T Nation

Visual Estimation of Body Fat


Does anyone know any web sites with photos for comparison of different body fat percentages?


From another thread on this site...

  1. Full House = No visible muscle definition. Bodyfat level = over 20%.

  2. Hard = Some muscle separation appears between delts and upper arm. Abs are still not visible. Approx. bodyfat level = 15-19%

  3. Cut = More muscle separation appears particularly in the chest and back, outline of the abs begins to appear slightly. Approx. bodyfat level = 12-14%

  4. Defined = Muscle separations get deeper in the arms, chest, legs and back, and abs appear when flexed. Approx. bodyfat level = 10-12%

  5. Ripped = Abs are clearly visible all the time, vascularity in arms is prominent, chest and back separation is obvious, and face is starting to appear more angular. Condition can be held indefinitely. Approximate bodyfat level = 7-9%

  6. Shredded = Striations appear in large muscle groups when they are flexed. Vascularity appears in lower abdomen and in the legs. Condition can be held for several days with careful dieting. Approximate bodyfat level = 5-7%

  7. Sliced = Muscles and tendons begin to appear in the face when chewing, striations appear everywhere and vascularity appears everywhere. Bodyfat levels are close to 3% and subcutaneous water levels are near 0. Condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. Not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water level.


Here is a site. There is a new method of estimating bodyfat with a shoe for reference.



I dunno, try one of those Super Mega Mass commercials from the early 90's. this is me before....(slouch a bit push yer gut out and frown)

this is me now....(shoulders back, suck in, grin).

Seriously, there are general guidelines but unless its on the same person and their skin tone and muscle mass remains the same, i.e. they did'nt suddenly get tanned up and bulk without their bodyfat changing its difficult.


It also isn't constant between all people. There are some people who can still see every ab muscle at 15% body fat. there are others who can't. You can guess and possibly come pretty close, but that should probably be left to those who have actually taken many body fat percentages of many different people.

More important than anything is the fact that it largely does not matter. It would be utterly stupid for a thin guy to start dieting just because his body fat came back with a high reading even though he doesn't look it. Underwater weighing may be one of the most accurate methods, however.


X, do you reckon Clarence Bass was really 2.4% ? Similar to what you are saying, when I've seen people being underwater weighed in the water tank at a local University, I always think they will come out lower than they do. Basically because I was used to seeing people in MM2k years ago who were allegedly 5 and 6% fat who obviously were not !


Thanks for the replies. This is mostly a matter of curiosity. (The thought actually occurred to me while browsing the "shoe method" thread.) I'm interested to see what different BF percentages actually look like, and how much variation there is among different individuals at similar body compositions. It seems like I once saw a site that compared shots of one individual at different body compositions over the course of his training program, but I don't remember the site.

I've used neck/waist/height measurements, wrist/waist/height measurements, and the above-referenced visual method, all of which put me around 12-14 percent. My goals don't relate specifically to body fat, so I've never spent taken the time to dunk myself in a water tank for an accurate measurement. I agree that the actual number doesn't really matter; that doesn't mean I'm not curious. (I'm not a competitive power lifter either, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally testing my 1RMs in the power lifts.)


The only people who I honestly think come anywhere close to a true 2% reading might be a few people in pro bodybuilding on contest day. Andreas Munzer may have been close to that...and he died.