What Percent Body Fat are you?
If you are to guess your body fat right now, what would you say you were? 10% 15% 20%?! It is hard to figure out the answer to this question, and sometimes even harder to accept it!
There are a few ways to get your body fat checked, although not all of them are trustworthy.
- BMI – This is as general as they come. It is flawed in so many ways, namely it does not account for and muscle mass, just your overall weight. Everyone knows muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are muscular it may show you are obese! Using this is the same as looking at someone and saying, “They are fat” or “They are skinny”.
- Hand-held body fat calculator – While these are not completely reliable, they can at least give you a starting point. These machines work by sending a electric current through your body and it reads the subcutaneous fluid under the skin, aka fat. The problem with this method is if you are holding a lot of water weight or if you had a big meal before using the machine your results will largely vary. Take the reading with a grain of salt, it will give you a good estimation (some are better than others mind you) to know your starting point, but it is not the best way.
- 3-9 point skin caliper test – This is the most widely used and accepted form of measuring your body fat. The measurements can range from 3 sites, all the way to the most accurate 9-point test. After a skin fold(pinch of your fat) is measured at each site, the measurements are recorded and put in a corresponding equation (A different one depending on how many areas are recorded) and the result will be your body fat %. This method is best because people carry their fat in different areas of their body and this will account for this. Another great thing about this test is it is cheap and takes little to no time at all to finish! Just ask a trainer at your local gym and I am sure they will be willing to help.
Hydrostatic weighing- This is the best and most accurate form of testing although not used as widely as the skin fold test because it is expensive and difficult to do. It works by submerging you into a water tank and the weight is recorded. All the variables are factored out (Air in your body, movement that throws the scale off) and your bone density is found. Once this number is known, it is put into the “Siri Equation” and voila, your body fat is known. Now the actual process is much longer and requires many other equations, but that is the just of how hydrostatic weighing works. Like previously mentioned the problem with this type of measuring is that finding a lab that does this type of testing is not the easiest, and can often be expensive when you do. If you are Really curious about your body fat and need to know exactly how much you are carrying, try calling university’s and hospitals and see if they can know of a location that you can test at
But I can’t do any of those! I need pictures!
So you don’t have access to any of those, have no fear. Here is a exert from the book “Shredded” by Bill Reynolds & Negrita Jayde that gives a good definition of each bodyfat number and a corresponding picture. This should guide you into at least getting a idea where you stand.
- Over or near 20% bodyfat with no visible muscle definition and only a hint of separation between major muscle groups if those groups are very large. Basically a person in this state could be confused for a football linebacker. If you’re higher than this bodyfat percentage, you’d be considered overweight/obese.
Here is an example of the Full House state:
- Some muscle separation appears between delts and upper arm. Abs are still not visible. Approximately 15% bodyfat.
Here is an example of Hard state:
- More muscle separation appears particularly in the chest and back, outline of the abs begins to appear slightly. Approximate bodyfat level = 12%
Here are two examples of the Cut stage:
- Defined = Muscle separations get deeper in the arms, chest, legs and back, and abs appear when flexed. Approx. bodyfat level = 10%
Here is an example in the Defined state:
- Abs are clearly visible all the time, vascularity in arms is prominent, chest and back separation is obvious, and face is starting to appear more angular. Condition can be held indefinitely. Approximate bodyfat level = 7-9%
Here is an example of Ripped State:
- Striations appear in large muscle groups when they are flexed. You look small in clothes, but look fantastic when you’re not. Vascularity appears in lower abdomen and in the legs. Condition can be held for several days with careful dieting. Competitive bodybuilders often aim for this state for competition day. Approximate bodyfat level = 4-7%
Here is an example of Shredded state:
- Muscles and tendons begin to appear in the face when chewing, striations appear everywhere and vascularity appears everywhere. Bodyfat levels are close to 3% and subcutaneous water levels are near 0. Condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. Not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water level.
More “Sliced” pictures can be found on this post!
Of course everyone carries their Body Fat different. You can use this as a good estimation of where you are and where you should try to get to, but in no way are these numbers set in stone! Remember: the best body fat judge is the mirror and your eyes!