Find out what the ideal measurements are for a natural bodybuilder or a classical muscular male physique.

I’m often asked what my body measurements are and/or what are the ideal measurements for a bodybuilder or a classical muscular male physique. Believe it or not, there are actually many formulas for determining the “ideal body proportions.” On the other hand, you might want to take them with a grain of salt…

QUESTION: Tom, there is one thing that I really would like to know – your measurements. You have a physique that (in my opinion) is ideal and your photos are a real inspiration to me. I am able to move up in weight gradually with my workouts, so I know I am building muscle, but I never have a measurement to shoot for – e.g. biceps, chest, waist, hips, etc. Also, it seems like certain ratios (for example, chest to waist ratio, and maybe there are others?), would be helpful also. My thinking is that if my waist and hips are “growing” faster than my chest, then that might be an indicator that I am gaining fat where it likes to show up first (hips and waist). The measurements I have of myself are: chest, waist, hips, biceps, forearms, thighs, calves. Thank you.

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ANSWER: Personally, I no longer take my measurements, although I did regularly when I was a teenager. I do, however think it’s a great way to chart progress. Circumference measurements give you feedback about how well your training (and nutrition) regimen are working and let’s you catch yourself if certain body parts are lagging behind others, or in the case of waist and hips, if you’re gaining body fat.

The waist measurement is an important one, because when your waist circumference is going down, you know your overall body fat is going down. Also, when your waist shrinks even a little bit, it tends to completely change the way you look – even if you don’t gain any muscle, a narrow waist (also see ab exercises) creates an illusion of broader shoulders (also see shoulder exercises). Abdominal fat and a large waist measurement is also a health risk.

There have been all kinds of different formulas proposed over the years for the “ideal proportions”, but I never aimed for a certain measurement myself. Bodybuilding is a very visual sport. The judges don’t come up on stage and measure your arms in a bodybuilding contest – you are judged on appearance.

I’ve always gone after a certain “look” as opposed to a certain measurement. I cut out photos of bodybuilders whose physiques I admire and want to emulate and rather than having a measurement in mind, I always have a picture of my ideal in mind.

On top of a solid base of muscle size, I simply work towards symmetry, so all muscles are developed equally, with no single muscle groups that are out of proportion compared to others - for example, a huge chest and rib cage with small arms looks silly - huge arms and small legs looks un-symmetrical as well.

I’m not all that hung up on weighing a certain amount either, although I do weigh myself regularly. The main reason I monitor my weight closely is because in the off season, I’m always interested in gaining more lean body mass and prior to competition I have to make a weight class (middleweight has a 176 1/4 lbs cutoff. )

I’m 5’ 8” tall and I weigh 174-176 for competitions. That is very much a “false” weight, however, because I easily lose 6-10 pounds of water weight in the three days before a contest. By the Monday after a Saturday contest, my weight is usually back up to 180-184 or so. Off season, I weigh about 195-200 lbs. My off season body fat is usually around 9-10% and before contests it’s around 4%.

Years ago I do remember measuring my arms and they were 17 1/2” cold and 18” pumped. That was a long time ago. I would imagine they’re bit larger now, but who knows. My waist is 31-32” most of the year, even smaller before contests (last notch on the lifting belt!)

These are somewhat typical off season / pre contest height, weight and body fat measurements for a natural bodybuilder. In the professional and open federations (not drug tested), those weights and measurements might be considered “small.” However, a 17-18 inch arm on a lean and proportionate body can look very impressive.

Steve Reeves for example, was known as one of the most symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing bodybuilders of all time, even though he was not “huge” by today’s standards.

Reeves wrote about ideal measurements frequently and was always striving for his idea of perfection in this regard (and came close to achieving his own personal ideal). One of his criteria for ideal proportions included having his arms, calves and neck measure the same.

  • Arms: 18.5 inches
  • Calves: 18.5 inches
  • Neck: 18.5 inches
  • Thighs: 27 inches
  • Chest: 54 inches
  • Waist: 30 inches

In his “classic physique” book, Reeves said his formula for “ideal proportions” was as follows:

Muscle to bone ratios:

  • Arm size = 252% of wrist size
  • Calf size = 192% of ankle size
  • Neck Size = 79% of head size
  • Chest Size = 148% of pelvis size
  • Waist size = 86% of pelvis size
  • Thigh size = 175% of knee size

Steve Reeves’ height and weight chart for a bodybuilder (natural)

Height Ideal Weight Height Ideal Weight
5’5” 160lbs 6’0” 200lbs
5’6” 165lbs 6’1” 210lbs
5’7” 170lbs 6’2” 220lbs
5’8” 175lbs 6’3” 230lbs
5’9” 180lbs 6’4” 240lbs
5’10” 185lbs 6’5” 250lbs
5’11” 190lbs    

NB: Calculate your own ideal proportions using our Ideal Measurements Calculator.

