Tracking Your Body Fat Percentage

So many times we get frustrated if the scale isn’t moving down, but what we all should care about more is what is happening with our body fat percentage. Building muscle is a good thing, and it makes us more fit, more healthy, and able to burn more calories all day long. Often people burn up their precious muscle mass in an effort to crash diet and lose weight. This sets them up for failure because they have less muscle mass to burn calories and when they fall off the wagon, they gain back all the weight and then some.

When you begin a rigorous workout program, you not only lose body fat, but you build muscle. Your fluid balance and hydration levels will also change as your muscles get sore and as you change your diet and sodium intake. These all play into a more complicated picture than just what the scale says in pounds.

I encourage all of you to start monitoring your body fat. It is actually quite easy, and once you get used to doing it, it only takes a few seconds and it gives you a much more accurate picture of how you are doing with your true transformation and body composition.

One way to can measure body fat is to get a scale that does it for you. These work by sending a pulse through your lower body and measuring the resistance. A standard formula is used (based on your age and height) to guesstimate your body fat. So many things are not taken into account with their formulas, like the amount of muscle mass you have, your muscle distribution, your fitness level, etc. They also can give erroneous readings depending on if your feet are dry or damp.

A much more accurate method of measuring body fat, is using body fat calipers. Taking your skin fold measurements is one of the most immediate and inexpensive ways to achieve a close estimate of your total body fat percentage. Based on the belief that approximately 50% of total body fat lies under the skin, these calipers measure the thickness of the skin at certain key skin fold sites on the body. Once you get a set of calipers, then all you need is a way to plug in your measurements to a calculation method to see where your body fat percentage falls.

I like to use the software by Click HERE to access their body fat calculator page. There are separate calculation methods for men and women, and there are multiple methods to use. You can experiment with them to determine which one you find most predictable and repeatable. It’s a good idea the first time to measure your body fat with multiple methods to be sure you are doing it correctly.

Once you get used to the caliper method, you can be sure that your changes in body fat are very accurate. While operator error may lead to a slight variation in the body fat reading, any changes will be very close (the standard error is +/- 3%).

I prefer the Jackson/Pollack 3 site methodbecause it’s quick, easy, and accurate.

For men, mark a diagonal line on the chest between the underarm crease and the nipple, a vertical line halfway between the hip and knee on the front of the thigh and a vertical line along the abdomen about an inch away from the belly button.

For women, mark a vertical line on the back of the upper arm halfway between the shoulder and elbow, a vertical line on the front of the thigh and a diagonal line along or just above the crest of the hipbone.

It’s easy to do by yourself. I recommend doing any body fat measurements first thing in the morning when you wake up, before you’ve eaten, had anything to drink, or exercised. That’s the most reliable way to get consistent measurements because the transfer of fluid to the skin could result in overestimations.

So do yourself a favor and stop weighing yourself all the time! Instead, get some calipers, get comfortable with a measurement method, and check your body fat every week or 2 weeks. Write it down so you can monitor your progress.


Kevin Rack Fitness  is a unique fitness, nutrition and accountability program focused on changing people’s health and fitness 6-12 weeks at a time using Beachbody Fitness programs. It is more than just a workout, it’s a lifestyle. Getting fit, building muscle in the right places and losing inches in others, eating clean, getting inspired and being motivated are the underlying principals of our company. If you’ve been searching for something that will motivate you to reclaim your body, boost your energy and rev your metabolism, consider becoming a part of our team! Kevin can be reached at (512) 487-1010 or email:

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I have been an International Sports Science Association Certified Personal Trainer since 2009, a Certified Boxing Fitness Trainer and I love helping women over 40 stay fit and healthy or getting their health and fitness back after spending all their time taking care of others.

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