“It’s simple: If it jiggles, it’s fat.” 


…So said Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most famous bodybuilder of all time. But what exactly do different body fat percentages look like? After reading this post, you can strike down those foolish enough to proclaim their ripped 5% body fat.

This article is meant to provide you with  accurate, clinically-verified  body fat percentage pictures in men and women.

There are many different body fat measurement methods.

In order to standardize this article, I only used DEXA pictures — pictures where the subject was verified to have had a DEXA scan done. Since starting my PhD, I’ve read around fifty lab studies comparing body fat measurement techniques, and decided that using DEXA-verified pictures only would make for the most reliable visual guide.

If you don’t agree with these measurements, get mad at the DEXA machine, not at me. If you want an example of how inaccurate other methods can be, check out this picture of Paleo guru Mark Sisson, who was measured at 16.9% bodyfat by hydrostatic weighing. I’ll update this post every month with new pictures — follow my RSSfacebook, or twitter to get the updates.


37.1% body fat

This guy looks quite a bit chubbier than average. But 37.1% body fat?!? Yeah, crazy. At this level of bodyfat, looks arguably take second place to health concerns. Fat loss efforts at this high bodyfat level will initially lead to reduced visceral fat (around the organs) and a healthier body. The next few pictures below him are of men and women with clinically verified body fat levels ranging from 20-30% down to sub-10%.
















25.5% body fat

This guy kinda looks like a football player, maybe a linebacker. Not fat, not ripped. But still, his body is one quarter fat. Yet again, extremely easy to underestimate bodyfat just by eyeballing.



22.2% body fat

You would never guess that this guy is above 20% bodyfat. That’s probably why he looks so sad.



19.4% body fat

This woman’s picture should be enough to show you that women have much higher essential bodyfat levels then men.



17.5%, 21% body fat

This guy went from 21% body fat (on the right) to 17.5% body fat (on the left). It looks like he lost some chub in his gut. But other than that, it’s a pretty subtle difference. My theory is that the bodyfat differences look more apparent the lower you go. Going from 21% to 17.5% won’t seem as dramatic as going from 12.5% to 9%, which will gain you all kinds of abs and muscle striations.

17.5 21



17.5%, 14.8% body fat

This one is a real  headscratcher. Bodybuilders use all kinds of terminology to indicate low body fat at different levels. Ripped, cut, sliced, shredded, julienned. (I just made that last one up). But I would definitely say the picture on the right shows a guy who is fairly ripped. Except he’s at 14.8% body fat! Lesson: the mirror is worth 1000x more than what a machine can tell you about your body.



13.7% body fat

Check out this older dude. He lost a bunch of weight, and kept right on going straight to a legit six pack. Very cool. If you browse his website, you’ll see that he got down to 10% or under. Also take note: vascularity (having visible veins) is correlated with low body fat, but not totally. You can have a six pack and no veins, or have a gut and lots of veins. The latter happens in those who perform manual labor quite often.



12.5% body fat

Even though I spent most of my twenties trying to attain the bodybuilder physique, I was still aware of how weird it was to get a tan (no matter how dark you are naturally!), shave your body, oil yourself up, and pose on brightly lit stages in skimpy undies. But don’t judge this dude, it’s just part of the (very strange) game.



9.6% body fat

This is what I call the “Fight Club” physique. Nothing crazy, just lean and healthy. The thread that this guy started shows that he got here from 16.4% body fat. Not bad! If you need some inspiration,  here you go. Hard work pays off.



7.0% body fat

Does this guy look very different than those in the previous tab? No. But his body fat is way lower. Go figure. I’m guessing he has less fat in his legs, but that’s just a guess.



6.4% body fat

This guy is preparing for a bodybuilding contest. Natural bodybuilding contests feature guys who look like this, not guys who are 300 pounds of muscle, which is only possible with the finest anabolic steroids available. Having gone to regular gyms, bodybuilding gyms, and powerlifting gyms, I’ve noticed something: Only in bodybuilding gyms do you get guys making bedroom eyes to the bathroom mirror.


So…have you had your body fat measured? Any surprises? If you’ve had a DEXA scan, send me a message to be included in the next update. Remember, you don’t need to be neurotic to achieve low body fat levels…you just have to be very very consistent. Or be willing to bend the truth.






  2.  This is bullshit. I have 24% of fat percentage and I look way fatter than the guy with 37.1%. Dont waste time here.

  3. What you got against Bodybuilders? They come up with dumb terminology etc… Funny you say you TRIED to attain that look when younger.. and probably failed abysmally! Hence the chip on the shoulder… Ignorance about a lifestyle choice and/or jealousy is a weakness you obviously have.

    • You mad bro?

    • What do I have against bodybuilders? Waxy Maize. Waxy Maize has destroyed the global economy and killed countless bees.

  4. Actually – If you look at the source for the “37.1% body fat” guy, you are completely wrong.  He’s 24.5%, calculated by a DXA scan.  

    • Thanks for catching that! I put up the wrong picture. Correct picture coming in two seconds…

  5. Thanks for putting this info. together. However, I would love it if there was more than a single example of a woman.

    • It’s a bit harder to find female DEXA-verified pictures, but there will be a few included in the next update. Excellent point.

