April 12, 2021 10 min read
Are any set measurements for the ideal male body going to come anywhere close to reality? Toned muscles and a fit body all look good, to be sure, but is there some magical number you can reach to be irresistible? The short answer is that people have different genetics and their bodies function differently in different areas.
You can still use general size measurements to help make sure your fitness routine is working well throughout your body and you aren’t developing strength unevenly. Read on for the full rundown on the ideal male body measurements and how you can use them reasonably in your fitness routine.
Social media, Hollywood films, and advertisements bombard viewers with airbrushed models and actors with toned muscles, broad shoulders, and slim waistlines. Endeavoring to look your best and stay fit and healthy is an admirable pursuit, but can everyday guys realistically compare themselves to the perfect male physique we see so often in the media?
As it turns out, the ideal male body is more elusive than it appears. For one thing, each person is different and our bodies all do things like store fat and build muscle differently. The perfect physique for one person might be different due to genetics or personal taste.
Obsessing with a classic physique rather than getting fit in a healthy way will only hinder you on the way to achieving your fitness goals. The best way to approach these ideal measurements is to use them to assess your overall fitness.
Proportional measurements are best to make sure you’re looking the best for your body type and frame rather than all of us clamoring to look all alike and build the same male physique
In design, there’s something called the Golden Ratio that purports to have found the ideal proportions between two objects that make them especially aesthetically pleasing. The Golden Ratio was developed by the ancient Greeks and many people following the Grecian line of thinking found instances of the Golden Ratio in nature.
A startling number of people have even claimed that this ideal proportion applies to the human body. While there is some argument to be made that things like symmetry make people’s faces more attractive, the Golden Ratio and things like it are all mostly speculation.
The measurements most people use to support the claim that the Golden Ratio applies to looks are usually not very well defined. You hopefully won’t see people measuring their eyes to make sure they’re the right size, for example.
Is it possible to build the perfect physique according to the Ancient Greek standard? Well, while scientists have put AI and other computer programs to use creating synthesized composites of the “most beautiful person” according to surveyed preferences, humans aren’t made by such computers and so achieving that perfect physique is not quite as easy.
Lifters should already know that the only way to build a great physique is to work hard and make sure your diet supports your fitness goals. If you want to look like Arnold or Steve Reeves, there are no shortcuts. The right supplements will help, but only with the right nutrition and dedication to the workout.
However, you can use some standardized measurements if you want to keep track of how your muscles are growing. These standards also help give a frame of reference. If you start to plateau, you’re probably at or approaching the ideal measurements for your body. That doesn’t mean you can’t build up a bit more muscle mass with the right supplements, but it will help you set a realistic goal.
One of the most famous bodybuilders, Steve Reeves was fixated on proportion. His personal goal was to have his arms, neck, and calves all measure the same. He had the following measurements:
Steve Reeves also believed that your height affected your ideal body weight. Here’s what he thought was the optimal weight for men of various heights:
Since the goal is to build as much muscle mass as possible, Steve Reeves also came up with some proportions to help bodybuilders find out what an optimal muscle size would be based on their height and weight.
These proportions may seem a bit obsessive to average people, but lifters and bodybuilders have been using them to build up their muscle groups in an optimal way and win competitions for decades.
You can use a tape measure to find out exactly how big your muscles are, but what about things like body fat percentage? Although it’s a bit of a contentious topic, many people still rely on the body mass index (BMI) to find out how much body fat they have.
You can find a chart of sample BMI numbers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute here. Use some of these tips when you want to measure your body:
You can cause numbers to fluctuate more than they should if you flex when you’re taking measurements. Any muscle mass imbalances will be exaggerated since weaker muscles won’t flex as much.
Certain muscles also don’t flex as much as others naturally. Your upper arm flexes more than your leg muscles, so flexing during measurement might make your biceps and triceps seem way larger than your calves even if they’re similar-sized
Make sure you measure muscles on both sides of your body. Your strength training should also be even to build symmetrical muscle mass and functional strength throughout the body. If you’re having trouble with this, focus on compound strength training exercises and only use isolation exercises to even out strength or mass imbalances.
Pumping to try and get your measurements up may sound like a good way to optimize your results, but in fact, it will make your measurements fluctuate over time. That’s because you can’t really be sure how the workout will affect your muscles.
A bench press with a barbell will likely get your upper arm and chest muscles inflated, but it’s more difficult to say by just how much. Better to have consistent numbers so you have a better idea of where your shortcomings lie.
Keep all your measurements in one place where you won’t lose them and can compare growth over time. This is not only the best way to measure progress but also a great way to make sure your weight loss and muscle building are proceeding healthily.
Big sweeping gains in a matter of days or even weeks aren’t realistic expectations. There may be significant shifts when you first start depending on your starting level of fitness, but overall change should come at a steady pace over time.
For most muscles, you want to put the tape measure over the thickest part of the muscle. The only exception is the thigh, which should be measured halfway between the outer hip bone and the knee so that your quadriceps and hamstrings are included in the measurement.
Measure your forearm with your wrist bent and your hand in a fist but everything else straight. Your hips’ thickest point for measurement is around the middle of the glutes. Measuring harder to reach muscles like your deltoids may require some help from a friend or trainer.
