I wrote recently about a unit which measures muscle quality and muscle fat. It’s called the Sculpt and was developed and manufactured by a company called Aim. The first one I was sent didn’t work. It would show that it was trying to measure and then wasn’t able to produce a reading. As with anything that costs $239.99 you would like to see it working after you have paid that kind of money, and as we live in the United Kingdom, it took a couple of weeks as they sent it through the notorious US Postal Service, and cost an extra $60 in import duties.
That was then, this is now. After a quick response to an email stating the obvious; it didn’t work, I received a replacement yesterday, in less than a week, via Fedex this time. I opened the box, charged the unit for the 2 hours required, and pulled it out of the cradle. To take a measurement, you have to spray the contacts on the back of the unit with water so it will measure effectively, which I did. I then placed it on my right, well actually it was the left, bicep. Hey presto, I almost immediately got a reading! So let’s have a closer look at the Skulpt.
The Current Way Body Fat is Measured
If you want to take body fat measurements at home, there are currently several ways to do it. One is through a device which will measure electrical resistance through your body tissues. This type of device produces an electronic pulse transmitted from the scale through your body, and measure the time it takes to travel back to the sensors. The scale then uses this travel time to calculate your body fat as these pulses travel at different rates through fat and muscle. There are a variety of devices which do this. Mainly they are scales like the Withings Smart Body Analyzer. If you want to track trends, the Withings scale gives you a fair total body representation of body fat over time even though the number may not accurately represent your true amount of body fat.
There are limitations though. Also, it is a total body average, so you don’t have specific information about individual muscles. One problem with body-fat scales is that they are often inaccurate. Many variables affect the results, including how hydrated you are, when you last ate and exercised, and even whether your feet are highly calloused or dirty, as well as the type and quality of the product itself. Studies have found that different body-fat scales produce widely varying readings and that these often differ from standard methods of fat measurement.
The other method that can be done at home, is with callipers. I have always found this to be slightly subjective as trying to gauge the correct amount of skin to pinch is difficult for me. Also, it hurts. There are various other ways to come up with a body fat measurement like submersion in a known quantity of water and a thing called the Pod, but, unless you have a lot of money and a room available for large medical equipment in your home, you have to get this done at clinics and hospitals.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an elite athlete, but I have found that as my weight drops, I wanted better data about body composition so I could train smarter, and also find a weight right for me based on an accurate body fat measurement. One day I saw an add on Myfitnesspal advertising the Aim Skulpt so I read on.
The Science Behind Aim skulpt and initial readings
The company describes it as:
“The technology behind the Skulpt Aim is called electrical impedance myography or EIM. ‘Myography’ literally means “The description of muscles.
Graphically it looks like this:
Basically Skulpt uses the same scientific principles as your scale does, however, it looks at specific muscle groups and uses a methodology which allows it to determine the “quality” of a muscle, and the fat content of each as measurement takes place on the muscle group itself.
Having used Skulpt for a week now, it is returning, what would appear as I don’t really have anything to benchmark it against, good quality data. I still have a fair amount of fat around my mid section, and there the Skulpt registers around 34.4% fat when I measure my Abs. Interestingly, that correlates almost exactly with the Withings Smart Body Analyzer which is reading 34.2%. Again, I have a lot of work to do on my chest, and here, the Skulpt reads 35.1%. Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves are all in the teens however, which I feel is accurate as I am toned in those areas of the body where I had less body fat to begin with.
The packaging is fairly easy to unpack. Included in the box is the Skulpt, a charging stand, bag for carrying the unit, USB charging cable for the cradle, and a small spray bottle which holds water to spray on the sensors to facilitate measurements.
The Skulpt Unit
Is about the size of an iPhone 5 but three times the thickness. Official dimensions are It weighs 175g. On the bottom are 12 sensors which measure the muscle and the display on the front of the unit is about a third the overall size. I would hope that as they perfect the Skulpt, the display would become larger. Having said that, it’s only used to confirm a reading has been taken, and display the results. When you receive the unit, they suggest you charge it for at least 2 hours before use. It then takes 8 to 10 hours to completely charge it, and again, I hope charging time is one of those aspects of the Skulpt they work on as they develop it further. All of the real information and data interpretation is displayed in the app.
The app, Getting Started
After charging the unit and downloading the app, you have to create a new user, you can use one unit with up to five different users, and sync the unit to your phone. You are then asked if you want to measure something by the unit. I did the “total body” measurement the first time, which is actually 4 data points on your body, biceps, triceps, abs and quads. The unit combines these to give you an overall look at your body composition, much in the same way a scale capable of fat mass. Although, unlike scales, which try and come to an assessment of your total body through your feet, the Skulpt though does it from specific muscle group measurements which has to be more accurate. The reading I get from Skulpt is 22.5% vs the overall reading from my Withings scale of 34%. Admittedly, the 22.5% is much more flattering, but I also think much more representative of my overall body fat composition. It tells me I have a lot of work to do on my abs and chest, which when compared to what I see in the mirror is spot on.
What It Measures
Skulpt measures muscle quality or MQ. The company explains MQ like this:
“Muscle quality” or MQ is actually a scientific term. It means the force a muscle produces relative to its size.(1) For example, if you had two muscles that were exactly the same size, the one that produced the greater force would have the higher MQ.
I have now measured all the muscles the Skulpt has available, there are 12 x 2 as you do both the left and right sides. Her Indoors complained it wasn’t capable of measuring brain capacity, as she has always felt mine is much less than average and would have liked to see that represented in numbers! Overall, the readings are consistent with the expected variance, between left and right muscles. For instance, my left arm is stronger than the right as I have dislocated my shoulder a number of times and I tend to favour my right arm. The Skulpt says that my left side muscle has an MQ of 106 ( the higher the number the better the muscle quality) with my right being 102. That would correlate with the fact I use my left arm to do heavy lifting, again, confirming my sense that the Skulpt records objective data.
So far I have been very impressed. Adding Skulpt to my measurement regimen makes all kinds of sense. I am confidant the readings I am receiving provide me with the data I need to get to grips with overall body composition accurately, and should help me to craft a better me based on science not guess work.
There are a couple of things I would like to see changed as they adapt and develop the device which I mentioned earlier, like the display and battery life; but overall, it’s a very good piece of kit and destined to be used a lot by me and Her Indoors.
Thanks for visiting – see you again soon!