Muscle for life

How to Build the Ideal Male Body

How to Build the Ideal Male Body

Having the ideal male body means having ideal body measurements. Here’s how it works…


Let’s face it: a big reason why many of us work out every day is to look as awesome as possible. And for most of us, that doesn’t mean looking like a hulking bodybuilder.

Sure, it means being muscular, but it also means having a lean, proportional physique that still looks athletic. The type of body that other men wish they had, and women swoon over, not frown at.

When us fitness folk talk about acquiring an aesthetic physique, this is what we’re talking about. A body that just looks damn good.

You know it when you see it:

  • Broad shoulders with bulging biceps and triceps extending below.
  • A big, flat chest on top of a clear V-taper that ends with a narrow waist and defined core.
  • Developed, striated legs that end in bicep-like calves.

And all wrapped in very little fat, giving it all a tight, hard look.

Whereas bodybuilding today is all about packing on freakish amounts of mass, it used to place an emphasis on aesthetics.

For example, look at the following shots of the legendary Steve Reeves, whose physique is actually attainable naturally.

steve 3steve 2steve 1steve 4

Reeves would be considered a scrawny, fat weakling by today’s professional bodybuilding standards, but damn, he looked good, right?

Well, it turns out that there’s a mathematical symmetry underlying his physique, which we’ll talk more about in a minute.

So how do we actually get a body like that?

Workouts of the week for a “massive chest” and “shredded arms” won’t cut it. It requires a deeper understanding of what exactly creates that look, and what you need to do with your body to get there.

And it’s not dependent on genetics, either.

While we don’t have Reeves’ genetics, and we can’t make our bodies carbon copies of our physical role models because muscle shape, length, and insertion points vary from person to person, we can achieve the same types of proportions and improve the overall look of our physiques.

Building an aesthetic physique is formulaic, and anyone can do it.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to take stock of your current physique and determine which parts need work to achieve the type of physique that makes people say “wow.”

Let’s start with the theory of ideal physical size and proportions, which is more of a science than many people realize.

In fact, it has its roots in a fascinating ratio underlying much of the beauty and symmetry we find in nature…

The Golden Ratio and the Body

ideal male physique

In the first century BC, at the dawn of the Roman imperial age, the architect Marcus Vitruvius published one of the most important sources of modern knowledge of Roman building methods, planning, and design.

It covers almost every aspect of Roman architecture, from town planning, to building materials, to the construction of temples, civil and domestic buildings, pavements, aqueducts, and more.

Vitruvius’ publication also describes what he felt were the ideal human proportions, and that sacred temples should conform to these proportions. In fact, he believed that the human body was imbued with the hidden geometry of the universe itself, and thus was a microcosmic representation of the physical realm.

Over fifteen hundred years later, sometime around 1487, Leonardo da Vinci drew the human figure in accordance with Vitruvis’ observations, and named it the Vitruvian Man. He had the same particular fascination with human anatomy as Vitruvius: he believed that, in his own words, “man is a model of the world.”

The story behind that enigmatic statement brings us to what’s known as the divine proportion or golden ratio. For over two thousand years, esteemed mathematicians and scientists have studied, pondered, and debated this ratio and its ubiquity in nature, mathematics, architecture, and art.

So, what is this ratio? Euclid first defined it in his tour de force Elements, published in 300 BC.

The concept is simple: two quantities are in the Golden Ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one.

Visually, it looks like this:


And numerically, it’s expressed like this: 1:1.618 (1 to 1.618). In the case of the above image, b is 1 unit long, and a is 1.618 units long.

Now, the fascinating thing about the Golden Ratio is its plausibility as a natural law.

Scientists have found its expression in the arrangement of branches along the stems of plants and in the veins of leaves, in the skeletons of animals and the disposition of their veins and nerves, and in the composition of chemical compounds and the geometry of crystals. Researchers have recently reported the ratio present even at the atomic level.

Nowhere is the Golden Ratio more exemplified than in the human body, however, as da Vinci knew so long ago. In fact, he found that the more the body reflected this proportion, the more beautiful it was.

The human face, for instance, abounds with examples of the Golden Ratio. The head forms a golden rectangle with the eyes at its midpoint. The mouth and nose are each placed at golden distances between the eyes and the bottom of the chin. The spatial relationship of the teeth and the construction of the ear each reflect the ratio too.

Further, the Golden Ratio is found in the overall proportions of the human body: the different lengths of the finger bones, the makeup of the feet and toes, and even the structure of DNA.

When various parts of the body are in the Golden Ratio to others, a beautiful symmetry and proportion is created. Artists have known this for centuries. Modern plastic surgeons and cosmetic dentists use this knowledge to create beautiful faces and mouths.

When we apply the Golden Ratio to our purposes, we find that by adjusting the size of various body parts in relation to others, we’re able to immediately improve visual attractiveness.

The first person I know of to successfully put this theory into practice was Eugen Sandow, the legendary strongman from the late 1800s and “father of bodybuilding,” who called it the “Grecian Ideal.”

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Achieving the “Grecian Ideal”

ideal male body measurements

The ancient Greeks were known for their portrayal of what they felt was the ideal male physique. Statues often featured men with small waists, broad, muscular shoulders, and developed, defined legs.

Eugen Sandow was renowned for his resemblance to the classical Greek and Roman sculptures. It was no accident.

eugen sandow

Sandow actually measured the statues in museums and found that certain proportions remained constant (and as you now know, these proportions have their roots in the Golden Ratio).

This led to the development of “Grecian Ideal” as a formula for building the “perfect physique,” and Sandow’s goal was to embody it.

Sandow’s body and principles served as the model for future bodybuilders that became known for their beautifully balanced physiques, like Steve Reeves, Frank Zane, Danny Padilla, Serge Nubret, Bob Paris, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So, then what are these proportions? How can we too look like a Greek sculpture?

Well, it starts with establishing reference points—parts of the body whose sizes will determine how large other parts must be to achieve an overall aesthetic physique. Some of these reference points, such as the wrist and knee, don’t change in size as you age or as your conditioning changes. Others, such as the waist, do.

For example, by measuring your wrist size, you can determine how large your upper arms should be, and from that measurement how large your calves should be. Your knee size determines how large your upper leg should be, and your waist size tells you how broad your chest and shoulders should be.

The “perfect” physique can be reduced to a simple relationships of body part measurements. And here they are.

Your flexed arms should be 150% larger than the circumference of your non-dominant wrist (wrist measurement x 2.5).

Measure the smallest part of your wrist with a measuring tape, and measure the largest part of your arm (the peak of your bicep and middle of your triceps).

It’s worth mentioning that some people will say that such formulas apply to an unflexed arm, I disagree.

My wrists are 7 inches and arms are just over 17 inches flexed, and 14.5 inches unflexed, and they almost look too large. Getting them up to 17 inches unflexed and 20+ inches flexed would look absolutely ridiculous. Even if you lack bicep peak, stick with flexed measurements.

Your flexed calves should match your flexed arms.

The general rule is your calves should match your arms, and if we’re talking flexed arms, then we should be talking flexed calves.

You measure this by flexing your calf (raising your heel off the ground), and wrapping a measuring tape around the largest part.

Your shoulder circumference should measure 1.618 times larger than your waist (waist x 1.618).

You measure waist by circling your waist with a measuring tape (sort of like a belt would) at your natural waistline, which is located above your belly button and below your rib cage. Don’t suck in your stomach.

You measure your shoulder circumference as follows:

Stand upright with your arms comfortably at your sides (no flaring your elbows or spreading your lats), and have a friend wrap a measuring tape around your shoulders and chest at its widest point. This is usually right around the top of your armpits.

Your chest circumference should be 550% larger than the circumference of your non-dominant wrist (wrist measurement x 6.5).

There are other ways to reach the ideal chest measurement, but this is the easiest and most reliable.

To take your chest measurement, stand upright with your arms comfortably at your sides (no flaring your elbows or spreading your lats), and have a friend place a measuring tape at the fullest part of one of your pecs and wrap it around the other, under your armpits, across your shoulder blades, and back to the starting point.

