When it comes to fitness, body fat percentage is everything. You can either be a solid 120lbs or you can be a fluffy 120lbs. The difference is muscle mass versus body fat.

What is body fat percentage anyway?

To put it simply, it is the amount of fat in your body compared to muscle. There are so many ways that BFP (body fat percentage) can vary from person to person. Take gender for example: men obviously have a lesser amount of body fat than women because women’s bodies were created to use that extra fat for reproduction. Also, it can vary by goal: a bodybuilder will obviously have a lesser amount of fat than your average Joe. It all depends on your genetics, your gender, your fitness level, and your health goals.

What’s a healthy body fat percentage to have?

Take a look a the chart below that’s broken down by gender & age to help give you an idea:

Most of us average folks who aren’t training for a competition or marathon will be in the ideal range-or at least, we should strive to be. Unfortunately, due to America’s climbing obesity rates, most of us will barely meet even the average amount.

But, don’t worry because body fat is GOOD. We NEED body fat to survive because it protects our interal organs and regulates our body temps and hormones. However, you need to focus on having the right amount which is not too much, but not too little: ideal. However, if your goal is to be ripped and you want some serious definition and tone to your body (think Dana Linn Bailey or Michelle Lewin), you’re gonna have to aim for the Athletic category.

So, how do you find your goal? 
If you are aiming for an all-around fit Jamie Eason type of muscular body, you will want to aim for 13%-15% BFP.
If you are just looking to getting 6 pack abs, aim for 15%-17% BFP.
If you are aiming for an athletic body type to improve your performance, 20% is fine.
If you just want to look good-no real goal in particular-aim for 20%-23%.
For my ladies who are concerned with fertility or menstration, do not drop below 15% BFP. Your body needs extra fat for these hormones.
What do these numbers even look like on a person?


While these photos give you a great idea, please know that body fat percentages are just that-the amount of body fat in your body. There’s a whole other half of the equation missing that thats: muscle mass. Two people can have the SAME BFP and look completely different because one may have more muscle mass than the other.

How do you calculate your body fat percentage?

Well, there are quite a few ways that you can go about measuring body fat and whichever method you choose really all depends on how accurate you are wanting to be.

Here’s a few ways:

  1. Assess visually. If you know your body fat percentages well enough to do this, then go for it. This is usually a method best used by trainers who work with different body types on a daily basis and does not work so well with the average Joe or Jane. Obviously, you may use the BFP photo examples above to help you determine an average percentage, but to really get your true percentage, you will have to do some measuring.
  2. Body Measurements: A more accurate method of calculating your BFP is through the use of body measurements. You can follow the instructions here to measure. However, keep in mind that this is not always a sure way of figuring our your exact number as people measure differently. For example, some may pull the measuring tape too tight or too loosely.
  3. Body Fat Calipers. These nifty little tools come in a “claw-like” form that are actually used to pinch your fat to determine your body fat percentage. On the tool are measurements and what you do is you pinch your skin away from the muscle. The 4 best places to measure are the back of your upper arms or triceps, thighs, illiac crest, and the abdomen about 2 inches to the right or left of your navel above your hipbone. Keep in mind there are more locations that you may also use the caliper to measure BFP. A caliper is cheap and can be found very easily, but it isn’t always so accurate.

There are more ways than just the ones listed above to measure your body fat percentage. However, to get a good idea of your exact number, I would suggest following all 3 methods and writing down your results for comparison. Have no clue on what to do? Have a personal trainer or a gym member assist you.

On final note on measurements: don’t sweat the numbers. It is actually not that big of a deal to know your exact BFP anyway-unless you are entering a bikini or bodybuiling competition, which most of us aren’t. Bsaically: If you are liking how you look, fantastic! If not, then I will explain how to lower your BFP in the next little bit.


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