Validity of 2 skinfold calipers in estimating percent body fat of college-aged men and women

J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Dec;24(12):3448-56. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bde1fe.


There is a need for cost-effective techniques that accurately predict percent body fat (%BF) and require little skill to administer. There are 2 commercially available skinfold calipers, 1 digital and the other self-administered, that claim to accurately predict %BF. The primary purpose of this study was to validate these calipers using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) as a reference method in a sample of college-aged men and women. A secondary purpose of this study was to compare the validity of these calipers to the validity of arm-to-arm bioempedance analysis (BIA) (Omron, Shelton, Connecticut, U.S.A.), leg-to-leg BIA (Tanita, Arlington Heights, Illinois, U.S.A.), and 3-site skinfold equations (SUM3) using DXA as a reference method. Fifty college students (25 men and 25 women) from a kinesiology department who ranged in fitness levels volunteered to have %BF measured by the digital and self-administered skinfold calipers, Omron, Tanita, and SUM3. The digital and self-administered skinfold calipers had the poorest group predictive accuracy for the men and women (total error ranged from 7.9 to 10.9%BF) when compared to the other field methods. The digital skinfold caliper had good individual predictive accuracy in the men (95% limits of agreement [LOA] = ± 6.4%BF) and women (95% LOA = ± 4.9%BF) when compared to the other field methods. However, the self-administered skinfold caliper had poor individual predictive accuracy for the men (LOA = ± 8.6%BF) and the women (LOA = ± 7.5%BF) when compared to the other field methods. Compared to DXA, Tanita, Omron, and SUM3, we would not recommend using the digital or self-administered skinfold calipers for estimating %BF in college-aged men and women with similar body composition as the men and women in this study. We recommend using the SUM3 to estimate %BF.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon*
  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Skinfold Thickness*