Your upper leg circumference should be 75% larger than your knee circumference (knee measurement x 1.75).

To measure your knee circumference, place the measuring tape at the tip of your kneecap and wrap around.

To get your upper leg measurement, wrap a measuring tape around the biggest part of your thigh and hamstring. This can vary from person to person depending on how the muscles develop.

Alright then. Are you ready to see how you measure up?

Comparing Your Body to the Ideal Body

Tape measuring each part of your body is the most accurate method, and while any old tape measure will do, I like the Myotape best.


Another important point to consider is your body fat percentage. If you’re carrying excess fat, measurements will be skewed, with some affected more than others (waist, for example, will be greatly affected, whereas calves will not).

So if you want to truly know what needs improving, you need to get lean first.

How lean?

That’s up to you, really, but I would say no higher than 10% body fat. Personally I like to maintain a leaner look than that (7-8%), and thus that’s the point from which I base all readings.

Let’s now get to the measuring. Take and note down the following measurements (do both sides of your body where applicable so you can assess symmetry):

  • Your non-dominant wrist circumference.
  • Your arms.
  • Your shoulder circumference.
  • Your chest circumference.
  • Your waist.
  • Your upper legs.
  • A knee.
  • Your calves.

Once you know these measurements, you can simply compare them against the formula given earlier.

For example, here are my current measurements, at 7% body fat:

7-inch wrist

17-inch arms

51-inch shoulder circumference

43-inch chest circumference

32-inch waist

24-inch upper legs

14-inch knee

15-inch calves

And here are my “ideal” numbers:

17.5-inch arms

52-inch shoulder circumference

45.5-inch chest circumference

25-inch upper legs

17.5-inch calves

According to the above, I need to increase my shoulder, chest, and calf measurements, and I completely agree. My shoulders are a bit small for my arm size, my chest is actually okay but I need more lats (which will expand my chest measurement), and my calves definitely need some size.

And my training reflects these goals. I train shoulders twice per week, calves three times per week, and I do a bit of extra work on my lats on my back day.

So, take your measurements, see where you’re strong and where you’re lacking, and I bet you’ll agree.

And even if you don’t want to match the numbers exactly—maybe you’d prefer your arms or upper legs an inch smaller or larger—it helps point you in the right direction.


What do you think of the formula for the ideal male body? Have anything else to add? Lemme know in the comments below!

















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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Gabe

    Brilliant article, Mike. This makes for a very unique way to target your goals in a very objective manner and holds you accountable to a time tested standard. It’s also useful to get a better glance at what needs the most work and what you might be able to back off on perhaps.

    Like you, my calves are simply not keeping pace with the rest of my development but the flip side of this would be if you had genetically absurd calves then you’d probably have to find time for more arm work (though I’m pretty sure that’s the better deal 🙂

    • Michael Matthews


      Yeah, approaching your body like this really helps once you have your first year or two of proper training under your belt, because you can’t just pack on mass anymore. You have to be more specific in your goals.

      Haha I don’t mind my calf situation as it’s steadily improving. I think I’ll have them fixed within 5-6 months.

      • Gabe

        Nice, man, Glad it’s going well!
        When would you suggest I take these measurement? First thing in the morning perhaps?

        • Michael Matthews


          You could do that, although you will basically always look a bit bigger than that once you get some carbs in you.

          • Gabe

            True, that! Thanks bud, it’ll be good to establish that baseline—a good way to gauge my gains based on current training too I’m sure.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah exactly.

  • Engin Burak Anil

    Very interesting article, Mike. Thanks. By the way Reeves is definitely one my all time favorites.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Engin. Yeah, he had an awesome physique and career.

    • GeorgeT

      Of course, Reeve’s “measurements” as reported by various sources are complete BS. Waist 29-30 and 54 chest? LOL

      • Michael Matthews

        Lol yeah.

  • Neal Morton

    Thanks for the article. And now, based on my 6.5″ non-dominant wrist circumference I find that my 15″ arms are puny–though I can take comfort from the fact that my flexed calves are also 15″. Well, more work on the way…

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Neal! Haha at least they’re in proportion. I neglected my calves for too long and am now having to play catch-up…

  • Jenny Leadem

    Learned all about this back when my major was art before I switched it to pre-med. My question then is, what should a females numbers look like?

    • Michael Matthews

      Aren’t you fancy. 😉 Good question–I have to look into this more. It’s definitely different. Not sure if you really even need to put numbers on it as most girls just want to be lean, have muscle definition, and have a big butt and nice legs, haha.

  • Rob

    Hey Mike,
    I have a question. How come you advice training each body part once a week, but in this article you say since you need to grow more shoulders you train them twice a week and calves three times a week? In my case according to this calculations I’m way far off in chest, shoulders, back, arms and legs! Hahaha. Which I know I am. The numbers and the look don’t lie. I have been incorrectly training for the past 12 years. And when i say incorrectly i mean not lifting heavy and overtraining. My real question would be: if i am lacking in all those areas, should I hit them twice a week?
    Thanks for another home run article. I always wondered how big my arms needed to be.

    • Michael Matthews

      Weak point training is something I intentionally left out of BLS because most people don’t need to worry about it until year 2.

      That is, most people start out with so little muscle that they just need to hit everything hard once per week and they will gain the maximum amount of year-one muscle (20-25 pounds).

      Weak point training will be covered in my follow-up book to BLS, however, which I’m working on. This involves training lagging groups multiple times per week, but it’s done a little differently than BLS workouts (lower volume, higher rep).

      So, in your case, it would really depend where your physique is at right now. How tall are you, how much do you weigh, and what’s your body fat %?

      • Rob

        Hey Mike, thanks for responding. I am 5″9″, 168 lbs and 14.3% BF. I am currently on the bulk diet –50% Carbs, 30% Protein, 20% Fat. Eating 2785 Calories a day. I can’t hit the weights heavy as of yet because I am recovering from hernia surgery (3 months ago). So I just started lifting yesterday. Right now I set my top weight at 25 lbs, 35 lbs for next month and so on to prevent any injuries. I want to bulk to 185 lbs while keeping my BF constant. Once I reach that I’ll start cutting for two months. That’s my plan as of now. What do you think?

        I guess I have to worry about those measurements once I reach 10% BF. Then I’ll buy your second book titled Biggest Leanest Strongest! haha… Still waiting on Legion supps dude!

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure.

          Cool on your current stats and bulking. Understood on the surgery recovery.

          You may want to lower your cals a little until you can really hit the weights hard. I would start you around 2200-2300 for the time being.

          Yeah don’t worry about measurements until you’re lean enough, and haha, Biggerer Leanerer Strongerer! 😉

          I Know I’m waiting too! Taking so freaking long to get all the pieces in place. Aarrrrgg…

  • Ryan

    im coming along pretty well with things, ive been hitting the gym hard and heavy for about a year and a half, how can i get more height on my traps and thicker traps…like tom hardy in warrior?!

    • Michael Matthews

      Glad to hear things are going well! I like barbell and dumbbell shrugs for building traps. Deadlifts are great for this as well.

  • Cliff

    Hi Mike,

    I originally read your book about 9 months back, and changed my workouts from being little-to-no-rest super-sets using “matching muscle groups (chest-tri, back-bi, etc) and doing twice as many exercises as you recommend, to nearly the exact regiment in your book. I also changed my diet from eating mostly vegetarian, and not focusing much on protein beyond the 4-5 nights a week I would have chicken/salmon, and taking a double scoop of ON protein after working out each day; carbs were always avoided in my diet prior beyond oatmeal. In switching to both your cut diet (I’m more about being lean than having muscle mass, and that is what I struggle with the most), and your heavier lifting style, I went from my lowest weight in years of 164lbs up to 180lbs-185lbs @ 5’10. Sadly I haven’t stuck to the diet as well in the past 2 months, but throughout the past 9 months my BF went from ~10% to what I would guess to be ~16% (haven’t gone to get the exact number). I feel like I could drop my waist size at least an inch (although all of my jeans still fit from when I was 20lbs lighter, and they were decently tight back then), and it looks like I need to grow 2-3 inches all around. What would your recommendation be with regard to diet & workout regiment? See my measurements below, and I apologize for the winded intro.

    Area: Current (Ideal)
    Wrist: 7in
    Arm: 15.5in (17.5in)
    Waist: 33.5in (32in)
    Shoulder: 49in (54.2in)
    Chest:40.5in (45.5in)
    Knee: 15.25in
    Upper Leg: 23.25in (26.7in)


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for writing Cliff! Great job on your gains so far. Don’t sweat the fat–it’s easy enough to lose.

      I think you should cut down to the 10% range and then bulk again from there. Generally speaking you want to remain in the 10-15% range to build muscle most efficiently.

      What do you think?

      • Cliff

        I agree. It seems like you never bulk, but either stick to cutting or maintenance diets. Is that because you are happy with your size and just want to stay lean? Maybe I just notice you mention your current diet/BF during your cuts though. Either way I’ll stick with cutting now, and bulking in a few months. Thanks for the response.

        • Michael Matthews

          You’re right I’ve only cut and maintained this year. This is because I enjoy staying lean and needed to be ready for various photo shoots and whatnot.

          I also don’t really see the need to bulk at this point because I’m working on smaller weak points in my physique, and I’m willing to have them slowly come in.

          To get to this point, however, I bulked and cut several times, of course.

  • Nick

    The first guy maybe is ideal to bodybuilding fitness models guys who are into bodybuilding,but for most women and a lot of guys the Michelangelo’s David is the ideal.So the ideal depends on the individual

    • Michael Matthews


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  • blackboybeefbrad1953

    I’m 5’9″,205-210 lb.,with a 471/4″ Chest-491/2 Expanded Chest-401/2″ Waist,
    183/4″ arms.(I’ll take my other measurements next week.)At 60,what is my ideal weight,am I fat or just,well,overweight?

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice measurements!

      Hmm it’s hard to guess body fat % by waist, but I would think you’re over 15%?

      I would recommend staying in the 10-15% range…

  • Your body is not going to sway too much from that proportions even if you wanted to. That is why I always say “when your arms stopped growing, maybe its because you don’t train your legs.”. The body can only naturally allow you only a “little” misproportion after that it will activate its negatve feedback to regain balance. You will not have arms too large (maybe only a few inch plus or minus) than the wrist x 2.5 for example. Likewise your upper body also actually wont grow above a certain level unless you also grow your legs and lower body. Remember the body builder is built from ground up.
    Eat your eggs, people!

    • Michael Matthews

      There’s some truth in that, but you can definitely mess up your proportions if you neglect different parts of your body.

      For instance, look at anyone that doesn’t train legs–they can have quite large upper bodies with NOTHING to show downstairs.

      Or look at people that only do programs like 5×5 or Starting Strength–big lower bodies, lackluster upper bodies.

      • I agree with that. By the way thanks for this article I was made to measure my stats – even my joints. That is why small jointed peopel are lucky. Luckily my waist are still around 29.5 (30 when Im full).
        Btw I think you forgot one important aspect of measuring:

        If you will be posting your arm measurements to magazines, add 2 inches to the measurements. Now your good to go.

        • Michael Matthews

          Nice on your waist measurement. That’s impressive.

          Hahah yeah, add 2-4 inches to height as well. And 20 pounds to weight.

  • Gautam

    Loving your articles Mike! Definitely going to get my muscles measured tomorrow.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Happy measuring! 🙂

  • Greg

    Keep sending good info Mike,enjoyed the article! Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Greg!

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  • Dude, just added this one to the latest Testosterone Linkfest. Happy Thanksgiving Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow thanks brother! Happy Tday!!

  • Rich

    hey Mike, very interesting timing that you popped this on facebook earlier today! whilst researching how best to weight train (and ultimately purchasing Bigger Leaner Stronger and then finding this website) I came across the intriguing concept of symmetry – which I parked as something to come back to after a year or two.

    Getting into your BLS 5-day a week program I noticed I was aggravating a shoulder niggle on some exercises, an example being that I was ok to bench press but challenged with incline bench pressing. As a result, I can now press 50% more weight flat than I can inclined.

    Remembering what you have written about the importance of developing the upper part of the chest (clavicle?) as well as the pecs and having ‘symmetry’ in the back of my mind, only yesterday I was wondering how much of a difference you have (if any) between what you can press flat and what you can press inclined?

    To achieve the golden ratio / symmetry, is there a ratio? I’m wondering how much to let my incline catch up with my flat!

    as always, many thanks in advance, cheers, Rich.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Rich!

      On the shoulders, this might help:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /how-to-improve-shoulder-flexibility-and-mobility/

      My flat press is currently around 275 for 4, and my incline about 245 for 4. This ratio seems to hold as I progress.

      How are incline DB presses?

  • Jumpman_Lane

    I totally agree with the golden ratio as the ideal. Ive been training like Arnold suggests in his book The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. You know, how he’d train today starting from scratch to achieve the ideal look you’re talking about.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! His workouts are beyond overkill BTW. Remember he was on a lot of drugs and he trained like a maniac.

  • yohan

    is there proportions for forearms? thanks and amazkng info!

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question! I’ve never read about it but I suppose too small would look goofy. 🙂

  • John B

    Mike, these sound about right to me. My question is, is this your personal formula? I aka because the measurements are different from both the grecian ideal and steve reeves’s ideal.

    • Michael Matthews

      No this formula has been kicking around BB circles for a while. Whose it really is? Who knows, haha. It’s fairly accurate though. Not 100% of course but gives some insight into strengths and weaknesses.

  • Shane Clark

    Hey mike I’m 5 10 195 pounds and 12 percent noddy fat I just got done with a bulk and starting a cut but every time I start cutting I start to not eat an eventually only consume like 3 to 400 calories until I start my next bulk any advice on how I can avoid this this time around

  • haris

    hi i m 5. 4 hight male , jst want to have slim boday , Can u tell me the ratio of My waist , chest , shoulder , arm muscles . plz
    I m trying to get a slim boday according to my height bt My belly muscles are not reducing . If i do exersices for belly muscles it ll reduce bt when i leave the exercise it again bulge out . Plz help me to keep my belly muscles skinyy with out ABS .

    ( Actully m exercising very hard to reduce my belly size , bt it seems dt rest of muscles are reducing and belly is still bulging out . plz help me that what exercises i should do and wt not )

  • Thor

    Hey Mike, I am 6.2 height and weight 150 lbs. Though my muscles are toned they look so small and especially my upper body. I was told not to lift very heavy (only 25 lbs) because I am 15 years old. Is there any possibility for my upper body to grow more in the next few years or should I start lifting heavier weights???

  • Chuck Burg

    Hey mike 53 yr trying to eat multiple meals a day but I HATE to cook. What can I do to get those calories in?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmmm learn to like cooking, haha. Pre-cook food and just heat it up…

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  • Alex

    Hey Mike,

    My name is Alex, just read your article which I thought was very helpful so thank you, and am now wondering about how to measure body fat levels in order to know if I am lean enough to get accurate measurements.

    I am 18 years old, 5’10.5 inches tall, and I weigh about 182 pounds (probably a big chunk is muscle since I already lift but definitely more fat than you recommended in your article). How should I go about measuring for BF %?

    And since I already lift, I also would probably be ready to know about weak spot training that you talked about with someone else. Definitely let me know about that whenever you are ready and just thanks a lot man! The stuff from your artical definitely makes sense and I think this will help me get some good results! Best wishes! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Alex! Check this out:


      I talk about weak point training my newest book, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, but it’s very simple: you’re increasing the frequency of 1-2 major muscle groups per week to bring them up.

      • Alex

        Awesome, thanks for all your help!

