How to Measure Body Fat Percentage

If you have read previous articles on the site you would know about the importance of measuring body fat percentage when tracking weight gain progress. While you may be gaining on a weight gain program, are you gaining weight in the form of lean muscle or fat? This can only be answered accurately if you track your weight gain progress by measuring body fat percentage. Body fat percentage is the best indicator of healthy weight gain.

So how do you measure your body fat percentage? There are various ways, some more accurate then others.

Underwater weighing method

Probably the most expensive. You have to find a place where they perform this measurement. They immerse you in a tank of water and measure water displacements to calculate your percent of body fat.


You pinch certain areas of the body with calipers and then calculate your body fat based on your measurements. You can buy calipers at large health food stores. Prices for calipers can run from less than $10 up to several hundred depending on the quality of the calipers (e.g. plastic vs. steel). You may need assistance from someone else since you may have to pinch some place that you cannot easily reach.

BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis)

These devices send a small current through the body and calculate your body fat based on height, weight and the speed at which the current passes through your body. Tanita makes an electronic scale which provides both your weight and percent of body fat. There are other BIA devices besides the Tanita body fat scale. Body fat scales tend to give a better estimation of body fat when compared with the underwater weighing method, which previously was the standard method for body composition analysis.

BMI (Body Mass Index)

This is a calculation that uses your weight (in Kilograms) divided by your (height x height) (in meters). This number does not take into account your body type; but is supposed to correlate close to your percent of body fat for the general populace. However, this method is not accurate for weightlifters who in general have a higher mass of muscle and a lower percentage of body fat.

The formula to calculate BMI is Weight/(height x height) where weight is in Kg and height is in meters.