I have a couple of obese clientele that I have used calipers on for body composition, and I am finding that the results are inaccurate. I am unable to pull skin/fat tissue away from the target areas in order to measure. The subcutaneous fat is too hard, and its difficult to get an accurate reading. Any suggestions on how to measure body composition using calipers on a client that is obese?
This population of clients can be sensitive as well as self-conscious. My question for you to consider is–is it really necessary to get the measurements on body fat for the obese client? Many fitness assessments that we use may not be suitable for this population. Calipers can be intimidating and embarrassing to some obese clients, and we need to consider whether or not we really need some of the assessments performed. Certainly we want to track progress, which includes body composition, but not all clients are comfortable with this procedure.
For this population, I discuss the assessment with the client. If they are comfortable, I may use a bioelectrical impedance monitor. It may not be as accurate, but as long as you track results with the same mode, then you are able to see progress. If they are not comfortable, then I leave it out. There are other ways to track progress.
Good luck–working with this population is very rewarding!
I wholeheartedly agree with Christine. If a client is that overweight that the use of calipers is so difficult and ultimately inaccurate, there is no point.
While I like to include body composition in all my assessments, I make this step (and, ultimately, all of them) optional. I had overweight clients who did not even want to tell me how much they weigh, and even that is okay.
Approaching a trainer is a really big step for a very overweight person. It is hardly necessary for us to point out that they weigh too much; they are usually mortified, scared and embarrassed. Piling on the bad news through a body composition measurement serves no purpose.
At some point in time, you can always open that option again once rapport and trust has been established. I am using near-infrared technology but bio-impedance is another option. But you can just as well use a taped measure. I am a fan of the waist-to-height ratio.
I wish you good luck.
I would not use calipers on an obese client, they already know they are obese.
When they are ready:
I would use the scale as one guideline and waist hip measurements. If you can’t get a tape measure around them, use string then measure on your own
The point is, make every effort to not cause humiliation.
I would go with one of the hand-held bio-electrical impedance units – Omron makes a pretty decent one & they’re pretty affordable, not to mention non-invasive. Just be sure to conduct the tests under normal hydration conditions – before exercise, before consuming a lot of fluids, etc. It’s not a perfect method but none of them are.
Hi Sandra. I agree with Paul in that when I’m faced with this situation, I go with the hand-held bio-impedance device. Easy to use, less intrusive and is fairly accurate for baseline purposes.