How to Determine the Body Fat Percentage From a Triceps Skinfold

Calipers measure triceps skinfold and other areas to determine body-fat percentage.

Calipers measure triceps skinfold and other areas to determine body-fat percentage.

Since muscle weighs more than fat, hitting a high number on the scale isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's the percentage of your body fat that accounts for what you should be concerned with. There are a few different ways to determine that percentage. One of the most common methods is taking skin fold measurements using calipers. Your triceps are one of the areas on your body where a measurement is taken, but you actually need measurements from three or four areas of your body to get an accurate analysis.

Open the calipers before each measurement is taken.

Pinch a vertical fold of skin on the back of the arm at the halfway point between the elbow and the shoulder. Use your other hand to click the trigger on the calipers to close them on the fold, about 1/4 inch below where your fingers are holding the skinfold. This will give you a triceps measurement which you should record.

Take the biceps measurement by pinching a fold of skin vertically on the front of the arm halfway between the elbow and the shoulder. Click the calipers closed on the skinfold 1/4 inch below where your fingers are pinching the skin. Record the measurement.

Locate the proper site for taking the skinfold measurement on the back by grasping the skin at the halfway point between the shoulder blade and the spine. Rather than vertically, this skinfold is pinched at a 45-degree angle before placing the calipers 1/4 inch below where your fingers are holding it. Releasing the trigger and record the measurement.

Pinch a horizontal fold of skin just above the hip bone. Position the calipers 1/4-inch away from your fingers toward the front of the body. For this measurement it is best to hold the subject's skinfold on her right hip with your left hand and the calipers with your right hand. This will put the calipers in the right location for this measurement. Record the measurement.

Take each measurement two additional times, first measuring the triceps, then the biceps, then the back and finally the hip, recording each additional reading.

Review the measurements and discard the lowest and highest reading from each body part. For instance, if the triceps measurements were 8, 7, 9, you would use the median measurement of 8.

Add the four median readings together to get a total number.

Compare your total number to the chart that was included with the calipers to find the body-fat percentage. Most calipers come with a chart for men and a chart for women that is broken up into age groups. Just find your total number in the "sum" column and scan over to the column that corresponds with your age to determine your body-fat percentage.

Tips

  • Don't pinch the skinfold too tightly. Just use your index finger and thumb to pick up the section of skin to be measured.
  • You should take your skinfold measurements prior to exercising. As you exercise, blood is sent to the skin as part of the cooling process your body goes through. This causes the skin to be a bit thicker and would result in skewing your measurements.
  • Read the instructions on your caliper set before taking measurements to determine which skinfold sites should be used with your body-fat percentage chart. Some may only use three readings while others may use up to seven. You need to use the measurements that your chart was developed for in order to get accurate results.
 

About the Author

Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.

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