper instructions step 3

4.) Compress the caliper until it clicks (and no more), and note the measurement, like this:

Caliper instructions step 4Caliper instructions step 4

5 Tips for Measuring Body Fat With Calipers Accurately

Learning how to measure body fat with calipers takes practice, so here are five tips to help you get more accurate readings.

  1. Take all measurements on the right side of your body while standing with your muscles relaxed.
  2. Ensure your skin is dry and lotion-free (towel off if you’re taking your measurements after showering).
  3. Don’t take measurements after doing anything physically strenuous (like a workout) or when you’re particularly hot (this can temporarily boost your skinfold thickness by increasing the amount of fluid beneath your skin).
  4. Try to take body fat caliper measurements at the same time of day every time you take them.
  5. If you’re a woman, avoid taking body fat caliper measurements at any time during your menstrual cycle when you gain a noticeable amount of weight.

The Skinfold Sites and How to Measure Them 

  • Abdominals: Pinch a vertical fold of skin one inch to the right of your belly button.
  • Biceps: Pinch the skin vertically halfway between the elbow and shoulder on the front of your arm.
  • Calf: Pinch the skin vertically on the inside of the largest part of the right calf.
  • Lower back: Pinch the skin horizontally about 6 inches above the waist and 2 inches to the right of the spine.
  • Midaxillary: Pinch the skin vertically directly below the armpit at the same height as the base of your breastbone.
  • Pectoral: For men, pinch a diagonal skinfold halfway between the front edge of your armpit and your right nipple. For women, pinch a diagonal skinfold about two-thirds of the way from your right nipple to the front edge of your right armpit (i.e. closer to your armpit than your nipple).
  • Subscapular: Pinch the skin diagonally an inch beneath the middle of your shoulder blade (about three inches to the right of your spine and six inches above your waist).
  • Suprailiac: Pinch the skin diagonally directly above the bony protrusion on the front of the right hip (the iliac crest).
  • Thigh: Pinch the skin vertically halfway between the top of the kneecap and the top of the front of your thigh. 
  • Triceps: Pinch the skin vertically halfway between the elbow and shoulder on the back of your arm.

Now let’s look at the most common methods of measuring body fat with calipers and which parts of your body you need to measure for each.

You can find all of the equations you need to calculate your body fat percentage below. Be warned: Some of them are knotty, so it’s best to have a graphing calculator on hand if you want to tackle them yourself.

An easier solution is to plug your measurements into the calculator below, and it’ll do all the number crunching for you:

The Legion Body Fat Percentage Calculator

3-site Jackson-Pollock Skinfold Method

The 3-site Jackson-Pollock skinfold formula is one of the most popular ways to measure body fat percentage because it’s easy, quick, and reliable. 

That said, it tends to underestimate the body fat percentage of people who are fairly lean (men under 15% body fat and women under 25%). Thus, it’s more accurate for people with more body fat than this.

If you’re a woman, take a triceps, thigh, and suprailiac measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Density = 1.0994921 – (0.0009929 x sum of skinfolds) + (0.0000023 x square of the sum of skinfolds) – (0.0001392 x age)

Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450

If you’re a man, take a pectoral, abdominal, and thigh measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Density = 1.10938 – (0.0008267 x sum of skinfolds) + (0.0000016 x square of the sum of skinfolds) – (0.0002574 x age)

Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450

4-site Jackson-Pollock Skinfold Method

The 4-site Jackson-Pollock skinfold formula is marginally more accurate than the 3-site formula, but also tends to slightly underestimate the body fat percentage of people who are fairly lean. 

Thus, it works better for people with more body fat than this.

If you’re a woman, take a triceps, thigh, suprailiac, and abdominal measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Density = (0.29669 x sum of skinfolds) – (0.00043 x square of the sum of skinfolds) + (0.02963 x age) + 1.4072

Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450

If you’re a man, take a thigh, triceps, suprailiac, and abdominal measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Density = (0.29288 x sum of skinfolds) – (0.0005 x square of the sum of skinfolds) + (0.15845 x age) – 5.76377

Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450

7-site Jackson-Pollock Skinfold Method

The 7-site Jackson-Pollock skinfold formula isn’t much more accurate than the 3-site formula. It also requires significantly more effort and tends to slightly underestimate the body fat percentage of people who are fairly lean. 

