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Body Fat Percentage

Measuring body fat percentage is a method of discovering the 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.


This test aims to monitor the athlete's level of body fat.

Required Resources

To conduct this test, you will require:

  • Skinfold callipers
  • Assistant
Calipers Body Fat

Measurement Sites

The assistant records measurements taken from the following sites:

Triceps Triceps

The athlete's arm hangs naturally by their side. The assistant takes a vertical fold midway between the shoulder and the elbow on the back of the arm.

Subscapula Subscapular

The assistant takes a diagonal fold across the back, just below the shoulder blade.

Biceps Biceps

The athlete's arm hangs naturally by their side. The assistant takes a vertical fold midway between the shoulder and the elbow on the front of the arm.

Suprailiac Suprailiac

The assistant takes a diagonal fold just above the hip bone.

How to conduct the test

  • The assistant takes the measurements, in millimetres, on the right side of the athlete's body
  • The assistant picks up the skinfold between the thumb and the index finger to include two thicknesses of the athlete's skin and subcutaneous fat
  • The assistant locates the callipers about one centimetre from the fingers and at a depth equal to the fold's thickness
  • The assistant repeats each measurement three times and records the average value
  • The assistant records the sum of the four measurements and uses this value to assess the athlete's percentage of body fat


To estimate the percentage of body fat, the weight of body fat and fat-free body weight, please enter the skin fold measurement, age, weight and gender and then select the 'Calculate' button.

Skinfold mm (between 20mm & 100mm)
Estimated body fat %
Body fat weight lbs or kg
Fat-free body weight lbs or kg

Fat-free Body Mass & Lean Body Mass

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)[2]. 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).

Fat and Fat-Free Tissue Density

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)[1]

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 of body fat for male and female athletes for various sports.

Sport Male Female
Baseball 12-16% 12-19%
Basketball 6-12% 20-28%
Canoeing 6-12% 10-16%
Cycling 5-14% 15-20%
Field Hockey 8-14% 12-18%
Gymnastics 5-13% 10-16%
Rowing 6-14% 12-19%
Swimming 9-13% 14-24%
Tennis 12-15% 16-24%
Track - Jumpers 7-11% 10-18%
Track - Runners 8-10% 12-19%
Track - Throwers 14-20% 20-27%
Triathlon 5-11% 10-15%
Volleyball 11-14% 16-24%


Analysis of the result is by comparing it with previous tests' results. It is expected that, with appropriate training and diet between each test, the analysis would indicate an improvement in the athlete's body fat percentage.

Target Group

This test is suitable for everyone but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.


Test reliability refers to how a test is consistent and stable in measuring its intended measure. Reliability will depend upon how strict the test is conducted. The following link provides various factors influencing the results and test reliability.


Test validity refers to the degree to which the test measures what it claims to measure and the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions based on test scores are appropriate and meaningful. This test provides a means to monitor training on the athlete's physical development.

The test is not a good predictor of percentage body fat; however, it can indicate changes in body composition over time.


  • Minimal equipment required
  • Simple to set up and conduct
  • Can be conducted almost anywhere


  • Specialist equipment required - Skinfold callipers
  • Assistant required to administer the test


  1. WILMORE, J.H. and COSTILL, D.L. (1994) Physiology of sport and exercise. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois
  2. BEHNKE, A.R. and WILMORE, J.H. (1974) Evaluation and Regulation of Body Build and Composition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1998) Body fat Percentage [WWW] Available from: [Accessed