How to Make Your Own Fat Skin Fold Calipers

Use a ruler to keep track of body fat.
Use a ruler to keep track of body fat. (Image: ruler image by Albo from

Knowing your body fat percentage is essential information when undertaking weight loss goals or maintaining muscle mass. A scale alone will not tell you how your weight is distributed, and generally, you want to build or maintain muscle while losing fat. Tools on the market for measuring body fat percentage are expensive, hard to compare and inconvenient to buy. Instead, use homemade calipers to test your current body fat and monitor it throughout your program. What counts most in monitoring improvement is consistency, not accuracy.

Things You'll Need

  • Partner
  • Ruler

Measure the first skin fold site at the abdomen. Hold the ruler at the belly button, and measure one inch toward either hip. Pinch the skin on the abdomen one inch horizontally from the belly button. Have your partner measure the amount of pinched skin with the ruler. You will notice that this is an area on your abdomen where fat accumulates and shows more readily.

Measure the second site at the triceps. Hold your arm freely at the side of your body, without tensing the muscle. Measure the distance between the shoulder and elbow, and pinch at the halfway point. Have your partner measure the pinched skin with a ruler.

Measure the third site at the pectoral. For men, pinch the skin halfway between the crease in the arm (elbow) and the nipple. For women, go one-third of the distance between the crease in the arm and the nipple. Pinch the skin here and measure it.

Measure the fourth site at the thigh halfway between the knee and the hip. Pinch this site and measure with a ruler.

Analyze the measurements. According to Ellington Darden, a 1/4-inch pinch is 5 to 9 percent body fat, 1/2 inch is 9 to 13 percent, 3/4 inch is 13 to 18 percent, 1 inch is 18 to 22 percent, 1 1/2 inch is 22 to 27 percent, 2 inches is 27 to 32 percent and 2 1/2 inches is 32 to 37 percent.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take all measurements three times and use the average for the most accurate result.
  • Realize that you are not going to get a completely accurate measurement with homemade calipers. You will, however, be able to keep track of whether or not you are gaining or losing fat in your body, as long as you continue to measure the same spots.

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