Muscle Building

Natural Bodybuilding: Ideal Body Measurements

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While bodybuilding is about lifting weights to build bigger muscles, it’s also about creating perfect symmetry. Since the early 20th century men have been lifting weights to create the perfect proportions; sculpting the right shoulder to waist ratio, the perfect bicep to forearm ratio, and the correct thigh circumference. To some it may sound ridiculous, but to others this can become an obsessions – when it can make a huge difference to your score (during competition).

There are several different ideals for body measurement, the most famous of which is the Grecian Ideal that was created by Eugen Sandow. Though relatively unknown these days, Sandow is seen by many as the godfather of bodybuilding. So much so that the Mr Olympia trophy was named after him. Sandow was born in 1867 in Prussia and was inspired by the statues of Greek heroes, which he saw in museums.

He decided to train to recreate the same proportions. Before Sandow, this ideal was believed to be an impossible physique to attain. He became famous in London, and eventually worldwide as a strongman and inaugural bodybuilder.

His ideal body proportions were:

  • Tight waist
  • Wide shoulders
  • Defined muscles

Interestingly, Sandow did not believe that muscles had to be overly large (we’re not sure what he would have thought about Phil Heath et al) , just that they were well defined. However, Sandow’s arms were huge in comparison to the average Joe today.

The Grecian Ideal was a massive moment in bodybuilding, and it still influences physiques to this day. However, it isn’t particularly detailed and there are several more effective ways to find your ideal natural bodybuilding body measurements.

It’s important to remember that when we talk about ideal natural bodybuilding measurements we are talking about a huge range of people with differing body shapes and sizes. A 5ft tall man and a 6ft tall man are going to have very different measurements. So there’s no point saying all men should have a 30 inch waist, because this will look very different on differently sized men.

For a long time this issue was dealt with using a formula based on your height and weight, but this had many issues surrounding it. Joe Weider had a good chart that was based on your weight per inch, but it was very confusing to follow.

There was also the Grecian Ideal table that was based on wrist circumference. However, Steve Reeves’ table is slightly better as it uses measurements for the wrists, ankle, head, knee, and pelvis.

Steve Reeves’ Ideal Body Measurements

What you need to do for these measurements is take tape measurements of your wrist, ankle, head, knee and pelvis. Then you need to enter in the following calculations to work out arm size, calf size, neck size, chest size, waist size, and thigh size.

  • Arm Size = Wrist size x 2.52
  • Calf Size = Ankle size x 1.92
  • Neck Size = Head size x 0.79
  • Chest Size = Pelvis size x 1.48
  • Waist Size = Pelvis size x 0.86
  • Thigh Size = Knee size x 1.75

Final Thoughts

These measurements are a great way to plan your physique, but remember they are just a guide. Drug-filled bodybuilding has moved far away from the Grecian Ideal, yet natural bodybuilding has stuck with it. But that does not mean you cannot still compete in competitions and win with slightly different ratios.

As always, the mirror will be your best guide – helping you to see which muscles you need to develop.

Also, remember that these measurements are designed for natural bodybuilders who are at a competitive weight – so very low body fat percentages. If your body fat percentage is high, these measurements aren’t going to count for much. Put down those Reese Peanut butter cups and get dieting! 

Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS. Lifetime natural bodybuilder. I'm a freelance writer and have written more than 400 articles on nutrition, training, fat loss and fitness motivation, and my articles can be found on thousands of websites worldwide.

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2 Comments
  • JOSEPH Jul 7,2011 at 8:28 pm

    When God made Steve Reeves he thru away the mold.He was only 21 when that photo was taken!Perfection of the male body and masculine good looks.What a face.

  • Maggie May 30,2011 at 8:45 am

    natural way is the best way 😉

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