Body Fat Percentage and 6 Pack Abs

Body Fat Percentage is the most important measurement for men who want ripped 6 pack abs and women who want a flat stomach.

Having low body fat is essential if you want to have great abs.

Body mass index (BMI) is a great health tool, and I recommend that you use it just to get a perspective on your height to weight ratio. For most people a high BMI, also means high body fat.

But, the limit of the BMI scale is that it does not always correlate to body fat percentage.

Some athletes or people with lots of muscle mass may have a high BMI (i.e. their weight is high in proportion to their height), but they will still have six pack abs and low body fat.

So the lesson is that you have to calculate your body fat percentage to know how close you are to getting 6 pack abs.

Body Fat Percentage refers to the percentage of your weight that is fat versus lean tissue. When your body fat is high, you have more fat under your skin (subcutaneous fat-- literally, underneath the skin). The more fat you have under your skin, the harder it is to see your 6 pack ab muscles and your other muscles.

When you decrease your body fat, your muscles appear more toned and defined. If you want your ab muscles to look better you need to develop them and decrease your body fat.

Ab exercises help to develop your abs, and a comprehensive approach to fitness (including weight training, flexibility training, aerobic exercise, and sound nutrition) helps you to decrease body fat.

Ab exercises by themselves are not enough to improve the look of your stomach, unless you already have low body fat.

Spot reduction is the #1 ab exercise myth, and unfortunately, there is no magic ab exercise that will by itself significantly decrease body fat.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Don't worry though... I take a comprehensive approach and I'll show you how to truly flatten your stomach and get ripped six pack abs.

Calculating Your Body Fat Percentage

There are many methods that you can use to calculate your body fat.

The 4 most popular methods are Hydrostatic Weighing, Bioelectrical Impedance, Skin Fold Calipers, and Circumference Measurements.

Hydrostatic Weighing/ Under Water Weighing uses Archimedes Principle of buoyancy to calculate body fat. This method is fairly accurate (usually +/- 1%), but it is not available to the general public.

This technique is usually reserved for research projects and physiology labs. Basically, there is a big tank of water with a scale inside. To get measured you, sit on the scale, hold your breath, and get submerged underwater. Based on how much the water rises, the formula can calculate body fat percent.

Bioelectrical Impedance is becoming more popular because of it's ease of use, but unfortunately, this technique is the least reliable of all the methods.

Bioelcetrical impedance is the method used in the scales that you stand on or the hand held devices. The devices send an electrical current through a closed circuit (upper body or lower body) and calculates how much time the current takes to travel through the circuit.

Based on the time it takes the electrical current to go through the circuit the machine determines the amount of water in the body. Since muscle and fat have different densities and water concentrations, the complex formula will give an estimate of body fat based on the impedance (resistance) through the circuit.

I know that sounds nerdy and complicated and it is. But, you don't have to worry about all the science, simply stand on the scale a read what it tells you.

Generally, it will say the same thing over and over again, but some of the scales report a margin of error of +/- 8-10%, so it's not the most precise measurement.

My advice if you have a scale is to simply use it as a base measurement and compare it with the calipers or the circumference measurements.

Skin Fold Calipers are one of my favorite methods to assess body fat. The calipers measure in millimeters how much skin and fat is pinched in certain spots. Then, there are charts that give you an estimate of body fat percentage, based on sex, age, and the sum of the skin folds.

There are many different protocols that you can use to calculate body fat. The one I use most often is a 3 site protocol. For men the 3 sites are the chest, abdomen, and thigh, and for women the 3 sites are triceps, suprailiac, and thigh.

There are calipers that you can buy so that you can take your own measurements, but if you have access to a personal trainer who knows how to use the calipers it's worth your time to ask for help.

The calipers are much more accurate than the body fat scales, but not quite as accurate as hydrostatic weighing. The margin of error is +/- 3.5%

U.S. Navy Circumference Measurements are also a great way to evaluate your body fat. I generally use both the skin fold calipers and circumference measurements when I assess new clients and want to track progress of current clients.

The circumference method was developed by the U.S. Navy, and it is used by Dr. Barry Sears in his book The Zone Diet.

For men, you enter height, waist, and neck size, and for women- hips, waist, height, and neck size.

Check out this website to calculate your body fat based on the US Navy Method.

How Did You Do?

Recommended Healthy Body Fat Percentage

Generally speaking, a healthy body fat for a woman is 23-25% and a healthy body fat for a man is 15-18%.

I can pretty comfortably say that if your body fat is above the recommended healthy range, then you are most likely not happy with the way your abs look.

If you are above the healthy range, my advice is set a goal to get down into the healthy range. In order decrease your body fat significantly you must lose weight and lose fat-- so you will likely also need a weight loss goal.

Body Fat Percentage and 6 Pack Abs

Now if you want great abs or ripped 6 pack abs, you have to get into the athletic range for body fat percentage. For men the athletic range is 5-10% and for women the athletic range is 12-18%.

This really is the key to getting ripped six pack abs.

Getting your body fat into the athletic range is the most important thing you need to focus on if you want a flat stomach or ripped abs.

You can do 1000 sit ups a day, but if your body fat is high, you will never have great abs.

If you're working out regularly, but you're not making progress, my advice is to re-evaluate your eating habits. Low carb diets can be really effective at decreasing body fat percentage.

If your goal is to improve your abs, focus on decreasing your body fat. Use weight training to speed up your metabolism, aerobic exercise to burn calories, and sound nutrition to burn fat.

Getting six pack abs and a flat stomach takes work and discipline, so keep working towards your goal and never give up.

I'll do my best to provide the info, and then all you have to do is put the lessons into practice.

See you back here soon.
Yours in Health
Dr. Charles

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