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Body Composition - Caliper Use & Skinfold Sites

  Body Fat Calipers  
  Since the majority of fat on the body is located directly under the skin, a very efficient and practical way to measure your body fat percentage is skinfold measurement - the scientific approach to the time-honored "pinch an inch" method.  Skinfold calipers are precision instruments which have been shown in comparative studies to be closer in accuracy to the "gold standard" underwater weighing than any of the more elaborate methods of measuring body fat (without the inconvenience, expense, trained personnel, and lack of privacy these methods entail). 

Popular skinfold tests include 1, 3, 7 and 9 skinfold sites.  These tests become more accurate as more sites are included in the testing.  Formulas have been developed to be used with the various readings for multi-site tests.  A single site test for both male and females are typically taken at the suprailliac (approximately one inch above the right hipbone.  The 3 site tests for male and females differ with the male sites being the chest, abdomen, and thigh, while the female test being the tricep, suprailliac, and thigh.  The 7 site test for both male and female are chest, midaxillary (near the armpit), subscapular (upper back), tricep, abdomen, suprailliac, and thigh.  The 9 site test includes all of the 7 site test plus the biceps and calf.

The following are instructions for taking a skinfold reading with the body fat calipers: 
While standing, firmly pinch the site skinfold between your left thumb and forefinger.

Place the jaws of the calipers over the skinfold, while continuing to hold the skinfold with the left hand. 

If using an Accu-Measure caliper, press with the thumb where indicated on the Accu-Measure until you feel a slight click.


The slide member will automatically stop at the correct measurement.  After reading your measurement, return the slide member to the far right starting position.  Repeat three times and use the average as your measurement.

  Skinfold Sites  



  • Vertical fold
  • Posterior midline of the upper arm
  • Halfway between the acromion (shoulder) and olecranon processes (elbow)
  • Arm held freely to the side of the body
  • Diagonal fold
  • Men: one-half the distance between the anterior axillary line (crease of the underarm) and the nipple
  • Women: one-third of the distance between the anterior axillary line and the nipple



  • Vertical or Horizontal fold
  • Midaxillary line at the level of the xiphoid process of the sternum
  • Diagonal fold
  • 1 to 2 cm below the inferior angle of the scapula



  • Diagonal fold
  • Anterior axillary line (modern technique)
    • immediately superior to the iliac crest
    • in line with the natural angle of the iliac crest taken
  • Mid-axillary line (traditional technique)
    • Superior to the iliac crest
  • Vertical (modern technique)
    • 2 cm or 1" to the right side of the umbilicus
  • Horizontal fold (traditional)
    • 2 cm to the right side of the umbilicus


Other Sites 



  • Vertical fold
  • Anterior aspect of the arm over the belly of the biceps muscle
  • 1 cm above the level used to mark the triceps site



  • Vertical fold
  • maximum circumference of calf on the midline of medial border 
  • Vertical fold
  • Anterior midline of the thigh
  • Midway between the proximal border of the patella (upper knee) and the inguinal crease (hip)



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