BMI vs. Skin Fold Assessment

I recently purchased a cheap pair of calipers to give me a better indication of lean body mass (muscle) versus fat mass. A person’s weight does not give a clear indication of body fat. BMI (body mass index) can be easily applied to the general public but can be easily criticised as a method of one size fits all.

Both BMI and skin fold assessment are relatively quick and, of course, there are better methods out there, but unless you have an access to an MRI, bioelectrical impedance or hydrostatic weighing you are stuck with BMI and skin fold.

Remember weight loss programmes typically focus on purely losing body weight, but what you want to be focusing on is reducing body fat and maintaining/improving your muscle mass.

Short video of how to take skinfold measurements

My results! (The calipers came with a body fat % chart)

(Total weight/100) x percentage of body fat = fat weight
97/100 x 17.7 = 17.1kg fat weight

Total body weight – fat weight = lean weight
97-17.1 = 79.9kg lean weight


Pros: Quick and easily, can increase number of skin sites to eight to improve reliability

Cons: Invasive (does not really help if you are body conscious), needs someone to assist with the data collection.

BMI provides data on healthy weight in comparison to height (weight (kg) / height (m) squared), interestingly my BMI is 29, this puts my well into overweight and nearly obese, a stark contrast to the skin fold assessment which indicated my body fat was healthy. However, I should state that I am a regular gym user and that an element of common sense is needed to interpret this result.


Pros: Quick, easy, suits general public

Cons: No consideration for fat mass and muscle mass, results can be confusing and misguiding if you’re active (increase in muscle mass).


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