Everything you should know about body fat percentages.
To most bodybuilders, body fat is a daily opponent. Yet a surprising amount don’t have a clear understanding of of how to reliably measure it, or how it differs from Body Mass Index (BMI).
First and foremost body fat percentage is simply a measurement, by weight, of how much fat to total mass a body has. Of course, the significance of this measurement changes with things like height and sex. A stage-ready male bodybuilder might get down to 3-4% body fat, while a comparable female might be only 8-9%.
Another good general benchmark is that for a solid six pack, men should be around 8-11% and women should be 15-17%.
There are several methods of measurement – which we break down in detail below:
1. The Eyes
Most don’t really need an ultra-precise method. It’s not hard to tell at a glance if you’re at a desirable body fat percentage, but it can be more challenging to track the body this way over time.
One can get a body fat reading from an empirical method, and then estimate in the mirror, using their physique at the time of measurement as a reference. Taking weekly pictures is a great way to track- just make sure to control for variables like lighting when comparing.
They can be bought for less than $10. The procedure is to pull the fat away from the muscle, pinch it with the caliper, record the measurements, and then consult a chart to figure out your body fat percentage.
3. Body Fat Scales/Monitors
These send an electrical current through the body and uses “biometrical impedance analysis” to calculate the percentage. This method, although less laborious than using calipers, is arguably less accurate, as many different physical factors (like hydration) can influence the communication of an electrical current.
4. DEXA Scan
This is the op of the line. It takes a takes a full dual X-ray of your body composition and gives you the numbers. It usually takes around ten minutes and $50-150 at a health facility.
Most people receive body measurements from their physician- but this is usually a Body Mass Index (BMI) number. BMI uses height to provide a target weight. The flaws with this system are obvious. A BMI will read the same if a 6 foot person is 200lbs of muscle or fat. Lebron James is actually considered borderline obese on the BMI scale at 6’8? and 250 pounds.
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