  6. this is awesome, thanks so much. i have a bio-impedence scale at the gym that puts me at 10%, I did the “bod-pod” at University of Delaware and got 9%, and I got a $40 scale from wal mart that put me at 23%. I’ve lost 95 lbs and have a small, very loose fatty stomach. I’d be interested in getting a DEXA-scan Here’s a before and after picture: http://imgur.com/kARyB

    thanks again

    • Whoa, very nice! The holy grail of DEXA pictures I’m looking for is someone like you, but with a before and after DEXA sandwiching a big weight loss like yours. I don’t suppose you want to regain the weight and get an initial DEXA? Nah, probably a bad idea.

      • Hi, I am a 44 year old male who was in pretty good shape most of his life, but after an accident has went up to around 260 pounds, and I am only 5’10” tall. I carry a good bunch of muscle as I have worked out off on and all my life, but in the last few years have went down hill. I made a decision last night to do something I never did before, and that is to go down to 8 percent body fat. If you will pay for those scans, then you can have pictures before and after I lose my weight, and any time in between where you pay for the scans. I can even give you 360 degree video clips.

        Think about this, you would have pictures of one guy going from around 260 pounds till he got to around 8 percent body fat. Someone please explain to me how a bone density scan tells body fat percentage, it don’t make sense to me.

  7. Why do all of these people look terrifying?

    • Frowning people without clothes on can have that effect.

  8. “Does this guy look very different than those in the previous tab? No. But his bodyfat is way lower. Go figure.” could it be that the scientific verification is askew? If these pictures percentages are correct then measuring your body fat is meaningless. When I was in top shape was I 10% or nearer 20%? According to this I could have been either,

    • That’s a good point. Guessing body fat based solely on visual cues can be difficult and sorta pointless. But using DEXA before and after a major weight loss can help not only to set a baseline, but also as motivation.

      While DEXA can occasionally be off by a bit, major variations are extremely rare, so DEXA measurements are meaningful for comparison of timepoints for a given individual. However, comparing one person against another person can produce head-scratching results.

  9. I almost missed the tabbed navigation at the top and thought the article was unfinished. It might be an area to improve, maybe add more contrast to the tab designs.

    Alternatively you could go with a format more like this – http://www.sportsscience.co/before-and-after/example-photos-of-different-body-fat-percentages/

    • What do you think is better as of now: these tabs, or no tabs and just one long article? I have a couple other tab formats, but they broke last time I tried to implement them, so for now I might just ditch the tabs.

      • This seems a bit better in my opinion. There’s no chance of seeing just the start of the article then leaving by accident.

  10. You compared a couple guys at higher bf % to ones with lower bf% and expressed surprise that they looked the same in terms of bf. However, it’s a matter of total mass. The lower bf guys seem to have 50 extra pounds of muscle, so that’s an extra 5-8 lbs of fat while remaining at the same overall bf %. I’m not sure why you chose not to mention that point since I’m sure you’re aware of it.

    Unfortunately it’s hard to find people with all the same total mass for these comparisons.

    • While I expressed that point in other articles, such as the one about Paul Ryan’s body fat percentage, I chose not to have it in this article. There were two main reasons. First, the pictures in question were actually not that different in terms of muscle mass, if I remember correctly. The guy who looks lighter actually weighed like 185 lbs. Second, I wanted to limit the word count. But regardless…good point.

  11. this is way off

    the 7% guy is more like 12%

    the 6% guy is more like 9%

    look at martin berkhan for real 6%

  12. Not so accurate.

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  22. I can’t view the 6.4% which I would really like to see. If anyone has a working link to the image, or a dexa verified image of an equally low (~5%) body fat i would really, really appreciate it.

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  25. I think body fat percentage is more important than BMI which can often be misleading, there are many fit people who are classified as obese based upon BMI. I think one has to consider their height and their waist size. The waist is not measure around where your pant belts sit but the area around your belly button is your actual waist for health purposes. Any waist measurement that is more than 50 percent of your height is not a good sign.
    I also believe not everyone is the same and people react differently to different types of diets and exercise. There are some people who lose weight with exercise and others who wind up gaining weight. Right now there seems to be an emphasis on carbohydrate consumption in the US and some other Western countries. Many doctors look down upon meat and fat consumption, but in my own personal experience, I find that high carbohydrate foods actually make me hungrier and eat more and gain weight. I am not one of those people who believes that foods like bread, rice, pasta, grains, and potatoes should be removed from the diet but I think there should be less emphasis on them and more balance.
    I think fresh vegetables and fruit are extremely important to maintain good health and body weight, also protein should be important as well but that can vary a lot by individual. Protein is particularly important because you need it to repair and maintain body tissues, in particular muscle mass which if you have more burns more calories and helps keep you slim.
    I also believe that factors outside of diet and exercise can contribute to health, particularly emotional health, I think today the world is a lot more stressful than in years past and this has also contributed to obesity and bad habits. If you are in a poor frame of mind, its not likely you will take good care of your health. I live in the US and have noticed that America today in 2014 is a far more stressed society than in years past. Even looking at old films, you cannot help but noticed that people appeared slimmer and happier in the past.

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