T Nation

Fat Calipers

I’m thinking about buying a fat caliper to figure out where my bf% is. My question is what models people have used and if they get accurate readings and how accurate (bear in mind things like what time you do it, just gone to the bathroom etc).

If it helps I’m thinking of buying either the FatTrack Gold by Accu-Measure
(digital) or the non-digtial model. Thank You

I have the FatTrack Gold by Accu-Measure non digital verison. With practice, I’ve become pretty consistent at getting the same measurement day after day. Do a search for fat calipers and there are two good articles that describe how to use them. Plus, I use the calculator over at www.exrx.net for the math portion.

Lange makes one of the best models you can buy. They are kind of pricey, but worth it in my opinion.

In regard to accuracy, it depends on what you mean. If you mean getting a truly accurate percent bodyfat from the calipers, then you really need someone else to do the test for you so you can test at 7 sites. Even when conducted by a skilled person, skinfold tests can be off by ~ 3 percent when compared to more accurate methods of body fat testing.
I’m sure you probably knew that but I thought it would be worth repeating for those that might not.

You can get consistent results though with a good pair of calipers and some skilled hands. If you just look at the total millimeters that you pinch from several sites (chest, abs, thigh), you can work on reducing that number. For example, let’s say you do a self test, and pinch 8 millimeters on the chest and thigh, and 15 on the abs, then your total is 31mm. You can then work on reducing this total.

The three things I try to do when conducting a skinfold test are:

  1. Make sure that the person is similarly hydrated from test to test.
  2. Do not do the test after you work out
  3. Make sure no lotion or anything else that may cause the skin to be slippery is present when doing the test.

I have the digital version of the calipers and they are the bomb. With a little practice you can get consistent readings and its really easy to use. Its nice not having to run any numbers as it tells you exactly where you are. They are supposed to be accurate to within 1mm on Lange calipers and I haven’t seen anything to refute this. The ease of use more than makes up for 1mm differences; especially if you get good with them and are getting consisten readings. At that point you are looking at relative measurements which is probably what you want anyway.

Good luck.

I have been using a cheap caliper with a dorky name - Slim Guide, 19.95 at Fitness Wholesale Online. It was recommended as a good value by the late Dan Duchaine in a now-ancient review written for MM2K. I had very little money at the time so I bought this one. It’s worked well for me; the readings are consistent with BF testing by several other methods, so it’s probably pretty accurate. It’s easy to read because it’s big.

The main problem (with ANY caliper, I guess) is reliability over different readings, not because of the caliper but because of how hard it can be to pinch the exact same spot every time. Find a way to mark your sites. My husband has perfectly-located moles. We’ve used magic marker on me.

Also, if your BF is very low, you’ll need different equations/charts than the one that comes with the Slim Guide.