Body Fat Percentage
Measuring body fat percentage is an easy method of discovering correct body weight and composition. Beneath the skin is a layer of subcutaneous fat, and the percentage of total body fat can be measured by taking the 'skinfold' at selected points on the body with a pair of callipers. This test only requires four measurements. A similar alternative method is the Yuhasz skinfold test which requires six measurements.
The objective of this test is to monitor the athlete’s level of body fat.
The assistant records measurements taken from the following sites:
The fat-free body mass (FFBM) represents the body mass devoid of all fat whereas lean body mass (LBM) contains a small percentage of essential fat.
LBM is a theoretical value developed by Behnke (1974) For men Behnke considered it to be FFBM+3% essential fat and for females FFBM+12% fat (3% essential fat + 9% sex specific essential fat).
The density of fat and fat free tissue remains relatively constant: fat = 0.9 grm/cm³ and fat free tissue = 1.1 grm/cm³.
Typical % Body Fat (Wilmore 1994)
The average man has 15 to 17% body fat, while the average woman is between 18 and 22%. Typical values for elite athletes are 6% to 12% for men and 12% to 20% for women. The following table details the percentage body fat for male and female athletes for a variety of sports.
Analysis of the result is by comparing it with the results of previous tests. It is expected that, with appropriate training and diet between each test, the analysis would indicate an improvement in the athlete's percentage body fat.
This test is suitable for everyone but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.
Test reliability refers to the degree to which a test is consistent and stable in measuring what it is intended to measure. Reliability will depend upon how strict the test is conducted. The following link provides a variety of factors that may influence the results and therefore the test reliability.
Test validity refers to the degree to which the test actually measures what it claims to measure and the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and meaningful. This test provides a means to monitor the effect of training on the athlete's physical development.
The test is not a good predictor of percentage body fat, however it can be used to indicate changes in body composition over time.
The following references provide additional information on this topic:
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The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: