Skinfold testing formulas

Using the calipers, skinfolds are taken at several sites around the body (except the Accu-Measure, which only measures one site), and then the sum of the skinfolds is added up. The sum of the skinfolds is then looked up on a percent fat estimate chart that comes with the calipers. These charts are derived from mathematical regression equations and they allow for quick interpretation of the skinfold measurements in millimeters. Computerized calipers like the Skyndex or Accu-Measure "Fat Track" add up the skinfolds and do the calculations automatically for you.

Most body fat formulas require you to measure body fat at three different locations. Different formulas may utilize as few as one or as many as eleven skinfolds, and any number of these sites can be used in various combinations. The standard skinfold sites are usually the abdominal, suprailliac (hip), bicep, tricep, chest, subscapular (back), thigh, axilla, and calf.

Don't get too hung up on where your skinfolds are measured. Some people get concerned if most of their visible fat is in their lower body and the skinfold test only measures the upper body sites. Body fat formulas from skinfolds will give you a very accurate estimate of your overall body fat just from one to four sites, even if they're all measured from your upper body.

Taking measurements at three sites has been proven adequate for an accurate reading. Most research has shown that using more than four sites does not increase the accuracy much further, but using fewer than three sites tends to decrease the accuracy slightly.

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