DPT-303.4-PT Essentials – Static Testing – Body Composition: Skin Fold

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Skinfold measurements are one of the most popular and practical options for measuring body composition.  The method is reasonably accurate and cheap to use. Skinfold measurements correlate well (r = 0.70-0.90) with body composition determined by hydrostatic weighing (ACSM, 1996). However, it requires considerable practice for a trainer to become proficient and some clients regard it as too invasive.  The method is based on the fact that superficial deposits of fat at various sites (measured by skinfolds) correlate well with total body fat.

Procedures and recommendations for skinfold measurements

  • Take all measurements on the left side of the body (English normative data – left, American – right).
  • Care is needed when locating the anatomical landmarks, measuring the distances, preferably with a tape measure, and marking the skinfold (SKF) site with a pen, especially if the trainer is relatively inexperienced. 
  • Place the thumb and index finger of the left hand 8cm apart (or more for very large SKF) and grasp the SKF firmly. Lift the fold 1cm above the marked site.
  • Keep the fold elevated while taking the measurement.
  • Place the jaws of the caliper perpendicular to the skinfold, approximately 1cm below the thumb and finger (on the mark) and half way between the base and the crest of the fold. Release the jaw pressure slowly.
  • The dial is read 1-2 seconds after the grip has been released.
  • Open the jaws of the caliper to remove it from the site (always release caliper before releasing thumb and finger). Close the jaws slowly to prevent damage or loss of calibration.
  • Read the dial of the caliper to the nearest 0.1mm (Harpenden) or 1mm (plastic).
  • Take a minimum of two measurements at each site. If values vary by more than ±10%, take additional measurements.
  • Take SKF measurements in a rotational order (circuits) rather than taking consecutive readings at each site.
  • Take the SKF measurements when the client’s skin is dry and lotion free.
  • Do not measure SKFs immediately after exercise because the shift in body fluid to the skin tends to increase the size of the SKF.

(Adapted from Franklin, 2000 and Heyward, 2002)

Skinfold Sites

To download a PDF of these sites to assist you, please click HERE

We typically take the readings from 13 sites. A very comprehensive view of BodyFat (BF) distribution. These (Based upon Charles Poliquin’s original BioSignature method) are:

  • Chin
  • Cheek
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Pec
  • Sub Scapula
  • Mid Axillary
  • Umbilicus
  • Supra Iliac
  • Knee
  • Calf
  • Quad
  • Hamstring

Detailed Overview:


A vertical fold. Read mid point between the throat and chin


Vertical Fold. Intersection point between cheek bone and line following corner of mouth.


Vertical Fold. With the arm relaxed in the centre of the belly of the biceps, at the level of the triceps skinfold


Oblique Fold along the pectoral line

  • Males: 2 fingers away from nipple
  • Females: 2 fingers away from pectoral fold.


Vertical Fold

Mid-point between olecranon and acromion processes, with arm extended and relaxed, in the centre of the belly of the triceps.


45 Degree Oblique Fold

1 cm below medial inferior edge of scapula.

Mid Axillary

45 Degree Oblique Fold

Mid-point between armpit and iliac crest.


Vertical Fold. One inch lateral from umbilicus.


45 Degree Oblique Fold

Taken 1cm superior to the iliac crest.


Vertical Fold        Client seated, the fold is taken at midpoint of quadriceps.


Horizontal Fold   Client lies prone, and the fold is taken midpoint at proximal end of hamstrings in the gluteal fold.

Place Callipers on the fold, ask client to perform a hamstring curl, pinch the skin fold and ask them to relax back to the start. Thats when you take the reading.


Vertical Fold.   Taken directly on knee cap.


Vertical Fold        Taken on medial side of the gastrocnemius belly.

The Sum of the Skinfolds for the 13 Sites (∑13 SKF) can then be used to:

  • Monitor Change over a period of Time
  • Calculate Body Density
  • Calculate Body Fat Percentage
  • Calculate Body Fat Mass
  • Calculate Fat Free Mass
  • Resting Metabolic Rate
  • Estimated Calorific Requirements

We’ve taken the liberties of creating you a handy spreadsheet with magical calculations in it to easily work out your client’s Body Density and Body Fat %. Click HERE to access it. There will also be a copy in your Online Resources, once you finish the course and subscribe.

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