Body Composition Testing

Body Composition Testing


Even though nature has given you a particular body type, when you add lean body mass and cut down on fat weight you are actually changing the composition of your body. It is often difficult to keep track of body composition developments because your training is creating more muscle mass, so your body composition can change quite a lot without your realizing it. The mirror, the scale, and the tape measure are always useful, but sometimes they don't tell you enough.

In addition to simply studying yourself in the mirror, the best way to keep track of physical body composition changes is by some form of body composition testing. Body composition testing gives you an indication of the percentage of muscle your body has compared to the amount of fat. Body composition test will help track your progress as you gain muscle and lose fat. The most common types of body composition testing are:

- Skin-fold testing. Calipers are used to pinch folds of skin at various parts of your body, which indicates how much fat is under the skin, and this is used to calculate body composition.

- Water-emersion testing. The subject is weighed out of the water, then in the water, and certain measurements such as the residual capacity of the lungs are taken. The number are applied to a formula to determine the ratio of fat to lean body mass - which is composed of muscle, bone, and internal organs.

- Electrical impedance testing. A low voltage current is passed through the body. Since fat, muscle and water create different amounts of resistance to electrical current, the amount of resistance encountered allows for calculation of body composition.

However, while measuring body composition is useful in ascertaining the results of a diet or what changes training is creating in your physique, be aware that the direction of change from one test to another is more significant than the specific results you get in any one test. The reason is that all the test numbers are run through formulas that make certain assumptions about the body that don't necessarily apply very well to the extreme development of serious bodybuilders. So if your body composition test are tested as 12% body fat in one session and 9% two weeks later, you can be pretty sure you're headed in the right direction - assuming you are taking the same type of test administered in the same way, so that the retest accuracy is high.

We have heard some ridiculous claims made for body fat testing, such as by athletes asserting they have as little as 3% body fat. Any doctor will tell you that 3% might be the fat level of a cadaver, but not a strong, healthy athlete. In tests conducted at IFBB and NPC contests, using a variety of methods, it was shown that the bigger the bodybuilder the higher the fat percentage when the competitor is ripped. So a massive bodybuilder might be ripped at 12% body fat measurement, while a lightweight amateur might look great at 7 or 8%.

Why? Because what we traditionally think of as fat is not the only fat in your body. There is also intramuscular fat, which is the fat in the muscle itself. So if a really big bodybuilder continues to diet past a certain point he is likely to just shrink rather than getting more cut-up. So while body composition testing is useful, don't forget to use the mirror or photographs to keep track of how you look. Remember, the judges don't take body fat tests into consideration during a contest. They go only by what they see. And you need to do the same thing.

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