Example of how to pinch skin for measurement

How to measure % body fat percentage with a skinfold caliper

How to Measure % Body Fat Percentage from Skinfold

What is a skinfold test?

A skinfold test is used to monitor changes in body composition and to estimate body fat. The test can be used on all populations including children; reliable readings may be difficult to obtain on obese people. A trained tester pinches the skin with skinfold calipers to measure the thickness of skin and adipose tissue (fat). Here are two of the main scientific scales used to calculate the caliper measurements:
  • The Durnin formula is ideal for general population – Four (4) site skinfold test
  • The Jackson-Pollock  formula is ideal for athletes – three (3), four (4) and seven (7) site skinfold tests

Anthropometric equipment and other supplies

Optional Accessories
  • BodyTracker Software to do calculations and monitor progress.
  • A camera to take pictures and monitor progress.
  • A calibration block to check caliper accuracy
  • Visit the Store for many of these tools

Steps

Select a skinfold caliper

The Slim Guide caliper is an excellent inexpensive plastic caliper, and the Lange caliper is ideal for professionals.

Determine the skinfold test sites

Tests are generally done on the right side of the body.
  • The 7 main skinfold test sites include triceps, biceps, subscapular, supraspinale, abdominal, thigh, and calf.
  • An optional testing site may include the iliac crest.
  • Select several sites to test and monitor over time.

Take Skinfold Measurements

  • Pinch a skinfold with the thumb and index finger.
  • Place the measuring tips of the calipers at a right angle .39 to .79 inches (1 to 2 cm) below your fingers. Wait 2 seconds.
  • Note and record the reading.
  • Release the calipers.
  • Wait 1 to 2 seconds, and repeat the testing procedure 2 more times.
  • Add the 3 measurements, and obtain the average by dividing the sum by 3.
  • Move to the remaining test sites, and take 3 more readings at each spot.
  • Record the average of the readings for each test site.

Use a Skinfold Test Scale

Use an approved skinfold test scale to interpret the results of the test:

Interpret Skinfold Test Results

  • In general, a male with a score of 80 or lower is excellent and a score of 150 or higher is poor.
  • A female  with a score of 90 or lower is excellent and a score of 150 or higher is poor.
  • The scores of good, average, and below average fall in between these 2 ratings.
  •  It is not recommended to convert scores to body fat percentage due to the high possibility of errors.

Tips

  • Test the same sites in the exact same way each time for reliable results.
  • Test regularly to adequately monitor body composition changes.
  • Keep a log of the measurements to help in monitoring changes.
  • Keep the calipers calibratedto ensure accurate measurements.

Warnings

  • Slight variations in measurements can lead to large discrepancies in results.
Article adapted from wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual.