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What IS the best way to measure body fat?

By Hybrid Gym LA

Why is it important for us to know our body fat percentage? 

If your goal is to lose body fat, getting a baseline measurement and continuously re-assessing can tell you the progress you have made and what you need to adjust (if anything) to get there.  Having a high amount of fat on the body can put someone at risk for chronic health conditions and diseases such as; heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer and more. On the flip side, having too little body fat can also cause issues too because essential body fat helps us regulate glucose, cholesterol, energy storage, and even hormone levels. 

There are many different ways to measure body fat nowadays. But which one is the “best”? It depends. Let’s take a look at each one and discuss the pros and cons of each method.

Skin Fold Calipers 

This technique is one of the original ways to measure body fat percentage. It involves using a device called a “caliper” that lightly pinches the skin and underlying fat in several areas. 


  • The testing sites and its measurements can be an indicator of hormone regulation in the body, nutrition, and even future health concerns
  • Fairly accurate form of measurement with an average estimate of error at only 3.5%
  • Reliable
  • Ability to look at each measurement site and it’s estimate instead of just overall body fat percentage 


  • If an individual has higher than average body fat levels, the results can become less accurate 
  • Have to be precise on measurement sites 
  • Some people are not comfortable with being pinched 

EVOLT and Inbody

These two devices use bioelectrical impedance. A weak electrical current (don’t worry, you don’t feel a thing!) is run through the body and identifies the speed at which it runs through the water content of the bodily tissues. Since fat has a lower water content than muscle, it will slow down the current while the current will progress through the body at a quicker pace with lean muscle tissue. 


  • Easy to use 
  • Fairly reliable if conditions are the same each time 


  • Conditions have to be consistent. Same time of day, hydration levels, using the bathroom beforehand, not exercising beforehand, monitoring alcohol intake 24hrs before, menstruation and even certain medications can create a variance. 

DXA Scan 

“DXA” is also known as “Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry”. It uses two different X-ray energies to measure bone density, lean mass, and fat in each area of the body. You lay on your back and let the X-ray scan over you for approximately 10 minutes. Don’t worry, the radiation from this machine is extremely low (about the same if you just lived your daily life for 3 hours). 


  • Most accurate way to measure muscle and fat mass 
  • Can also measure bone density 
  • Pretty quick 


  • Not easily accessible 
  • Costly 
  • Only available in medical or research settings with a specific technician running the test 

Hydrostatic Weighing 

This method measures your body composition based on your density in water. You will be submerged under water after exhaling all of the air out of your lungs and you will be weighed. This measurement will then be compared to your “on land” weight. Since fat is lighter than water and any other tissues are heavier, the formula for the results gives these metrics to us. 


  • Accurate 
  • Pretty quick (little as 2% variation) 


  • Not readily available 
  • Elderly, ill, or individuals who are uncomfortable holding their breath underwater are not the best candidates for this method 

3D Body Scans 

3D Body scans are similar to circumference measurements. You are instructed to stand still while a machine scans around your body in 30 seconds-2 minutes depending on the model. This generates a 3D model of your body and it estimates your body fat percentage based on circumference measurements. 


  • Fast and easy 
  • Ability to see the body at all angles 


  • Only certain, specialized places usually have this available 
  • Does not directly assess body fat percentage 

Bod Pod 

Also known as “Air Displacement Plethysmography”. This method obtains your body fat percentage based on your density. You sit inside of a chamber while the air inside the chamber is altered. 


  • Quick and easy 
  • Pretty accurate with only an error of 2-4% 


  • Not readily available 
  • Not recommended for individuals with claustrophobia 

What does Hybrid use and why? 

At Hybrid, we use a combination of skin fold calipers and EVOLT (bioelectrical impedance). This gives us comparisons to check for accuracy and the ability to customize the method based on an individual’s comfortability. 

Calipers also show us different hormone regulations throughout the body depending on placement. For example; the pec, tricep and bicep measurements can show up testosterone and estrogen balance, sub-scap can show us any insulin sensitivity going on in the body, umbilical can show us whether we have high cortisol (stress) hormone levels. 

On an initial assessment, Hybrid uses both to show the most in depth data to give us a baseline measurement and then we update and re-measure every 2-4 weeks to see the progress as we go. 

Knowing your body fat percentage is a great way to determine short and long term health as well as physique goals. Whichever method you use, just make sure to be consistent, using the same method each time to avoid any error.