If you want to measure body fat quickly, you can use a BMI calculator like this one from the CDC. Bear in mind that this quick calculation may not grant you as much information as you’re looking for. The best way to assess your weight is with a medical professional who can take a closer look at your body fat percentage.
The ideal body measurements for men vary, including waist circumference. Around a 40-inch waist is the average in American by some estimates, but of course, this is primarily people who don’t exercise regularly. Lifters are more likely to be around a 31-inch waist.
Each person will have different ideal body measurements based on their height, weight, and perhaps even age. Since there are so many factors, setting out one definite set of numbers is impossible, especially for lifters who have different goals in mind.
Like waist size, chest measurements also vary. Arnold had a 57-inch chest at the height of his career, but that’s certainly not realistic for everyday people. One rule of thumb is that your chest should be 10 - 12 inches larger than your waist. Anything in that range will keep your body shape tapered.
Most measurements of the human body that pertain to the Golden Ratio are centered around symmetry and subjective components like attractiveness. Lifters can most likely get by working out both sides of their bodies evenly and ensuring their measurements are equal bilaterally.
While the Golden Ratio is interesting to think about as a concept, it doesn’t have much use for lifters. Other proportional measurements like the ones discussed earlier in this article are more illustrative and useful for setting muscle size targets and fitness goals.
Everyone has their own fitness goals. For some people, weight loss is the main goal. Maintaining low body fat or weight is crucial. However, many lifters want to have cut muscles and a certain look, such as a huge upper body and broad shoulders. It depends on your height, genetics, and fitness goals.
Age also impacts how big your muscles will be. Sarcopenia begins as early as 30 years old and men lose muscle mass as they get older. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel, but don’t expect to maintain an Arnold-style physique into your 80s.
We can guess at some minimum measurements above which bodybuilders and lifters are considered buff. That doesn’t mean everyone should aim for these numbers, but it does give you some idea of how big the most dedicated lifters can get.
Anything over a 38-inch chest is considered buff. 15 - 16 inch arms are average for bodybuilders. Anything between a 31 and a 35-inch waist is great for lifters depending on body fat percentage and muscle mass.
Beyond comparing ourselves to legends like Arnold, taking measurements helps measure progress and make sure that our muscle groups are being evenly developed throughout the body. Uneven strength development isn’t only bad for aesthetic reasons, it can also reduce your athletic and everyday performance.
If you have any friends or fellow lifters, comparing measurements can be an exciting motivator provided you are comparing relative measurements and not absolute ones. Discuss percentages rather than numbers unless you happen to be of a similar height and at a similar fitness level.
Compound exercises that mimic the way your muscles work in real life are the best kind for building more muscle mass and getting your measurements where you want them. Pull-ups and deadlifts are better than non-stop bench presses, for instance.
But it’s also very important to have a healthy mix of exercises to make sure your muscles are not only getting the workout they need to grow but also being pushed in various directions. Fit in some lateral moves like lunges and embrace abdominal and core exercises to boost your pivoting and balancing strength.
The key to building muscle mass with strength training is to keep your muscles under strain for as long as possible and continue increasing the load over months of exercise. Muscles use hypertrophy to grow and they need some rest time to do that, so make sure you take time to let your muscles heal after each workout.
Complete muscle exhaustion by doing compound exercises that tire out various muscle groups and then use isolation exercises like biceps curls to target certain muscles that aren’t completely exhausted yet. Don’t start with isolation exercises and move to compound ones because the muscles you isolated could fail during a compound exercise and cause serious injuries.
If you want to get Amped-AF, then you can surpass plateaus and give your muscles the nutrients they need to grow by taking the right supplements. Creatine, BCAAs, whey protein, and T-boosters are all great options for giving your body the energy it needs and the nutrients it needs to build more muscle, cut body fat, and get you to your optimal body measurements.
Serious lifters should also consider a recovery supplement. Many of the same nutrients taken after or even during a workout session can inject your muscles with more energy and help them grow during the recovery stage. While these supplements can do wonders for lifters, you should also take care to get the right macronutrients through your regular diet and get the calorie deficit or surplus you need to either lose weight or grow muscles, respectively.
Although taking measurements of your muscles can help you keep track of progress, the real results you should focus on are functional, balanced strength gains. If you set up the right system of working out and supplement consumption, getting the measurements you want alongside functional strength will be that much easier.
Body measurements help lifters make sure they’re building strength evenly throughout their body. It’s not the only metric you should use to confirm that your workout routine is working, but it can help illustrate gains that might not be visible if you’ve been focusing on muscle growth for a long time.
Achieving the right muscle tone is as important as muscle size. So once you get the measurements you want, you may still find that you need to activate certain smaller muscles. Research into the function of various muscles and how to stimulate more specific muscles will help you reach the fitness level you want.
Supplements are also a great help because they give your body the nutrients it needs to grow muscles. Pair the right supplement with a strength training routine that will fully exhaust your muscles and give them enough recovery time so hypertrophy can kick in and you’ll get the body measurements you’re aiming for.