T Nation

Female Bodyfat Percentages

I’m working with wife on setting some long-term goals. I’m having a hard time visualizing how various female body percentage appear. She has a good idea of the leanest and muscularity she would like to achieve, but we’d like to set objective measures.

Can someone help clarify the corresponding values:

bodybuilder (contest shape)
male 3-5% … female ?

fitness model
male 5-7% … female ?

in good shape
male 9-11% … female ?

This information will help us set the appropriate goal.


Elite female sprinter 15-18%. You start to see striations below 20%. Below 15% for a female involves A LOT
of hard work.

The 5 women I work with averaged out at 41%. Average age 52. Really sad.
Sit all day and eat crap. Go home sit some more and eat more crap.


I don’t know how accurate those ranges you provided are. I have several high school and college female volleyball players and all are below 15% with no visible striations, just very lean. I think the standard range is 25% + above is overweight, 18-24% is healthy, 12-18% is lean, and below 12% you’re doing something competitive where performance comes before health. I would assume that female sprinters were well below 15% but you can’t quote me on that. I’ve heard that below 12% you start to deal with hormonal imbalance and things like having the woman go post-menopausal, etc. but I’ve never seen any literature on it.

I’ve read that Victoria Secret models are 18-20%.

According to data published by the NSCA, here are some ranges for BF% for athletes.

Extremely lean
males <7%
females <15%

Very lean
males 8-10%
females 16-18%

Leaner than average
males 11-13%
females 19-20%

males 14-17%
females 21-25%

Fatter than average
males 18-22%
females 26-30%

The ACSM has the following data for normal (non-athletes).

Minimal fat
men 5%
women 8%

Below average
men 5-15%
women 14-23%

Above average
men 16-25%
women 24-32%

At risk (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension)
men >25%
women >32%

There is generally a 1-3% error with BF measurements, so take individual readings with a grain of salt.

From CT’s Black Book of Training Secrets

Ripped 3-5% m; 9-11% f
Defined 6-8; 12-15
Lean 9-11; 16-21
Avg. 12-15; 22-25
Soft 16-18; 22-28
Overfat 19-23; 29-35
Obese 24+; 35+

Thanks for everyone’s input. I wonder why this info is so inconsistent. I checked on the net and found similar data. Could the problem be that some woman that appear to be in great shape actually have high body fat percentages? If the Victoria Secret models are around 18%, this would put them in the “fatter than average” category. At first this obliviously seem contradictory. But maybe they are thin and still have very little lean mass?

Anyway, I think we will set her goal at around 14-15%. Hopefully at this level she will feel similar to the way I do when I’m at 7-8%.

You are getting males and females mixed up there, brother.

[quote]sam747 wrote:
You are getting males and females mixed up there, brother.[/quote]

I’m think I got it correct. Female 15% is about the same as male 8%. Am I missing something?

I meant on 18% for a female being fatter than avg.

I ran 110-112 pounds and I’m 5’8". I would have my body fat measured occasionally and it ranged between 12%-17%. I never worked for VS.

[quote]sam747 wrote:
I meant on 18% for a female being fatter than avg.[/quote]

Your right. 18% would be “lean”, but one would think that those woman were in the lower range of “defined”. I guess the point I was trying to make is that it seems more difficult to gage the body fat percentage of females. Thanks again for the chart.