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July 12, 2021 9 min read

If you look at some of the most legendary male fitness figures of all time, almost all of them have similarly proportioned bodies.

For example, bodybuilder icons like Steve Reeves, Eugen Sandow, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all have similar body shapes. These men and others have come to define the ideal male physique, one with low body fat and perfectly proportioned muscles.

But, what are the specific body measurements of these men and the perfect male body? We are breaking down the specifics of the perfect male body, including what science tells us about the ideally proportioned muscles. That way, you can build a workout routine that helps you get these same ideal proportions!

Vitruvian man with futuristic element

Why Is There an Ideal Male Body Type?

Reeves, Eugen, and Schwarzeneggar do not all have similarly-proportioned bodies by accident. And, men all around the world do not look at them for body inspiration just by chance. So, the big question is, why are these men and their specific male body types so idolized and mimicked?

The answer lies in science and evolution! Thousands of years ago, males attracted mates with their bodies.  Having specific body traits, including broad shoulders and chiseled muscles, showed potential female mates that they were socially dominant and had good genes.

At the same time, those features also helped intimidate male rivals.  With the right male human figure, men won mates and successfully propagated their genes. While times have obviously changed in the past few thousand years, several of those psychological tactics once used for mating are still alive in the male mind today, hence, why many men work hard every day to build well-proportioned bodies.

Of course, not all men today go to the gym intending to build a body that attracts a potential mate.  While that may be in the back of their minds, they more likely go to the gym to push themselves to their physical and mental limits and get overall more muscular and healthier.

Nonetheless, evolutionary psychology is ingrained in men to this day.  It plays a significant role in why we still have an ideal male body type and what that body type looks like today.

How Do You Define What an Ideal Male Body Is?

Fast forward from the stone age to the era of the Roman Empire.  All of a sudden, artists began sculpting figures that represented the ideal male body type.  Even though it had been a long time since the stone age, the idea of the perfect man hadn't changed much.

Big, broad muscles and minimal body fat were still what was considered ideal.

Then, at around 50 B.C.E., one of Ancient Rome's most influential architects named Marcus Vitruvius published a book called De Architectura.  In the book, he further refined the ideal male body type. He came up with even more specific proportions of that body type and had sculptors create their statues according to those figures.

But, one artist, in particular, brought those figures to life when he drew the Vitruvian Man. His name was Leonardo da Vinci. The odds that you've seen his famous Vitruvian Man before are high because the photo is found in almost every biology, anatomy, and psychology textbook today.

While da Vinci's drawing is, indeed, spectacular, scientists recently discovered something mind-blowing about it. They found that da Vinci's drawing was an almost perfect match to the Ancient Greek philosopher Euclid's mathematical interpretation of the perfectly proportioned man. 

Euclid called the perfect proportions the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion.  Even more striking, Euclid's proportions are almost equal to those proposed by Marcus Vitruvius. Moreover, the ideal male body type has its roots in human evolution. 

Those roots are expressed in the Golden Ratio, which shows through ancient sculptures of the ideally proportioned man. To this day, the Golden Ratio defines what an ideal male body type is.  Even though it was constructed thousands of years ago, it is still relevant today.

What the Golden Ratio Tells Us About Male Proportions

The Golden Ratio lays out ideal measurements of the male body.

It explicitly states that "the ratio of a line segment cut into two pieces of different lengths such that the ratio of the whole segment to that of the longer segment is equal to the ratio of the longer segment to the shorter segment."

In less scientific terms, it is described by the equation "a+b is to a as a is to b." Numerically, it is expressed by 1 to 1.618 OR 1:1.618. While it may not make sense just by looking at the equation, scientists regularly identify this ratio in nature, including in the male body and face. 

According to Euclid, things in nature that have this proportion reflect the perfect proportions of the universe.Moreover, to have an ideal male body type, your body should reflect the golden ratio.

The Golden Ratio and the Grecian Ideal: The Ideal Male Body Proportions

If you're still not grasping the idea of the Golden Ratio, it's all good.  It's very scientific and hard to think about in terms of the male body.  But, it's easier to understand it through the Grecian Ideal.

The Grecian Ideal is essentially the personification of the Golden Ratio.  It's the physical representation of the ideal male proportions defined by the Golden Ratio.

It's called the Grecian Ideal because it reflects the proportions of Ancient Greek and Roman male sculptures.  If you were to wrap a measuring tape around the different body parts of the statues to figure out the exact proportions, you would get numbers considered the Grecian Ideal.

Want to know what those exact proportions are?

Here they are:

  • Flexed arms should be 150% larger than the circumference of your non-dominant wrist
  • Flexed calves should be the same size as flexed arms
  • Shoulder circumference should be 1.618x larger than waist circumference
  • Chest circumference should be 550% larger than the circumference of the non-dominant wrist
  • Upper leg circumference should be 75% larger than knee circumference

If you fit these measurements, then evolution and the Golden Ratio consider you to have perfect proportions.

How to Measure Your Body Proportions

How does your body compare to the ideal male proportions? You can find out with a simple tape measure.  Once you have your measurements, compare your results to the Grecian Ideal proportions above.

Measuring Your Body Fat Percentage

One aspect not covered in the Grecian Ideal is body weight and body fat percentage. While not explicitly outlined, it should be somewhere within the range of 10 to 15%. With a lower level of body fat, your muscles will pop more.

A perfect example of a male with body fat in this range is Brad Pitt. When preparing for his role as a warrior in the movie Achilles, he followed a  bodybuilding exercise style.

With that, he combined intense cardio and weightlifting to get his body fat low and muscle mass up.