In the book Brawn, Stuart McRobert published the old “John McCallum formula for “challenging yet realistic” measurements for “hard gainers". His formula is based on wrist measurement and was also published in the book Super Squats:

John McCallum’s realistic measurement ideals for hard gainers

  1. 6.5 times your wrist gives chest girth
  2. 85% of the chest girth produces the hips
  3. Take 70% of the chest girth for the waist
  4. 53% of the chest gives the thigh girth
  5. The neck size is 37% of the chest
  6. 36% of the chest produces the upper arm girth
  7. The calves come out a little less at 34%
  8. The forearms get 29% of the chest measurement

Incidentally, McRobert’s book Brawn has an entire chapter called “expectations” which discusses the truth about measurement claims.

I find all these measurement ideals very interesting, but personally I take them with a grain of salt.

Be careful with some of the formulas for “ideal measurements”, because if they were based on steroid using and or pro bodybuilders, you may get discouraged by trying to pursue an impossible goal for a natural bodybuilder or the measurements of someone with a totally different bone structure than you have.

Measurements - especially arm measurements - are also frequently exaggerated. Twenty inch arms, for example, are rare and when you actually see them in person, you realize just how massive they really are. But somehow beginners and natural athletes get the idea in their head that bodybuilding success means 250 pounds and a 20 inch arm.

The truth is, a 17 to 18 inch arm on a ripped 175-180 pound physique with excellent balance, symmetry and proportion can look much larger than it really is – it’s an optical illusion of sorts.

Some of these guidelines for “ideal proportions” are the “Grecian” or “classical” ideals while others are ideals for bodybuilders. In either case, keep in mind they are subjective – they’re just someone else’s opinion of what is an ideal measurement. The only opinion that matters in the end is your own.

Train hard and expect success,

Tom Venuto
NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder

Calculate your proportions: Ideal Body Measurements Calculator

39 Comments
StevenJ
Posted on: Fri, 07/09/2021 - 10:30

A lot of this is rubbish. 7 inches isn't going to make your frame carry 1/3 extra body weight lmfao. Even Ronnie Coleman and others carried way more at 5'11 and they were the GOAT.

David Taylor
Posted on: Sun, 03/21/2021 - 16:57

hello. im 6ft 1, 169 pounds. i want to compete in a physique competition and am looking for some advice as to what measurements i need to have in order to compete.

Brennan
Posted on: Sat, 04/24/2021 - 10:59

This article will give you some ideas based off of your wrist size, but if you're going by height, if you're 73 inches tall, you should try to get your waist to about 32.5 inches, or .447 times your height. If you'd like your shoulders to match that, according to the golden ratio of 1.618, they'd need to be about 52.5 inches. I've found other articles that suggest your chest should be about 1.4 times your waist, so that would be about 45 inches, and your arms should be half your waist, so 16.52 inches. Your hips should be your chest divided by 1.1, so 40 inches, and your legs should be your hips divided by 1.65, so 24 inches, according to other articles I've found. Your calves can match your arms.

If you go by this article, John McCallum's formula for your ideal waist size gives you a 7.17-inch wrist and his recommendations are:
Chest 46.605
Hips 39.61425
Waist 32.6235
Thigh 24.70065
Neck 17.24385
Upper arm 16.7778
Calves 15.8457
Forearms 13.51545

You're not necessarily going to need these exact measurements to compete, but keeping everything in proportion is key. As you diet down, your waist will shrink, and you can hopefully maintain size in your shoulders, chest, etc. Men’s physique is all bout a narrow waist, so if your waist is less than 32.5 inches, keep it there and work on developing wide shoulders, lats, chest, etc. Proportion, and knowing how to pose to present your physique is more important than hitting exact measurement targets.

Svr
Posted on: Sat, 01/30/2021 - 11:03

Hi
Iam 24 years old , my weight is 99kg and height is around 180cm , I have bigger thighs , how to reduce my weight

Satpal
Posted on: Sun, 10/25/2020 - 00:34

I am 26 year old.My weight is 65kg and hight 5.9".
Bicep 14.5" chest 42.5",neck 15.5 ,waist 32"

Gurpreet Singh
Posted on: Fri, 10/09/2020 - 00:54

I’m 6’2” tall, my weight is 174 lbs, body measurements are 36-12-34. Is it okay.
If not then what time period of workout required for me to gain ideal dimensions.

