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Bodybuilding Muscle Charts
Anthropometrics - How Do I Measure Up?

By Wesley James
http://www.pipeline.com/~wjames/MuscleMaker/

As long ago as 1918, Alan Calvert, founder of the Milo Barbell Company of Philadelphia, issued a circular titled, "How Much Should I Measure and How Much Should I Weigh?" It appears bodybuilders have always wanted to know how they stacked up against an objective standard and/or against others of their height and/or weight. This article aims to help and, at the same time, provides some perspective to the subject.

Most efforts to create an "objective" standard have been based on the Greek ideal (cc 400 B.C.) as represented by sculpture of the period. Other efforts have been derived from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). None of these efforts have been based on a meaningful statistical sampling of real athletes, strength competitors or bodybuilders. Such information is admittedly difficult to obtain because many, if not all, bodybuilders are prone to exaggeration. Furthermore, unlike other forms of competition, bodybuilders are not required to allow measurements, other than height and weight. Fortunately, there have been individuals who, through perseverance, over years, have collected this type of anthropometric data. The data for this article were collected from 1929-1979 by David P. Willoughby. His earliest data appeared in a series of ten articles in Bernard MacFadden's, now defunct magazine, Physical Culture. The more recent data is from Volume 39, Number 1 of Ironman Magazine, while it was under the editorship of Peary Rader. Mr. Willoughby seemed to have a near obsession with collecting measurements. While he does not reveal the precise number of individuals he measured, it is clear that it was considerable. Moreover, his admirable commitment to accuracy is apparent in his writings.

My contribution in this is slight. The interpretation, however, is my own. Don't blame Mr. Willoughby. How the information is applied will be yours to determine, you take that responsibility. The two charts that follow were developed by David Willoughby.

Chart 1
Height Weight Neck Bicep Forearm Wrist Chest Waist Hips Thighs Knees Calves Ankles Bi-Deltoid
60 114 14.1 13.2 11.0 6.3 36.7 27.5 33.0 19.8 12.9 13.2 7.7 17.2
62 126 14.5 13.6 11.3 6.5 37.9 28.4 34.1 20.5 13.3 13.6 8.0 17.7
64 138 15.0 14.1 11.7 6.7 39.1 29.3 35.2 21.1 13.8 14.1 8.3 18.2
66 151 15.4 14.5 12.1 6.9 40.3 30.2 36.3 21.8 14.2 14.5 8.5 18.7
68 165 15.9 15.0 12.5 7.1 41.5 31.1 37.4 22.4 14.7 15.0 8.8 19.2
70 180 16.4 15.4 12.8 7.3 42.8 32.1 38.5 23.1 15.1 15.4 9.0 19.8
72 196 16.8 15.8 13.2 7.5 44.0 33.0 39.6 23.7 15.5 15.8 9.3 20.3
74 213 17.3 16.3 13.6 7.7 45.3 33.9 40.7 24.4 16.0 16.3 9.6 20.9
76 231 17.8 16.7 13.9 8.0 46.5 34.8 41.8 25.1 16.4 16.7 9.8 21.4
78 250 18.3 17.2 14.3 8.2 47.7 35.8 42.9 25.7 16.8 17.2 10.1 21.9
Avg 69 172.4 16.15 15.18 12.65 7.22 42.17 31.63 37.95 22.77 14.85 15.18 8.91 19.51
R to Ht 1906 2340 2200 1833 1047 6111 4584 5500 3300 2152 2200 1291 2826

Chart 2
Height Weight Neck Bicep Forearm Wrist Chest Waist Hips Thighs Knees Calves Ankles Bi-Deltoid
60 171 16.5 17.1 13.2 7.1 46.1 34.6 39.9 24.9 15.2 16.5 8.8 21.5
62 188 17.0 17.6 13.6 7.3 47.6 35.7 41.3 25.8 15.7 17.0 9.1 22.2
64 207 17.6 18.2 14.1 7.5 49.1 36.9 42.6 26.6 16.2 17.6 9.4 23.0
66 227 18.1 18.8 14.5 7.8 50.7 38.0 43.9 27.4 16.7 18.1 9.7 23.6
68 248 18.6 19.3 15.0 8.0 52.2 39.2 45.3 28.3 17.2 18.6 10.0 24.3
70 270 19.2 19.9 15.4 8.3 53.8 40.4 46.6 29.1 17.8 19.2 10.2 24.9
72 294 19.7 20.4 15.8 8.5 55.3 41.5 47.9 29.9 18.3 19.7 10.5 25.6
74 320 20.3 21.0 16.3 8.8 56.9 42.7 49.3 30.8 18.8 20.3 10.8 26.3
76 347 20.8 21.6 16.7 9.0 58.4 43.8 50.6 31.6 19.3 20.8 11.1 27.0
78 375 21.4 22.2 17.2 9.3 60.0 45.0 51.9 32.4 19.8 21.4 11.4 27.7
Avg 69 258.6 18.93 19.62 15.18 8.18 53.03 39.78 45.93 26.68 17.50 18.93 10.10 24.60
R to Ht 1271 2743 2843 2200 1186 7686 5765 6657 4157 2536 2743 1464 3565