        • Michael Matthews


  • Guest1969

    Your article is very interesting and I can (thankfully) personally validate it. I have always had a naturally athletic build. At 5’10.5″, I have mostly hovered around 180 lbs with 16.5 inch arms, 46-47 inch chest, 33-34 inch waist, 24-25 inch upper legs, 16 inch calves and 38-39 inch hips. My wrist size is 7.5 inches and forearms around 14.5 inches. You might want to add that a well developed back helps immensely in defining the overall V-shaped torso. I have had my share of compliments in my now 45 years on this planet. Credit goes to mixing up – bodyweight exercises, moderate weight training, brisk walking, eating right and being consistent – but not being too hard on yourself when you break the rules. Genes have been a factor to some extent.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! Keep up the good work brother!

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  • EnellGmz

    I believe this subject is perfect for a youtube video.

    • Michael Matthews


  • Joe

    Hey Mike, I was wondering how these ratio relate to height. I imagine that a shorter guy shouldn’t have the same measurements as a smaller guy? I’m 5’7 by the way.

    • Michael Matthews

      They change slightly from person to person due to height and natural proportions but they give a good general baseline to work from, you know? In the end the mirror tells you everything anyway…

  • Dave

    hey mike, i’m relatively new to your stuff. I’ve read and followed the BLS methodology for the last 7 weeks. I started working out again Jan 2013, so it will be 2 years Jan 2015. I have worked out off and on my whole life. Just before i started in 2013 i was running 25-35 miles a week and lost a bunch of weight down to about 143. I’m 40 and 5’9″. I’ve gained back a significant amount of muscle, and now my weight fluctuates between 156-159 with about 9.5-10% body fat. I can see my abs pretty good, but not like the 6-8% i’d want after cuttiing. Problem is, i seem to be stuck. I’ve been gaining each week in strength, so my size to strength ratio is good. I started with 2500 calories per day, after a few weeks of no weight gain, i switched to 2700 calories for the past maybe 3 weeks. still no weight gain, but i’ve gotten a lot stronger. I do look better, but I’m no where near the .5-1 lb per week i think would be great. i can’t imagine how i’d even eat 3000 calories per day, but maybe that’s the answer. In terms of my workouts, i’m doing the 5 day split as outlined in the BLS. I calculated my ideal calculations and i need like 1″ on arms, .5 inches on calf, 4.3 on shoulder, 3 on quads. It says i don’t need a bigger chest, but that has to be because of my lats. I’ve been trying to hit the chest with that extra set before one of my workouts to get those growing, so that stat isn’t indicative of reality for me.

    I use myfitnesspal to track everything i eat. My carbs come from complex carbs, i may be low on fat sometimes and get more protein than i technically need. I’m very particular about my diet.

    Sorry for the long post, but what now? 3000 calories? Exercise more often? I’ve gone through the 8-12 rep workouts for the first year. I did make very good gains, but from where i came from, anything would have worked well. Then i moved on to super high reps. I got really strong and increased my endurance, but i was burning too many calories and not gaining muscle mass. As i mentioned, the last 7 weeks have been on your plan. I’m frustrated by the lack of gains per week as i expect from the literature. I’m very dedicated and very rarely miss my workouts and they are always very intense.

    Thanks for your help and i really like all of your articles!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      It sounds like you just need to eat more. I email with some 170-175 lb guys that need to eat 4-5k cals per day just to gain 0.5 to 1 pound per week. Crazy stuff.

      Let’s increase your carbs and keep hitting the heavy weights. Let me know how it goes!

      • Dave

        Ok, thanks for your response! I’ll increment 300 calories at a time until i start gaining. i’ll post what happens. Thanks again!

        • Michael Matthews

          Sounds good! Keep me posted!

          • Dave

            Another question. I’m at the point of taking a week off after 8 weeks of straight working out. Should I still eat 3k calories when I’m not working out this coming week?

          • Michael Matthews

            You can drop to TDEE for the week (maintenance).

          • Dave

            Ok, sounds good. In coming up with the right kind and mix of calories, i find that milk is a good base. Do you have any issues with skim milk from a health perspective? I’ve gone through periods of no dairy, but currently i do drink ~2cups a day and i use Fage greek yogurt as well. I know you use greek yogurt in some of your suggested foods, but just curious as to your take on dairy overall.

          • Michael Matthews

            I know the general quality of dairy is pretty poor here in the States (when compared to places like Europe) but if it doesn’t bother your stomach, you should be fine.

            Personally I do a bit of organic Greek yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese every day.

      • Dave

        Mike, here is an update. I’ve increased my caloric intake to 3k per day after you answered my question. It’s been 3 months and now i weigh 166, so it is working! I’m at around 12% body fat now. I know you generally say to go up to ~14% body fat before cutting. Is that true will all sizes? I feel like i have more fat now then i’d ever want and at only 5’9″ it seems that would be too much. I know everyone is different, but do you think my gains would be hurt by cutting down to maybe 8%, then start bulking back up to 12% or are the strategies to maximize the gains relatively stringent regarding those body fat percentages?

        Thanks again!

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome man! You can go a bit higher even. 16-17%. I talk about this here:


          And yeah I know it feels like you’re getting absurdly fat but that’s just our obsession with being lean, haha. Trust me you’re on a roll so let’s keep it going and then when you do cut back to 8% you’ll be really happy with how much additional mass you’ve added.

          • Dave

            Uugh. Ok, so if I dropped that much, I don’t have enough muscle yet to look the way I want, and most likely would be/look way too small. So doing the math,( i know you go based upon what the mirror says), 8% 165 5’9″, that might be as big as I’d want to get. This would require about 6 lbs of lean muscle gain, which means a good year or so to accomplish that. Thanks again. I’ll keep posting updates for any that are interested.

    • Mark Crisp

      just lift heavy and eat right…it’ll fall into place.

      • There’s truth in that. 🙂

        • mark

          Mike, i was looking at some of the lifting records of People like Sandow. etc…Side press 400lbs+ 1 arm press 350lb+, God knows that they could deadlift ( i hear 600lb+)

          These guys must have had super duper, strong tendons and bone density? i just can’t imagine the average guy no matter how long he trained for ever doing this. Can you?

          • Yeah absolutely. That’s a lot of genetics and possibly drugs as well (test was around).

            I’ve never deadlifted more than 450s for reps.

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  • Bryan B

    Hi Mike!

    Going through BBLS a 2nd time now and loving it and still constantly learning. Thanks for writing an awesome book!

    How would the Golden Ratio apply to the female body? Is there an ideal female physique in terms of measurements?


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Bryan!

      Good question and it’s quite different because most women want a defined, but not overly muscular, upper body with an emphasis on the lower body (highly developed legs and an “over-developed” butt).`

      • mark

        yeah it’s strange with women. If they lift too heavy and go beyond toned they just look to masculin. I guess it’s the same with guys. There’s small window where it looks great.

        • Yeah if you don’t “watch out” you can definitely take it too far.

    • Mark Crisp

      big tits, small waist….nice ass. That’s all.

  • Shams

    Hi mike, My reference points (wrist and knee) and exactly the same as yours but not sure if we are the same height. Do you mind if i ask what your height is to know wether these numbers apply to me or not? And if i’m slightly shorter would you know how the numbers would change?

    Thank you…

    • Michael Matthews

      Sure I’m 6’2 and yes height changes things slightly but not by too much. Part of it is just learning your body and using the mirror.

      • Orkle

        Hi Mike, excellent site, keep up the hard and valuable work. The measurement ideals are fascinating. However, I only see one element missing – this is that presumably there is also an ideal wrist size relative to height; indeed, this would appear to be the most crucial ratio of all, since it would govern all of the subsequent measurements. Any idea if someone has attempted to establish the ideal measurements relative to height (via the unfluctuating wrist measurement, which obviosuly, as you acknowledge, remains constant)? To put it more simply – someone with 5 inch wrists at 6’2 isn’t going to look as good as someone with 7 inch wrists at 6’2, assuming they then extrapolate the subsequent calculations.

