How do you measure body composition?

Personal/Fitness Training Blog

A client’s beginning body fat percentage is very important information for the personal trainer to know. This is because fat reduction is most often the client’s primary goal and the analysis of their body composition can be useful when discussing progressing progress with your client.

Body fat testing can be done in a number of different ways.

Skinfold calliper measurements

Using this method a personal trainer is able to measure a client’s subcutaneous fat by calculating the size of the skinfolds. Most health and fitness professionals do not have a laboratory at their disposal so skinfold calliper body fat testing is the favoured and most common method of testing the body fat percentage of their clientele.

When conducting this test, the professional must be absolutely consistent with the exact areas of the skinfold measured as well as the conditions of administering the test. For example, if the test is done after the client works out, the timing must remain consistent when carrying out any future tests with the client. The Durnin-Womersley Test is used when calculating the client’s body fat which states that all tests must be taken on the right-hand side of the body.

To calculate body fat, the equation is as follows:

  • For men: (0.1051 x the sum of the calliper measurements) + 2.585
  • For women: (0.1545 x the sum of the calliper measurements) + 3.580

The four sites, at which you conduct the test, are as follows:

  • Biceps: A vertical fold on the front of the arm over the biceps, midway between the shoulder and the elbow.
  • Triceps: A vertical fold on the backside of the upper portion of the arm. The arm must be relaxed and held easily on the side of the body. The test must be taken halfway between the shoulder and the elbow.
  • Subscapular: A 45-degree fold of between one and two centimetres between the inferior angles of the subscapular.
  • Illiac crest: A 45-degree angle fold taken just above the iliac crest media to the axillary line.

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Bioelectric impedance measurements

An electrical current is delivered through the body in order to measure fat. It is founded on the hypotheses that tissue which is high in water content conducts electrical currents with less resistance than those with less water.

Underwater weighing

This method determines the portion of fat to lean tissue. Lean tissue is denser than fat so that leaner the person is the more he/she will weight underwater.

Circumference measurements

Circumference measurements can be an additional way of feedback for clients wanting to change their body composition. Being stable with this test on a monthly/weekly basis is important. When taking measurements make sure that the tape measure is taut and level around the measured areas.

Areas that are usually measured are:

  • Chest: Across the nipple line
  • Waist: The narrowest part of the waist just above the hip bones
  • Hips: Feet must be together and the tape must be placed at the widest part of the buttocks
  • Thigh: 25cm on top of the knee
  • Calves: The largest circumference between the ankle and the knee
  • Biceps: Arms must be straight with the palms facing forwards and the largest part of the bicep must be measured

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