Thursday, March 5, 2009

Realistic Muscle Size Measurements

If you get caught up with reading the purported measurements listed in the muscle magazines of the top bodybuilding super stars you will have the impression that everyone is 250+ lbs. with 23 inch arms 57 inch chests and 29 inch waists and everything else in perfect proportion. And just like any good story, most of these measurements are just "slightly" over exaggerated.

Now don't get me wrong, there are a heck of a lot of big bodybuilders out there with very impressive measurements. But one that really bugs the heck out of me is all these 250 lb. bodybuilders who supposedly have sub 30 inch waistlines… Heck I've competed several times under 200 lbs. in contest condition and never had my waist drop below 30 inches.

Anyway, most of the measurements that you'll read about will only lead to mislead, confuse, and frustrate and serve as false guidelines of ideal muscular development. So what are some realistic body size measurements that you can strive to achieve?

Get yourself a tape measure and measure your wrist just above the bone that sticks out to the side. This will give you an idea of your bone structure and then allow you to guesstimate what your ideal body proportions should be.

Multiply the size of your wrist by 6.5 and you'll have a realistic idea of how big your chest should be when fully developed. Now since your chest is a major muscle group we'll use this to help determine the proportion of the rest of your body.

Your waist should be approx. 70% of your chest measurement.

Your hips should be about 85% of your chest measurement.

Upper arms should be approx. 36% and ideally your calves, neck and upper arms should all be the same measurement.

Forearms should be around 29%.

And your upper thighs should be 53% of your chest measurement.

So for an example a man with a 7 inch wrist (small bone structure), a well developed muscular physique would measure as follows:

45.5 inch chest
31.9 inch waist
38.7 inch hips
16.4 inch arms, neck, and calves
13.2 inch forearms
24.1 inch thighs

For a man with an 8 inch wrist (large bone structure), a well developed muscular physique would measure as follows:

52 inch chest
36.4 inch waist
44.2 inch hips
18.7 inch arms, neck, and calves
15 inch forearms
27.6 inch thighs

Now like I mentioned in my previous post about bodyweight, these measurements are not set in stone. They are just a guideline to go by. I'd put more faith in the mirror and how I feel then simply going by what the tape measure says.

Some of you may think that these measurements are on the conservative side, but keep in mind these are real honest numbers here, not some ego inflated, blow out of proportion numbers. Trust me, if you achieve something in proportion to these measurements most likely your physique will be very impressive to look at, and one that you can be proud to show off at the beach, the pool, or where ever…

Just as an extra note just look at the bicep shot below. This pic was taken in May 2008 a few weeks before I competed in the Newfoundland Provincial Championships. My wrist measurement is 7 inches exactly and my upper arms in this pic are just under 17 inches (again a real honest measurement). So I'm right in line with the proportions mentioned in this example.


  1. Great articles! Are the measurements done when the muscles are flexed or relaxed? That makes a big difference! Keep the great info coming.
    San Diego

  2. The chest measurement I'd do relaxed (i.e. not expanded with your lungs full of air).

    The waist would be relaxed.

    The hips wouldn't really make a difference.

    Thighs wouldn't really make much difference either.

    Arms could be flexed. I don't think a guy would ever measure his arms without flexing them LOL

  3. I was going to ask what you thought of the Grecian ideal formulas, but I guess that's what you're using. My wrists have just gotten smaller since the last time I checked.

    I find it unacceptable that I've more or less reached my ideal at 6' 200 lbs. The measurements for 7" wrists look awesome on you, Lee, but I've got half a foot on you in height. I'd rather work under the assumption that my wrists are a quarter inch bigger and hope they catch up by the time I reach my ideal!

  4. I think for the most part this is pretty accurate for bodybuilders but maybe this varies for other types of weight lifting, for example, i train more around a powerlifting style and my chest and thighs are about 2 inches over the guide size but my arms are about an inch under! Great indicator for letting me know what I need to work on for a more 'balanced' appearance.

  5. Thanks Lee!Hi from P.R! your really helping me..i'm almost getting the body i always wanted..but i still have problem with my calves. I've been lifting just for 8 months and i have gain like 15 pounds and i'm happy with that, but my calves have only increase 1 inch. What you suggest? Thanks! ialways read ur emails

  6. Dear Lee,

    when you say

    Upper arms should be approx. 36% and ideally your calves, neck and upper arms should all be the same measurement.
    1(is this approx of Chest measurement?)

    Forearms should be around 29%.

    2(Same as above)

    Are both of this

  7. Very good. Love it. Finally I can set a goal for an aim. Looked into many sites, but none provided these info's. Keep it up.