        • Michael Matthews


          Yeah bone size definitely plays a role here. 6’2 with 5-inch wrists would be one skinny MFer, haha. That person would have to gain a LOT of muscle to reach ideal proportions…

  • Jack

    Hey Mike,

    I have a question. I was born with large hips well at least i think they are large. I am 15 years old 6’1 and weigh 158 lb i am skinny but i am working on my size and mass. I have 34 inch hips is this large, am i able to achieve my goal which is to one day look like Arnold or are my hips to wide. Will i ever be able to be aesthetic If you could help me out that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Jack,

      Cool on what you’re doing and don’t worry too much about “aesthetics” at your age because you just don’t know how your body is going to fill out yet.

      Spend your teenage years playing sports, working out, and eating plenty of food, and let’s see where you’re at come 18.

      And remember that Arnold was on a ton of drugs. You don’t want to go down that road.

  • Nathaniel

    I’ve read that the ideal male height to waist ratio is 1 to .447, and since I’m 5’7″ (67 in), my ideal waist size is 30 inches. Then, if I use to “adonis golden ratio” and multiply by 1.618 to get my ideal shoulder measurement is 48.5 in. Firstly, my shoulders are already 52 in. Secondly, I’m right handed and my left wrist measurement is 7.5 in, and when multiplied by 6.5 (to get the suggested chest size), I get 49.5 in, which is actually BIGGER than the suggested shoulder measurement, which is impossible in practice. Basically, I’m short, with a wide frame (wrists and knees, but even though I could stand to get leaner, my hips and shoulders are naturally wide for my height). What would you say my ideal measurements are, and what are the most important ratios to stick to?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Nathaniel,

      Height and genetic strengths/weaknesses definitely play a role here and you need to tweak things to fit.

      Really what it comes down to is visuals anyway. The numbers are just a guideline to highlight possible deficiencies.

  • John Smith

    While I agree that the male body that fertile females find attractive (which is probably different than what males believe is attractive to them) quite possibly has some relationship with the Golden Ratio, I’m not convinced that wrist size would play a part in that. Starting from a wrist measurement seems a convenient way to end up with a need for ‘bodybuilding’ in order to achieve that attractive physique.

    It has to be acknowledged that while ‘bodybuilding’ may be embraced by millions of men and women, there is nothing natural about it. That is, there are very few men who could achieve, say, this site’s author’s physique in the wild. It’s just not going to happen. Both men and instances of the Golden Ratio occurring in nature have been around for a lot longer than the year Sandow started training (Greek statues convey an ideal, not a reality).

    As such, it would be highly unlikely that an unnatural act would be necessary to produce either a body aligned with the Golden Ratio or a body sexually attractive to potential female mates. To base the desired dimensions on wrist size is to fix those dimensions in absolute terms, instead of simply allowing the chips to fall where they naturally may, as long as the result aligns with the ratio.

    Since I don’t believe potential mates are checking out a guy’s wrist size and comparing that to anything, I would suggest that men stick to trying to achieve the ratio exclusively in regard to shoulder:waist, actual overall torso size being immaterial.

    So, since the ratio is 1.618:1, a given man could shoot for any of the below combinations:

    48.5″ shoulder
    30″ waist

    50″ shoulder
    31″ waist

    51.75″ shoulder
    32″ waist

    Or any other combination that appeared to fit in with his height, somatotype and, more importantly, capacity to achieve. If you’re an ectomorph, go for a small waist and chest/shoulders to suit; if you’re an endomorph, fit your waist to the upper body you can easily achieve.

    Within reason, I don’t think arms matter (for sexual attraction purposes). Once you stray from what a potential female mate subconsciously finds attractive, to what your own (indoctrinated) ideals are, the Golden Ratio can have no use for you. If the Golden Ratio has any point in natural human attractiveness, it can only be with respect to appearing attractive as a mate (for procreation purposes) to women, not to yourself or your gym buddies.

    Also, no woman, from prehistoric times to today, has ever cared if a man has legs at all, and men subconsciously know that (hence all the before and after legless torsos in ads).

    Build whatever body you want, but know that it’s highly unlikely that the Golden Ratio applied to men’s bodies would naturally have anything to do with what men find aesthetically pleasing. Remember, it’s the Adonis Golden Ratio, not the Narcissus Golden Ratio.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment! Thanks for sharing.

      The principles discussed in the article are flexible, of course, and are meant to be guides for achieving proportion and symmetry.

      The point of starting with something like the wrist or knee is it relates to your natural frame, which in turn dictates how much muscle you’ll need to gain to achieve good size and symmetry.

      Women absolutely notice arms–it’s one of the first things they notice about a man’s physique, actually–and many find trained legs attractive.

      • John Smith

        I’m not saying that what you’ve outlined above won’t result in a Golden Ratio proportioned physique. It will. I also understand why you would address the issue from a site-related perspective. I just think it short-changes this mystical ratio a little; puts it out of reach of those who can’t or won’t train extremely hard, or who lack a certain genetics. Again, I realize that such people are probably not making up a large part of your audience, but such wrist-initiated proportion doesn’t sound like a very easy thing to achieve. I guess that’s why they call it an ideal.

        I believe the attraction of the Golden Ratio takes place at a subconscious level, and in male human body terms, as viewed by women, mainly has to do with a shoulder/chest wideness to waist V-taper. Pecs or abs shouldn’t really play a part in that. Arms usually just naturally fall somewhat into line. Attraction to muscularity itself may have more to do with an association with health, strength and youthfulness than the GR.

        So, slim men lacking much muscularity could, in the female subconscious, appear just as attractive as their well-built counterparts, IF they have shoulders and waist in GR proportion. Admittedly, that’s not going to be easy to achieve either without some form of training and diet.

        I honestly have never heard (or heard of) women commenting favorably, unfavorably, or at all, on men’s legs. You’d imagine that they’d care, but they really don’t seem to, no matter what they say when actually prompted for comment (ask your wife what she thinks of Brad Pitt’s legs – get ready for a puzzled look). It’s possible that females are genetically-programmed to favor male legs that don’t consume a lot of calories at rest for a very limited everyday practical buck. Also, legs and arms, having all of their ‘rectangles’ on the vertical, don’t lend themselves as well to GR appreciation as do other body and facial parts.

        • Michael Matthews

          Hmmm I think we hang out with different types of girls. 😉

          Slim guys are generally less attractive than muscular ones, and ESPECIALLY less attractive than muscular, LEAN ones.

          Ironically I know quite a few girls that oogled over Pitt’s legs in Troy. Most guys don’t have shit for legs but when a guy has trained legs, girls notice.

        • Mark

          look it’s like “trying to play tennis like Federer” That;’s the ideal..the dream…the closer you get the more you win, etc…how close you can actually get is as much a matter of talent than practice.

          The fact is you get below 15% BF and put a bit muscle on…and you are in the top 5% of physiques in the Western world. So many are out of shape it’s terrible

          • Very true.

          • John Smith

            I’d say that physique-building would be subject to the law of diminishing returns. We all know how much harder it is to get a running PR, or to lose body fat, or to build muscle, the further we progress. Achieving some perfect physique would probably be impossible.

            No reason not to try though, if you enjoy it.

            I’m a minimalist, myself. I enjoy trying to make strength and aesthetic gains with the least amount of work. My plan is to sneak up on perfection when it the law of diminishing returns has dismissed me as a no-hoper.

    • mark

      the old timers (who i think looked the best by the way) didn’t bother with all this. They simply eat right and lifted f**** heavy. Let the body do its thing.

      • To a degree yes but they did do a lot to “sculpt” their bodies.

      • Chad

        Not sure if I agree with any of that very simple statement. Of course, I have no idea what the ‘old timers’ era was. Since the era of Charles Atlas, Reeves, and Cline, broad shoulders and a narrow waist has been found ‘ideal’, just as much as a square chin. Only some ‘strongmen’ and power lifters simply let the body do its thing.

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Chris

    I’m curious how these proportions fit into the golden ratio. For example, the biceps are 2.5 times the wrist. 2.5 is not the golden ratio or any ratio derived from fibbonaci ratios from what I can see.

    Also, what should the ideal forearm circumference be?

