Body fat percentage is a measurement of the total fat mass in your body and is used to determine how much of your total body weight is made up of body fat. To calculate your body fat percentage, you first need to assess the weight of your fat and the weight of your total body. You can do this with body composition scales.
The body fat percentage of an active athlete is often lower than the average person. Typically, male athletes will have between 6-13% body fat, and female athletes will have 14-20% body fat.
In this post, discover how to calculate body fat percentage as well as the typical body fat percentages of different athletes.
How to calculate body fat percentage?
As mentioned, calculating your body fat percentage requires finding out how much of your body weight consists of fat. This can be achieved through a range of methods from simply using a tape measure to hydrodensitometry, where you are weighed submerged in water.
Men calculating body fat percentage using a tape measure should begin by measuring the circumference of the neck and abdomen at the largest part and then subtract the neck value from the abdomen value to receive a circumference value.
Women should measure their neck, natural waist, and hips and then add the waist and hip measurements before subtracting the neck measurement to receive the circumference value. These measurements can then be used to calculate an estimated body fat percentage.
Callipers are also often used to measure body fat by pinching different areas of the skin and recording and converting the measurements to work out your body fat percentage. Men should measure the fat at your chest, abdominals and thigh whereas women should measure fat at your triceps, suprailiac (an inch above the hip bone) and thigh.
However, these methods do not prove very accurate when calculating body fat percentages and there are more accurate methods available. These include underwater weighing, DEXA scans that use x-ray technology, air displacement measures and bioelectrical impedance scales which measure the speed of electrical impulses through your body and estimate the amount of water versus fat in your body.
The Body Fat Percentages of Athletes
Body fat is an essential part of the human body, and both men and women require a certain amount in order to be healthy. If you were to consider a professional bodybuilder and an obese person, they may be the same weight but have different body fat percentages.
Most athletes have less than the average person’s body fat percentage. However, this figure only reveals some information regarding overall health and fitness.
When considering the ideal body fat percentage, the numbers vary between the sexes. It’s important to note that men require at least 2 to 5% of body fat in order to be considered healthy, and women require at least 10-13% of essential fat.
*information sourced from American Council on Exercise
When taking a look at the typical body fat percentage of different athletes, you should consider the different requirements each sport has in terms of body composition. Typically, these can be broken down into gravitational sports such as long-distance running and cycling, weight-class sports such as horse racing and combat sports, and aesthetically judged sports like gymnastics.
Take a look at these typical body fat percentages for athletes, categorised by sport:
According to the above data, male bodybuilders are likely to have the lowest body fat percentage of the athletes included and female basketball players and shot putters are likely to have the highest body fat percentage.
Purchase Body Fat Percentage Scales Today
If you’re an athlete, training for a competition or just keen on maintaining a level of fitness, then our BIA scales are ideal for keeping a record of your body fat percentage and more.
Capable of providing accurate and comprehensive readings, these scales allow you to gain a more in-depth understanding of your body and adapt your workout regime to achieve the best results.
The phrase ‘skinny fat’ or metabolically obese normal weight (MONW) is used to describe someone who appears to be lean, but actually has a high body fat percentage. Explore more about the ‘skinny fat’ body type with Marsden Weighing. in this blog post.
We explain how BIA scales work in more detail in this recent blog post - What Is BIA?
If you’re hoping to slim down and improve your overall health and well-being, we've put together this list of body fat burning exercises.