The first chart represents near optimal measurements for an athlete in any endeavor other than pure strength or bodybuilding. Clearly, distance runners would be leaner, football players would generally be heavier. Other athletes would deviate according to the demands of their chosen activity. More importantly, while we can be sure the Met Life actuaries would disagree, the numbers provided offer a better guide for the measurements of healthy males than the tables they use. While the standard table (compiled by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co in 1979) is based on a much larger (one million person) sampling it reflects averages for a generally unhealthy population. Almost all strong athletes (as distinct from endurance athletes) appear overweight by this chart. They are not overweight but rather over muscled. As we all know, it is being over fat that is unhealthy. Many bodybuilders with body fat levels of 10% or lower are more than 30% over their supposedly ideal weight. By that definition they are clinically obese. This reveals the absurdity of the existing guidelines. Chart 1 should provide more meaningful guidance.

A word of explanation is in order about the R to Ht line at the bottom of the Chart. The displayed value is an adjustment. As an example, the value listed under weight is the adjustment for height. Cube your height in inches (70x70x70=343000) then divide the result by the adjustment factor (343000/1906=179.95). Rounded to the nearest pound your weight should be 180 lbs.

Chart 2 provides assistance for strength athletes in one way and an upper range for Chart 1 in another. It represents individuals who are roughly 50% heavier than the "typical" healthy male athlete (by medical standards such men are morbidly obese). Bodybuilders, powerlifters and football players can use this chart to help them in judging their development. While bodybuilders will likely find the Waist and Hip dimensions too large. They are still useful. A better gauge of Waist and Hip girth in bodybuilders is body fat level. As a matter of general health, body fat levels as high as 20% are acceptable, provided good cardiovascular condition is demonstrable. For bodybuilders, the Waist and Hip measurements from Chart 1 are a better off-season guide. At contest time, all bets are off. (I'll discuss contest related issues at the end.)

Another issue these charts addresses is the aesthetic matter of symmetry. There is no objective definition for this much abused term. There are, however, some loose guidelines. Some of these goals are fairly readily attainable. Others are much more difficult. In any case, most definitions for symmetry need not be objectively attractive or healthy. Theory holds that they should be but without good definition there can be no assurance.

As an example, one common goal for symmetry proponents is upper arm, calf and neck of equal girth. This sounds good at first blush but a 14 inch measurement for all three would reflect a very skinny man. A 20 inch measurement could easily be a rather fat man. To avoid including fat or skinny men, one could add a body fat percentage guideline. This would not, however, screen out skinny men. A better guide might be a 20 inch difference between waist and chest measurement. If you add a waist measurement roughly 4.3 times ones wrist measurement, we start to hone in on an aesthetic proportion and look. We can go further. Wrist measurements are probably the smallest meaningful ones we can take. The wrist is also a good indicator of morphological body type. Using the wrist as a basis we can define all other proportions. For example, the forearm should run 1.74-1.92 times the wrist. The upper arm should run 2.09-2.43 times the wrist. Chart 3, below, are my computations, based on real-world measurements. These values need not be slavishly sought. Many, for example, will want larger upper arms. It may look appealing for the neck to measure at the low end of the range, the upper arm at the high end, with the calves in the middle. The narrower range found through actual neck measurements may suggest a narrower desirable range for upper arms and calves. Since the ultimate goal is an aesthetically pleasing balance, an honest self-assessment is more important than the suggested numbers.

Chart 3
Forearm 1.74 - 1.92
Upper Arm 2.09 - 2.43
Neck 2.23 - 2.35
Calf 2.09 - 2.43
Thigh 3.13 - 3.55
Chest 5.81 - 6.55
Standard Waist 4.35 - 4.92
Bodybuilder Waist 4.00 - 4.30

In closing this article, let me point out that none of the numbers reflected by these charts are particularly relevant at contest time. Contest judges base their scores on many factors, both legitimate and otherwise, but actual girths are rarely of any import. If you use these charts to determine contest readiness, you are likely to be disappointed with the outcome. The current rage in competition is a broad, thick back with over developed thighs and a thicker than aesthetic waist. Next year it may change. Dorian Yates personifies the current standard. Shawn Ray, as a case in point, shows better balance in his development but he is highly unlikely to win against Yates. Francois Benefatto has one of the most aesthetically pleasing physiques around but he has a snowball's chance in hell of winning a major pro level competition. Contest judges reward "freakiness". These charts are for the large, strong, real, non-freak world.

One final observation will close out this theme for now. I mentioned earlier that bodybuilders are not required to permit measurements. I have long suspected that their is an ulterior motive. The reason bodybuilders are not required to submit to body measurements, even recognizing that measurements are only a part of what constitutes a winning body, is that measurements would offer a more objective standard on which to base analysis of competitors. This would remove some of the political, trendy and other subjective criteria from being so freely applied. It is yet another reason why bodybuilding is unlikely to ever become an Olympic sport. Remember, the creation of aesthetic muscle is an admirable and potentially very healthy pursuit. Bodybuilding contests as they are currently conducted are part freak show, part election and part beauty contest. They have almost nothing to do with health, aesthetic or, even in the case of natural contests, anything natural. Enjoy what you mold your body into but keep it in perspective. I hope this article helps.

Copyright © 1996 Physique Tools and Wesley James


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