Body Fat Calculator and Complete Body Fat Caliper Guide

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1 to 4 Point Caliper Tests

This section contains the following 4 calculators:

  • 1 point – Behnke & Wilmore
  • 2 point – Sloan
  • 3 point – Jackson & Pollack
  • 4 point – Durnin & Womersley

Behnke Wilmore

Behnke & Wilmore 1pt Body Fat Calculator


Sloan

Sloan 2pt Body Fat Calculator


Jackson & Pollack

Jackson & Pollack 3pt Body Fat Calculator


Durnin & Womersley

Durnin & Womersley 4pt Body Fat Calculator



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4 to 9 Point Caliper Tests

This section contains the following 4 calculators:

  • 4 point – Jackson & Pollack
  • 6 point – Yuhasz
  • 7 point – Jackson & Pollack
  • 9 point – Parillo

Jackson & Pollack

Jackson & Pollack 4pt Body Fat Calculator


Yuhasz

Yuhasz 6pt Body Fat Calculator


Jackson & Pollack

Jackson & Pollack 7pt Body Fat Calculator


Parillo

Parillo 9pt Body Fat Calculator


Are you tired of looking the same year in and year out? Have you been dieting or bulking for months on end only to be unhappy with the result?

Most of us use the scale and mirror to indicate progress. Both of these tools can be powerful and effective when employed correctly, but often times we forget about the other available fitness measurement tools.

The goal of this article is to provide you with a comprehensive guide on one of the most helpful fitness tools out there – the body fat caliper. Body fat calipers are a safe, portable, convenient, and cost-effective way to determine how much of your body is comprised of fat mass versus lean mass.

They can help to ensure you’re not gaining too much fat during a mass gain phase and to ensure maximize you fat loss during a fat loss phase. Body fat caliper utilize skinfold measurements which can then be plugged in to numerous formulas you provide you with an output of the percentage value that your body is made up of fat mass.

AccuFitness Accu-Measure Fitness 3000Tiger Fitness sells two body fat caliper products. The AccuFitness Accu-Measure Fitness 3000 Caliper is the golden standard for manual calipers. The AccuFitness FatTrack Gold Premium is a bundle pack which includes a digital caliper and AccuFitness MyoTape.

The digital caliper offers a numerical output for the user which increases the precision and accuracy of a skinfold measurement. The AccuFitness MyoTape doesn’t measure skinfolds but rather the circumference of body parts like the wrist, neck, and waist.

The MyoTape is an excellent tool to track the progress of body parts such as the waist, arms, and thighs.

How to Use Body Fat Calipers

To maximize the accuracy of body fat calipers, it’s important to take measurements under the same conditions every time. This means you should take the measurement no more than once per week, on the same day, immediately upon waking, after bowel movements, and on an empty stomach.

As the number of sites measured and used in the body fat calculation formula increases, the output value increases in both accuracy and precision. For example, a formula using a 7-site skinfold measurement is going to provide a more reliable body fat percentage than one utilizing a 3-site skinfold measurement.

The table below shows 8 popular skinfold-based body fat caliper approaches ordered from the most to least number of measurement sites: [1][2][3][4]

Common Skinfold Body fat Caliper Tests
Source # of Sites Site Locations
Parrillo  9  Male & Female – chest, abdominal, thigh, bicep, tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, lower back, calf
Jackson/Pollack  7  Male & Female – chest, abdominal, thigh, tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, midaxillary
Yuhasz  6  Male Variation 1 – tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal, thigh, calf
Male Variation 2 – chest, tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal, thigh
Female – tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal, thigh, calf
Jackson/Pollack  4  Male & Female – abdominal, thigh, tricep, suprailiac
Durnin/Womersley  4  Male & Female – bicep, tricep, subscapular, suprailiac
Jackson/Pollack  3  Male -chest, abdominal, thigh
Female – tricep, suprailiac, thigh
Sloan  2  Male – thigh and subscapular
Female – suprailiac and tricep
Behnke/Wilmore  1  Male & Female – abdominal

Battle Ropes

For manual calipers the margin of error averages 7.5% in women and 8.6% in men. [10] This value decreases if you use a digital rather than a manual caliper.

