The Tape Measure

Many individuals will not have access to the equipment necessary to get accurate body composition measurements. In this case, a very rough estimate of changes in body composition can be made by using a measuring tape.

As with the scale and skin fold measurements, the tape measure should be used at a consistent time of the week, generally when weight is measured. Typical sites to measure are:

Chest: taken at nipple level

Arms: taken in the middle of the arm

Abdomen: taken at the level of the belly button

Hips: taken at the largest diameter of the buttocks

Thigh: taken halfway between the knee and where the thigh joins the hip

Calf: taken at the largest diameter of the calf

The biggest problem with the tape measure is obtaining consistent tension as it is quite easy to pull the tape tighter to get a smaller measurement. Ideally, the tape should be pulled just tight enough that it slightly depresses the skin. Another option is to have someone else take the measurements.

Also as discussed in chapter 8, keep in mind that changes in the tape measure are affected by changes in muscle mass. Those starting an exercise program often gain muscle more quickly than they lose bodyfat. This can show up as a temporary increase in tape measurements.

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