The Ripped Folk’s Secret How to Measure Body Fat
Weight scales, height/weight calculators, and measuring tape. It can be tough to figure out how to measure body fat percentage.
Which of these work? How can I lose weight, but still feel fat? How can I work out and not lose a pound?
Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. (wooo…creepy)
The real question is, are we even using the right tool? (ahhh…deep seeds of doubt!)
How to Measure Body Fat Like the Sexy People
So you see those athletes, those models, those ripped neighbors that look amazing. How do those jerks do it!?!?
There are several methods they use, and guess what…you are cool enough to use them too.
So the question now is, what tools can I use to figure out how to measure body fat correctly?
In the last post, where we recommended gettin’ your geek on, I gave some formulas, mind-blowing examples and a body fat chart with a large dose of awesome humor. While gave you great ways to crunch numbers, you still need the tools in order to do the nerdy calculations. These next few types of tools are ones you should probably stay away from.
Simple, Inaccurate Methods
There are a few archaic methods that are commonly used such as:
- Body Mass Index Calculator
- Height/Weight test
- The Army Fitness Calculator
The bottom line is that they are all shaky at best.
All of these methods are examples of simple online body fat calculators that you can find easily anywhere with a Google search, but they aren’t very accurate. They might be ways to look on how to measure body fat fast, but not ways on how to measure body fat right.
The big problem is that they lean on weight and not body fat percentage. Two people can weigh the exact same, but one could be a superstar athlete, while the second person is morbidly obese. You want to find the amount of weight that is actually fat. These tools can’t do that.
This makes it very hard to know if you are making progress or not. You could be losing weight, but also you could be losing muscle, which is counterproductive. You could very emotionally wrapped up in the wrong things and quickly veer you off on to the wrong path.
Complicated, Pricey Methods
There are several expensive and complex methods that work, but might be a little too much effort and cost.
- Bio-Electric Impedance Analysis
- Circumference and Anthropometric
They even sound complicated without even looking at them. The major problem is I think it costs to much to get the proper bang for your buck. If you find any of these options that work for you and your wallet or purse, then great. On top of this there are accuracy issues with all of them as well. You might as well get accuracy issues with something cheap, than something where you could spend hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Three Body Fat Measuring Tools To Use
If a person takes fitness seriously, then there is a pretty high chance they are using one of these three tools. On top of that, those washboard abs came because of consistent measurements using these tools on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Hydrostatic Underwater Weighing
This one is probably the most involved of the three. The hydrostatic device requires the person to sit in a chair and be dunked in a tank of water. Based on how high you float shows your percent body fat. Since fat floats more than muscle, the more you float, the higher the percent of fat.
There are a few challenges with the system as it doesn’t take into account bone density and that will vary by race, age, and sex. Also breathing will impact your measurement. Depending on how much air you actually blow out, it will impact how high you float.
While being more effective than other tools, it is rather expensive and done mostly at universities. This means you have to find a post-secondary institution near your place, schedule a time, and prepare to get wet. It is worth it, but maybe not the test that is easy to use on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
The Bod Pod uses a similar method, but based on pressure of air instead of water. The Bod Pod is an egg-shaped plastic chamber that a person sits in to measure the volume of their body composition. Based on the pressure in the chamber (air displacement), the pod can determine a person’s percent body fat.
Also a person’s mass is measured based on an accompanying weight scale. The mass from the scale divided by the volume from the pod gives you the bone density of the individual. The bone density gives the necessary figures to calculate body fat vs. lean muscle mass. Don’t worry you won’t have to do the math. The people conducting the measurement will. You just have to stand on a scale, and then sit in the pod for a minute.
Again this doesn’t take into account different bone densities of different races, sex, or age. The Bod Pod is usually done at universities and is rather inexpensive compared to the underwater weighing. Yeah you have to schedule and go, but for some reason it always seems easier to me than the underwater weighing.
Skinfold testing is done by using calipers to pinch your skin and fat. It measures your fat in millimeters in several areas of your body to figure out your body fat. Most of your fat is stored right below your skin. Now that isn’t always the case since essential fat is also stored around and in major organs, but it will give you a very good estimate.