Now that we’re armed with a number of body fat caliper approaches, let’s examine where each of these skinfold measurements are located. The table below shows skinfold measurement location based on gender. With the exception of the chest skinfold all measurement locations are identical for males and females: [5][6]

Common Skinfold Body fat Caliper Tests
Location Name Locations on Males Locations on Females
Chest  Diagonal fold, midway between upper armpit and nipple  Diagonal fold, one third of the way between upper armpit and nipple
Abdominal  Vertical fold, one inch to the right of navel  Vertical fold, one inch to the right of navel
Thigh  Vertical fold, midway between knee cap and top of thigh  Vertical fold, midway between knee cap and top of thigh
Tricep  Vertical fold, midway between elbow and shoulder  Vertical fold, midway between elbow and shoulder
Suprailiac  Diagonal fold, directly above iliac crest  Diagonal fold, directly above iliac crest
Subscapular  Diagonal fold, directly below shoulder blade  Diagonal fold, directly below shoulder blade
Midaxillary  Horizontal fold, directly below armpit  Horizontal fold, directly below armpit
Bicep  Vertical fold, halfway between shoulder and elbow, directly on bicep  Vertical fold, halfway between shoulder and elbow, directly on bicep
Lower Back  Horizontal fold, directly over the kidneys, and 2 inches to the right of spine  Horizontal fold, directly over the kidneys, and 2 inches to the right of spine
Calf  Vertical fold, inside of leg on largest part of calf  Vertical fold, inside of leg on largest part of calf

Once you’ve gotten the skinfold measurements it’s time to calculate your body fat percentage. This article provides an excellent body fat percentage calculator where you simply enter your skinfold measurements and the calculator does the rest. If you’re interested in learning more about how these numbers are derived then you’re going to need your calculator. Many of these formulas first require you to calculate bone density and then calculate body fat percentage.

Jackson & Pollack provide 3 different formulas to calculate bone density:

  • 7-site (Male & Female): Bone Density = 0.11200000 – 0.00043499(Y) + 0.00000055(Y^2) – 0.00028826 (Age in Years) where Y = the sum of chest, axilla, triceps, subscapular, abdomen, suprailium, and thigh skinfolds in millimeters. [2]
  • 3-site (Female): Bone Density = 1.0994921 – 0.0009929(Z) + 0.0000023(Z^2) – 0.0001392(Age in Years) where Z = sum of triceps, suprailiac, and thigh skinfold measurements. [7]
  • 3-site (Male): Bone Density = 1.1093800 – 0.0008267(X) + 0.0000016(X^2) – 0.0002574(Age in Years) where X = sum of chest, abdominal, and thigh skinfold measurements. [8]

Medicine Ball Crunches
Durnin & Womersley provide a 4-site formula which calculates bone density based on age and gender where X is equal to the sum of the skinfolds in millimeters: [8]

Durnin & Womersley
Age in Years Males Females
Less than 17  1.1533 – (0.0643)(logX)  1.1369 – (0.0598)(logX)
17 to 19  1.1620 – (0.0630)(logX)  1.1549 – (0.0678)(logX)
20 to 29  1.1631 – (0.0632)(logX)  1.1599 – (0.0717)(logX)
30 to 39  1.1422 – (0.0544)(logX)  1.1423 – (0.0632)(logX)
40 to 49  1.1620 – (0.0700)(logX)  1.1333 – (0.0612)(logX)
Greater than 50  1.1715 – (0.0779)(logX)  – (0.0645)(logX)

Sloan also provides a 2-site formula to calculate bone density where the skinfold location is based on gender: [4]

  • (Male): Bone Density = 1.1043 – (0.001327)(B) – (0.00131)(C) where B = thigh skinfold and C= subscapular skinfold in millimeters
  • (Female): Bone Density = 1.0764 – (0.0008)(X) – (0.00088)(Y) where X = iliac crest skinfold and Y= tricep skinfold in millimeters

Once you’ve calculated bone density you can use either the Siri or Brozek formula to calculate body fat percentage: [7]

  • Siri – Body Fat % = [(495 / Body Density) -450](100)
  • Brozek – Body Fat % = [(4.570 / Body Density) – 4.142](100)

If you’d rather not use two formulas to calculate body fat percentage, there are a number of ways that only require one formula:

  • Parrillo 9-site (Male & Female): Body Fat % = [A x 27]/Bodyweight in pounds where A = sum of chest, abdominal, thigh, bicep, tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, lower back, and calf skinfolds in millimeters. [9]
  • Behnke and Wilmore (Male & Female): Body Fat % = Total weight – lean body weight where lean body weight = 10.26 + 0.7927(body weight in kilograms) – 0.3676(abdominal skinfold in millimeters). [2]
  • Yuhasz 2-site (Male Variation 1): Body Fat % = (0.1051)(W) + 2.585 where W= tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal, thigh and calf skinfolds in millimeters. [3]
  • Yuhasz 2-site (Male Variation 2): Body Fat % = (0.097)(Q) + 3.64 where Q = chest, tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal, and thigh skinfolds in millimeters. [3]
  • Yuhasz 2-site (Female): (0.1548)(T) + 3.580 where T = tricep, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal, thigh, and calf skinfolds in millimeters. [3]

Bicep Curls

To maximize the accuracy of body fat calipers, it’s important to take measurements under the same conditions every time.

