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How to Use a Body Fat Caliper

Published on January 25, 2013 by in Fitness

I had someone ask me how to use a body fat caliper, so rather than just reply in a private message I thought I would share how I use calipers with the loyal followers of this site as well. Below are some tips to get an accurate measurement at the belly each time you take a reading.

1. Stand up straight. I usually do it in front of a mirror to be sure I am not slouching. I have found that if I don’t use a mirror to check posture I am naturally slouching and hunching a little to look at the caliper. This can throw off the reading.

2. Don’t flex. Just stand tall, firm, and relax.

3. Measure the same spot every time. I normally check both my right and left side. To ensure you get the same spot every time do the following:

On your pelvis (hip bone) there is a part of the bone that protrudes out a little. To find it, start with your right side. Place your left middle fingers on your waistline/beltline below your bellybutton. Press down slightly and move your hand toward your right hip until you feel the bone.

Now imagine a straight line going up from that bone meeting a line coming straight across from your bellybutton. This is where you measure.

4. Pinch your skin and fat without grabbing muscle. Ah, the tricky part. This is how I view it: If you are overweight, have not worked out in a while, and have not built up much of any abdominal muscles, you will probably not have too much to worry about in the way of grabbing too much muscle (and I state this from my own personal experience). But if you are in the “lean range” or “not-yet-ripped” (roughly 8mm to 15mm on the caliper) you might be wondering where muscle ends and fat begins, and if you are grabbing too much.

Here’s a tip:  try pinching a spot on your body with little or no fat. If you are fairly lean and just finished a program like P90X or Insanity, a good spot would be your bicep. Completely rested, you could pinch part of your bicep muscle and put a caliper on it and you would essentially be pinching pure muscle. Flexed, you will only be able to grab loose skin and maybe a very small amount of fat. There is virtually no fat on your bicep, but if you “dig-in” and pinch a non-flexed bicep you could grab some muscle fiber.

Now go back to your belly area, intersection of hip bone line and bellybutton line. Theoretically you could “dig-in” here and grab some abdominal muscle with your skin and fat, and you want to try to avoid that. So when you do the pinch of your belly fat, don’t press real hard against your body; instead bring your finger and thumb together in a way that “collects” your fat and skin coming to a pinch, rather than digging-in and searching for all available skin, fat, muscle fiber, stomach lining, intestines, etc.

Bottom line: Don’t dig when you pinch and grab up some muscle, but also don’t pinch so timidly that you leave some fat out of the pinched flesh.

5. Take 3 separate readings repeating the process. Calculate the average of the 3, and there you go. Take your mm reading and enter it at Teambeachbody.com to get a good idea of your current body fat percentage.

Have fun testing fat and watching the caliper measurement go down even more after your next round of your favorite workout program. If you have any additional tips, comments, or questions about measuring body fat, comment away below.


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