Daily Archives: January 6, 2015

How to Determine Your Body Fat Percentage

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how to measure body fatOne of the things fitness enthusiasts do is measure their body fat. They have a good reason for doing so. One of the factors that determine how fit you are is your body fat percentage. You may be lifting weights in the gym, but with a high body fat percentage, your muscle gains won’t show. This is why you hear guys in the gym talk about their body fat and you hear things like bulking and cutting. The latter means they want to get rid of some of their body fat. To be considered fit, men should have a body fat percentage of 14-17% and women, 21-24%.

So how do you measure your body fat percentage?

There are different ways.


Calipers are precise ways to measure body fat. They are easy to use. The caliper is used to pinch the skin, including the subcutaneous fat layer. That’s the skin you can pinch above the muscle. You then take the reading in millimeters and then determine its equivalent body fat percentage on a chart. The thicker you can pinch on your skin, the more body fat you have. Some caliper tests only measure a single spot on the body. Others test different parts of the body and get the average reading. However, this is not practicable for obese individuals as the amount of fat becomes too thick for the caliper to measure.

Measuring Tape

This is another easy way to measure the percentage of your body fat. You can do this at home with a companion. You will take measurements of your neck and waist circumference. Critics have qualms about the accuracy of this method.

Pinch Test

This is like the caliper test (minus the caliper itself). Instead, you will use your index finger and thumb to pinch the back of your arm, specifically halfway between the elbow and the shoulder. Pinch the skin above the triceps muscle. Then measure the thickness in millimeters using the ruler. The reading in millimeters have an equivalent body fat percentage you can check on the chart. For instance, if you’re a man and you can pinch about 13 millimeters of skin, then roughly 9-13% of your mass is fat.


Bioelectric impedance analysis is a sophisticated way to measure your body fat. The device works on the principle of electrical conductivity. Muscle has high water and electrolyte content and is therefore more conductive than fat, which has low water content. The device measures how much your body impedes electric current. Higher readings mean more body fat. There’s one catch though. The accuracy of the measurements depends on how well hydrated you are. This is an option for people who are too overweight for caliper measurements.

Underwater Measurement

Have you heard of hydrostatic weighing? Apparently, it’s the most accurate way to measure your body fat percentage. You will have your weight taken underwater, and how much fat you have affects how much you weigh in the water. Bone and muscle are denser than water. Fat is less dense than water.

Supposing you and the other guy have the same weight. Hydrostatic weighing reveals which of you has higher fat percentage. Basically, the guy who weighs less in the water has higher fat percentage.

This is the most expensive way to measure body fat though.