Measuring Body Fat

There are various formula out there for measuring body fat. These formula are typically based on a wide range of people, and at best provide a close approximation of body composition. I use all of them and then take the average.

It's important to remember that the exact number is not what's important. What you want to monitor is your progress over time.

As I come across various formula, I'll post them here.

The following calculation uses just one reading with bodyfat calipers. Take a reading of your suprailiac, or the area on the side of your waist, just above the point of the hipbone and a inch or so forward. This is my preferred method of measuring bodyfat, especially for men, because this is the area where fat can accumulate the most. However, I do not let age affect the calculation. (I always use an age of 20.) These formulas are based on what is ACTUAL in a population (ie: people get fatter as they grow older due to intra-abdominal and intra-muscular fat) rather than what is DESIRED. Those who weight train on a regular basis tend to accumulate much less intra-abdominal and intra-muscular fat. If you have a set of bodyfat calipers, enter your suprailiac measurement (in millimeters) into the appropriate column along with an appropriate age:

Men Women
Suprailiac skinfold (in millimeters):
Bodyfat Percentage:

Here's a good link for measuring bodyfat with calipers. It gives information about measuring and purchasing affordable calipers:

Here's a calculation that doesn't involve calipers. For men the calculation is based on weight and waist measurements. For women, because their bodyfat is distributed differently, measurements are taken for waist, hips, forearms and wrists. (All measurements are in pounds and inches, and need to be taken at the WIDEST points. The waist measurement needs to be taken at the navel.)

Men Women
Bodyfat Percentage:

Here's another calcualtion that only takes weight and waist measurment into consideration.

Men Women
Bodyfat Percentage:

Here's a calculation I found from the now-deceased Training-Nutrition group. This is/was supposidly used by the Navy. This is a rather complex calculation that uses centimeters rather than inches. The calculations are:

Women % fat = 495/(1.29579-0.35004(LOG(abd1+hip-neck))+0.22100(LOG(height)))-450

Men % fat = 495/(1.0324-0.19077(LOG(abd2-neck))+0.15456(LOG(height)))-450

Where the circumferences, measured to the nearest .5cm, are:
abd1: horizontal, at the level of minimal abdominal width
abd2: horizontal at the level of the navel
hip: largest horizontal circumference around the hips
neck: inferior to the larynx with the tape sloping slightly downward to the front
height: is measured to the nearest .5cm without shoes

When taking measurments, 1 kg. equals 2.2046 pounds and 1 inch equals 2.54 centimeters.

Here's a graph designed for men. I have no idea how accurate it would be for women. Find your body weight on the left hand side of the chart, and your waist measurement on the right hand side. Using a ruler, connect these two points and determine your approximate body fat percentage on the line in the middle. The example is for 170 pounds and 34 inch waist.

Return to Nutrition and Weightlifting Page