Skinfold Body Fat Measurement Test: Percent Body Fat Calculator

The skinfold measurement test is one of the oldest and still most common methods of determining a person's body composition and body fat percentage. This test estimates the percentage of body fat by measuring skinfold thickness at specific locations on the body.

The thickness of these folds is a measure of the fat under the skin, also called subcutaneous adipose tissue. Skinfold thickness results rely on formulas that convert these numbers into an estimate of a person's percentage of body fat according to a person's age and gender.

Skinfold Body Fat Measurement Test:

How to Take Skinfold Measurements

Skinfold measurements are generally taken at specific sites on the right side of the body. The tester pinches the skin at the location site and pulls the fold of skin away from the underlying muscle so only the skin and fat tissue are being held. Special skinfold calipers are then used to measure the skinfold thickness in millimeters. Two measurements are recorded and averaged.

The measurement sites vary depending upon the specific skinfold testing protocol being used, but typically include the following seven locations on the body:

  • Abdomen: Next to the belly button
  • Midaxilla: Midline of the side of the torso
  • Pectoral: The mid-chest, just forward of the armpit
  • Quadriceps: Middle of the upper thigh
  • Subscapular: Beneath the edge of the shoulder blade
  • Suprailiac: Just above the iliac crest of the hip bone
  • Triceps: The back of the upper arm

Calculating Body Fat Percentage

Once you have taken skinfold measurements, you'll need to convert these numbers into a percent of body fat. The easiest way to calculate the percent of body fat is to use a software program. There are as many different formulas and calculations as there are ways to measure skinfold thickness, but some that have held up over time include those published by Jackson and Pollock.

Skinfold Measurement Accuracy

The accuracy of these tests may depend on the type of calipers being used, the competence of the tester, and a person's level of hydration at the time of the test. Since using the calipers can be difficult, skinfold measurements may not be the best choice for assessing fat percentages, especially if you're trying to do it yourself.

However, even if the accuracy is somewhat off​ if you have the test done by the same tester under similar conditions, you may find the test a useful way to determine body composition change over time.

With other technologies available, skinfold testing is becoming somewhat of an ancient art-form. Most personal trainers today use electrical impedance methods and scales that measure body composition instead of directly measuring skinfolds.

Conclusion

No matter the method you use, it's important to keep in mind that weight fluctuates constantly and most body composition tests should be used as a general reference point and are best when averaged over a given timeframe.

Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Dr. Rohit Bhaskar, Physio is Founder of Bhaskar Health and Physiotherapy and is also a consulting physiotherapist. He completed his Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. His clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab. Bhaskar Health is dedicated to readers, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Bhaskar Health audience is the reason I feel so passionate about this project, so thanks for reading and sharing Bhaskar Health.

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