How to Measure Body Fat

One of the most important tools you need to know in measuring progress and tracking changes in your body is how to measure body fat. More often than not most people are gauging their progress based on what the bathroom scale reads, but getting fixated on what the scale says is not necessarily the right thing to do. When you start a rigorous workout program like P90X or Insanity, then two things will be happening simultaneously – you will be losing body fat and gaining muscle mass. Your fluid balance and hydration levels will also change as our muscles get sore and as you change our diets and sodium intake.  All these factors are part of an equation that is larger than just what the scale says in pounds.

So I strongly encourage you all to start monitoring your body fat percentage.  It really is quite easy, and once you get used to doing it, it only takes a few seconds to take your measurements and you get a much more accurate idea of how you are progressing with your transformation and body composition.


Methods of Measuring Body Fat – How to Measure Body Fat

There are several methods of measuring you body fat available. Some people go with a scale that measures it for them. This works by standing on the scale while it sends a pulse through your lower body and measures the amount of resistance in the current. To calculate your body fat percentage, the scale uses a standard formula that is calculated based on your age, height, and build to GUESSTIMATE your body fat. I personally do not like a body fat scale as an accurate method to measure your body fat. There are many factors that are not taken into account with their formulas, like the amount of muscle mass you have, your muscle distribution, your fitness level, etc.  They also can give erroneous readings depending on if your feet are dry or damp and can even get thrown off by clothing (even just your underwear).  As an example, I can step on one of these scales one time and get a reading of 11%, then step off and step right back on and get a reading of 8.5%. These scales just arent consistent or accurate. I do not recommend these when you start to consider how to measure body fat.


So Whats the Best Way to Measure Body Fat? – How to Measure Body Fat

The best way to measure body fat, and the method that I highly recommend is most definitely the use of body fat calipers. There are tons of options when it comes to choosing body fat calipers, but essentially they all do the same thing. Its just a matter of preference if you want digital or standard. They all work just fine! Once you choose a set of body fat calipers, all you need to do is plug your measurements into a calculation method to see what your body fat percentage is – that is after you learn how to measure body fat.


Whats a Good Body Fat Calculator?

There is an awesome body fat calculator on that shows individual calculation methods for both men and women along with multiple methods on how to measure body fat. You will want to try the different methods and determine which of them you find the most predictable and the easiest method to repeat. The first time you measure your body fat, its a good idea to do so using multiple methods to get an idea if whether or not you are doing it correctly. If you are, you should be getting very similar measurements and body fat composition results from each method.

Once you get used to measuring your body fat with the caliper method, you can be confident that your changes in body fat are very accurate each time you measure.  While user error may lead to a slight variation in the body fat reading, any changes will be very precise (as long as you measure the same way each time).  For example, if you measure 12% body fat, you can assume that you are anywhere from 11% to 13% depending on user error.  But if the next time you measure, you measure 11.5%, you know for certain that you lost .5% body fat (even though you still could be in a range from 10.5% to 12.5% of actual body fat depending on user error).


What Body Fat Composition Method do I Use? – How to Measure Body Fat

I personally prefer the Jackson/Pollack 3 site method. Its super easy and super quick to get an accurate measurement. The three sites where measurement are taken are on the chest (diagonal fold, midway between upper armpit and nipple), abdomen (Vertical fold, one inch to the right of navel), and thigh (vertical fold, midway between knee cap and top of thigh). One thing I like about this method is that I can do it by myself; I dont need an assistant. Although I doubt my wife would mind pinching me all over, lol (TMI???). I also like to take my measurements right when I wake up, before I have had anything to eat or drink, or have even exercised. This is the most reliable way to obtain consistency in your body fat measurements (the least amount of variables).

So now that you know “how to measure body fat”, you can take what the scale says with a grain of salt. You really shouldnt care whether or not the scale is going down each day you step on it. What should be your concern is your body fat percentage. You want to build muscle (which weighs more than fat)! This is what makes you more fit, more healthy, less susceptible to injury, and enables you to burn more calories each day. So many people go on these crash diets and HCG drops that just about kill them, just to see the numbers on the scale go down. That isnt healthy!!! This is really just setting them up for failure. They lose their muscle mass that allows them to burn more calories and when they get off track, they gain all that weight back and then some in most cases.


So What Do I Do Now?

Go get some calipers right now from your local sporting goods store or off the internet. Choose a measurement method that you are comfortable with and start monitoring your body fat percentage every week or two weeks. Write down those measurements to keep track so that you can measure your progress. I started out P90X at 27% body fat and dropped down to around 8% in 180 days. I then gained some weight during my bulking phase and went to 10%. Currently I am doing P90X2 and am hoping to be in the 5%-6% range by the time my Day-90 photos are taken.

I hope this review of “how to measure body fat” has been helpful. If you have any questions, just post them in the reply box below!

468 ad