What is a Skinfold Caliper?

Skinfold Calipers -

What is a Skinfold Caliper?

A skinfold caliper is an instrument that helps measure body fat percentage.  It is used for the measurement of the thickness of a skinfold, and by doing this at the key locations, can be a quite accurate representation of the total body fat. 

Types of Skinfold Calipers

  • Disposable
  • Plastic
  • Digital
  • Professional
  • Scientific
Note that one these categories are not exclusive of each other.  For example, one digital caliper may also be plastic, while another digital caliper is also professional.
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What is the Skinfold Caliper Test?

Is the measurement of different skinfold with a body fat caliper, the result of this measurements are used to complete an equation to obtain a person's body fat percentage

Skinfold measurement sites on the body


How Does a Skinfold Caliper Work?

A caliper works with a metallic spring that exerts pressure between the two branches, this mechanism is what helps to identify the thickness of the skinfold. The result obtained can be read depending on the type of caliper, if it is manual it should be read by looking at the number indicated by the indicator dial, if it is digital it gives the result on a screen. 

how does a skinfold caliper work


How do you use skinfold calipers on yourself?

 You can take skinfold measurements in yourself if the skinfold sites are on the lower body, from the abdomen to the legs. In other places it is not advisable to try to take measurements yourself with the caliper since there are areas that cannot be reached and there are skinfolds that must be taken with a specific and adequate technique, otherwise wrong results will be obtained.

take tricep skinfold with a skinfold caliper

What are skinfolds measured in

 The results of the measurements with a skinfold caliper are given in centimeters including milimeters to get the most accurate measurement possible .

How accurate is skinfold calipers?

The precision of a caliper depends on its model, brand and calibration. Measurements are normally given in millimeters, but the proper use of this will help to obtain good results. 

Skinfold Caliper Models and Cost

There are at least 20 different skinfold caliper models ranging in price from just a few dollars to over $500.  What's the difference?

Disposable Skinfold Calipers

A disposable skinfold caliper may only work one or two times, which defeats its purpose.  Skinfold measurement is valuable when you track changes over time, not just measuring it one time.  No two calipers or testers will give the same exact results, that's why it's important to use the same technique, tester, and equipment to track body fat measurement changes.

Skinfold Calipers for Students / Beginners

 Typical characteristics

  • $20-50
  • Professional accuracy 
  • Cannot be calibrated
  • Plastic
  • Precision +/- 1.0mm
The Slim Guide caliper is the best caliper in this price range. 

Midrange / Professional Skinfold Calipers

Typical characterics:

  • $100-$250
  • Can be calibrated
  • Made with metal or aluminum parts 
  • Precision +/- 1.0mm 

We recommend the Lange skinfold caliper, for its price, reputation, compact size, accuracy, and durability.  

Professional / Research Skinfold Calipers

 Typical characteristics

  • Highly accurate -- +/- 0.5mm or better
  • Made with metal or aluminum parts. 
  • May include digital models
  • Can be calibrated
The most famous is the Harpenden skinfold caliper, 


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