As an alternative to the body fat scale, body fat calipers can also be used to measure body fat relatively accurately. Body fat calipers resemble a pair of large tweezers which are used to measure skin folds in order to calculate the amount of fat under a person’s skin, otherwise known as subcutaneous fat.
When using calipers, you need to measure skin folds in at least three areas of your body which must include your belly, thighs, and triceps. If it’s your first time using calipers, it’s highly recommend that you let a professional do it the first few times and ask him to show you how. That way you can learn to use them in the correct manner and vastly improve your accuracy when measure your own body fat.
Calipers can range in quality and price widely, from $10 all the way up to $300 or more. Why such a vast range in price? Well, as with most things you get what you pay for and when buying a pair of calipers, it’s no different. Now that doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive pair of calipers on the market and a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean better accuracy. The most important things to look for when buying calipers is to find some that are of a reputable brand such as those by Accufitness or Lange and that can hold a steady level of tension. If the calipers you buy can not consistently hold a steady of tension, the accuracy can be thrown way off. All this being said you should be able to get a decent pair of calipers for $30 to $40.
How accurate are body fat calipers? Well, like anything the answer is “it depends”. The biggest factors that can affect their accuracy however include the person using them and the quality of the fat calipers. On average though, if used properly fat calipers have about a 3-4% margin of error. Overall they can be slightly more accurate than a body fat scale simply because they are not influenced by external factors such as whether you recently worked out, drank water, or ate a meal; all of which can affect your typical body fat scale.
Though underwater or hydrostatic weighing is by far the most accurate way to measure body fat, it’s just too impractical. Using body fat calipers, like the body fat scale, is a great alternative to this and much more convenient and economical for the average person.