Fat-Free Mass Index in NCAA Division I and II Collegiate American Football Players

J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Oct;31(10):2719-2727. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001737.


Fat-free mass index (FFMI) is a height-adjusted assessment of fat-free mass (FFM), with previous research suggesting a natural upper limit of 25 kg·m in resistance trained male athletes. The current study evaluated upper limits for FFMI in collegiate American football players (n = 235) and evaluated differences between positions, divisions, and age groups. The sample consisted of 2 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I teams (n = 78, n = 69) and 1 Division II team (n = 88). Body composition was assessed via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and used to calculate FFMI; linear regression was used to normalize values to a height of 180 cm. Sixty-two participants (26.4%) had height-adjusted FFMI values above 25 kg·m (mean = 23.7 ± 2.1 kg·m; 97.5th percentile = 28.1 kg·m). Differences were observed among position groups (p < 0.001; η = 0.25), with highest values observed in offensive linemen (OL) and defensive linemen (DL) and lowest values observed in offensive and defensive backs. Fat-free mass index was higher in Division I teams than Division II team (24.3 ± 1.8 kg·m vs. 23.4 ± 1.8 kg·m; p < 0.001; d = 0.49). Fat-free mass index did not differ between age groups. Upper limit estimations for FFMI seem to vary by position; although the 97.5th percentile (28.1 kg·m) may represent a more suitable upper limit for the college football population as a whole, this value was exceeded by 6 linemen (3 OL and 3 DL), with a maximal observed value of 31.7 kg·m. Football practitioners may use FFMI to evaluate an individual's capacity for additional FFM accretion, suitability for a specific position, potential for switching positions, and overall recruiting assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Athletes*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United States
  • Universities*
  • Young Adult