BF% measurement - using skinfold calipers

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    BF% measurement - using skinfold calipers


    I picked up a $15 set of skin calipers from Amazon to measure bodyfat %. I was quite surprised with the results.

    Apparently, you can measure BF using 3 different methods based on skinfold thickness. These methods are named after people who came up with them, but I forget the names

    1. Back of upper arm. This is a one measurement determination of BF%. Also the least accurate. I pinched 3 mm here.

    2. 4 position. Back of Upper Arm, Front of Upper arm, below shoulder blade, side of waist. This method is fine for BF% from 15-30%. Not the most accurate for under 15%.

    3. 3 position Chest, thigh, abdomen. Best method for us lower BF people.

    You total the skinfold meaurements for the 3 positions (for example), and along with your age range, you then read BF% off a chart.

    For me it was Thigh 10.5mm, Chest 7.5 mm, Abdomen 12.5 mm

    I could not believe that this thing had me at 10.9%. Previous measurements with some reasonably fancy optical equipment had me at 15%, when I was in about the same condition as now. I'm thinking I'm finish up another week or so of my gradual cut, then go into clean bulk mode.

    Can anyone share their skin caliper or BF% measurement experiences?

    -Slinger

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    reasonably fancy optical equipment
    what sort of equipment are you talking about? The only things more accurate than calipers in the hands of a professional with experience using them is the bod pod, water tanks, or dexxa scans.

    Note that I make the clarification of "in the hands of a professional with experience" because its really easy to either be hitting the spot off by a bit, the angle wrong, not grabbing enough skin, or squeezing the calipers too hard/fast and get a lower reading than you should get.
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    Skinfold testing is something I do a lot of. They vary hugely depending on the graphs you cross reference to.

    For example, if I do an 11 or 12 point skinfold measurement, I can cross reference it into my laptop which comes up with 6 different body fat percentages depending on whose method it uses (3 point, 4 point etc).

    The body fat measurements can vary, I have put mine in before and have been anything from 6.7% to 15% (no joke). So take it with a pinch of salt.

    Keep one method of measuring and use one graph.

    To give you an idea of how meticulous you can be if I am doing a Biosignature measurement on someone these are the rules;
    - 11 point measurement
    - Same day
    - Same time
    - Same practitioner
    - 3 readings of each site, take an average.

    I recommend Harpenden calipers and not something you have to use manual pressure to assess. Using cheap calipers you can make almost all sites 0.0mm if you press slightly too hard. The harpendens are extremely good but will be around $200 (at a guess of US price).
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    Easy, the last time (and only time) I had BF measured the trainer "surveyed" me quite a bit (height, weight, age, workout frquency, intensity), and used this optical device which they pressed onto my bicep. First they faced it up to the light to measure ambient. I don't think this was a very accurate measurement. No skin was pinched!

    REgarding the skinfold caliper, they are design to put a fixed amount of pressure (psi) on the area under test. I played around with slightly different locations, to check variability in the measurement, but I found that the measurement is repeatable to within +/- 0.5 mm. I did it and my wife did it on me, and we were very close to the same.

    But I can't believe 10.9%. That number seems low, yet I think I have some fat to lose still. But I am tired of this gradual cut, where it took 60 days to loose 5#. But I'm pretty sure that this 5# is all fat, strength and size are equal to or better than when I started the cut.
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    Keep one method of measuring and use one graph
    I believe that's really the best advice, as long as u see a change u have a way to measure progress. I like to keep things simple.

    But if u switch tools and methods and person taking the test, I think you'll get quite frustrated or confused.
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    Quote Originally Posted by baitslinger View Post
    Easy, the last time (and only time) I had BF measured the trainer "surveyed" me quite a bit (height, weight, age, workout frquency, intensity), and used this optical device which they pressed onto my bicep. First they faced it up to the light to measure ambient. I don't think this was a very accurate measurement. No skin was pinched!

    REgarding the skinfold caliper, they are design to put a fixed amount of pressure (psi) on the area under test. I played around with slightly different locations, to check variability in the measurement, but I found that the measurement is repeatable to within +/- 0.5 mm. I did it and my wife did it on me, and we were very close to the same.

    But I can't believe 10.9%. That number seems low, yet I think I have some fat to lose still. But I am tired of this gradual cut, where it took 60 days to loose 5#. But I'm pretty sure that this 5# is all fat, strength and size are equal to or better than when I started the cut.
    yeah, they may as well have just guessed your bodyfat, it would have been as accurate.