Lee
Posted on: Fri, 08/07/2020 - 13:42

I am a 45 year old truck driver and bodybuilder/power lifter . I have boxed/martial arts and lifted weights for over 30 years. The problem I have is the two year physical for my dot card to drive a truck. They say I am obese. I have hardly any fat, I am 5'8 at 205 lbs. I have 17.5 inch arms, 46 inch chest, 34 inch waist. They are wanting me to loose weight. From where I asked??? I bench 500lbs I told them. I am not going to starve myself and stop lifting weights. I have been at this weight for twenty years. These weight to hight scales do not include weight lifters. So they would consider the 25 year Arnold, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates obese? Really?

Lim
Posted on: Wed, 06/03/2020 - 23:39

hi please tell me your opinions and tips. i'm 5'7 14.5 inch arms, chest is 38cm , waist 28cm , neck is 13.3. i'm only 136lbs i don't have a decent lower body, do you think it's somehow okay to compete in a novice natural physique ocmpetition with these numbers?

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Yoshi
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 10:37

Hey Lim

I think it's definitely a great experience for you to try. I always recommend finding a coach that can help you have the best results possible when you step on the stage.

Mike Price
Posted on: Sun, 10/06/2019 - 13:35

I'm 5'9 145lb 5% bf
40 inch chest, 28 inch waist, 14 inch arms, 22 inch thighs
Not ideal but wondering if its good

KW Hendrix
Posted on: Fri, 11/27/2020 - 20:00

Great measurements for your size...esp the chest/waist/legs ratio. If you get your conditioning 'stage ready,' you would do well in a NATURAL novice men's physique contest.

Mikey
Posted on: Sun, 06/02/2019 - 13:41

I'm 6ft 16st and my m8 is 15st
He is in better shape in all fairness and seems to be a lot bigger .
I just don't get how I can be a stone heavier.
But look smaller
If muscle is supposed to be heavier than fat.
Could it be body dismorphia?
But I do feel thin. But obviously im not because the scales say im over weight.
Anybody else feels this way. Especially if I've skipped meals. ...it's like I can loose weight real fast .It's horrible
Cheers guys

MIKE
Posted on: Sat, 01/09/2021 - 04:31

Is it very simple to explain , when someone is leaner he looks way bigger when naked because the muscles are more exposed and not covered by the fat. Someone looks way smaller NAKED with higher body fat. When dressed the leaner guy tends to look smaller though.

Wajahat
Posted on: Mon, 04/22/2019 - 03:30

Hi im 5.8 my neck is 13.5. biceps 10.5 chest 32. Waist size 28.5
I wanted to know how much should i train to get my ideal physique what my measurements should be?

Justin
Posted on: Tue, 05/28/2019 - 17:11

It isn't always about how much to train, what is the most important is caloric intake. You should be consuming a lot more calories than you are right now. Around 5-7 meals of smaller portions is ideal. You will notice strength and muscle gains with eating more combined with working out, rather than solely working out without proper nutrition.

Brian Franse
Posted on: Mon, 08/27/2018 - 01:28

I'm 18,44,35 N C W I'm 6 foot 230lbs. 36 years old. What would be my safest BMI and weight

Adam
Posted on: Sun, 12/24/2017 - 00:43

36-24-36 only if she's 5'3"

Mark
Posted on: Sat, 09/02/2017 - 09:29

One before losing weight we all know were going tonput off water weight first.You weigh yourself certain times if the day your going to weigh more or less.Best time to weigh is when you first wake up up.But the same goes on measurements do it all first thing in the morning ehen you wake up then you will know your accurate readings.

Wade Race
Posted on: Sun, 10/04/2015 - 08:01

Well, I'm about 212 at 5'9, but I'm trying to get to about 200lbs. I'm all natural, and the 180lbs that Reeves mentioned would seem tiny to me! I think it all depends on body type. I'm endomorphic, so my body is naturally heavier, whether I like it or not!

Avi
Posted on: Thu, 09/17/2015 - 01:20

Hahahahah What stupid faggots! If I weighed 81 kilos at 5'9" I'd be overweight, not ideal. Crazy meathead with their pseudo bullshit.

StevenJ
Posted on: Fri, 07/09/2021 - 10:21

No, that's still lean. Even a doctor will tell you the same. BMI is entirely useless for athletic people because muscle is far more dense. At 185 5'10.5 I actually feel incredibly lean, and I'm around 10% body fat and can move around decently enough in size 30 pants. I can still stretch and move as agilely as any 145lb guy.

ashok
Posted on: Sun, 11/30/2014 - 00:56

dear all,

my height is 5"6 and weight 74 and what should be the best biceps and chest size?

