what is a skinfold caliper

What is a Skinfold Caliper?

A skinfold caliper is an instrument used for the measurement of the thickness of a skinfold, wich can be composed mainly by subcutaneos fat, this way, a skinfold caliper helps to calculate body fat percentage. Measuring skinfolds in key locations, can be a quite accurate representation of the total body fat. 

How to Take Skinfolds with a Caliper

Measurement of the skinfold should be done by taking the fold first with the index and thumb fingers and without removing them, place the caliper at 1 cm from the fingers, release the caliper dial and read the measurement.

Types of Skinfold Calipers

  • Disposable
  • Plastic
  • Digital
  • Professional
  • Scientific
Note that one these categories are not exclusive of each other.  For example, one digital caliper may also be plastic, while another digital caliper is also professional.

What is the Skinfold Caliper Test?

Is the measurement of different skinfold with a body fat caliper, the result of this measurements are used to complete an equation to obtain a person's body fat percentage. Learn here in more detail about the technique How to Measure Body Fat Percentage with a Skinfold Caliper

Skinfold measurement sites on the body


How Does a Skinfold Caliper Work?

A caliper works with a metallic spring that exerts pressure between the two branches, this mechanism is what helps to identify the thickness of the skinfold. The result obtained can be read depending on the type of caliper, if it is manual it should be read by looking at the number indicated by the indicator dial, if it is digital it gives the result on a screen. 

how does a skinfold caliper work


How do you use skinfold calipers on yourself?

 You can take skinfold measurements in yourself if the skinfold sites are on the lower body, from the abdomen to the legs. In other places it is not advisable to try to take measurements yourself with the caliper since there are areas that cannot be reached and there are skinfolds that must be taken with a specific and adequate technique, otherwise wrong results will be obtained.

take tricep skinfold with a skinfold caliper

What are skinfolds measured in

 The results of the measurements with a skinfold caliper are given in centimeters including milimeters to get the most accurate measurement possible .

How accurate is skinfold calipers?

The precision of a caliper depends on its model, brand and calibration. Measurements are normally given in millimeters, but the proper use of this will help to obtain good results. 

Skinfold Caliper Models and Cost

There are at least 20 different skinfold caliper models ranging in price from just a few dollars to over $500.  What's the difference?

Disposable Skinfold Calipers

A disposable skinfold caliper may only work one or two times, which defeats its purpose.  Skinfold measurement is valuable when you track changes over time, not just measuring it one time.  No two calipers or testers will give the same exact results, that's why it's important to use the same technique, tester, and equipment to track body fat measurement changes.

Skinfold Calipers for Students / Beginners

Common Features:

  • $20-50
  • Professional accuracy 
  • Cannot be calibrated
  • Plastic
  • Precision +/- 1.0mm
The Slim Guide caliper is the best caliper in this price range. 
Slim Guide CaliperSee Slim Guide Skinfold Caliper

Midrange / Professional Skinfold Calipers

Common Features:

  • $100-$250
  • Can be calibrated
  • Made with metal or aluminum parts 
  • Precision +/- 1.0mm 

We recommend the Lange skinfold caliper, for its price, reputation, compact size, accuracy, and durability.  
Lange Skinfold Caliper See Lange Skinfold Caliper

Professional / Research Skinfold Calipers

Common Features:

  • Highly accurate +/- 0.5mm or more
  • Can be calibrated
  • Made with metal or aluminum parts
  • May include digital models

The most famous caliper is the Harpenden
Harpenden Skinfold CaliperSee Harpenden Skinfold Caliper

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