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Categories: Fitness Motivation

Body Fat Percentage Pictures Of Men & Women

By Marc Perry / July 6, 2017

Body fat percentage is thankfully gaining more popularity as an effective marker of overall health and fitness instead of the BMI Index.

While I’ve written extensively about body fat percentage in numerous articles including Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart, 5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage, and Ideal Body Weight Formula among many others, I’m hoping this article will help tie everything together by creating visual representations of what a given amount of body fat looks like for men and women.

I searched thousands of images in order to create this article. Most of the images I purchased from stock photography websites, but others are in the public domain (at least I hope). If one of these pictures is copyrighted, please let me know and I will list proper attributions, or replace it if need be.

Body Fat Percentage Basics

To best understand the descriptions in this article and how the pictures were chosen, here are some basic body fat percentage terms and concepts that are helpful to learn:

Body Fat Percentage – is the amount of body fat (lb, or kg) divided by total body weight listed as a percentage. For example, a 180lb man with 30lb of body fat has a body fat percentage of 16% (30/180).

Body Fat Distribution – We all have different body fat distributions, or how fat is distributed across our body. For example, some women may have very little body fat on their abs, but a lot on their thighs and triceps, while others will have the opposite. Same thing goes with men, but most men carry fat in their stomachs. I tried my best to show pictures that highlighted the stomach region for men and the hips/thighs/stomach region for women.

Body Shape -Similar to body fat distribution is we all have different body shapes, so two different body shapes may have the same body fat percentage even if they don’t look like it. A classic example is a skinny runway model may have the same body fat percentage as a fit, athletic women.

Age – The pictures in this post assume ages of around 25-35 years old. Most body fat measurement devices will reflect higher body fat levels as the age increases. For example, a 20 year old man and a 50 year old man may have the same subcutaneous body fat measurement (fat under the skin), but the 20 year old may be 15% and the 50 year old will be at 20%. As we age, fat around the organs (visceral) and within muscle (intramuscular) tends to increase and most formulas take this into account.

Muscle Striations – As an individual becomes more defined, the actual muscle can be seen more clearly, which looks like thin rods, referred to as striations.

Vascularity – This is the appearance of veins in different areas of the body as body fat decreases.

Body Fat Pictures Of Men

Body Fat Picture Descriptions Of Men

Body Fat Percentage Men 3-4%

Bodybuilders can drop as low as 3-4% body fat when preparing for bodybuilding competitions. This body fat level is characterized by extreme vascularity, so that veins are visible over just about every muscle in the body. There is clear separation between muscles, and striations visible on almost every muscle. The buttocks (I’ll spare you a back picture) even has striations, some vascularity, with little fat. If your buttocks doesn’t have any body fat, you’ve got VERY low body fat! Essential fat for a man is around 2%, which is the basic amount of fat a man needs for the body to function (fat protects internal organs in the chest and abdomen).

Body Fat Percentage Men 6-7%

Approximately 6-7% body fat for a man is a bit less extreme than competition bodybuilders, but it’s still hovering at a level that is not sustainable for most men. Around this level, or slightly less, the face becomes gaunt, and your family starts worrying about you. This 6-7% body fat level, which is achieved by many male fitness models when doing photoshoots, is characterized by muscle definition in all muscles and clear vascularity in most muscles including arms, legs, and even abs. Vascularity over the abs muscle is a sign of very low body fat. Clear separation of muscles as well.

Body Fat Percentage Men 10-12%

This is a sustainable level for most men where you should be able to see your abs, but they will likely not be as defined as a man in the 6-7% body fat range. This body fat range is the classic beach body look that most men want and many women love. While not very defined, there is separation between muscles, some muscle striations potentially in the shoulders, or arms, but striations are not showing on every muscle. Vascularity is typically limited to the arms, with a little possibly on the legs.

