Having trouble getting waist & hip measurements.

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM

This is probably quite a basic thing but as a 39year old man, out of shape but not obese, who has never taken any body measurements at all, I've got some [probably very basic] questions.

1) When I measure my waist I'm not sure where to put the tape measure? If take the measurement horizontally as possible from my navel the tape goes over my external oblique muscles which are fairly prominent on me and have a decent layer of fat on them. Just under the external obliques I'm a bit narrower. I'm guessing it would be cheating to measure around the narrowest area?

2) Also with the waist measurement, do you take the measurement in a totally relaxed pose, or fully tensing the abs or somewhere in between? There's quite few cm's difference for me if I tense up.

3) Also on a very similar vein to Q2, I can get quite a bit of variation if I lightly place the tape around my waist or pull it tight so that it's squeezing into my body. I'm just checking that just lightly placing the tape is the way to do it?

4) On to hips. Is the tape meant to be placed so it goes around the top of the hip bones or lower down around the the top of the thigh bones/ball and socket joints? As a man, my hip bones seem a lot narrower than where the top of my legs attach to my hips. And if I take the lower measurement, I get a lot of 'butt' under the tape. Is this the idea?

Thanks for reading guys.

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7 Answers



on August 14, 2011
at 05:15 PM

  1. Consistency is more important than the actual location of the measurement.
  2. The trend is more important than the actual numeric results.
  3. Always measure at the same time of day, because fluid shifts as well as changes in hydration and abdominal contents throughout the day will cause measurement fluctuations.
  4. Keep the measuring tape snug but not pinched tight.
  5. Measure your waist while you are relaxed, after normal exhalation.
  6. For a consistent waist measurement: feel the top of your hip bones (iliac crests) in your lower back. Pull the tape across this area, then bring it around to your belly button.
  7. Measure your hips at the widest point. If you are not sure, measure at several spots and use the largest number.
  8. If your measurements seem to fluctuate too much, plot a 10 week moving average to better illustrate the trend (See here for instructions on how to calculate a moving average).


on August 14, 2011
at 01:23 PM

I like to sew, so this is how I take measurements [note I usually am only taking these off of a three year old, but generally it's all the same]

For your NATURAL waist, this is usually done one inch ABOVE your navel, or at the smallest part. [Which for myself, happens to be one inch above my belly button.] Take this measurement as you normally stand, if you wish you could take two different measurements for this area, flexing and of course natural. Just make sure you log which is which.

I have no idea how to measure veins hehe, I didn't even know this is possible.

And for the Hips, you want to get a bit lower down so you include the butt, but not down so low that it's like where your legs attach to your bum, does that make sense?

You can also check out this site for more accuracy in measuring


on August 14, 2011
at 02:32 PM

I run alot of weightloss challenges in my business and found that by measuring the following way, you will get an accurate measurement of inches lost each time you measure because the tape is placed at exactly the same place. For the waist tape is placed directly over the belly button with the person standing normally, not tensing up or 'sucking it in'. For the hips place the tape directly across the top of the pubic bone, which does include some butt.
The tape should be comfortably placed around your body, not squeezing into your skin. I found that by using these guides, there is an accurate guage of inches lost or gained because the tape is placed in the exact same place each time. Hope this helps.



on August 14, 2011
at 02:12 PM

For calculating your body fat percentage?

Men: Measure the neck and around the abdomen at the navel.

Women: Measure your neck, around your waist (the narrowest part of the torso), and hips which is NOT the top of the pelvis, but the actual widest part which is down where the actual hip joint is (near the bottom of the pelvis).



on August 14, 2011
at 01:45 PM

I always go from the smallest part of the waist, your tape should find it easily. I'd say its most important to be consistently measuring the same area, it should shrink proportionately but an inch up or down will give you a different measurement.

As for the hips, I kind of struggle with this also, its not like the tape finds the same spot, so I try to pick a place between the waist and the thighs, including the butt (I find the part that sticks out the most and take from there). Take note where you are measuring for future reference and try to find that same spot each time. This one is trickier!!



on August 14, 2011
at 01:25 PM

For the waist I've heard 2 things, 1 is to measure at the belly button, the other is to measure at the smallest point. I measure at the smallest point (for me is above my navel) just because I like that # better! I measure relaxed and pull the tape so that it's firmly around, but not pinching anything.

For hips, you want the widest point, which should include some butt.

I think the key is consistency of where/how you measure so that you can see true results. I've heard that it's best to take 3 measurements of each and average those, but I don't take the time to do that.

Good luck!


on August 15, 2011
at 09:57 PM

I don't think anyone's got this quite right yet. Yes, consistency is important, but so is the actual location of the measurements. "Waist" and "hip" have precise meanings, and the waist-hip ratio is based on them. I don't know how much difference it really makes, but it's pretty simple, so we might as well remove any uncertainty.

The waist is the narrowest place, below the ribs and above the iliac crest. Not on the iliac crest, but above it. This will be above the navel--usually about an inch above. Exhale and hold firm, but without sucking in. And hold the tape so it is horizontal and snug, but not squeezing in.

The hip and the pelvis are not the same thing. The hip is the joint between the pelvis and the femur. The hip measurement is taken with the tape horizontal, directly on the trochanters of the femurs, which are easy to locate. This should line up as well with the pubic bone, and with the largest rearward protrusion of the glutes, if tensed. It should be the largest measurement in the hip region.

Hope it helps.

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