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Caliper works in gauging body fat

Special to The Times

What’s the best way to test body fat?

I prefer to use a caliper, a hand-held device that measures skin folds. It’s fairly accurate as long as you use the correct formula for calculating percentage of body fat and use the same tester on each occasion. Most gyms and sporting goods stores carry such tools.

Body fat can also be measured with a new high-tech device called a Bod Pod, a chamber with computerized sensors that calculate weight, body volume and lung volume.

The gold standard is considered to be hydrostatic weighing, but it requires that you exhale completely while being strapped into a chair and submerged in a pool.

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Obviously, for convenience and portability, it’s hard to beat a caliper.

What do you think about bench dips? Will they increase my strength?

Bench dips are a great exercise in which your own body weight helps tone your triceps. To increase your strength, try a few negative dips: Prop yourself up on a dip station and take 5 to 8 seconds to lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, then push back up. I don’t recommend using additional weight during the exercise, because it can put too much stress on the front of your shoulders -- an injury waiting to happen.

Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to: stephoakes@aol.com. She cannot respond to every query.

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