Body Fat Percentage Men 15%

The 15% body fat level is usually within the “lean and fit” category in most body fat percentage charts. The outlines of muscle can be seen, but there is no clear separation between them. Vascularity is usually a bit more limited as are muscle striations, which are typically covered by a thin layer of fat. The overall shape is still there, which can create an aesthetic appearance despite less muscle definition.

Body Fat Percentage Men 20%

Separation between muscles starts to blur, almost no vascularity, or striations can be seen, typically there is a small stomach pouch of fat, the look is “soft” but not very round. Most guys I come across in NYC are within the 20-25% body fat range. Other parts of the country, or world, that range may be skewed higher or lower. A 5’11”man who weighs 180lb and has 145lb of lean body mass (the average) will have 20% body fat.

Body Fat Percentage Men 25%

There is little to no separation of muscles, no vascularity, or muscle striations, waist begins to increase quite substantially with a waist to hip ratio as high as 0.9 (waist circumference/hip circumference). So a 5’10” man may have a 36+ inch waist. This man may have a little neck fat, but may not look like he has 25% body fat in normal clothing. Over 25% body fat for a man is considered obese, and over a 40 inch waist is considered abdominal obesity.

Body Fat Percentage Men 30%

There is more fat all around the body at the 30% level including waist, back, thighs, and calves. The waist looks larger relative to the hips, and the stomach will likely be protruding over the waist noticeably. There is no muscle separation.

Body Fat Percentage Men 35%

As men get heavier and heavier gaining more fat, most of the fat is funneled right in the stomach. The 35% level is characterized by more significant protrusion of stomach fat over the waist. This is the beer gut kind of look. Waist circumferences can be 40+ inches for a man with 35% body fat.

Body Fat Percentage Men 40%

Similar to the 35% level, even more fat accumulates in the stomach and waist region, so that waist sizes can approach 45 inches, or more. At this level, basic every day activities like walking up stairs, or bending over to pick something up becomes increasingly difficult. This body fat level is approaching morbidly obese, which is characterized by a BMI over 35. To put it in better perspective, a 5’11” man who weighs 270lb and has 160lb of lean body mass has 40% body fat.

Body Fat Pictures Of Women

Body Fat Picture Descriptions Of Women

Body Fat Percentage Women 10-12%

This is an extremely low body fat level typically attained by female bodybuilders. Essential fat for women is round 8-10% compared to 2% for men. Why the difference? Women have more fat in breast tissue and the area surrounding the uterus. This level of body fat is not considered safe, or healthy for women who will be unable to menstruate. Striations of muscle, separation between muscles, clear vascularity are all noticeable at this level. The women in the photo is likely at the higher end of the range at 12% body fat because she is not too vascular.

Body Fat Percentage Women 15-17%

This is still considered a very low body fat for women, which is similar to the 6-7% body fat for range men. Many bikini and fitness models will reach this body fat level and some may not be able to menstruate. Muscle definition in the abs, legs, arms, and shoulders is apparent, there is some vascularity and some separation between muscles. Hips, buttocks, and thighs generally have a little less shape because of the low body fat.

Body Fat Percentage Women 20-22%

This is body fat percentage is usually in the “fit” category of most body fat charts and is typical of many female athletes. Some definition in the abs is apparent, there is body fat on the arms and legs, but it’s not too pronounced. There is minimal, but some separation between muscles.

Body Fat Percentage Women 25%

This is on the low end of what’s average for most women and is characterized by a shape that is neither too slim, nor overweight. Curves in the hips are usually more apparent along with more fat in the buttocks and thighs. A 5’4” women who weighs 130lb and has 97lb of lean body mass has 25% body fat.

Body Fat Percentage Women 30%

While most men have fat funnel into their stomachs, as the body fat of most women (but certainly not all) increases, this fat tends to accumulate in the hips, buttocks, and thighs. At 30% body fat, the hips, thighs, and buttocks are more pronounced and round. This is considered the high end of average for women in many body fat charts.

Body Fat Percentage Women 35%

The hips become even wider at this level of body fat and the face and neck will appear rounder and more full. Hip circumference can start approaching 40+ inches and waist circumference of 32+ inches. Some belly fat may start protruding over the waist as well.

