Top 7 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage: Best Machines & Devices

Ever wondered what is your body fat percentage?

Maybe you compared your weight with that of other people. And, surprise, surprise?! How can they weigh less/more than you?

Yes, it happens. Scale, mirrors, and looks lie. For example, think of a muscular person and an overweight one. They might weigh the same, but their body composition is totally different.

BMI – body mass index – is a calculation that shows if you’re underweight, adequate weight, or overweight, based on your age, height, weight, and gender. But, BMI doesn’t tell you if your body composition is healthy, maintainable, or if it represents any risk for your health.

The fat our body stores keeps us warm, cushions our organs, provides energy, and helps the body perform physiological functions.

However, when in high percentage and distributed unevenly, body fat mass might bring obesity, heart diseases, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Hence, measuring the body fat mass percentage helps you understand how healthy your body composition is and then optimize it through nutrition and exercise.

Below are some ways to measure body fat mass percentage varying from simple to complicated, affordable to expensive methods and tests. Some can be done at your home, others in specific professional facilities.

To decide which one body fat measurement method is right for you, first answer the questions below:

  • Why do you want to know your body fat percentage? Curiosity or health reasons?
  • How important is high accuracy?
  • How often will you measure your body fat percentage?
  • Would you like to measure it at home or a medical facility?
  • What’s your budget?

1. Circumference Measurements with Tape Measure

The simplest way to measure your body fat mass is by using a tape measure. You can take measurements of the circumference of different parts of your body by yourself or with the help of a friend.

Circle the tape measure around the waist, wrist, hip, and forearm. Make sure the tape doesn’t compress the skin for more accurate results. Then use this online formula to help you determine your body fat mass.

Tape measurements have about 3% of error. But they are the cheapest version of body fat mass tests and can be used in the comfort of your house.

Watch this video tutorial to help you with your measurements.

2. Skinfold Measure with Skin Calipers

Skin calipers are a tool to measure the thickness of the ‘skin’, where the body fat gets stored. You can buy them once and use them any time you want.

They are worth your while if you are trying to lose weight and need to measure your body fat percentage regularly. And if you have considerable amounts of fat, since calipers are not that accurate in very lean bodies.

Skin calipers are cheap ($7-$10) and easy to use, but they don’t give the most accurate results (​~%3 error).

Males should measure skinfold on the chest, thigh, and abdomen, while females on the triceps, thigh, and hips. You can then enter the numbers in this online calculator.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to measure your skin folds with calipers.

3. Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) with InBody Machine and Smart Scales

BIA measures body water mass and fat-free body mass, and then by difference extracts the body fat mass. The device sends weak electrical currents through the body that are safe and comfortable.

One of the most accurate ways of BIA is the InBody Machine; It is safe to use and more accurate than other BIA devices.

Here’s a video on how InBody Machine works.

Some fitness facilities offer them for free for their customers, or you have to pay for each scanning.

Some bathroom ‘smart scales‘ ($40-$150) use BIA to measure body fat mass percentage, as well.

Before doing this analysis, you should follow some rules related to the level of hydration, the time of the last meal, and the training load.

4. Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry- (DEXA) Scanning Machine

DEXA Scan determines your bone mineral density using spectral imaging. But it doesn’t stop there.

DEXA scan provides all the data of your body composition like body fat percentage and lean muscle mass percentage, and how many kilos of fat you have as well.

This method is the most accurate and comfortable body fat test machine and is mostly used for research and professional athletes. You can’t find it everywhere since only special fitness and medical facilities provide this service. The price range is $80-$150.

You can search for a DEXA scanning facility near you and learn all about your body composition in a couple of minutes.

5. Hydro-densitometry, or Underwater Weighing

You need to hold your breath for this one, literally.

Underwater weighing calculates the body composition and fat mass through body density. This is done by measuring the volume of water that gets displaced when the person is fully underwater.

A further equation converts body density into body fat percentage.

Hydro-densitometry is usually only available at medical centers and research institutions ($150).

Conducted underwater, this method is not the most comfortable situation for most people.

6. Air Displacement Plethysmography (ADP) Test

Same as underwater weighing, this method measures the volume of the body and converts it into body density, composition, and fat percentage.

But it does so by air rather than water, making this method more comfortable than the underwater weighing method.

The person enters into an egg-shaped machine called BOD POD. The whole procedure takes up to 10 minutes and is very reliable.

Since you need to do it in a special facility, a BOD POD reading is fairly expensive (45-60$).

7. 3D Body Scanners

A 3D body scanner uses lasers to create a 3D image of the body. The scanner rotates to take pictures of the body from different angles.

After calculating the data, you get a full report of your looks, body composition, and elements such as body fat and lean mass.

Two well-known examples are mPort (49$/year) and Fit3D. Fit3D can be found in fitness facilities and might come for free with some personal training programs.

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

Comments are closed.