How to Measure Body Fat Percentage Using Calipers

Measure Body fat using a skinfold caliper test to monitor changes in body composition and to calculate body fat percentage. This test is the most economical way to measure body fat and offers very good precision, can be used on all populations including children; reliable readings may be difficult to obtain on obese people.

A trained tester pinches the skin with skinfold calipers to measure the thickness of skin and adipose tissue (fat). Here are two of the main scientific scales used to calculate the caliper measurements:

  • The Durnin & Womersley formula is ideal for general population - You have to take four (4) site skinfold test.  
  • The Jackson-Pollock  formula is ideal for athletes - three (3), four (4) and seven (7) site skinfold tests

Using the Skinfold Caliper

  • Biceps

    Vertical Fold

    On the front side of the arm over the belly of the biceps muscle, 1 cm above the level used to mark the triceps site.

  • Triceps

    Vertical Fold

    At the back midline of the upper arm, halfway between the top portion of the shoulder (acromion process) and the elbow (ulna).  The arm should be loose on the side of the body.

  • Subscapular

    Diagonal Fold

    2 cm below the lower angle (bottom point) of the shoulder blade (scapula).

  • Suprailiac

    Diagonal Fold

    Locate the front part of the axilla (armpit) and follow a vertical line down to the hipbone.  Mark immediately above where it intersects with the spinale (front part of iliac crest or hip bone).

Optional Accessories

  • Software to do calculations and monitor progress.
  • A camera to take pictures and monitor progress.

Using The Skinfold Caliper


  1. Using a dermographic marker or pencil, mark sites with a + prior to measuring with skinfold caliper.
  2. Pick up and hold skinfold with thumb and forefinger of one hand. Apply the jaws of the caliper to the skinfold about 1cm adjacent to the fingers holding the fold, and halfway between the crest and the base of the fold. Do not release the fingers holding the fold.
  3. Wait 1-2 seconds before reading the caliper and recording the value.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 for all sites.
  5. For greater accuracy, take duplicate measurements at each site in the same order, and retest if duplicate measurements are not within 1-2 mm.
  6. Add up the 4 skinfold measurements, either the single measurements or the averages for duplicate measurements.
  7. With the subject’s gender, age, and the nearest skinfold measurements sum, use the table in the article  Body Fat: What Is The Ideal Percentage For Women And Men? to see the corresponding body fat %. 

Best Practices

  • Take skinfold measurements directly on clean, lotion free skin – not through clothing
  • Take all measurements on the right side of the body with the subject standing upright.
  • For consistent results, the tester should use the same technique with the same equipment.
  • Test your caliper regularly to ensure calibration.
  • Practice good hygiene and remember to respect the subject’s personal space.

Download This Manual to Measure % Body Fat

(This Manual Includes 5 Languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian)

Manual For Measuring Body Fat Percentage

Body Fat Calculator 

Access body fat calculators, learn body fat testing tecniques, and create profiles with Anthrometrix body fat software.  


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