Body Fat Percentage Women 40%

The hips and thighs grow larger so that hip circumference can reach 42+ inches, waist of 35 inches, and thighs over 25 inches.

Body Fat Percentage Women 45%

The skin may begin to lose its smooth appearance as more and more fat accumulates. Hip Circumference can may reach 45 inches+ and waist circumference 35+ inches. The hips may become noticeably wider than the shoulders.

Body Fat Percentage Women 50%

The will likely look like it has dimples more fat accumulates. Hip Circumference can may reach 45+ inches and waist circumference 40+ inches and thighs above 30+ inches. The hips will likely be noticeably wider than the shoulders. To put it in better perspective, a 5’4” women who weighs 200lb and has 100lb of lean body mass has 50% body fat.

Given how confusing measuring body fat percentage can be, I hope seeing these body fat percentage pictures was helpful!

Do you want to improve your body fat percentage? Check out my 12-Week Body Transformation Program to lose fat and get lean.

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67 Comments

  • Kristian says:

    I'm 5,9" tall with a weight of 153 pounds. My body fat percentage is between 12-15%. I want to start the BuiltLean Program but worried that after I lose all my body fat I will just look skinny when I have a top on. Do you recommend starting the program now or waiting till I go up to around 170 pounds then start it?

    I apperciate your time and would love a response

    Kind Regards,
    Kristian-Dee

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Kristian - I know I answered this through our support center already and you purchased the BuiltLean Program, but wanted to answer this for everyone else who is also following and interested in the answer:

      "I think this article will provide more information than a short answer could => 3 Reasons to Lose Fat First Before Building Muscle. This is my opinion. Ultimately, you need to figure out what will work best for you."

  • Jean says:

    Very helpful. "A picture is worth a thousand words"-- truly appropriate here. How do I wish myself to the desired level is the only question left to be answered.

  • Roiben says:

    Who in the world is that woman in the 15-17% picture, or where did you get it? Dream body right there

  • danish says:

    hai marc hi i am danish you r doing a good job well done but i need ur help welll my age is 17 years old and i am 95 kg my hight is something around 5.9ft and body fat something 25-30 % and i just want to loose wait and get ripped i just try some gym and leave it after one month so please tell me what should i do should i do some gym workout and how much time should it takes to get 15% body fat and get some muscles for me and what to do to get this body fat please tell me man i seriously need ur help reply fast....

    thanks in advance

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Danish - the first step I would recommend is checking out my free Get Lean Guide. Then check out the ideal body weight article, where you can calculate your ideal weight, then assume you can lose 1-2lb of fat per week and that will tell you how long it will take to reach your goal. Finally, consider that losing weight is about changing your habits. That's what is really key!

  • Elizabeth says:

    thanks for the article and the free e book, I would love to be around 10-17% but looking at your examples, I'm about 25-30.... but when someone outs their mind to something, amazing things can happen!!!

    • Kristin says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Glad you enjoyed the article and e-book! It's so true - you can achieve some amazing things when you dedicate yourself to a goal. Keep in mind though - women need more body fat than men. We have a higher amount of essential fat (10-13%), which is necessary for our hormonal balance and fertility. Dropping too much body fat could negatively affect your hormones, fertility, and energy levels. Therefore, we recommend that women aim for a body fat percentage between 17-24%. You might find that you're really happy with your physique and performance when you reach that mid-range.

      Good luck!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • sid says:

    Hi Marc/Kristin,

    i participated in a marathon 9 months back and unfortunately stopped working out and going to the gym 5 months back, at which time my weight was 75 Kgs and my body fat percentage was 15% [my height is 6 feet 4 inches]. i just started working out after 5 months, and my body analysis showed that now im 80 kgs and my body fat percentage is 20%. Honestly, i was surprised and shocked. I wonder how difficult it would be for me to get back to my normal 15% fit fat percentage. i was hoping if you could help with it or come up with a quick fix to the damage done!!

