There are different ways to measure your body fat percentage at home, but the most accurate one is the skinfold calipers method. Here’s how to do it.
Calipers are used to literally fold the skin with the fat tissue and measure the skinfold thickness. As a rule of thumb, the thicker the skinfold, the higher the body fat percentage (BFP).
The entire process of measuring the BFP looks like this:
- You measure 7 skinfold sites 2 or 3 times.
- Use these measurements to calculate your body density.
- With your body density, you calculate your body fat percentage.
- You figure out your fitness level by placing your body fat percentage within the American Council On Exercise’s ideal BFP chart.
Of course, this is time-consuming, you need to do some math, and you also need a partner to help you through the entire process. But don’t worry, there is also a simpler method at the end of the article (hint: it takes only a step, literally).
Now let’s start with the most accurate and inexpensive method to measure your body fat percentage at home: the skinfold calipers.
Step 1: The 7 Skinfold Sites To Measure
When trying to get the most accurate number for your body fat percentage, you have to measure seven different skinfold sites on the right side of your body.
Obviously, for these skinfold measurements, you need someone to help you.
It’s important to measure every site two times. If your measurements are not within two millimeters of each other, you’ll do the third measurement and take the average of the two closest numbers.
Measure the distance from the acromion to the olecranon process and mark the halfway point with an X.
Obtain a vertical pinch one centimeter above the marked site so you can pinch just in the middle for one to two seconds to obtain the reading and release.
Make sure to maintain the pinch for the entire duration of the measurement.
For the subscapular site make sure you have your arm behind your back. Mark the inferior angle of the scapula, measure 2 centimeters below, and make your X.
Relax your arm to the side.
Come in for a diagonal fold, grab in one centimeter above the site, hold for one to two seconds to obtain the reading, and release.
Measure half the distance from the axillary fold to the nipple and mark your spot. Come in with your calipers for a diagonal pinch, obtain your reading, and release.
Grab your left shoulder with your right hand. Obtain the point on the mid-axillary line that is horizontally level with the xiphoid process and mark your spot with an X.
Come in with a vertical pinch, obtain your reading, and release.
For the abdominal site, measure two centimeters to the right of the umbilicus and mark your spot with an X.
Come in with a vertical fold, obtain your reading, and release.
Mark the area that’s right above your hip bone. Come in with a diagonal fold to obtain your reading and release.
For the thigh site, you’re going to measure the distance from the inguinal crease to the proximal border of the patella and mark the halfway spot with an X.
Come in for a vertical fold to obtain your reading and release.
Once you’ve completed all of your measurements go through them a second time in the same order, and then obtain a third measurement if necessary.
Here’s a video for a better understanding:
Steps 2 and 3: The Formulas
Now that you have all these skinfold measurements, it’s time to calculate the body fat percentage. To do this, you’ll have to calculate your body density first, then use it to figure out your body fat percentage.
Please note that there are different formulas for each gender:
- Body Density for males = 1.112 – (0.00043499 * sum of the 7 skinfold measurements) + (0.00000055 * square of the sum of the 7 skinfold measurements) – (0.00028826 * age)
- Body Density for females = 1.097 – (0.00046971 * sum of the 7 skinfold measurements) + (0.00000056 * square of the sum of the 7 skinfold measurements) – (0.00012828 * age)
Body Fat Percentage = (495 / Body Density) – 450
Step 4: ACE Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart
At this step, you already have your body fat percentage calculated. So let’s figure out what it means:
- Essential fat – The minimum fat your body requires for proper functioning (yes, your body must have some fat);
- Athletes – You want to be in this range since it’s the body fat recommended for professional athletes;
- Fitness – This is the range within the fitness-conscious people usually are situated; you also want to fit here;
- Average – You’re not overweight yet, so it’s time to make some lifestyle changes to get healthier;
- Obese – Any BFP above 25% for men and 32% for women is telling you that you’re obese with serious health risks.
Ideally, you’d want your body fat percentage to be anywhere between:
- 6% and 25% for men;
- 14% and 32% for women.
The Easiest Way To Measure BFP At Home
Besides the skinfold calipers measurements, there are many other ways to measure your body fat percentage. And the easiest one that doesn’t require any measurement and formulas is the use of a smart body fat scale.
A body fat scale is less accurate than the skinfold method, but it’s way more simple and less time-consuming. You just step on the scale and you get your numbers. It’s that easy!
If you want to learn how these smart scales measure your body fat percentage, check out this article on Healthline.
So if you’re a regular health-conscious person that needs to measure the body fat percentage at home, a smart scale is perfect for you. But if you’re an athlete, you’d want to use other methods that are more accurate.
Professional Methods To Measure BFP
These are the most accurate methods to measure body fat percentage (most of these can only be found in clinics and medical facilities):
- Hydrostatic Weighing;
- Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA);
- Air Displacement Plethysmography (Bod Pod);
- 3-D Body Scanners;
- Multi-compartment models (the most accurate method).
Also, if you’re looking for a detailed list with 10 different methods to measure BFP, head to this article.
You can simply calculate your body fat percentage at home with the help of an inexpensive and easy-to-use tool: a caliper.
And if you’re looking for an easier and faster way to measure your BFP, you can get yourself a smart scale for about the same price. You’ll only cut a little back on accuracy.
Remember, the percentage of fat you have in your body tells you the level of your overall health. The higher the percentage, the unhealthier you are.