By: Bobby Kelly
As a personal trainer I get all my clients to subscribe to the motto, ''It is not how much you weigh, but how much body fat you DON'T have!'' Body fat percentage is simply a measurement of the body's muscle to fat ratio. You may have been in the mall and seen scales and other gizmos that can test your body fat. But don't be fooled. Most of these scales don't have the ability to insert age, activity level, measurements, or even height. Many of these simply use an inaccurate math program inside the computer chip that basically guesses your body fat.
There are a number of ways to test that ratio. So let's look at the three most common protocols: fat calipers, bio impedance scans, and underwater testing.
One of the most common forms of testing utilizes fat calipers.(see picture to the right). A certified trainer or tester will take measurements from numerous areas on your body including your triceps, biceps, sub scapular (on your back) and super iliac (think love handle area).
Bio impedance testing: This form of testing is actually a low level ECG (electrocardiogram) where a tester places pads on your writ and foot. The device does allow you to insert pertinent information such as height weight age, gender and sometime other items. Often times this test can be accurate and closer to 5-7% of actual BF%. Some things that can cause poor readings are alcohol or caffeine consumption, dehydration, and exercise prior to testing. It is very tough to get a perfect sate of hydration and that is where the inaccuracies lie. This is not a bad form of testing. But it is wise to get tested by someone who does it on a regular basis.
The most preferred form of testing is underwater hydrostatic testing. The fact that bone, muscle, and connective tissue collectively known as lean mass sinks, while body fat floats is the main principle behind (hydro-densitometry) hydrostatic testing. The tester obtains your land weight and water weight (based on buoyancy) using a specialized computer program and can scientifically calculates your body fat as a percentage of your total weight. You enter a tank of water and, completely submerge yourself, blow out as much air as possible and you get your reading. With this form of body fat measurement, your numbers should not be off by more than 1-2%.
Obviously you can see why trainers consider hydrostatic underwater testing the gold standard. However each protocol has its place in the industry. So figure out which one works into your budget and lifestyle. Once you get tested, it makes it easier to see progress and reach your goals.
About the Author
Health and fitness expert Bobby Kelly, the Catalyst Expert, has been teaching and promoting optimal lifestyle training for over 15 years. He has been interviewed or featured as an expert in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Prevention to name just a few. To obtain his FREE special report, "What You Don't Know About Exercise Can Kill You" visit www.resultsonly.com. Results Only- It's Not Just A Name, It's A Lifestyle!