Thus, it’s normally better to use the 3-site method.

For the 7-site body fat calipers test, men and women take the same measurements but use different equations to calculate their body fat percentage.

If you’re a woman, take a pectoral, abdominal, thigh, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac, and midaxillary measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Density = 1.097 – (0.00046971 x sum of skinfolds) + (0.00000056 x square of the sum of skinfold sites) – (0.00012828 x age)

Body Fat Percentage =  (495 / Body Density) – 450

If you’re a man, take a pectoral, abdominal, thigh, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac, and midaxillary measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Density = 1.112 – (0.00043499 x sum of skinfolds) + (0.00000055 x square of the sum of skinfold sites) – (0.00028826 x age)

Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450

9-site Parrillo Skinfold Method

The 9-site Parrillo skinfold formula isn’t well studied, so it’s hard to say how accurate it is compared to the other formulas.

For that reason, I recommend you use a more established method such as the 3-site Jackson-Pollock skinfold formula or the Navy tape measure method.

For the 9-site body fat calipers test, men and women take the same measurements and use the same equations to calculate their body fat percentage.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, take a pectoral, abdominal, thigh, biceps, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac, lower back, and calf measurement (in millimeters), then use the following equation to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Fat Percentage = (27 x sum of skinfolds sites) divided by bodyweight (lb.).

4-site Durnin/Womersley Skinfold Method

The 4-site Durnin/Womersley skinfold formula can produce accurate results for some people. However, most find it overestimates body fat percentage. 

Thus, I recommend you use a more accurate method such as the 3-site Jackson-Pollock skinfold formula of the Navy tape measure method.

For the 4-site body fat calipers test, men and women take the same measurements (in millimeters) but use different equations to calculate their body fat percentage depending on their age.

(Note: In the following equations, D = Body Density and L = Log of the sum of skinfolds.)

4-site Durnin/Womersley Skinfold equations4-site Durnin/Womersley Skinfold equations

Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450

The Navy Tape Measure Method

The Navy tape measure method doesn’t use body fat calipers, but it’s still worth a mention because it’s a simple, fast, and reliable way to measure your body fat percentage. 

Although this method is fairly accurate, it also tends to overestimate the body fat percentage of people who are fairly lean. Thus, it’s best used for men over 15% body fat and women over 25%.

Here are the measurements you need to take for the Navy tape measure method, and how to take them accurately:

  • Height: Ideally, measured using a stadiometer—a device for measuring height—or a measuring tape held against the wall.
  • Neck: Wrap the tape measure around your relaxed neck with the tape angled slightly downward in front.

If you’re a woman, take a height, neck, waist, and hips measurement (in inches), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage (you’ll want to use a graphing calculator for this one):

Body Fat Percentage = 163.205 x log10 (waist + hip – neck) – 97.684 x log10 (height) – 78.387

If you’re a man, take a height, neck, and waist measurement (in inches), then use the following equations to calculate your body fat percentage:

Body Fat Percentage = 86.010 x log10 (abdomen – neck) – 70.041 x log10 (height) + 36.76

Or, just select the Navy Tape Measure Method when using The Legion Body Fat Percentage Calculator.

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FAQ #1: What are the best body fat calipers?

Personally, I like the Accu-Measure body fat calipers as a result of they’re simple to make use of, correct, and reasonably priced (which might be why they’re endorsed by the World Pure Bodybuilding Federation because the premiere physique fats caliper available on the market).

FAQ #2: The place ought to I purchase physique fats calipers?

You should purchase physique fats calipers on-line, from sporting items shops, and even from some grocery shops.

