T Nation

Bodyfat caliper testing, What's the correct technique?

I’d like to know if someone could help me finding the best formulas to use while testing bf with a caliper and every useful info(best time of the day,spots,technique…)
I’d like to know also if you have to stay relaxed or you have to be tight when measuring in order to avoid that muscle is pinched along with fat.
Thank you
Chris

It depends on a few things. If you are doing the measurements yourself, you can use the male 3 site equation. If you have a partner, you can use the 7 site equation. In order to get the skinfold, I flex the muscle under the fold to clearly seperate muscle and fat and then simultaneously grab the skinfold and relax the muscle. Measure the fold about 1/4-1/2 inch under your finger halfway between the crest of the fold and the base. Measure each site at least 3 times and more often if you get a lot of variation. Also, don’t measure one spot 3 times in a row. Go from chest to ab to leg to chest to ab to leg, etc. Go to this site www.enforcergraphics.f2s.com/bodyfat.htm and you will be able to see where to measure and it will also calculate your percent body fat. Please feel free to ask for more clarification if needed.

I was once calipered at a franchise fitness center. The clinician arched her fingers and held them tightly together, arched her thumb as well, and then dug deeply into my abs, grabbing as much “fat” as she could. I asked, “Aren’t you digging a little too deep to get an accurate reading?” She responded, “Don’t worry, there’s only one layer of fat. It doesn’t matter how hard I grab.” But I was skeptical, thinking it should be done with a thumb and forefinger only. Jason, are we really supposed to use our whole hand to grab an ab reading?

I use my thumb and 2 forefingers to get a good pinch. I just don’t see any practical reason to use the whole hand. Also if you grab too hard, there is the possibility of getting some muscle in the pinch (really common with women and their tricep skinfold) although unlikely in most cases for any male or female with a reasonable body fat percentage. Also, I assume that she was measuring next to her thumb and forefinger in which case, the extra fat she was grabbing with her last two fingers was doing nothing to help the reading but was contributing to your discomfort.

If your response was any faster, we’d have a chat room! Many thanks. I’m sorry if I’m asking something you’ve already answered, but do you recommend a certain brand of caliper? I was looking at one recently. It had a little thumb mechanism that clicked in place after so much resistance. Now, maybe I misread the chart at the back of their book, but it seemed like the two lowest readings for my age group (40’s) were 13% and 6%. It was bizarre – like a scale that only has 150 or 200 and nothing in between. I left confused and reluctant to do any more caliper shopping (and my caliper readings have never agreed with my hydrostatic readings, as we’ve discussed, so I’m already skeptical). In any case, could you recommend a brand of caliper and where to get it? I appreciate your contributions to the forum.

I like the Accu-measure because it is inexpensive and the clicking mechanism makes sure that you apply the same pressure each time. The website in my first reply has a link to a site where you can buy this caliper or you can pick them up at GNC or some fitness retailers. Just chuck the bodyfat guide based on the one site (suprailium). One site is not enough at all. You need at least 3 and the more the better. Other calipers can work, I just don’t have experience with most of the home models. I’ve used all of the research grade models. They are nice, but not worth the investment for personal use. Stick with the Accu-measure. Good Luck.

Thanks again. That site you recommended is extremely helpful. The Lyle MacDonald link was 404, but I think I can figure it out. And I do feel better about purchasing the Accu-measure if I don’t have to use the guide.