T Nation


I’ve got a set of hand-held calipers, and I’m looking at these things and saying to myself “That’t can’t be right.” As of this morning, they’re listing me at 9%bf, yet my abs are still undefined, and my love handles, while dwindling, are still refusing to disappear. My first assumption is operator error/wishful thinking, but after several tries, I keep getting the same result. Anybody out there have any experience with these things? Is there a general consensus along the lines of “Those things always come in a little low, add 2.5% and you should be right on.”?

I have the exact same problem. My measurements consistently put me at around 10%, sometimes even as low as 7 or 8%, yet I still have love handles, and I can’t see my abs at all. I look at others who list their bodyfat % at 10 or under and they’re way more ripped than I am. I’m not sure if the problem is the measurement sites or the calculation or user error in the measurement. It is quite frustrating as I’m not sure whether to follow a mass diet to build muscle (I weigh about 175) first, and thus increase my ‘engine’ so to speak or a cutting diet to try to get my bf lower so I can see my abs.

what about your other areas of measure? If the rest of the body is lean it could be right. People carry fat in different places.

If you can’t see your abs and still have lovehandles than you probably are not 9%. Review Jason Norcross’s article on bodyfat testing to find the correct way to measure bodyfat.

  1. Relax your muscles
  2. Find the “spot”
  3. Measure exactly 3 inches (7.62cm)
  4. Put your fingers outside this area, perpendicular to the skinfold
  5. Make sure that you use the full length of your fingers to pinch
  6. Now, apply the caliper to the skinfold right above the tips of your fingers
  8. repeat each measurement 3 times

I have the same problem… Mine list me at 8.4%, but I am nowhere near where I think I should look at that level. I still have the lower abdominal party-ball. Maybe it would help to use multiple sites, rather than just the one above the hip??

I’ve used Jason Norcross’ article to do my body composition tests. I use the three site method, and yes, my chest and leg measurements are shrinking to the point that I’m basically pinching skin. I remember that Don Alessi wrote in a column about hormonal makeup and regional adiposity, and Poliquin also made mention of it. It’s just darn frustrating to have the calipers give such a low number, and not be able to see the results in the mirror.

Unfortunately, I can’t say anything that will satisfy what many of you desire.

This is just one of the downfalls with body composition measurement. By switching to a 7 site equation, you’ll have a bit more success, but you’ll still run into the same problems eventually.

Basically, once you get to the point where this is a problem, you’ll have to use digital pictures as your best evaluation tool. To complement these pictures, the skinfold measurements are best used to see the direction you are moving. Instead of converting the skinfold mm total into a %bf, you’ll know you are doing ok if the total number is going down or at least staying the same.

Also, I realize that it is impossible to do the 7 site equation by yourself, so just pick several sites that you can hit by yourself and add them all up to make your total.

Easy sites most people can get on themselves include:

supra iliac

Remember to think outside the box and make the tool work best for your needs - don’t conform to the random parameters a few researchers have set up for calculating %bf.

Screw the calipers! The mirror is your true reflection. Calipers have always been “off” to some degree no matter how one uses them (not a big fan of them).
If your still carrying unwanted body fat, then you need to make some changes to get down to what for you is an acceptable level of bf.

Good luck!

I dont understand why you cant get someone else to do it for you?
there seem to be alot of people that do their own on this board, and i cant see how acurate that can be.
For starters it would be hard to stay in anatomical position, and then get an accurate pinch site
it would be impossible to do some sites for obvious reasons.
Just get a training partner to help you out… they do you and you reciprocate. thats what friends are for! :slight_smile:
also one site guestimates are always going to give average estimates at a true BF%. at least 5 site (with appropriate formula) should really be done
Yeah thats the other thing… what formula are you using. is it based on a population that you fit in to?
no point using a formula that was done on elite female basketballers if you are a male sumo wrestler…

When I was doing my practicum in university (and we testing a shitload of poeple) we found that the method givingresults closest to hydrostatic weighing was the Jackson/Pollack 7 site protocol. Check it out… pretty impossible to do solo though

What i normally do is take 8 sites and from that i use two-three equations that calculate a body density (so have 3 BD scores) then do 2-3 equations from these (giving 4-9 results depending on male/female etc)
Take an average from these (excluding outlers first if nessecary) I have it as an excell spread sheet to make life easier, and its on my palm pilot so i just put in skin fold values and the BF%, BMI, FM, FFM etc estimates all get spat out. quite nice really.

so here is my question. I used one of those hand-held electronic body-fat measuring devices, and it measured me at 16%. the body fat chart on the wall at my gym says that is low to moderate body fat for a woman. I have hardly any muscle definition at all. I think that my percentage should be much higher than that. I don’t know though. I mean Patricia’s profile says that she has 30% body fat - at least I’m pretty sure that it does, and I can’t see how she would have more body fat than me. We are also close in height. She weighs a lot more than me, but she is probably ten times as strong as me, so that explains that.

Patricia’s numbers are just a joke. Don’t take it to heart.

It’s quite possible that you could be at that bf% with little muscle mass. Just focus on the trend of losing fat and gaining muscle, and you’ll never go wrong regardless of the numbers.

My suggestion is to get someonelse to so the bodyfat when it comes to calipers too many things can go wrong when you are self admistrating the calipers. Also, the person that does the bf for you the first time should also be the one that does the second time and so on and so forth. I would also reccomend to have the person do the bf a couple of times on you just so that he or she is doing it right. And don’t use the first couple times as a measurement.

Hope this helps

In Health,

Silas C.

Ok, im putting it on the line here,
I dont think Trish is 30%
the recent photos doing the strong woman stuff she looks mid teens to me (hard to say as she has clothes on!)
I doubt Trish has ever been 30%, she too much of an animal
My advice is go find some undergrad studying sport sci/kines at the local uni and ask them to do it (cause they will be cheap) or find someone who can do it Reliability/Validity

~Straight out of ACSM~

Normal Body Fat
Men and women carry fat in different places on their body. Men retain the greatest level of body fat in their abdominal area. Women retain the greatest level of body fat in their hips and thighs. The recommended body fat levels for men and women according to the American College of Sports Medicine are as follows:
Recommended Body Fat Levels:
Low: 6-10% fat
Optimal: 11-17% fat
Moderate: 18-20% fat
Obesity: Greater than 25% fat
Low: 14-18% fat
Optimal: 19-22% fat
Moderate: 23-30% fat
Obesity: Greater than 30% fat
It’s considered unhealthy for men to have a body fat percentage below 3 percent and women to have a body fat percentage below 11 percent. A body fat percentage of over 20 percent for men and over 30 percent for women is also considered unhealthy.

~so there you go, this doesnt mean anything lower is impossible, just demed unhealthy for prolong periods~
hope this helps