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  • Bill
    • Thanks for sharing! I like it. 🙂

    • John Smith

      Well, that wasn’t very scientific. She didn’t provide any evidence at all to back up her claim that “It just isn’t true”. Instead, she offers the following:

      1. “Most people” picked a certain non-GR ratio rectangle from the selection. She gets from that that it’s clear that human beings aren’t automatically attracted to the GR. Perhaps they’re not, in such an artificial scenario, and when asking them to consciously choose.

      2. She’s not buying that beautiful facial ratios would be exactly 1.16803. First, it’s doubtful that the ratio would produce “beauty” rather than balance. Human beings are attracted by balance. That’s why we like our walls to be at 90 degrees and our song lyrics to scan and rhyme. If the ratio provides perfect aesthetic balance, it would stand to reason that either side of that number would provide increasingly less balance the farther you moved from it. However, a perfect aesthetic balance ratio would necessarily have to be described by a given number. In any event, her not buying something isn’t evidence of anything.

      3. People who look for evidence to prove their hypotheses are bad scientists. Agreed. Still not evidence of anything with respect to the properties of the GR.

      4. The Parthenon (and Da Vinci) example is bogus. Let’s say we agree. What does that tell us about the properties of the GR? Nothing. All it tells us is that somewhere down the line, someone may have picked up and ran with a bad example.

      5. “There isn’t a shred of evidence that the ancient Greeks even knew about the GR, let alone used it.” Wiki says “Euclid explains a construction for cutting (sectioning) a line “in extreme and mean ratio”, i.e., the golden ratio.[13] Throughout the Elements, several propositions (theorems in modern terminology) and their proofs employ the golden ratio.[14]” Parthenon construction began in 447BC. Euclid was born in 300 BC. We have to wonder whether the Greeks before him knew about the GR. It seems likely that some did.

      However, it’s immaterial, as the Parthenon may simply be a bad example, hyped into legend by some over-enthusiastic fan of Greek architecture. The properties of the GR don’t stand or fall on the GR having or not having been applied to the design of the Parthenon.

      6. “The GR does appear in nature, but it is not a catchall definition of beauty.” First, beauty probably doesn’t even come into it. Second, she offers zero evidence to back up that statement. It’s solely her opinion.

      So, fail.

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  • Eric

    Thank you Michael, this was exactly what I was looking for. I have a lot thicker bones, so my numbers are a little higher. So I basically just need to put on about 1-3 inches of mass everywhere. But I train forearms often with arms to maintain a balance. I was curious if you knew the ratio from the wrist to the forearm or the upper arm to the forearm, this would be great. Thank you so much.

    • Great! Glad you liked the article. You know I’m not sure there. IMO the forearms generally progress in proportion to the upper arms if you’re doing a lot of heavy pulling and pressing…

  • George

    Hey Michael, any advice in entering into fitness modeling or developing a social media following to increase chances?

  • Dave A

    love this! currently I need to lose 6 inches on my waist and i’ll be nearly there… 😀
    Got to gain 2 inches on my calves, and .75 inches on my arms, and lose 6 inches on my waist

  • Anthony

    Hey Mike,
    I follow your 5-day split: Chest, Back, Rest, Shoulders, Arms, Legs, Rest. If I were to train one of these muscle groups twice a week like you do with shoulders, how would I work that in?

    • Depends how you want to do it. What are you looking to bring up?

      • Anthony

        My bis and shoulders, specifically side delts, are lagging behind. I just started adding in 3 sets of 6 reps of bis after back, and the same with side delts after chest. Is that ok?

        You’ve mentioned that any muscle shouldn’t be subjected to more than ~60 reps per week…how do you reconcile that with this extra training?

        • Yeah that’s fine on the bis and personally I would do some extra shoulder work on day 6. 3 sets for front and side delts, 8 to 10 reps.

          Remember that’s a guideline. Some people can do quite a bit more and be fine.

          • Anthony

            Thanks for the reply. Why would you recommend doing extra shoulder sets after legs instead of after chest?

            Also, I’ve pretty sure I’ve read elsewhere on your site that you should do 4-6 reps for shoulders like for everything else. What’s the benefit of doing higher rep work?

          • Because I like them to be semi-fresh as opposed to fatigued from the chest work.

            Yup you want to make sure you’re doing heavy shoulder work but if you’re going to do even more you need to watch out for overtraining, thus the higher rep “additional” work.

  • 877cms

    Love the maths part of this article, something to make rest day go quicker 🙂 I was wondering what the power relationships should be, ie bench press (push) vs barbell row (pull) strength. Or is muscle size only a good indicator?

    • Glad you liked it. 🙂

      In terms of aesthetics, the power relationship is irrelevant. Muscle size isn’t the only factor in strength.

      It all comes down to the measurements and ratios.

  • JoelK1994

    Hello Michael, Excellent article! Really enjoy your YouTube and blog content!
    My question to you is not directly related to this article but shows relevance when trying to build the ideal body. Okay so my question is, During the morning and after intense workouts, we’re suppose to replenish our glycogen levels right? If so Is there a rule of thumb to how much of high glycemic based food I should consume upon waking up and before a workout to replace glycogen levels? If so, how many grams would you recommend per bodyweight or other measurement? Also what percentage of your daily carbs should be High Glycemic carbs?


  • shailendra yadav

    hello michael i love the way you elaborate and make it easy for us..thank you sir .but my question is ..what size you will prefer for forearms.

  • logical

    10 inch *ock

  • Leiha

    Hey Mike, any info on the ideal female body and how to “sculpt” our bodies to achieve that magic ratio?

    • You know I haven’t seen anything reliable on this because most women are much more interested in their lower body development than upper.

  • David

    What about the gluteus?

  • Viplove Dev

    Hi Mike, how should we go about determining our ideal waist size? Given the wrist size is a constant for a person, all the other measurements seem to have a fixed ideal but not the waist( and ,hence, the shoulders). It seems counter-intuitive that there is no relation between these two sets of measurements (one set being – wait and shoulder and other set – chest, arms)

    • Waist sizes can vary quite a bit due to genetics/structure but I’d say around 10% body fat (men) will give you a good idea of what you’re really working with.

  • Jerry Hamrock

    Mike – Thanks for the article. I’ve been following BLS for just over a year
    in a long (grueling) cut and have lost 50lbs.

    I’m about to start my first bulk and want to use this
    article to set some goals. Here are my specifics, but my question is really
    broadly about setting expectations.

    My flexed biceps are currently 14.3in. Given my wrist my
    biceps should be 16.3 inches (Note: My
    calf’s are already 16in)

    My waist is currently 35in, so my shoulder circumference
    should be ~57in. I’m currently 45in.

    Question: How realistic is it that I can gain 2in my biceps
    and 11in in the shoulders?

    • Wow great job. My hat is off and I’d love to feature you on the site if you’d like. Let me know.

      First, check this out:


      Really hard to say how quickly you’ll gain what you need because genetics are going to play a big role.

      Given where you’re at though, I think you’ll be VERY happy by the end of 2016.

      LMK what you think.

      • Jerry Hamrock

        The article was helpful, but really talks to total lean you can add. My question was more to proportions, Is 2in my biceps and 11in in the shoulders even reasonable.

        As to being featured on your site. Love to, but I didn’t take many “before” pictures. At 47 years old, I guess I’d be in your “masters addition” 😉

        • Yeah I know and the point is estimating total lean is tough enough. There’s no way to estimate how quickly certain body parts can come up. It really does vary from person to person.

          Ah damn well keep me posted. If you do find something, I’d love to put you up. There are a LOT of guys in their 40s and 50s that are regular readers and they love seeing it. 🙂

    • Chad

      You are doing your math wrong. There is no way that your biceps should be 16″ and your shoulders should be 57″. That is NOT the Grecian ideal ratio. If your biceps are supposed to be 16″, then you have under 7″ wrists, which means you have small bones. You need to check your math, or its possible your body fat is not low enough for these measurements to be meaningful.

      Here is something you are probably messing up on. If your wrists are less than 6 inches, then your bone structure dictates that your waist should be closer to 30 inches, not 35 inches. Loose 5 inches to your waist, and then you shoulder circumference should be 48″ inches, which is significantly smaller. You maybe missed the part where he mentions that this formula is only accurate for body fat <10%.