There are a couple of ways you can measure your body fat percentage, including with a tape measure. To do so, measure the circumference of the widest part of your neck and abdomen. Then, subtract your neck circumference from your abdomen circumference to get your body fat percentage.

Measuring Your Arms

Next, see if your arms are proportional to the Grecian Ideal. Wrap the tape measure around the smallest part of your non-dominant wrist. The smallest part is in between your wrist bone and hand. Once you have that measured, flex your bicep and wrap the tape measure around the largest part of the muscle.

Do not measure it right after working out. Instead, measure it under resting conditions, like when you first get out of bed in the morning. If your arm muscle size is exactly 2.5x the circumference of your wrist, then you've got the ideal Grecian arms.

Measuring Your Calves

The perfectly proportioned male's flexed calf circumference equals their flexed arm circumference.  Flex your calf muscles and measure around the largest part.  Then, compare it to your arm muscles measured in the previous step.

Measuring Your Shoulders and Waist

Next, measure your shoulder to waist ratio. The Grecian Ideal embodies that "V" shaped look from the upper waist up to the shoulders. To achieve it, you'll need a narrow waist and large shoulder width.

Specifically, you'll want your shoulders to be 1.618x the size of your shoulders. Wrap the measuring tape around your natural waistline. This should be the most narrow part of your trunk in between the belly button and rib cage.

Then, wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your shoulders. This should be at the top of your chest and underneath your upper arm. Compare your waist size to your shoulder size. To fit the Grecian Ideal, your shoulders should be 1.618 times the size of your waist.

Measuring Your Upper Body

Compare your upper body to the Grecian Ideal by measuring the circumference of your chest. To measure your chest, wrap a tape measure around the widest part of your chest. It should wrap under your armpits and around your shoulder blades. 

When you're measuring, take shallow breaths so as not to throw off your measuring. Use the measurement of your wrist from step 1 and compare it to the size of your chest. Your chest should be 550% larger than your wrist.

Measuring Your Upper Legs

Last but not least, see how your legs compare to the Grecian Ideal. First, flex your leg and wrap the measuring tape around the largest part of your thigh. With your leg still flexed, wrap the measuring tape around your knee. The tape should run over the middle of your kneecap. To fit the Grecian Ideal, your leg should be 75% larger than your knee.

Strong and handsome young man with muscles and biceps

Exercises to Achieve the Ideal Male Body Proportions

If your body doesn't quite reflect the Grecian Ideal, don't sweat it. There are specific exercises you can do to attain those ideal proportions. However, not every male will be able to attain these specific measurements through these exercises. Not because they don't lift hard enough, but because their genetics don't allow it.

At the end of the day, everyone has a different body structure. And, not all human body structures allow for these exact proportions.  For example, some males have naturally wider rib cages, broader shoulders, and thicker necks.  Regardless of how much they exercise, they won't be able to fit those Grecian measurements.

So, there is a bit of luck involved in attaining this body structure.  But, that shouldn't stop anyone from reaching fitness goals and building their best body. Here are some of the top exercises for building an ideally proportioned body:

1. Bench Press

The bench press is probably the most popular bodybuilding exercise.  And, for good reasons.  It helps build a bigger chest, shoulders, and back to help create that desirable V-shaped look.

Lay with a flat back on a flat bench.  Grip the barbell, unlock it, and slowly lower it to your chest.  Squeeze your chest at the bottom of the hold, then slowly press the bar back up to a lockout.

​2. Deadlifts

The king of all exercises is the deadlift. It works just about every muscle in your posterior chain, including the calves, hamstrings, glutes, back, and upper shoulders. You don't want to miss out on deadlifts. If you're not already doing them, check out our complete guide to deadlifts.

3. Preacher Curls

Get bigger biceps and reach the Grecian Ideal arm standard with preacher curls.  Sit on a preacher bench and hold a barbell underhand with both hands.  Keeping your upper arms planted on the bench, bend your elbows to curl your arms up.  Squeeze your biceps at the top of the curl, then slowly release the tension and return to starting position.

4. Cable Flyes

Build a bigger chest with cable flyes.  Holding your pulleys at chest level, raise your arms to your sides while engaging your core.  Create tension in the pulleys by taking a few steps forward, then pull your hands towards one another in front of your body.

As you pull your hands together, keep your elbows slightly bent.  Once your hands touch, slowly release the tension in your chest and return your hands to your sides.

5. Calf Raises

The calves are a commonly neglected leg muscle.  However, to fit the Grecian Ideal, you need to work your calves just as much as your thighs and hamstrings. You can use either a calf raise machine or do them on the floor.  Here's how:

With dumbbells in each hand, press through the balls of your feet and lift your heels off the floor.  Balance on your toes as you squeeze your calves.  Then, release the squeeze and drop your heels back to the floor.  Do between 6 and 10 reps.

6. Tabata

Cut down on body fat with Tabata. It's one of the best training methods for getting your heart rate up fast and keeping it up post-workout. With a high-running heart rate, you'll burn more body fat and reveal toned muscles. For a Tabata workout idea, follow one of our favorite Tabata workouts.

Final Thoughts

The perfectly proportioned male body is a product of human evolution and ancient ideals that are still relevant today.  A lean body with steel muscles and low body fat was and still represents the ideal body type.

See if your body matches up to the perfect proportions, then do the exercises to help you get into ideal shape!  You could end up with a body like Eugen Sandow, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or an ancient Roman sculpture.

Bonus tip:  Supercharge your idyllic male body by integrating our top 5 compound exercises into your workout routine!