How to Measure Body Fat with Calipers
What is the caliper method of body fat?
The caliper method which you can learn to do yourself - measures skin folds and puts those measurements into a skinfold measurement formula. The formula will then spit out an estimated body fat percentage. Those formulas can also determine your fat weight and lean mass weight.
How to Use Skinfold Caliper to Measure Body Fat Percentage
Using a body fat caliper involves pinching and measuring specific "sites" on your body, then using equations or a body fat calculator to arrive at an estimate of your body fat percentage.
How accurate your results depend on how well you take your measurements and which method of measuring body fat with calipers you use.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to use a caliper to measure body fat accurately, including how to do the most common body fat skinfold test.
How to Measure Body Fat with Calipers
When you take your body fat caliper measurements, follow these steps:
- Pinch your skin by placing the thumb and forefinger on your body about two inches apart, firmly pushing them into your flesh.
(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).
- Push your fingers together, then gently pull the skinfold away from your body.
- Measure a pinched skinfold by placing the tips of the caliper in the middle of and perpendicular to it about an inch to the side of where your fingers are touching your skin, compress the caliper until it clicks (and no more), and note the measurement
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. Make sure your skin is dry and lotion-free (towel off if you’re taking your measurements after getting out of the shower)
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. Every time you take body fat caliper measurements, try to take them at the same time of day.
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.
Why Measure Your Body Fat?
I recently measured a woman's body fat because she didn't like the number her personal trainer had given her. Maybe you've been tempted to make a similar request. There isn't anything wrong with it, but it shows a misunderstanding about what a person's body fat percentage means and how it's measured. So let's clear it up.
A body fat test is an attempt to separate every pound of your body into one of two categories: your fat mass and everything else. What isn't fat mass is considered "lean body mass," which consists of your bones, muscles, hair, water, and miscellaneous stuff. So no, it's not just muscle!
This ratio can be deceiving in a number of ways. For instance, small, slender people who don't weigh much may actually have a greater percentage of body fat than larger, more muscular people who weigh more. That's just one reason why your weight on the scale or a set of measurements doesn't necessarily give a true picture of your health.
What is a healthy body fat percentage?
Men and women need different amounts of fat. For a man, 2–5% fat is essential, 2–24% fat is considered healthy, and more than 25% classifies as obesity. For a woman, 10–13% fat is essential, 10–31% fat is healthy, and more than 32% classifies as obesity.
What do these Body Fat Percentage Numbers mean?
Now that you know what your body fat percentage is, we can discuss what it means in accordance with your health.
The skinfold caliper is a great tool to add to your health measuring toolbox. It’s perfect for a convenient way to assess body fat at home. It can be used to perform the 7 fold test to give you a decent assessment of your current body fat.
Knowing your body fat can help you achieve both your cutting and bulking goals while allowing you to avoid the risk of chronic disease and live a healthy overall lifestyle.
What is the best body fat caliper?
Personally, I like the Pro-Health body fat caliper because it's easy to use, accurate, and affordable (which is probably why they're endorsed by the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation as the premiere body fat caliper on the market).