A
Posted on: Mon, 03/09/2015 - 12:17

hey people. As ashok mentioned his question, i got one too. i m 5'6" n m 58 kgs only. what should my ideal weight be and what are my ideal chest and arms size supposed to be?

Lucky
Posted on: Tue, 02/16/2021 - 20:27

Your ideal weight should be 72 kg with 38 cm chest and 16 inchs biceps it gives you a heavy bodybuilder look

Nat
Posted on: Tue, 07/15/2014 - 05:58

In order for this to make any sense, the measurments need to be described as a girth (side to side measurement) or a circumference. A waist girth of 30 inches is pretty big (and possibly dangerous for heart disease), whereas a cirumference of 30 inches is slim.

really nat?
Posted on: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 12:06

Actually Nat, girth and circumference have the same meaning. I'm sure it was just a slight over sight on your part. Now Width means a measurement from side to side. Maybe that's the one syllable word you were looking for?

ganesh
Posted on: Thu, 12/19/2013 - 22:28

Hi guys
I am 5' 9inch tall and weight 69kgs and waist size 31inch male

please tell me my ideal size

Brad Baylis
Posted on: Sat, 08/24/2013 - 09:44

At 60,and never having been a body builder,I'm five-nine,205-210 lb.(this morning,Aug.24,2013,I was
almost exactly 210),have a 48'' Chest Normal,50" Chest Expanded,411/4" Waist,181/2/183/4" Biceps,an 18" Neck,eight-inch Wrist.I'll measure my calves,hips and ankles later this weekend,but please assess my present physique,give me a reasonable weight for my height,age and build,and
advise me about an exercise and diet routine which can aid my becoming more buff.

Dick Bastyr
Posted on: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 21:29

I am 67 years old. Do fitness and strength training twice a week for 1 hour each time. Have done this for little over 2 years. 5 foot 11 inches tall. My calves are 15-5/8 inch. Good BMI. Are they average-good-or better?
Upper body strength very good.

Tadgh
Posted on: Sat, 03/31/2012 - 11:37

Is the upper arm measurement meant to be taken with the bicep flexed or relaxed? It makes a big difference.

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Steven
Posted on: Sat, 03/31/2012 - 16:14

Flexed.

Rob Michaelson
Posted on: Sat, 06/25/2011 - 20:52

Good post about ideal measurements. I do have to say that I feel the Steve Reeves chest measurement is off. I have seen many other places where it was listed at 52", and many more that listed it at 50 inches. I really think he had a 50" chest, which is great and would match the rest of his measurements better. I always thought Bob Paris had some of the best symmetry and proportion around, but I could never find his measurements listed anywhere. He had a lot of the Reeves lines though, something we're not seeing much of today.

Rikki
Posted on: Fri, 07/28/2017 - 18:13

Yea and his arms neck and calves we're nowhere near 18.5 when he was lean lol

andrew
Posted on: Thu, 03/24/2011 - 15:21

hi. my name is andrew and i struggle with a little bit of stomach fat. i have a bad addiction to red bulls. im tryin to quit but its hard. i was wonder if u knew if i can still drink one or two and still be able too loose weight and build muscle?

Gianni
Posted on: Sat, 05/05/2012 - 22:08

Dude, its pure sugar. Sugar = bad carbs. Bad carbs = fat. You can gain muscle depending on what you're eating and how you're working out in the gym, but as far as fat goes, good luck if you're going to keep drinking Red Bulls. In short, cut your addiction and choose something healthier as a substitute for sugar, like fruit. Or if it's the caffine you're addicted to, drink coffee.

Frank Martino
Posted on: Tue, 02/12/2013 - 22:09

It's call will power...and if you have will power to train, suplement and eat well.....you should have enough of it to get off the Red Bull****..... and remember if you see the Buddha on the road .....kill him..

Rene Mardis
Posted on: Fri, 01/10/2014 - 17:44

why don't you try it and see for yourself

Dustin
Posted on: Fri, 01/10/2014 - 20:18

Look into sugar free. Still bad for you body, but not your waist.

onwugbolu meshack
Posted on: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 22:21

pls my names are onwugbolu meshack, and i am carrying out research on distribution of height, waist, wrist and neck for my project, i need you guys to help with more material on that as you do so, God will bless aboundantly, if available pls do send it to my email box, my address is onwugbolumeshack@yahoo.com thanks.