The first time you take body measurements for someone can be nerve-wracking or upsetting for the client. They are so important, though! Both the trainer and clients need to have a good idea of where they are starting at. It helps to motivate and point out improvements when your clients don’t think they are getting anywhere. Where I work, we do three measurements: a scale, tape measure, and then calipers.
Today I just want to focus on the calipers. Personally, I think that one is the most humiliating. We have a rule here at our gym, and it is that female trainers always do female clients, the men deal with the males. Makes everyone a little more comfortable.
Always, always use the same side of the body. I use the right side. The site of your measurement will dictate how you make the folds, but apply the calipers about a quarter inch from your fingers. You also need to wait a couple of seconds after applying the calipers to be sure that they have the correct reading. I do each measurement at least twice to make sure that they are approximately the same number, giving the body about 15-30 seconds to go back to shape in between before I make the fold again.
I know places that take seven measurements but here we do four. My boss is fond of the Jackson/Pollack method. Here’s what we do:
I like to start with the triceps. The goal is to find the center of the arm. First I find the midpoint between their shoulder and elbow. Then I determine where the center of that point is. I make a vertical fold there and take the measurement.
Then we do the abdominal area. People tend to hate this one. I tend to go an inch to the right of the person’s belly button. It is a horizontal fold and it is one of the easier places to measure in my opinion.
Next is the hip measurement. I usually have clients bend to the side away from me so that I can find the top of their hip joint. This fold is made on an angle of approximately 45 degrees, following the natural fold of the body.
The last measurement I take is in the thigh area. You have the client shift their weight to their left leg for the measurement. I locate the center point of their thigh between hip and knee. The fold is vertical again, as close to the center as you can.
Once you have all the measurements, you have to use a formula to come up with the correct % of body fat. You can also use the American Council on Exercise’s calculator, which does the computing for you. Math was never my favorite subject anyway! It gets everything done faster for the client so we can move on to talking about what the numbers mean and formulate a plan of attack for what we want to do.
I always remind my client that these numbers don’t define them. It just helps us focus our energies on the things that will most benefit them!