The 7 Best Ways to Measure Body Composition


Skinfold Analysis

  • Very common method used to measure body composition.

  • Concept is very simple and easy to learn but results can vary greatly based on the individual performing the analysis.

  • Skinfold measuresments are usually limited to 10 or less locations.

  • Skinfold measurment can be uncomfortable for some to give as well take.

  • The test entails taking a measurement at specific points on the body, in which body fat is literally pinched and a special devioce measures the density of the pinched area.

  • Results can vary based on the equation being used.

  • The accuracy of the Skinfold measurement has a standard error of estimate of +-3-5 % giving that the technician performs the analysis correctly and uses the appropriate equation.

  • The Skinfold Analysis has a very low cost of entry. It requires simple equipment and limited knowledge to become a technician. It is a decent way to get an idea of what your body fat is. Skinfold analysis, in my opinion is not the best for individuals very obese because it may not be very accurate and can seem very invasive nor is it the best options for individuals with very low body because of the margin of error.


Bioelectric Impedance

  • Minimal training and equipment required to implement test.

  • Test can be affected by a variety human factors prior to the test (anything that will affect body water).

  • Relatively low cost to test and equipment.

  • Standard error of estimate (SEE) is +-3.5 % - 5 %

Hydrodensitometry (Hydro-Static Weighing)

  • Test takes much more time than Skinfold Analysis and Bioelectrical Impedance.

  • Requires relatively high priced equipment.

  • Requires adequate space, plumbing requirements, and maintenance.

  • Individual being tested needs to be fully submerged with a full exhalation.

  • Additional equipment is needed to measure residual lung volume

  • SEE is +-2.5 %, considered the gold stand by many

Near-Infared Interance

  • Originally developed to test composition of livestock

  • Not sure if the technique has been proven for humans

  • Little training needed to implement the test

  • Requires minimal equipment

  • SEE is +-5 %

Tomography Scans & Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scans

  • No-invasive Procedure

  • Requires a high cost of entry, including CT scanning machine and specialized table.

  • Equipment usually only available in a clinical or medical setting.

  • Very accurate and can produce 3-D images of the body.

  • Excessive use can lead to unsafe exposure to raditaion.

  • SEE is N/A

Air Displacement (Plethysmography) (BOd-POD)

  • Very expensive equipment

  • Mostly found in clinical settings

  • Does not have a physical limitations such as with hydrostatic weighing.

  • SEE is +- 2.2 % - 3.7 %

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry

  • Expensive equipment

  • Mostly found in clinical or research facilities

  • Procedure is not strictly used for measuring body, it also has the ability to measure bone density

  • Very accurate SEE is +-1.8 %