    • Kristin Rooke, CPT says:

      Hi Sid,

      You can absolutely get back to your ideal weight and body fat percentage. The keys to accomplishing that will be your nutrition and getting into an exercise routine.

      Nutrition has the biggest effect on your weight and body composition. If you want to lose weight and fat, you'll have to eat a deficit of calories. I recommend keeping that deficit on the small side (about 250-500 calories per day), which helps keep your energy levels high, keeps hunger levels in check, and helps you maintain lean muscle while primarily losing fat. If you cut too many calories, you could experience hunger and cravings, decreased performance, low energy, fat retention, and muscle loss. Track your progress. A good goal is to lose 1-2 lbs per week.

      We recommend eating a diet comprised primarily of whole foods, so fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats & carbs in moderation. These foods tend to be more nutrient-dense, satiating, and lower in calories than processed and packaged foods. And if you drink alcohol, we recommend reducing your intake to 4 drinks per week or less (or eliminating it all together) while you're focusing on achieving your physique goals.

      While you're eating at a deficit, doing full body strength workouts at least 3x per week will help you maintain lean muscle while primarily losing fat. We've found strength circuits to be the most effective method at building a lean and strong body. If you're interested in following a workout and nutrition program designed specifically for fat loss, check out the BuiltLean Transformation program. This program takes the guesswork out of exercise and nutrition so that you know exactly what to do and eat each day to reach your goals.

      I hope that helps! If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us at support@builtlean.com.

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Sergio says:

    I say that picture chart is highly inaccurate. I measure at 12.7% body fat but according to that picture chart I look more like the guy at 20% - 25%

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hey Sergio - What measurement method are you using for 12.7% body fat? I think these body fat photos are work well for most people, but they are not perfect for everyone.

  • George says:

    I'm down to 14% bodyfat but there is very little muscle definition to my abs, but really better on my arms and legs. What should I do?

    • Kristin Rooke, CPT says:

      That's a really common question, George. My best advice is to continue to focus on fat loss until you achieve the level muscle definition you want. Different people will achieve a visible 6-pack at different body fat percentages. It's all dependent on genetics. Your genes determine where your body sheds fat from first, and where you'll hold on to it longer. There's not much you can do about that, except continue to lose body fat until you see your abs. For more direction, check out Marc's article on How to Get Ripped & Cut. He shares some great workout and nutrition strategies to get leaner and more defined. Hope that helps!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Shannon says:

    Ok, I am just beginning and know I probably have body fat percentage at about 50%, but I have this excel spreadsheet template which uses weight/measurements to estimate your lean body weight. This is the calculation it uses: =(([@[Weight (pounds)]]*0.732)+ 8.987)+([@[Wrist (inches)]]/3.14)-([@[Waist (inches)]]*0.157)-([@[Hips (inches)]]*0.249)+([@[Forearm (inches)]]*0.434)
    But with my weight and measurements it is putting my lean body weight at 174 and my body fat percentage at 28% with a BMI of 38. Who, what, where, why???? Any insight?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hi Shannon - how much do you weight and how tall are you?

  • helena says:

    Hi Marc, I am around 20.7% bodyfat and I can see the muscle definition mostly when I am lifting weights, but I want to get my body fat down to 18% in the next month before I leave for vacation. Is this doable? I have been following a program that has me doing full body workouts 3 x week and cardio (mostly hiit) 3 x week. Just want the extra to get that last little bit off my body to show more definition... I am almost at where I want to be!

    • Kristin says:

      Helena, it's great that you have such a solid base of fitness! Right now, it sounds like you want to lose the last 5 or so pounds of fat before your trip. That's going to require you to tighten your diet up even more. We have a great article that discusses effective strategies to get ripped, or tone up for vacation or an event. Check it out: http://www.builtlean.com/2011/05/11/how-to-get-ripped-and-cut/. Give those tips a try, and if you need more help getting vacation-ready, feel free to reach out to us at support@builtlean.com.

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

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