Formula Medical Group
Apple Valley, CA

James Krider, MD

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Circumference measurement - technique

The most important considerations in the tape are that 1) it does not stretch, and 2) you can apply a constant and repeatable tension.

There are many brands of measuring tapes such as the Myotape. The tape is wrapped around the body part and the end of the tape is placed into the slot. When you push the center button it applies a constant tension for repeatable measurements. These are relatively inexpensive at around five dollars.


Figure Finder Tape Measure

Another method is the Figure Finder. It allows you to apply consistent and repeatable 4 ounces of tension and is made of stretch-resistant and washable material. After wrapping around the body part the tape is placed through

Prices are around nine dollars.



There are many different sites and recommendations of where to measure the waist in the literature. Here is a summary of the 4 most common sites

Measurement site


Immediately below the lowest rib


At the narrowest waist (WC2)

ASM site

Midpoint between the lowest rib and the iliac crest (WC3)

WHO site

Immediately above the iliac crest (WC4)


ASM = Anthropometric Standardization Reference Manual
WHO = World Health Organization
NIH = National Institutes of Health
NHANES = National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Of these four potential sites, they all correlate well with fat mass and especially the fat present in the trunk of the body. However, the WC4 correlated best with total body fat.

These illustrations below show the W2 site on the lady, which is above the belly button. On the man the demonstrated WC site is the navel, which is recommended by the Navy formula. This sometimes corresponds to the WC4 site.

The hip is recorded at the widest par of the hips; usually this corresponds to the groin level for women and about 2-3 inches below the navel in men.

The neck is recorded beneath the larynx or Adam’s apple with the tape sloping slightly downward to the front. at the top of the hips.

How to measure

These are the guidelines used by my office to measure the waist and hip circumference.


  1. Standing to the side of the patient, locate and mark the inferior margin (lowest point) of the last rib and the crest of the ilium (top of the hip bone) with a fine pen.
  2. With a tape measure, find the midpoint and mark the point. This is a tape measure and mark the point.
  3. Apple the tension tape over the marked midpoint and ask the participant to wrap it round themselves
    1. NOTE: Check that the tape is horizontal across the back and front of the patient.
  4. Ask the patient to:
    1. Stand with their feet together,
    2. Place their arms at their side with the palms of their hands facing inwards, and
    3. Breathe out gently.
  5. Measure waist circumference and read the measurement at the level of the tape to the nearest 0.1 cm.
  6. Record the measurement.


  1. Stand to the side of the patient, and ask them to help place the tape around below their hips.
  2. Position the measuring tape around the maximum circumference of the buttocks. For women this is usually at groin level. For men it is normally about 2 -4 inches below the navel.
  3. Ask the patient to:
    1. Stand with their feet together
    2. Place their arms at their side with palms of their hands facing inwards, and breathe out gently.
  4. Check that the tape position is horizontal all around the body.
  5. Measure the hip circumference and read the measurement at the level of the tape to nearest 0.1 cm.
  6. Record the measurement
This article was last reviewed January 31, 2006 by Dr. James Krider.

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Body circ technique
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Body comp methods
Body measurements
Skinfold technique
Skinfold calipers

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