Special calipers are used to measure folds of skin around specific spots on the body. This is not a precise method; but it is relatively accurate if a training professional conducts the test. Unfortunately, there is a variety of formulas that can be used to estimated body fat and quite often it is performed slightly different by each person.
Thus, to increase accuracy, always have the same individual perform your pinch test. Also, always remember, the pinch test is not an exact measure of your real body fat percentage, but can work wonderfully for a monthly reference to monitor your progress.
Accuracy: Moderately accurate when conducted by a trained professional.
Starting Cost: $10 to $20
Convenience: Widely available at health clubs and only takes a few minutes.
3 out of 5
Bioelectrical Impedance Test
A trained technician connects electrodes to your hand and foot while you lie down. Then a harmless radio-frequency pulse is run directly through the body to measure water content. That number provides a estimate of body fat with an error of 2 or 2 1/2 percentage points. Although, exercise and different levels of liquid intake directly before the test can distort results.
Accuracy: Equal to the pinch test
Starting Cost: $25
Convenience: It takes only a few minutes and is found at some health facilities.
3 out of 5
This is by far the most accurate body fat measurement method available. The test requires you to exhale the air from your lungs as you get dunked into a pool of water. The method only has an error margin of 1 body fat percentage point.
Accuracy: The very best
Starting Cost: $25 to $50
Convenience: Accessible at many hospitals and various gyms, although, it is exhausting and can last up to an hour
5 out of 5
You step into an egg-shaped chamber, sit for 20 seconds, and that's it. The chamber measures air displacement within your body. This measurement is converted to your relative body fat after your weight is factored in.
Accuracy: Initial tests show that it's as good as immersion.
Starting Cost: $25 to $125
Convenience: Found at only a few dozen hospitals and doctor's offices, but it's quick and easy.
5 out of 5