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Pros And Cons With Different Ways To Conduct Body Fat Testing

Ben Grewe- certified Charleston personal trainer. “I have so much weight to lose! I just want to get myself down to a leaner, more trim and toned body. I think I’ll hire a personal trainer.”

This thought passes through the minds of millions of people, and many of them are right. They can probably use a little help working off those extra scoops of ice cream that tasted oh so good on that steamy summer afternoon.

But are these people targeting the correct number? Is it weight that they should be focusing on or body fat loss? To see a difference in the shape of your body, fat loss must be the ultimate goal.

There are several ways to assess body fat, some them complicated and expensive, others more easy to do but less accurate. In today’s post I’ll be reviewing the different methods of assessing your body fat so you can judge for yourself.

Weight loss has been a classic figure of fitness success for decades, maybe longer, but as a certified Charleston personal trainer I believe there is a much more accurate method to measure progress: body fat percentage. A scale’s simple weight measurement cannot differentiate between lean body tissue (muscle, bones and organs) and body fat.

It merely sums the total of them both. Body fat percentage is an exact measurement of the amount of each of these two in the body, and provides a more precise, behind-the-scenes look at a fitness program’s success.

This does not mean that weight loss is not important. Anyone who is overweight or has a high body fat percentage will be able lose weight and decrease body fat as a result of a personalized exercise program. However, some people may actually be able to successfully gain lean muscle, decrease body fat, lose inches and still maintain a similar weight.

In this situation a scale’s reading would not display a measurable result, which is exactly why body fat testing is so important when determining the effectiveness of a program. Exact healthy percentages vary with gender, age and athletic level, but the generally acceptable range for men is between and 12 and 20 percent, and between 18 and 28 percent for women.

Body fat percentage can be measured by a variety of devices, some fancy, and some not-so-fancy. While all of them are effective, some are more impressive than others.

Hydrostatic body fat testing

This underwater testing checks in at the high end of the impressive side. It also ranks among the most accurate and expensive. The science is simple: Body fat floats while muscles, tendons and other connective tissues sink in water. So comparing a person’s weight and underwater weight reveals an accurate body fat percentage measurement.

Bod Pod body fat testing

Another expensive, yet impressive measurement device is the BOD POD. This space-age looking device is similar to hydrostatic weighing, except instead of using water, it uses air pressure.

While a person is seated inside the device, slight changes in air pressure result in a body volume measurement. Dividing the person’s weight by the measured body volume produces another accurate body fat percentage measurement.

Skin fold caliper body fat testing

At the opposite end of the spectrum, skin-fold caliper measurements are by far the cheapest and least complicated of the group. For this method, a fitness professional simply measures the amount of body fat covering muscles under the skin in several locations on the body by lightly squeezing an area of folded skin with the calipers, and then calculates a total percentage based on the findings.

In reality, anyone can monitor their own body fat percentage from home with a cheap set of calipers (preferably metal), and a quick training. However, accuracy is the issue here because of the human error element. Technology’s gift of consistency wins this battle.

Bioelectrical impedance body fat testing

Maybe the most practical and reliable of all the body fat measurement methods is bioelectrical impedance. This method still checks in near the top of the fancy scale, but is much easier to use and very affordable.

Most reputable fitness studios utilize a handheld bioelectrical impedance device which sends a small electric current through the body and measures its resistance (body fat) along the way.

Several home-use scales use this method as well from foot pads, but accuracy does come with a price; these are not cheap. The ones that are, just aren’t very accurate.

The hand help bioelectrical impedance body fat tester is the top pick due to ease of use, affordability, and fairly accurate results. While hydration will affect testing results slightly with these units, it’s typically only a small variance.

While they may not be as precise as a metal caliper in a professional’s hand, they’re very effective for the average individual above 10-12% body fat. The leaner you are, the more you need to look at calipers or the Bod Pod for very accurate results.

The handheld bioelectrical impedance units will provide those who are at a higher body fat percentage a good measurement of their progress in less than 60 seconds. This allows for more frequent assessments and eliminates the need to have a fitness professional conduct the testing.

If you were looking for a unit to purchase I’d recommend the Omron body fat tester. This is the one we use at Shaping Concepts. You can purchase a body fat tester from by clicking on the above link.

Ben Grewe is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fitness expert, and coach at Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a free consultation and personal training trial with Ben to experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself with no-obligations.

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Category: Fat Loss.