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Skinfold measurement is a method of determining a person’s body fat percentage. This method is based on skinfold test. It requires the use of calipers and precise measurements at several standardized points of the body. The goal of the measurement is to determine the thickness of subcutaneous fat layer. These measurements are converted to an estimated body fat percentage, by using an equation. However, this method isn’t suitable for the most accurate reading of actual body fat percentage, but it certainly helps to determine how the body composition changes over time. The accuracy of this method varies according to the type of caliper used and the technique of measurement. The measurements are also inaccurate for older but fit individuals, who may have lower body density and large skinfolds.

Skinfold measurements steps

To perform the skinfold measurement one should obtain skinfold calipers and tape measure. To get the most accurate results, it is important to stick to the standard procedure. Measurement is taken from 3 to 9 standard anatomical sites and usually on the right side of the body. This is very important to assure consistency.  A person who does the measurement pinches the skin to raise a double layer and the underlying tissue, without muscle. The calipers are applied 1cm below and at right angles, to take a reading in millimeters. It is recommended to use two measurements at the same site, to assure accuracy. Traditional skinfold sites are triceps, biceps, iliac crest, supraspinale, subscapular, abdominal, thigh, chest, axilla and calf.

Results

Body fat percentage can be derived from skinfold measures using the body density formula, where density = mass / volume. When the body density is determined, the body fat percentage is calculated using the Siri equation: % Body Fat = (495 / Body Density) – 450. However, skinfold measurement is not so accurate to be suitable for calculating the percentage of body fat. It is advised to follow the table of general guidelines and determine the results using a total sum of measurements taken on the seven skinfold site: tricep, bicep, subscap, supraspinale, abdominal, thigh, calf.

For normal population, excellent results are 60-80 for males and 70-90 for females, good results are 81-90 for males and 91-100 for females, average results are 91-110 for males and 101-120 for females, below average are 111-150 for males and 121-150 for females. Anything that is more than 150 is considered very poor result. These guidelines are not appropriate for athletes.

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