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If you want to learn a LOT about various body fat testing methods, refer to chapter 3 in my e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle at www.burnthefat.com
Instead of re-hashing it all, let me give you three quick and easy, practical suggestions:
Suggestion 1: Have a trainer or fitness professional measure you, if this service is available at your local health club. Sometimes, there's a charge - usually $15 - $25, although some clubs offer service for free to all their members (we do at our club)
Suggestion 2: Purchase an Accu-measure skinfold caliper. Do a google or yahoo search to find a reseller, or just visit www.accumeasurefitness.com.
The Accumeasure was designed to allow you to measure your own body fat in privacy of your own home (you don't need someone else to measure you)
Some people wonder if this is really accurate. Truth is, it's not quite as accurate as a multi site skinfold test from an experienced tester, but it's better than nothing. Besides, what's most important is not "accuracy" per se, but reliablity and consistency of your measurements so you can track your progress. Skinfold calipers in general are not accurate or inaccurate, it's person doing test that is accurate or inaccurate.
Here's page where you can download a study about accuracy of Accu-Measure (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, December 1998):
Suggestion 3: If you have a spouse, roomate, or friend who can measure your body fat, you can purchase a Slim Guide body fat caliper from Creative Health Products: www.chponline.com
The Slimguide is best inexpensive caliper available (About $20), but it wasn't designed for you to measure your own body fat. You'll need someone to measure you with this caliper. Other models of body fat calipers (if you want to splurge), range from $150 to $450. (At our health clubs, I use electronic "SKYNDEX" caliper with 4-site "Durnin formula.")
The calipers come with instructions, or you can use these formulas, which I have used and found to be very accurate:
4 Site formula for men (abdomen, suprailiac, thigh, tricep)
% fat = .29288(sum of 4 skinfolds) - 0.0005(sum of four skinfolds squared) + 0.15845(age) - 5.76377
4-Site Formula for women (abdomen, suprailiac, thigh, tricep)
% Fat = (.29669)(sum of 4 skinfolds) - (.00043)(Sum of four skinfolds squared) + .02963(age) + 1.4072
Source: Jackson A S, Pollock, M (1985) Practical assessment of body composition. Physician Sport Med. 13: 76-90.
Body fat percentages vary based on age and gender, but 20-25% body fat is average for women (15-19% is ideal), while 15-20% is average for men (10-14% is ideal). I have detailed charts for body fat charts in my e-book if you're interested.
Once you know your body fat percentage, then weigh yourself and record your weight and body fat on a progress chart such as one found in my Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle Program (a fat loss program, not a weight loss program). This chart is how you will track your progress and "keep score."
You can calculate your lean body mass (muscle and other fat free tissue) very easily just by crunching some numbers:
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you have 10% body fat then you have 20 pounds of fat (10% of 200 = 20). That means you have a lean body mass (LBM) of 180 pounds.
Now we're talking! With this data, you can get a really clear picture of how your exercise and nutrition program are affecting your physique.
Losing weight is very easy. Losing fat - and keeping it off without losing muscle - is a much bigger challenge. If you simply wanted to lose weight, we could just chop off your leg.
Or... (slightly less painful)... I could show you how to drop 10 - 15 pounds over weekend just by dehydrating yourself and using natural herbal diuretics. Bodybuilders and wrestlers do it all time to make a weight class.
But what good would that do if it’s almost all water and you’re just going to gain it all back within days?
You don't have to "throw away your scale" like many "experts" tell you to. By all means, keep using scale, tape measure and even photographs and mirror - more feedback better, but body fat is where it's at.
By way, I recently bought a chain saw and a shiny new axe from Home Depot, and I've been practicing my "American Psycho" and Jack Nicholson, "The Shining" impersonations... so if you want to come to my office any time soon for personal consultation, you'd better have right answer to my question, "What do you want?"
One last thing - If you found this information useful, then you'll want to know that I wrote an entire new e-book on body fat testing, called "How to Measure Your Body Fat In Privacy Of Your Own Home." Normally retail price is $19.95, but I'm offering it for FREE at www.burnthefat.com with purchase of my fat loss ebook, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. (Note: BFFM is a FAT LOSS program, not a WEIGHT LOSS program!)
Tom Venuto is an NSCA-certified personal trainer, certified strength coach, and author of the #1 e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle.” Tom has written over 170 articles and been featured in IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. For info on Tom's e-book, visit: www.burnthefat.com. For Tom’s free monthly e-zine, visit Fitness Renaissance: www.fitren.com