    With the calipers I have, I found I could see a 2mm difference either way just in how I used it, angles turned, etc. For real accuracy it will cost you $ but getting a dexxa scan can be done for $100, and if you are near a college with a decent either sports program or medical program they likely have a bodyfat water bath measurement system. Or look here http://www.bodpod.com/clients/locator the bodpod measurement is more like $40-50 if I recall right.

    But in the end, I was anal about it, got the measurements, did the bodpod, was making an appointment for a dexxa scan and then realized I don't give a crap. How I look in the mirror is all that counts, some artificial number as a measurement doesn't mean much. I haven't done any bodyfat measurement in probably a year and a half now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdcc View Post
    Skinfold testing is something I do a lot of. They vary hugely depending on the graphs you cross reference to.

    For example, if I do an 11 or 12 point skinfold measurement, I can cross reference it into my laptop which comes up with 6 different body fat percentages depending on whose method it uses (3 point, 4 point etc).

    The body fat measurements can vary, I have put mine in before and have been anything from 6.7% to 15% (no joke). So take it with a pinch of salt.

    Keep one method of measuring and use one graph.

    To give you an idea of how meticulous you can be if I am doing a Biosignature measurement on someone these are the rules;
    - 11 point measurement
    - Same day
    - Same time
    - Same practitioner
    - 3 readings of each site, take an average.

    I recommend Harpenden calipers and not something you have to use manual pressure to assess. Using cheap calipers you can make almost all sites 0.0mm if you press slightly too hard. The harpendens are extremely good but will be around $200 (at a guess of US price).
    ^ You gotta love this. A bloke from Jolly 'Ole, giving great advice and a knowledgeable reply. Better than the usual NJ "just cut fat, bro"

    Keep one method, and use a graph.

    I can do the 3 position measurements myself (chest, thigh, abs), so at least I would have a relative idea of my progress, or lack thereof.

    I think it would be fun to do the bodpod immersion test, like Easy EJL. What did you come up with for BF% Easy?

    But realistically, I'm not a pro bodybuilder, or even a serious bodybuilder for that matter, so I can't see shelling out 50 clams. I think we all could put that to a better use. Like about 100 T-Bols.
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    Hmm when I did it, I think I came in at 19%. by mirror i'd say i'm around 12% now. But in the end i don't really care what the # is, just want the other women to be jealous of my wife when I take off my shirt by the community pool. And potentially to enter a competition maybe this august, maybe next year. And either way, whatever the % bodyfat is measured to be regardless of how the measurement is done, how I look is the important part.
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    Quote Originally Posted by baitslinger View Post
    ^ You gotta love this. A bloke from Jolly 'Ole, giving great advice and a knowledgeable reply. Better than the usual NJ "just cut fat, bro"
    Keep one method, and use a graph.

    I can do the 3 position measurements myself (chest, thigh, abs), so at least I would have a relative idea of my progress, or lack thereof.

    I think it would be fun to do the bodpod immersion test, like Easy EJL. What did you come up with for BF% Easy?

    But realistically, I'm not a pro bodybuilder, or even a serious bodybuilder for that matter, so I can't see shelling out 50 clams. I think we all could put that to a better use. Like about 100 T-Bols.
    Thank you. As one of the few English people on the board I feel I have to 'represent' even though I am far too white and far too English to get away with saying that. Best of luck, if you have any other questions on it please ask. I usually only post in threads where I feel I have some genuinely helpful things to add.
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    the measurement sites are different for males and females
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    With my calipers, they use the same sites, male, female or otherwise. Different tables for Men and Women, and different BF% numbers based on age also.

    But wait a minute, Jake Fires. If you are 5'11" 165#, what in the world are you doing in the Fat Loss Forum?
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    men and women dont usually accumulate BF in the same regions.

    males are usually upper part of the body and females are lower. usually pear shaped women and apple shape of man.
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    Although the generalisation of body fat storage is true to a degree, the measurement sites are not always different for males and females.

    In the 11 point assessment I do the pec reading is two fingers away from the nipple for a male and two fingers away from the armpit for a female.

    If you are doing the Durnin and Womersley 4 point assessment (bicep, tricep, subscapular and suprailiac) the points are the same on both males and females.

    There are many different formulas (Jackson and Pollock is one I have also used before) hence the huge variation in potential readings and percentage predictions.
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