To increase our understanding of the relationships of trunk fat mass (FMtrunk) and four anthropometric indices in Chinese males, 1090 males aged 20–40 years were randomly recruited from the city of Changsha, China. Waist circumference (WC) and hip circumference (HC) were measured using standardized equipment, and three other anthropometric indices of BMI, waist:hip ratio (WHR) and conicity index (CoI) were calculated using weight, height, HC and WC. FMtrunk (in kg) was measured using a Hologic QDR 4500 W dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scanner. There was an increasing trend of FMtrunk, %FMtrunk (percentage of FMtrunk) and BMI, WC, WHR, CoI in successively older age groups (e.g. the mean FMtrunk values were 4·63 (sd 2·58), 5·39 (sd 2·74), 5·93 (sd 2·82), 6·57 (sd 2·94) in four 5-year age groups, respectively). FMtrunk and %FMtrunk were significantly correlated with four anthropometric indices with the Pearson's correlation coefficients ranging from 0·25 to 0·86. Principal component analysis was performed to form three principal components that interpreted over 99·5% of the total variation of four related anthropometric indices in all age groups, with over 65% of the total variation accounted by principal component 1. Multiple regression analyses showed that three principal components explained a greater variance (R2 70·0–80·1%) in FMtrunk than did BMI or WC alone (R2 57·8–74·1%). The present results suggest that there is an increasing trend of FMtrunk and four anthropometric indices in successively older age groups; that age has important effects on the relationships of FMtrunk and studied anthropometric indices; and that the accuracy of predicting FMtrunk using four anthropometric indices is higher than using BMI or WC alone.