Body Fat Percentage Calculator

This body fat percentage calculator uses measurements from a skinfold caliper or a measuring tape. Or you can also estimate your body fat percentage using a simple visual comparison.

body fat percentage calculator

What’s A Good Body Fat Percentage?

A “good” body fat percentage depends on your individual body and your goals. But, generally speaking, lower is usually better.

In terms of overall health and longevity, you want to avoid body fat percentages that put you in the overweight or very overweight (obese) categories.

For men, a healthy target is less than 24% body fat. And for women, a healthy target is less than 32%

  Men Women
Obese >30% >39%
Overweight 24-30% 32-39%
Average 18-24% 25-32%
Athletic 10-18% 18-25%
Very Lean <10% <18%

Once you reach a healthy level, you can aim for an athletic body fat percentage. For a well-defined body, men should target less than 18% and women should target less than 25% body fat.

Finally, for an elite level of fitness, men should strive for less than 10% while women should aim for less than 18% body fat.

Again, your target is relative to your situation and your starting point. Wherever you’re at, make sure you set a realistic and achievable goal.

Why Is Measuring Body Fat Percentage Important?

You may be wondering if spending this extra time and energy on measuring body fat is worth it. The answer is, yes. Because the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example, the scale could tell you that you’re losing weight. But if you lose muscle instead of fat, you won’t look and feel the way you want. Just as you won’t be strong and healthy if you gain fat instead of muscle on a bulking plan.

Therefore, in order to reach your fitness goals, it’s vital to track how much muscle and fat you have. This is also called your body composition.

And the only way to track body composition is to measure and calculate body fat percentage.

How To Measure Body Fat Percentage

Now that you have a basic understanding of body fat percentage, it’s time to take some measurements. And there are a couple of different ways to do this.

Skinfold Calipers

One of the most accurate methods involves pinching the skin and measuring the thickness of the resulting fold with a special caliper. The thicker the skinfold, the more body fat is likely stored in that location.

By measuring fat deposits in several standardized locations, a formula can be used to estimate your overall body fat percentage.

  • Use a caliper that “clicks” when you reach a certain pressure (like the one shown)
  • Squeeze the caliper slow and steady
  • Measure the indentation in the fold next to your fingers
  • Measure each site 3 times and take the average to reduce variability
  • Take your measurements first thing in the morning when you have less water under your skin

Measuring Tape

Another reasonably accurate method for calculating body fat percentage involves measuring the circumference, or girth, of specific body parts. These measurements are taken using a soft measuring tape like the one pictured below.

The size and proportion of your body, along with your age and activity level, are used to estimate your overall body fat percentage.

  • Do not inhale or suck in your belly when measuring your waist
  • Do not flex or tense muscles when measuring the limbs
  • Any clothing should be thin or form-fitting
  • Take measurements in the morning when your stomach is empty

Skinfold vs Circumference: Which Is Better?

At this point, you may be wondering which measurement method is better. Either will work, but the answer may depend on your situation.

Before I give my opinion, let’s look at the pros and cons of both methods.

Skinfold

Pros
  • Easy to do at home

  • Calipers are inexpensive

  • Specific to gender and number of sites

  • Can be very accurate

Cons
  • Some sites require assistance

  • Affected by how hard you pinch

  • Not very accurate for obese individuals

Circumference

Pros
  • Easy to do at home

  • Measuring tape is inexpensive

  • No assistance needed

  • Specific to gender, age, and activity level

Cons
  • Affected by bloating or meals

  • Could change with hydration level

  • Not very accurate for muscular or fit individuals

Both methods look pretty equal in terms of pros and cons. So the best option for you is the one that you think you’ll actually implement and use on a regular basis.

That being said, I recommend the skinfold caliper method for people who are leaner and/or more muscular than average. As this method is more accurate for relatively fit people.

How To Calculate Body Fat Percentage

Once you take the measurements, they get plugged into a formula in order to calculate your body fat percentage. And the formula used depends on your gender, age, and measurement method used.

Jackson-Pollock Skinfold Method

When using the Jackson-Pollock equations, the number of sites can be 3, 4, or 7. Also, the sites vary slightly depending on your gender, so pay close attention to the instructions.

3-Site Skinfold Male

Body Fat Percentage = 495/(1.10938-(0.0008267*Sum Of Skinfolds)+(0.0000016*Sum Of Skinfolds^2)-0.0002574*Age)-450

Where the skinfold sites measured are the abdomen, chest, and thigh.

