How to Calculate Skinfold

Written by aletha reil
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How to Calculate Skinfold
Using calipers is the easiest and most affordable way to calculate body fat percentage. (fat measure image by Kimberly Reinick from

You can calculate your total body fat percentage in several ways, yet many of these methods are expensive and not easily accessible. Taking your skin fold measurements is one of the most immediate and inexpensive ways to achieve a close estimate of your total body fat percentage. Calculating your body fat percentage is as easy as determining the skin fold sites, measuring those sites using calipers, then plugging the values into an equation.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Calipers
  • Pen
  • Paper

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  1. 1

    Locate the seven skin fold sites (see Resources). They are the tricep, chest/pectoral, mid-axillary, subscapular, suprailiac, abdominal and thigh.

  2. 2

    With your arm at rest by your side, have your partner measure the tricep skin fold site, halfway between the elbow and the shoulder. Use the calipers to make a vertical pinch of the skin fold. Record the measurement.

  3. 3

    Measure the chest/pectoral region. For men, this site is halfway between the nipple and the underarm; for women it is one-third of the same distance, closer to the underarm. Have your partner use the calipers to make a diagonal skin fold pinch. Record the measurement.

  4. 4

    Measure the mid-axillary skin fold site, located below the armpit, across from the nipple near the sternum. Your partner can use the calipers to make either a vertical or a horizontal pinch. Record the measurement.

  5. 5

    Measure the subscapular skin fold site, which is located 1 to 2 centimetres below the scapula on the back. Have your partner make a diagonal skin fold pinch. Record the measurement.

  6. 6

    Measure the suprailiac skin fold site, located about 1 inch above the hipbone. Your partner should make a diagonal skin fold pinch at the site. Record the measurement.

  7. 7

    Measure the abdominal skin fold site, located about 1 inch to the right of the navel. Your partner may make a vertical or horizontal skin fold pinch at the site. Record the measurement.

  8. 8

    Measure the thigh skin fold site. Have your partner use the calipers to make a vertical skin fold pinch halfway between the hip crease and the knee. Record the measurement.

  9. 9

    Repeat the process three times for accuracy, and take the average of each of the three measurements for each site. Record your final numbers.

  10. 10

    Use an online body fat calculator (see Resources) and enter the measurements of each skin fold site. The site will automatically calculate your body fat percentage.

Tips and warnings

  • For accuracy, always measure the sites located on the same side of the body during that particular calculation.

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