T Nation

Difference between Caliper and Tanita

I have a Tanita scale that measures my bodyfat at 8.5% and when I do the 3-site caliper test, I get a reading of 3.75%. Does anyone know why this is? I read the last article in t-mag, so I think I’m doing it right, but I know I’m not at 4% right now, but then again, calipers tend to be more accurate, right? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

Brent: The Tanita requires consistency, and something must be wrong with how you are measuring with your calipers. (“Essential” fat is roughly about 3% of bodyweight, and the average “ripped” bodybuilder on contest day can maybe push it to 5-6% (and only briefly).


Make sure and check out the articles by Jason Norcross in the past two editions of the “Testosterone” Online mag: “Body Comp For Beginners”. (DOH!!! You said you did that already…I would still double check you technique…)

The techniques both rely on different assumptions, so I would not expect them to be identical. What kind of calipers are you using? As for the 3 site caliper method, you may be pinching too hard or you may need to take into account more sites. See if you can have a friend use the 7 site technique on you. Then post the numbers and I can see if I can help you out. If you have specific questions and want to share numbers that may be difficult to post on the forum, do not hesitate to send me an email.

Jason, thanks for the help. I’m using the Accu-measure calipers right now. I’m stopping it right when it “clicks”, and then looking at the reading. The readings I get are as follows :chest: 4mm, 3mm, 4mm :abs: 6mm, 6mm, 8mm :leg: 5mm, 6mm, 4mm. Do you think that I just carry less fat in these areas?

You may carry less fat there. That would be guess number 1. But you are obviously very lean, so adding more sights may not help reconcile the difference. I would just expect to see a difference in the two techniques and use them interchangeably to see if they track the same.

Also, I have noticed that the Accu-measure calipers are great for most people, but they are less reliable at very low skinfold numbers. I might suggest you invest in a spring loaded model. I think they work a bit better in lean individuals.

Other than that, it sounds like you are doing things correctly. You can find calibration blocks available at some online fitness stores. These blocks provide a reference for what 5,10,15 mm measurement are and you could see if your calipers are correctly measuring.

Frankly, the Tanita scales suck if you weigh more than average. I have stepped on them at no more than 15% body fat and had them read that I was 35%…then 28%…then 20%…then 38% all in the course of 10 min. I personally feel as if they have a problem with the current’s interaction with body water, seeing as muscle tissue is about 75% water to begin with. I don’t see why you are obsessed about the number anyway. It doesn’t matter if you were 18%. Different people carry fat in different places and the number can look very different on different people. The scales are used to give you a reference point and as long as that scale doesn’t change, you simply use it to monitor progress. Most regular weight scales differ slightly in their reading as well.

Ultimately, the mirror is the best indicator of where you’re at. The measuring devices are good for tracking week to week progress on cutting cycles and to track where you’re at on bulking cycles, but they’re just numbers. The important thing is to use and apply a consistent measuring method so that the numbers are meaningful but the mirror will ultimately tell you where you are.

Thank you Heb. I wish everyone on this board would stop getting so caught up with measuring bodyfat. The mirror or weekly photos is the best way in my opinion.