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The BMI isn't always accurate, especially if you're a bodybuilder.
The BMI, which is short for body mass index, is a basic calculation to determine if you're at the right weight for your height. It's generally a dependable indicator of determining your risk of developing chronic diseases related to obesity. As a bodybuilder, though, the BMI could put you in the overweight category, even though you're not really too heavy. Although there isn't a separate calculator for bodybuilders, there are alternatives for determining you body composition.
The BMI Calculation
Start by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, and multiply that number by 703. As an example, if you weigh 150 pounds and stand 62 inches tall, divide 150 by 3,844 (62 squared). Multiply the result, which is 0.039, by 703. The BMI in that example is 27.4, a normal result. Having a body mass index under 18.5 means you are classified as underweight, while a result greater than 25.0 classifies your as overweight. A BMI over 30.0 puts you in the obese range.
Considerations for Bodybuilders
The issue with the body mass index for bodybuilders is that it doesn't take body composition into account. Because you have more muscle mass than the average person, your BMI will probably fall into the overweight or even obese range. You're not necessarily overweight or obese though, you just have a high amount of muscle mass, which makes you weigh more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that you might not have excessive body fat as a trained athlete if your BMI is between 25.0 and 29.9. However, if your index happens to be above 30.0, it is possible that you have more body fat than you should.
Using the Skinfold Test
Rather than relying on the body mass index calculation, use the skinfold test to see where your body fat is really at. Your trainer or health care provider should be able to do this for you. The skinfold method requires someone to pinch and measure your skin at various points on your body, usually triceps, abdomen and near your shoulder blades, using specialized calipers. Those numbers are then punched into a formula to determine your body fat percentage.
If you're in serious competition mode, it might be beneficial for you to invest in more precise body fat measurement methods. One of the most accurate methods is hydrostatic weighing. For this technique, you have to be submerged in water and weighed while you're under. Your underwater weight then has to be calculated with your land weight to measure body fat. It may be easier to find a facility that offers bioelectric impedance analysis, or BIA. This method sends an electrical current through your body, determining resistance. Generally, the quicker that current gets through your body, the higher the amount of muscle mass you have in comparison to body fat.