Whereas none of those choices are inherently higher than the others, you have a tendency to search out on-line shops like Amazon have a wider vary of merchandise out there at barely decrease costs (the Accu-Measure body fat calipers solely price $15, although, so I like to recommend you go along with these).

FAQ #3: How correct are physique fats calipers?

As long as your physique fats share is increased than 15% (males) or 25% (girls), physique fats calipers are fairly correct.

In case your physique fats share is beneath 15% (males) or 25% (girls), nonetheless, physique fats calipers are inclined to underestimate physique fats share.

No matter your physique fats share, when you don’t take skinfold measurements correctly, they’re more likely to produce inaccurate outcomes (that’s why studying methods to use physique fats calipers is paramount).

FAQ #4: How do I exploit a physique fats calipers chart?

A physique fats calipers chart works in a really comparable method to a physique fats calipers calculator: it helps you calculate your estimated physique fats share with out having to do any of the arithmetic your self. 

To make use of most physique fats calipers charts, you are taking measurements (often three or 4 relying on the calipers and chart you utilize), add the readings collectively, then consult with the best chart on your age and intercourse (there are totally different charts for adults and kids, and women and men) to search out your estimated physique fats share.

Normally, this requires you to search out the sum of your caliper measurements on one axis, your age on the opposite, after which hint your fingers to the purpose at which these two traces intersect on the chart.

Earlier than physique fats calipers calculators had been available on-line, utilizing a physique fats calipers chart was the least effortful method to calculate your physique fats share primarily based in your caliper measurements. Now, nonetheless, physique fats calipers calculators make the method even easier, which is why they are typically the popular technique of calculating physique fats share primarily based on caliper measurements.

That stated, there are some charts that allow you to estimate your physique fats share primarily based on a single caliper measurement. 

These charts are nonetheless helpful as a result of they make estimating your physique fats share fast and simple. The one draw back is that they are typically much less correct than different strategies, so they need to solely ever be used to get a ballpark estimate of physique fats share slightly than a exact measurement.

Right here’s a single-site physique fats caliper chart for males:

Body Fat Caliper Chart for MenBody Fat Caliper Chart for Men

And right here’s a physique fats caliper chart for ladies:

Body Fat Caliper Chart for WomenBody Fat Caliper Chart for Women

To make use of these physique fats calipers charts, comply with these steps:

  1. Take a physique fats caliper measurement in millimeters at your suprailiac (to search out the suprailiac, pinch the pores and skin diagonally instantly above the bony protrusion on the entrance of your proper hip).
  2. Utilizing the physique fats calipers chart, discover your caliper studying in millimeters in one of many white packing containers throughout the highest, then hint a line down the chart together with your finger.
  3. Discover your age vary in one of many white packing containers within the leftmost column, then hint a line horizontally to the best throughout the chart together with your finger.
  4. Your estimated physique fats share is within the field the place these two traced traces intersect on the chart.

For instance, in case your suprailiac measurement from the first step is 14.5 millimeters and also you’re 38 years previous, your estimated physique fats share can be 18.6%.

Notice: In case your measurement is over 36 mm, add 0.25% for each millimeter pinched above 36 mm.

FAQ #5: Are digital physique fats calipers extra correct than handbook physique fats calipers?

No. Digital physique fats calipers and handbook physique fats calipers are equally correct, offered you utilize them appropriately.

The advantages of digital physique fats calipers are that they are typically simpler to learn and so they can rapidly convert imperial measurements to metric (and vice versa). The draw back is that they’re usually costlier than handbook calipers.

FAQ #6: The place can I discover a good physique fats calipers calculator?

As an alternative of utilizing formulation to translate your physique fats calipers measurements into an estimated physique fats share, you possibly can plug your numbers right into a physique fats calipers calculator (or “physique fats share calculator”), and it’ll do all the mathematics for you.

You will discover a physique fats share calculator that makes use of your gender, weight, age, and most well-liked physique fats calipers measurement technique to estimate your physique fats share right here:

The Legion Physique Fats Share Calculator