Limitations of Body Fat Calipers

Body fat calipers are an exceptional fitness tool but they do have limitations. The most prominent limitation is the relatively high margin of error compared to more expensive analysis tools such as hydrostatic weighing and DEXA scans.

The margin of error indicates the accuracy of the measuring tool and is typically expressed as a percentage value. This margin of error indicates that the actual value may be X% higher or lower than the tool’s output.

For manual calipers the margin of error averages 7.5% in women and 8.6% in men. [10] This value decreases if you use a digital rather than a manual caliper. For digital calipers margin of error is about 4.9% in women and 6.4% in men. [10] It’s important to have a fitness professional who has performed hundreds if not thousands of these skinfold measurements to minimize human error and inaccurate results.

The second most prominent limitation is that body fat calipers cannot differentiate between the different forms of and distribution of lean mass such as muscle mass and bone mass. More expensive analysis tools like DEXA scans can provide regional breakdowns of fat mass, muscle mass, and bone mass.

Body fat calipers cannot differentiate between white and brown fat. White fat is the undesirable fat we have on our body that is specialized for storing energy. When you consume an excess of calories without the proper nutrition and exercise protocol, these calories are stored as white fat in common places such as the abdominals, hips, thighs, and butt.

Brown fat, the lesser evil of the two fat stores, are typically found in the shoulders and neck, expend energy in the form of heat, contain a high concentration of mitochondria, and are specialized for energy expenditure and thermogenesis. [11] [12] Unlike white fat, it may actually decrease the negative effects typically found in obese people such as high blood sugar and low insulin sensitivity. [11]

Body fat calipers also cannot differentiate between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is easy to identify and typically easier to lose because it’s the fat found directly beneath skin. Visceral fat on the other hand is hardier to identify and lose because it’s the fat deep within the body, around the abdominal cavity and inside intraabdominal solid organs. [13] Those who are skinny and sedentary may have a low amount of subcutaneous fat but a surprisingly high amount of visceral fat.

Now that we’ve discussed the methods, formulas, and limitations of body fat calipers, you have all the tools needed to calculate your body fat percentage using body fat calipers. If your progress has been stalling or if you’re looking to reach your fitness goals more quickly, pick up a body fat caliper.

References

1) Jason, and Tracey. “Body Fat Calculator.” Linear Software. N.p., 2015.
2) “A Comparison of Skinfold and Circumference Methods in Predicting Body Composition in Weight Trained Subjects.” ExRx (Exercise Prescription) on the Internet. N.p., 2015.
3) Yuhasz, M.S.: Physical Fitness Manual, London Ontario,University of Western Ontario, (1974)
4) Robert, Wood. “Bone Density Equations: Sloan.” Top End Sports. Top End Sports Network, 2015.
5) Jason, and Tracey. “Male Caliper Sites.” Body Tracker by Linear Software. N.p., 2015.
6) Jason, and Tracey. “Female Caliper Sites.” Body Tracker by Linear Software. N.p., 2015.
7) “Body Composition: Skin-Fold Measurements.” San Diego State University, 2015.
8) Durnin, J.V.G.A. and Womersley, J. (1974). Body fat assessed from the total body density and its estimation from skinfold thickness: measurements on 481 men and women aged from 16 to 72 years. British Journal of Nutrition, 32, 77-97.
9) J. Parrillo, Greenwood-Robinson. “High-performance bodybuilding” Berkeley Publishing group, New York,169-172, 1993.
10) Beam, JR, and DJ Szymanski. “Validity of 2 Skinfold Calipers in Estimating Percent Body Fat of College-aged Men and Women.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Strength Cond. Res., Dec. 2010.
11) Kahn, C. Ronald, Yu-Hua Tseng, and Aaron Cypress. “Turning Up the Heat on Brown Fat.” Joslin Diabetes Center. N.p., 2015.
12) Townsend, Kristy, and Yu-Hua Tseng. “Brown Adipose Tissue: Recent Insights into Development, Metabolic Function and Therapeutic Potential.” Adipocyte 1.1 (2012): 13–24. PMC.
13) Hamdy, O., S. Porramatikul, and E. Al-Ozairi. “Metabolic Obesity: the Paradox Between Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Curr Diabetes Rev, Nov. 2006.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.