Everyone has some sort of body fat somewhere on their body. Your body simply can’t function without it.
Social Focus On Body Fat
An increasing number of all personal training clients today are looking for help in reducing their body fat. For better or worse, body fat has become one of the most often used measures of one’s health.
While body fat may be indicative of other types of existing health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, even the lowest levels of body fat don’t automatically imply an individual is in good health.
Partially stemming from the cultural desire to look a certain way and the negative stigma around it, measuring body fat happens to be perhaps the most effective ways of helping your clients to track their progress and stay motivated in the pursuit of their goals.
Measure Progress, Meet Goals
Knowing your client’s body fat measurements will allow you to quickly calculate his or her body composition. Body composition describes the percentages of subcutaneous body fat and lean body mass. Subcutaneous fat is what most people refer to as “fat” – you can see and “pinch” it, as opposed to visceral fat which is deeply concentrated around your organs.
There are several methods to measure an individual’s body fat such as water displacement, biometric impedance and through the use of a body fat skinfold caliper. The preferred standard by most trainers to use fat calipers to measure specific skinfolds. This has become the most widely method primarily due to the cost effectiveness, accuracy and ease of use.
It’s important to spend a few extra bucks to get a quality caliper. The cheaper, plastic versions are less precise and generally lack the constant pressure needed for accurate and consistent measurements.
If you’ve measured someone’s body fat in the past, you’re already one step ahead by being familiar with the process.
If you’re new to this, you may want to see if there are any classes or workshops in your area to get some experience. Otherwise, your best bet is to check with friends and family members to see if they’ll let you use them as test subjects.
You’ll need to get up close and personal with your clients during the skinfold measurements, so you should also be comfortable with the entire process. Clients will expect that you are experienced and professional throughout.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the measurements and have had some practice, it’s time to start applying this knowledge to your training sessions.
Body Fat Best Practices
When meeting with your clients for the initial assessment, it’s important to inform them of the entire process and ask their permission before administering any tests. Let them know that you will be pinching and pulling at their skin. Warn them of the pain or discomfort that is associated with performing a proper body fat analysis.
One of the most industry-recognized body fat estimates, we recommend using the Jackson Pollock method, which requires the following 7 test sites:
When performing a body fat analysis, pinch and pull the skin away from the muscle and apply the calipers on the skin and fat only, avoiding the muscle. The goal here is to be gentle yet forceful. Maintain pressure and continue holding the fold while you take the measurement.
It’s critical to be consistent and apply the same amount of force when pulling the skin. Two separate trainers measuring the body fat of a single client can yield vastly different results.
Each site should be measured at least 2-3 times, and make sure to take each skinfold measurement on the right side of the client’s body. The body measurements should always be taken before exercise, to avoid fluctuations from hydration levels and other exercise-related factors. These practices ensure additional consistency between measurements.
Once you’ve got the skinfold measurements, you can use this handy calculator to determine the approximate body fat percentage and body composition.
With some obese clients, the caliper may not even be able to fit around the pinched area. In this case, try to avoid the body fat analysis altogether and simply use measuring tape or the mirror as a way to track progress. It is extremely discouraging for any client to learn they are too big for the body fat caliper.
Ideally, you should perform the body fat analysis in a private room, behind a curtain or somewhere out of plain view. Request your client to remove as much clothing as they are comfortable with, as this will make it easier for you to get to each skinfold site.
It’s important to be respectful of the clients that are not comfortable removing their clothing or those that simply don’t want to be pinched in sensitive areas. Remind your clients that you are a professional, that you do this frequently and that they should feel comfortable around you as their trainer. This is one of the services they are paying you for, after all.
Build This Step Into Your Business
Although there are many different ways to track progress, I recommend using a body fat caliper and the Jackson Pollock formula. This is easily one of the easiest and most accurate methods available as it takes a measurement from each major area.
Set the expectations up front and let your clients know about the benefits of measuring body fat and tracking goals. Practice as much as possible until you are completely comfortable measuring your clients.
Body fat analysis is an incredible tool that every personal training business absolutely must use. Once your clients start to see the progress they’ve been looking for, you’ve almost certainly gained a client for life.
How do you measure and track your clients’ progress? Are you using a different formula other than the Jackson-Pollock method? The community wants to know what you’ve found to work the best, leave a note in the comments!