3 Site Skinfold Male -Jackson Pollock Body Fat Percentage Calculator
3-Site Skinfold Female

Body Fat Percentage = 495/(1.0994921-(0.0009929*Sum Of Skinfolds)+(0.0000023*Sum Of Skinfolds^2)-0.0001392*Age)-450

Where the skinfold sites measured are the suprailiac, thigh, and tricep.

3 Site Skinfold Female - Jackson Pollock Body Fat Percentage Calculator
4-Site Skinfold Male

Body Fat Percentage = (0.29288*Sum Of Skinfolds)-(0.0005*Sum Of Skinfolds^2)+(0.15845*Age)-5.76377

Where the skinfold sites measured are the abdomen, chest, thigh, and suprailiac.

4 Site Skinfold Male - Jackson Pollock Body Fat Percentage Calculator
4-Site Skinfold Female

Body Fat Percentage = (0.29669*Sum Of Skinfolds)-(0.00043*Sum Of Skinfolds^2)+(0.02963*Age)+1.4072

Where the skinfold sites measured are the suprailiac, thigh, tricep, and abdomen.

4 Site Skinfold Female - Jackson Pollock Body Fat Percentage Calculator
7-Site Skinfold Male

Body Fat Percentage = 495/(1.112-(0.00043499*Sum Of Skinfolds)+(0.00000055*Sum Of Skinfolds^2)-0.00028826*Age)-450

Where the skinfold sites measured are the abdomen, chest, thigh, suprailiac, midaxillar, subscapular, and tricep.

7 Site Skinfold Male - Jackson Pollock Body Fat Percentage Calculator
7-Site Skinfold Female

Body Fat Percentage = 495/(1.097-(0.00046971*Sum Of Skinfolds)+(0.00000056*Sum Of Skinfolds^2)-0.00012828*Age)-450

Where the skinfold sites measured are the abdomen, chest, thigh, suprailiac, midaxillar, subscapular, and tricep.

7 Site Skinfold Female - Jackson Pollock Body Fat Percentage Calculator

Katch-McArdle Circumference Method

Next, let’s look at the calculations used when you measure circumferences. Again, the measurement sites and formula vary depending on your age and gender. So pay close attention to the instructions.

Younger Female (17-26)

Body Fat Percentage = Waist Circumference*1.34+Thigh Circumference*2.08-Forearm Circumference*4.31-19.6

Body Fat Percentage (Active) = Waist Circumference*1.34+Thigh Circumference*2.08-Forearm Circumference*4.31-22.6

Circumference Measurements Body Fat Percentage Calculator Female Younger - Katch Mcardle
Older Female (27+)

Body Fat Percentage = Waist Circumference*1.19+Thigh Circumference*1.24-Calf Circumference*1.45-18.4

Body Fat Percentage (Active) = Waist Circumference*1.19+Thigh Circumference*1.24-Calf Circumference*1.45-21.4

Circumference Measurements Body Fat Percentage Calculator Female Older - Katch Mcardle
Younger Male (17-26)

Body Fat Percentage = Waist Circumference*1.31+Upper Arm Circumference*3.7-Forearm Circumference*5.43-10.2

Body Fat Percentage (Active) = Waist Circumference*1.31+Upper Arm Circumference*3.7-Forearm Circumference*5.43-14.2

Circumference Measurements Body Fat Percentage Calculator Male Younger - Katch Mcardle
Older Male (27+)

Body Fat Percentage = Waist Circumference*0.9+Hip Circumference*1.05-Forearm Circumference*3-15

Body Fat Percentage (Active) = Waist Circumference*0.9+Hip Circumference*1.05-Forearm Circumference*3-19

Circumference Measurements Body Fat Percentage Calculator Male Older - Katch Mcardle

Conclusion

Calculating your body fat percentage can be a useful tool for reaching your fitness goals. But don’t get too hung up on accuracy or finding your exact percentage.

At the end of the day, what matters more is the ability to repeat the measurement. Because that lets you see if your body fat is going up or down over time.

And seeing changes in your body composition enables you to make smarter decisions with your diet and exercise plan.

Try The Body Fat Percentage Calculator

If you made it this far, you’re probably suffering from equation exhaustion. 😂 And I get it, I spent way too much time tracking down and testing these formulas.

But the good news is, you don’t have to do any math. Because my body fat percentage calculator will do all the work for you!

So click the button below to easily find your body fat using any of the methods just described. Or check out some of my other useful content and calculators.

Try Body Fat Percentage Calculator

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