  • Bella Harris

    This is all well and good if you seek to imitate the ideal Greek body. What about the ideal African body or Asian body or islander body?

  • Ivo Naves

    Mike, I looked all over the internet… but what is an “X-Taper”? It is said that:
    classic physique – V-taper
    modern bodybuilding “Hulk” physique – X-taper

    “X” because of the carrot shaped legs of the modern bodybuilders?

  • Prashant

    Hey i am 17 year old male (going to be 18 in 2 months). I am 110 kgs and 6foot 3inches tall. Chest size is 42 and waist is 38. I want to make a nice body. What should be my ideal measurments?

    • Prashant

      Also will 3 months workout will make me lose about 20-30 kgs? I was 85 at 16 years but now i am addicted to junk food.

    • Thanks for the info! Did you read the article? It’s all explained in it. 🙂

  • Johan Kavanagh

    Isn’t 150% wrist size equals to wrist x150/100 equals wrist x1,5 not x2,5 which explains why you think you should measure flexed instead of unflexed like most bodybuilders???

  • Chad

    Hey Mike. Love your articles. So we have the maths and we know our ideal. The question I have is how hard is it to add inches of muscle? Right now I need to add about 1-2 inches to just about everything. From your own experience, about how long does an inch of muscle take to add? I have been lifting seriously (not just machines) for about 8-9 months, so I hope I still have some room for easy newbie gains. But, the last time I worked out seriously for a year, I measured my body parts religiously, and for the most part, I didn’t grow, I just changed shape. For instance, my biceps unflexed stayed about 13.5″.

    • Thanks Chad!

      You know that’s a good question and it depends on your height and genetics. The taller you are, the more pounds you have to gain to add inches. Muscle shape and insertions (genetics) also play a role.

      The bottom line is the physique most guys want requires gaining about 35 to 40 pounds of muscle.

  • Bo

    Hey Mike,
    Is your chest measurement really only 43 inches? I am asking because mine is 42 inches at around 5’10” 165 pounds and 10% bf, but you look much bigger than me. Also any tips on adding size to my shoulders and arms? Thanks

  • David

    Hey there,

    I would like to read more about this excellent information you kindly shared with us. Where did you find all this ratios? Is there a published book or something similar?

    Thank you!

    • Thanks David!

      Hmm I don’t remember where I first came across this. It has been kicking around in the world of bodybuilding for a while though.

  • Seran Gee

    Hey Mike, thanks for this – it was definitely interesting. I’ve only been going to the gym for less than a year, but I thought I’d see where I stand.

    I seem to not be very balanced, but in ways that don’t make sense to me. My shoulders seem to be slightly bigger than my ideal (I’m always told I have ‘nice’ shoulders) but my chest is much smaller. Wouldn’t this mean that if I were to build my chest my shoulder measurement would be far too big (since the shoulder measurement includes the chest)? Does that just mean my bone structure is weird? I’m 6’1, if that helps.

    Golden (cm): wrist 17, arms 42.5, calves 42.5, waist 73, shoulders 118.1, chest 110.5, knees 36, legs 63

    My measurements (cm): wrist 17. arms 34, calves 38, waist 73, shoulders 118.7, chest 92, knees 36, legs 53

    • Hey Seran!

      I’m glad you liked the article.

      Nah, your shoulders won’t explode from chest training. Not at all. Especially if you do a handful of heavy pressing sets per week plus lighter rep fly work.

      All in all it sounds like you’re on the right track. We all have strengths and weaknesses that need addressing.

  • Zeeshan

    Hi Mike,
    I was just wondering how applicable this is to a person that is skinny fat? I’m around 173cm and weigh 72kg but I have quite a lot of fat around the abdomen area (love handles). Would you recommend for me to gain more muscle and then lose fat to achieve a ratio like the Grecian one or the other way around?

  • Al

    Hi Mike, you said measure under armpit for chest. But by doing this wouldn’t we ignore the uppermost portion of the chest (the portion just under clavicle)?

    • That’s accounted for in the shoulder measurement. When we’re measuring chest, we’re focusing on pec major.

  • Oscar

    Do we measure arm size right at the center, or can we also measure it just under armpit?

    • You should measure the peak of the bicep.

      • Oscar

        Thanks another question. According to ur calculation my 6 inch wrist should only have 39 inch chest. But isn’t 39 inch chest too small?

        • That’s fairly big but if you get there and want to be bigger, go for it. 🙂

          • Oscar

            I measure it under armpit and it comes to 41, but if i measure it just above nipples it comes to only 38. lol, which measurement is right?

          • The measurement is supposed to be done just under your armpit so go with that measurement.

  • rowerBG

    Could you please tell me about PELVIS SIZE? It’s often mentioned In articles about Reeves (according to him the chest size should be 1.48 of the pelvis size) but no one seems to know where it should be measured. Especially because it’s given as a constant measure (like wrist, ankle, knee..). For example in the science of Anthropometry there is no such circumference measuring site, just Hips (around the widest part of buttocks), Waist (narrowest part of trunk, about 5 cm above belly button) and Abdomen (just across belly button, which everybody mix it with waist circumference).

    Thank you in advance

    • Good question but I’m not sure. Never came across that.

      • rowerBG

        thanks for quick reply. By the way, i read your number but i don’t see your height?

  • Shaun

    Hi Mike,

    Great article, just wondering what are the best exercises to build wider shoulders? Should I still include presses or purely focus on exercises that target the side of the shoulder? I’m also hugely lacking in the ideal upper leg measurement, being 6ft 4 makes it harder to get the mass needed! I’ve just started the 20 rep squats routine, do you think this could bring my upper legs up to the ideal measurements?



  • Frank

    Hi Mike,
    Based on the formula….what percentage or ratio of a persons arm should be biceps and how much triceps? what about chest to back for the chest measurement, and quads to hamstrings for legs? I heard Phil Heath say on a youtube clip 60% quads to 40% hamstrings ratio…do you agree? or know something different? thanks in advance.

    • Generally speaking your tris are about 2/3 of the mass of your arm. 60/40 quad/ham makes sense.

      • Frank Hernandez

        Thanks for replying.
        How about a chest to back ratio?

        • What do you mean?

          • Frank Hernandez

            As I understand, the “chest” measurement is obtained by running the tape across the chest, under the armpit, around the back and back under the other armpit…right? So if my “ideal” chest measurement is say 52″ I wouldn’t want my chest to be 40″ and my back to only be 12″.. ( I’m exaggerating) …but you do hear all the time how guys have a small back because they are more worried about the chest muscles…so in order to have a proportioned and balanced upper body is there a rule of thumb as to how much of the 52″ should be taken up by my back? I’ve searched for this before without any luck…perhaps you can help, thanks again.

          • That’s the measurement yes but it’s not necessarily 2/3 chest and 1/3 back. If you have a well developed back I’d say it’s closer to 60/40.

          • Frank Hernandez

            Thank you!

          • NP!

  • Jin

    How tall are you Mike? I want to compare since most of the target measurement you have are the same as mine.

  • Jin

    Do you have the numbers for a proportional waist to height or shoulder to height measurement?

    • Nah, I don’t.

      • Jin

        Really? Wouldn’t that be necessary so that someone won’t look too big or too small for their height? I went to search for other info and I found out waist is recommended to be about 45%-47% of your height. Although I want to follow my current waist from the recommended since I like it a little bit smaller than what’s proportional because I think it’ll make me more slender looking. I guess this computation just like your computations above would help to know if you’re way over board or way far less from what would make you look functional. Since you have the same height as my partner I guess your waist is proportionate. Ah in accordance to that, that’s why I ask this because the shoulder circumference would depend on the waist and the info I read the waist would follow as 1.618xheightx45-47%…for me I followed my current waist as I said but will follow my 45% computation for my shoulder. What do you think?

        • Honestly there’s no need to overthink the proportions stuff. If you follow the guidelines laid out here and then adjust based on how you actually develop and look, you’ll be good to go.

