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Predicting Body Fat from Girth

Measuring body fat percentage is an easy method of discovering correct body weight and composition. Beneath the skin is a layer of subcutaneous fat, and the percentage of total body fat can be measured by taking the girth measurements at selected points on the body with a measuring tape.

Measurement Sites

Depending on your age and gender three body measurements can be used for determining your percentage body fat.

Age (years) Gender Site A Site B Site C
18 - 26 Male Right Upper Arm Abdomen Right Forearm
  Female Abdomen Right Thigh Right Forearm
27 - 50 Male Hips Abdomen Right Forearm
  Female Abdomen Right Thigh Right Calf

The measurement sites are as follows:

Girth A - Upper Arm

B - Forearm
Abdomen c - Abdomen Hips Thigh Calf D - Hips

E - Thigh

F - Calf


The method is as follows:

  • Based on your age range and gender determine the required three measurement sites from the table above
  • Record the measurements in centimetres of these three sites (A, B, C)
  • Use the calculator below to determine your percentage body fat


To obtain an estimate of the percentage body fat please enter your age range, gender, three site measurements (in the correct order A, B, C) and then select the 'Calculate' button.

Age - Gender -
Site A = cm Site B = cm Site C = cm
Estimated body fat is % (± 2.5%)

The calculations are based on McArdle et al. (2000)[2]


Reliability would depend upon how strict the test is conducted and the individual's level of motivation to perform the test.


Not a good predictor of percentage of body fat but it can be used to indicate changes in body composition over time.

Typical Scores

The average man has 15 to 17% body fat, while the average woman is between 18 and 22%. Typical scores for elite athletes (Wilmore 1994)[1] are 6% to 12% for men and 12% to 20% for women. The following table details the percentage of body fat for male and female athletes for a variety of sports.

Sport Male Female
Baseball 12-16% 12-19%
Basketball 6-12% 20-28%
Canoeing 6-12% 10-16%
Cycling 5-14% 15-20%
Field Hockey 8-14% 12-18%
Gymnastics 5-13% 10-16%
Rowing 6-14% 12-19%
Swimming 9-13% 14-24%
Tennis 12-15% 16-24%
Track - Jumpers 7-11% 10-18%
Track - Runners 8-10% 12-19%
Track - Throwers 14-20% 20-27%
Triathlon 5-11% 10-15%
Volleyball 11-14% 16-24%


  1. WILMORE, J.H. and COSTILL, D.L. (1994) Physiology of sport and exercise. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois
  2. McARDLE, W.D. et al. (2000) Essentials of Exercise Physiology, 2nd ed. Lippincott: Williams & Wilkin, Appendix F

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • WESSTRATE, J. A. and DEURENBERG, P. (1989) Body composition in children: proposal for a method for calculating body fat percentage from total body density or skinfold-thickness measurements. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 50 (5), p. 1104-1115
  • DEURENBERG, P. et al. (2001) The validity of predicted body fat percentage from body mass index and from impedance in samples of five European populations. European journal of clinical nutrition, 55 (11), p. 973-979
  • GALLAGHER, D. et al. (2000) Healthy percentage body fat ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72 (3), p. 694-701

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2007) Predicting Body Fat from Girth [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: