Body Fat Testing Showdown: Bod Pod v. Calipers
We’ve heard it countless times after someone’s first Bod Pod in Scottsdale test: “This can’t be right! I’ve had my body fat tested before and it was lower. I know I’m not X percent body fat!”
Nine times out of ten, the person didn’t have their previous body fat test done using a Bod Pod, they had it tested by a personal trainer at a gym using calipers. While calipers can be accurate, they are not as accurate or reliable as the Bod Pod in Scottsdale, and measuring body fat using calipers is very easy to mess up and very difficult to master.
The accuracy of a body fat test performed using calipers can depend largely on the following factors:
- The experience of the tester. It takes literally hundreds of tests to perfect the art of skinfold measuring. Knowing exactly where to pinch, how much fat to pinch, and how to manipulate the pinched fat for the most accurate reading takes a lot of trial and error. Unfortunately, the average personal trainer isn’t going to put in the time to learn how to use calipers appropriately.
- The quality of the calipers being used. There are very high quality, medical grade, metal calipers on the market, but they can be quite expensive – often $200 or more. The calipers used in most gyms are made of cheap plastic and cost less than $10. Over time, these cheap plastic calipers can warp, bend, and crack, all of which will significantly diminish their accuracy.
- How often the calipers are calibrated. Calibrating calipers is very simple to do, but that doesn’t mean it always gets done. Being off by as little as one millimeter can have a profound effect on your body fat test results.
Perhaps the biggest problem with body fat testing using calipers is that it’s easy to cheat. By pinching a little less fat or squeezing the calipers a little bit tighter, it’s easy for a trainer to make your body fat percentage lower than it actually is. This can happen just from human error and without any intention of being manipulative.
The Bod Pod is more accurate and more reliable than calipers because the Bod Pod does almost all of the work, thus significantly reducing the risk for human error. It doesn’t make much difference if the Bod Pod technician has done 1 test or 100 tests. At Human Health Specialists, our Bod Pod is calibrated every morning and then again immediately before every test to ensure the greatest accuracy and reliability possible. We also use the Bod Pod Gold Standard, which is the most accurate and reliable Bod Pod available.
If you’ve had your body fat tested using calipers, don’t be surprised if your first test with the Bod Pod in Scottsdale ends up being a little bit higher. In fact, you should probably expect it to be a little higher (that stinks, we know). However, while you may not like your Bod Pod results, remember that they will give you a more accurate and reliable measure of where you currently stand and how you’re progressing when you retest in the future.