          • Jin

            Hmmmm if that’s the case then why suggest that we measure up? Its not over thinking actually. since we’re here why not do it properly.That’s the whole point of this right to be able to have a beautiful symmetry without going too much or too less. Since we’re measuring up here I think it’s worth noting that important factor since height does matter. But anyway thanks for your ideas I’ve got all the info I needed.God bless.;)

          • Working with measurements and ratios gives you general targets to work toward but ultimately it needs to be tailored to each individual. There’s an “art” to building a great physique that can’t be reduced to math.

  • Dante Ramkaran

    How can I get lean I’m at 13-14 % body fat, how long would it take

  • Angel Maldonado

    Hi Mike! thaks for the information, i just have one question… It’s ok about proportions but how you control the grown of muscles, i mean, by repetitions or something? Because i will train the whole body, eat, so it will just grow… :/ Thanks

  • leela prasad

    Hi Mike, thanks for the information, I have a wrist size of 6.5 and calf size is 14.5 which is the ideal number when I calculated. But my calves look so skinny and they do not seem to grow.

  • Vytautas

    Hi Mike, when I get measurement of my upper leg, does it should be flexed?

  • batman

    It all looks and sounds about right except for measuring your chest which includes measuring your back now if you happen to have a thick wide back it would skew the measurement of your chest regardless if this is the case then you are likely to be predisposed to gain mass in that area giving any future measurements or referencing wrong indicators thinking you added size do your chest when in fact you’re the middle and lower traps have thick and up your lats have thickened up and have also become wider giving you the illusion you put size on your chest.
    Carbs and their structure under different stress and perform different duties to calculate that somehow proportionally symmetrical a calculation should be in the ballpark of your upper arms is quite seriously funny. Only genetic freaks have calf measurements remotely close to their arms even untrained but add workload and the soleus and the gastrocnemius take on a more dense compact sharp look and their flexed proportion to unflexed dimensions alter little.
    Me well I’m not a mammoth with 26.5 thighs, 34 waist over 19 arms(*20) and don’t bother with chest and back because my back responds very well giving false indicators. Calves! Got them to 16.5 but it took me tearing my right calf twice to do it. Able to push repetitively ridiculous loads is high risk but for me the only response mechanism that worked , all other intensifiers, frequencies, training patterns made little difference. Getting a good pump is still first and foremost a general rule for any body part as part of the warm up routine and set structure exercise regimen for safety, maximum blood oxygen and waste removal with subsequent growth factors and a more rapid recovery.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I like measuring at armpits for strictly chest, but yes, the conventional chest measurement includes the back.

      Agreed on calves, to a point. In your case, your arms are freaking HUGE, regardless of your body fat percentage. I’m not sure I could ever get arms that big…

  • Tammy

    I’m 47 female. I went through an extremely stressful time about a year and a half ago and starting losing weight, it wasn’t until six months ago that I realized it was muscle mass weight that I had lost and since that time I have had skinny fat. I was not overweight when I started losing the muscle mass and only lost about 15 pounds but my stomach now has what seems to be loose skin even though I’m skinny. At 47 is this something I can fix by adding muscle or should I chalk it up to getting older. It is frustrating to be thin and look at saggy skin/fat whatever the cause. Can I achieve a six pack at my age, if so, how?

  • Brandon Reynoso

    can this be applied to women too?

    • Not quite, no, as most women want a very different look than most moen.

      • Brandon Reynoso

        is there a “formula” for women?

  • Jon

    Amazing detail, just two doubts.

    1) When u talk of chest measuring, do we place tape on top of nipples and measure?

    2) Wouldn’t chest measurement always involve back, so how to make sure our chest is improving and NOT the back????

    • Thanks!

      1. It should be done just under the armpit. So, where ever the tape is when you do that.

      2. Yup, back development definitely contributes to the chest measurement. That’s something you’ll have to see for yourself visually. Personally, my chest is very developed, but my chest measurement is slightly under because I need to develop my back more.

  • Ricardo Jara

    I read this some years ago in a sandow book. I have my numbers but I lost them. Im sure the book include neck numbers. i think neck should be equal to biceps and calves. only if this are measurements of sandow. because Reeves are more like am action toy than a greek god.

  • Brandon Coates

    It seems everybody building site that mentions the golden ratio incorrectly advises on how to measure it on a person. It’s not a circumference measurement it’s a measurement in 2D. When the Greeks built their architecture they compared height to width to build what was pleasing to the eye. They did not use perimeter/circumference. Google images shows this. So for chest to waist, it’s width to width, because that’s what the eye can see. The eye can’t see all the way around.

    • Do you think applying the golden ration to a “2D” image of your physique is more aesthetically pleasing?

      • Nick C.

        I can’t say because I haven’t seen examples and their numbers. I can say that having a very strong back is going to really impact your circumference and not nearly as much for width. So width will be even more reliant on natural bone structure for the actual Golden Ratio. I (previously) have looked at a few polls online on aesthetic beauty. Men typically perceive the ideal man to have more muscle than females think is ideal. And body builders of either sex tend to favor a stronger body than those who are not body builders. So I can only speak for the math and that the golden ratio compares straight lines, as your image above shows, but doesn’t account for a line/tape measure that bends around itself.

        • I see what you mean, and that’s a fair point. That said for most people as circumference increases so will the absolute 2D lengths and widths. But that’s a good point that just adding mass won’t necessarily give you a proportionate physique.


    hi, do you have any advice for people who are fasting to lose weight?
    im over 50 lbs of my healthy goal weight and i started fasting today.
    my body feels great! i feel like i took a pill for “something” because i feel
    more energy ,more awareness- i feel less “inflamed” physically if thats possible?
    how long is the normal amount of time to fast?
    (remember im more than 50 lbs over weight )
    i dont want to lose ALL of the weight in one day ,but i feel great!
    i dont have to measure any food!
    i dont have to cheat !
    for some reason ,when i eat -i want to eat more!
    its like smoking a cigarette! food is addicting.
    how many days should i stay on the fast?
    if you have any information or maybe you could recommend a web page
    that would be great!

  • DKB123

    Hey Mike – What’s the right location to measure your knee? I’m measuring over the kneecap with my leg straight. That’s giving me a whopping 15.75″ knee measurement which leads to an Earl Campbell like 28″ thigh goal! Considering I’m already starting with legs as my weakest body part … this is demoralizing. LOL

    I’ve always thought 24 or 25 would be a great goal. And achievable. 28 inchers are going to be tough to find pants? On a similar note … I measured my wrist at the narrower point between the bony area and the hand to get a 7″ measurement. If i measure at the widest area at this joint like I did the knee it might make my bicep goal something ridiculous as well.

    Thanks for any insight!
    I’m really bumping this thread I think 🙂

    • Measure at the tip of the kneecap. Make sure the tape isn’t loose and is snug against your skin all the way around. At the end of the day, these aren’t rules, and if 24″ legs sounds good to you, go for that 🙂

      You should measure the smallest part of your wrist.

      By the way, I think you may like this article:


      • DKB123

        Great article Mike … you are the best source I’ve ever run across for fitness/muscle building information. All your stuff is fantastic …. thank you!

        (the calculator using the ankle gives me 24 … and not 28 for a leg goal btw)

        • Thanks for the support man! Keep me posted on your progress 🙂

  • DKB123

    Does anyone else think Sandow has a better physique than Reeves? I know that’s kind of blasphemous to say in bodybuilding circles. If i could snap my fingers for any physique I think I’d choose Sandow over Reeves. I think he’s smaller … maybe more like the “david” ideal perhaps?

  • Cool article Mike, one must be in pretty good shape to get into this kind of detail 🙂

    Quick tip on the measuring tape, Accumeasure have a bundle that includes it as well as the body fat caliper: https://www.amazon.com/Accumeasure-Fitness-3000-Caliper-Myotape/dp/B0040LAHH6/ref=pd_sbs_121_5?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0040LAHH6&pd_rd_r=YE4VF90X25BH6JT7S5ND&pd_rd_w=ELlXJ&pd_rd_wg=QdaBC&psc=1&refRID=YE4VF90X25BH6JT7S5ND

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