Ideal Body Measurements for MEN

The Ideal Body Measurements

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

I am often asked what my body measurements are and/or what the ideal body measurements for a classical muscular male physique are.

Believe it or not, there are many formulas to determine "ideal body proportions".

However, you might want to take them with a grain of salt.

QUESTION: Tom, there's one thing I really want to know – your measurements.

You have a physique that is, in my opinion ideal, and your photos are an inspiration for me. I am able to gain muscle-mass gradually with my workouts, but I never have any ideal body measurements to shoot for – e.g. biceps, chest, waist, hips, etc.

Furthermore, it would be helpful to know what ratios I should be going for. My thinking is that if my waist and hips are "growing" faster than my chest, that might be an indication that I am gaining mostly fat (because that's where it tends to show up first - on the hips and waist).

ideal body measurements,

ANSWER: To be honest, I no longer take my measurements. I did that regularly when I was a teenager. However, I do think it’s a great way to chart and evaluate progress.

Circumference measurements give you an idea about how well your workout (and nutrition) plan are working and let’s you notice if certain body parts are lagging behind others. In the case of waist and hips, measurements let you know if you’re gaining body fat.

The waist measurement is an important one, because when the circumference of your waist goes down, you know your overall body fat is going down. Moreover, let me remind you that when your waist shrinks even just a little bit, it tends to completely change the way you look.

Even if you don’t gain any muscle at all, a narrow waist will make you look like you have broader shoulders. Also, let's not forget that abdominal fat and a large waist measurement is known to be a health risk.

There have been all kinds of formulas proposed throughout the years regarding "ideal body measurements" for men, but I never aimed for a certain measurement myself.

I’ve always gone after a certain "look" as opposed to specific measurements. I used to cut out photos of natural bodybuilders and athletes whose physiques I admired and I wanted to emulate them. Thus, rather than having measurements in mind, I always had a picture of the ideal body measurements in my mind.

In addition to a solid base of muscle size, I simply work towards having optimal symmetry. I try to ensure that all my muscles are developed equally, with no single muscle group that is out of proportion compared to others. For example, a big chest with small arms will look silly - huge arms and thin legs will also look asymmetrical.

I’m not hung up on weighing a certain amount either, even though I weigh myself regularly. The primary reason I monitor my weight is because in the off season, I’m always interested in gaining more lean body muscle mass and prior to competitions I have to make weight (middleweight has a 176 1/4 lbs cutoff mark).

I’m 5’ 8” tall and I weigh from 174 to 176 pounds for competitions. However, that's a "false" weight, because I easily lose about 6 to 10 pounds of water weight in the three days prior to a contest. By the Monday after a Saturday contest, my weight is back up to 180 to 184 pounds. In the off season, I weigh about 195 to 200 lbs. My off season body fat percentage is usually about 9 to 10% and before a contest it’s about 4%.

I remember measuring my arms years ago and they were 17 1/2” cold and 18” pumped. However, that was a long time ago. I imagine they’re bit larger now. My waist is from 31 to 32” most of the year, and even smaller before contests.

ideal body measurements,

Steve Reeves (photo on the right) for example, was known as one of the most symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing natural bodybuilders of all time.

He is still considered as such even though he was not "huge" by today’s standards.

Reeves wrote about ideal measurements often and he was always striving for his idea of perfection.

One of his criteria for ideal body measurements and proportions included having his arms, calves and neck measure the same size.

Steve Reeves' Body Measurements:

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

In his book Classic Physique, Reeves said that his formula for ideal body measurements and 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 natural bodybuilder:
  • 5’5” 160lbs
  • 5’6” 165lbs
  • 5’7” 170lbs
  • 5’8” 175lbs
  • 5’9” 180lbs
  • 5’10” 185lbs
  • 5’11” 190lbs
  • 6’0” 200lbs
  • 6’1” 210lbs
  • 6’2” 220lbs
  • 6’3” 230lbs
  • 6’4” 240lbs
  • 6’5” 250lbs
In the book Brawn, Stuart McRobert published the old "John McCallum formula" for "challenging yet realistic" measurements for those who are considered to be "hard gainers". His formula is based on wrist measurements and was also published in the book titled Super Squats:

John McCallum’s realistic ideal body measurements for hard gainers:

  1. 6.5 times of your wrist gives your chest girth
  2. 85% of the chest girth produces your hips ideal measurement
  3. Take 70% of the chest girth for your waist
  4. 53% of your chest gives your thigh girth
  5. The neck size should be 37% of the chest
  6. 36% of the chest produces your upper arm girth
  7. The forearms get 29% of the chest measurement

I think all these ideal body measurements formulae to be very interesting, but I take them with a grain of salt.

Some Measurements - especially arm measurements - are frequently exaggerated. For example, twenty inch arms, are very rare and when you actually see them in person - you realize how massive they really are. But for some reason beginners and natural athletes get the idea in their head that to achieve any kind of bodybuilding success they need to weigh 250 pounds and have 20 inch arms.

The truth is, a 17 to 18 inch arm on a lean 175 to 180 pound body with good symmetry and proportion can look much larger than it really is – it’s an optical illusion of sorts created by proportion(s).

Some of these guidelines for ideal body measurements and proportions are the "Grecian" or "classical" ideals while others are ideals for bodybuilders. Either way, keep in mind they are ALL subjective because they’re just someone else’s opinion of what is an ideal. In the end, the only opinion that really matters is your own.

Train hard and achieve success,

Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCSLifetime Natural


ideal body measurements,

About the Author

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, certified personal trainer and freelance fitness writer.

He is the author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle", which teaches people how to get lean without drugs or supplements, using secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models.

Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism and build lean muscle mass by visiting

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