If you have a friend or family member that you trust prodding you (may need a safety word), then you can have them measure your flub for you. Nothing says true love like someone pinching your fat.
It would be ideal to have a professional do it (I think you can get a college degree for skin pinching) or someone experienced doing it. This helps work against human error that can happen in self-measurements or having drunk friends try to do it. If you are looking for a brand, then I recommend Slimguide. It is a well-known brand that is often purchased and it is fairly accurate.
If you are looking for a version that you can measure on yourself, then I would recommend Accu-Measure. Any brand you use, make sure that it has 3-4 areas to measure fat. That is usually sufficient enough to get a solid estimate of how soft you are.
This is a great way to learn how to measure your body fat percentage. I am sure this is on your bucket list. So once again you are welcome.
What if I Want To Measure Specific Body Parts?
For some of you, you may also want to do the old fashion tape measuring of body parts.
There are a few benefits:
- You can find out exactly where your weak parts are on your body in specific muscle groups. Maybe there are areas where your muscles don’t respond as well to certain fitness programs.
- You can see if there is an imbalance from limb to limb. Again, this can help to shape your fitness.
While this isn’t a solid replacement for body fat percentage, it is still a good option to help see progress in your health. Use a loose or flexible measuring tape to get your numbers. You need to make sure the tape can lay flat against your skin. Make sure to wear a swimsuit or underwear. You don’t want loose clothing. Go naked in a private place if you want. For the most accurate measurements have someone else measure your body parts on your behalf just like the calipers.
Here are the muscle groups and how you should measure them:
- Chest: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your chest and back. Flex your chest muscles and measure the circumference in inches at the largest point.
- Right Arm: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your right arm. Flex your right bicep and measure the circumference in inches at the largest point.
- Left Arm: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your left arm. Flex your left bicep and measure the circumference in inches at the largest point.
- Hips: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your hips, which is usually the fullest point toward the top of your buttocks. Measure the circumference in inches at the largest point. This is the most important measurement. This is usually the most telling on how fat you are or aren’t. It is where the food likes to take it’s longest vacation in your body. You can tell how insulin sensitive or the risk of getting cancer all by if your hips are getting bigger or smaller.
- Waist: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your waist at your belly button. Don’t suck in or breath out. Measure the circumference in inches at the smallest point above the belly button and below the rib cage.
- Right Thigh: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your right thigh. Flex your right quad and measure the circumference in inches at the largest point.
- Left Thigh: Wrap the Measuring Tape around your left thigh. Flex your left quad and measure the circumference in inches at the largest point.
- Make sure to measure this weekly to see your progress and to figure out how to adjust your fitness and nutrition plan.
- Waist-to-hip ratio: Waist divided by hips. Measure waist at the belly button, which tends to be the slimmest part of the body. Measure the hips at your widest part below the belly button. Make sure to take it at the same time of the day to account for the natural fluid retention the body has. This will settle down as your insulin levels get lower.
Review these numbers on a weekly basis to see your progress.
How to Measure Body Fat with the Most Accurate Method
Now with all of these methods there will be concern about the accuracy and rightfully so. The truth is that no method will be 100% perfect unless a scientist can cut you open. I don’t think anyone is game for that on a weekly basis, but I could be wrong.
The purpose here is to see progress.
So whatever method you use, keep using that same method. Often the error comes not from the device, but from the operator. In fact, that is usually the major reason for error, especially when talking about Skinfold Testing. This makes Skinfold testing probably the most inaccurate of the three, while still the most accessible version. The Skinfold test is the best way to learn how to measure body fat cheap.
The Bod Pod would be the most accurate in my mind, but you need to be willing to schedule the time needed to make the trip out to a local higher ed institution. If you are game for that, then get ready to strut your stuff in some tight underwear and a skull cap.
If all else fails, you can get some measuring tape and figure out the size of your arms, chest, hips, waist, and thighs in inches on a weekly basis. Not ideal, but at least another decent option.
The bottom line is be consistent and measure weekly or bi-weekly with the same tool. It all comes back to making progress, learning from your decision, and that each week you are getting in better shape. So get off the computer and start measuring like all those other attractive people.