Transformetrics Forums

Transformetrics Forums (
-   Living Strength (
-   -   Real World Measurements? (

Greg Newton 01-12-2011 11:38 AM

Real World Measurements?
I found this on the Muscle Memory Website. It is from the 1956 Mr. America Contest Brochure. You'll be surprised to find that some of the measurements claimed for John Grimek and Steve Reeves are different from what they were when they won Mr. America. As well, more than likely, none of these gentlemen were experimenting with steroids at the time these measurements were taken.

An 18 inch arm is a HUGE arm. I've measured two people who had legitimate 18 inch arms. Both were over 6-1 and their arms hung like barrells. One guy was on steroids. The other was just a big boned country boy who liked lifting heavy weights. A lot of fiction goes into measurements claimed for top bodybuilders from the sixties on.

Year Name Height Weight neck arm forearm chest waist thigh calf wrist ankle

1939 Bert Goodrich 5'10.5" 195 17 17 14 47 33 24 17 7.6 9.2

1940/1941 John Grimek 5'8.5" 195 17 17.5 14 47 31 25 17 8 9.8

1942 Frank Leight 5'11.5" 209 17.5 17.5 14 48.5 33 24 16 8 9.5

1943 Jules Bacon 5'7" 175 15.5 15.5 12.5 44 31 23 15 7 9

1944 Steve Stanko 5'11.5" 223 18 18 14.3 48.5 35.9 ? 17 8 10

1945 Clarence Ross 5'9.5" 185 16.5 17 13.5 47 32 24 16 7.5 9.2

1946 Alan Stephan 5'11.5" 205 17.1 17 14.2 47.9 32.4 24.8 16.1 7.7 9.7

1947 Steve Reeves 6'1" 213 17.6 17.5 14 48 31 25.3 17.5 7.9 9.8

1948 George Eiferman 5'7.5" 195 16.5 16.7 13.4 47.5 32 25 16 7.3 9.6

1949 Jack Delinger 5'6" 195 16.8 17.2 13.8 47.5 32 25 16.6 7.7 9.5

1950 John Farbotnik 5'9" 195 16.8 17 13.5 47.5 32 24.5 15.7 7.5 9.3

1951 Roy Hilligenn 5'6" 178 16.6 16.7 13.4 46 32 23.6 15.4 7.5 9.2

1952 James Park 5'7.5 190 16.7 17 13.4 47 32.5 24.2 15.2 7.3 9

1953 Bill Pearl 5'9" 201 17.5 17.5 14 48 32.5 25 16.2 7.8 9.5

1954 Dick Dubois 6'1" 220 17.8 18 14.2 49 32.5 25.5 17.2 8 9.6

Greg Newton 01-12-2011 03:28 PM

Hi Milt,

Photography lighting and angles make a difference. Too, I am sure many of the early bodybuilders "pumped up" before photo shoots. However, that is not different from today. The point is, those early Mr. America winners looked fantastic, but had measurements that are real world and attainable, and not always what is claimed for them. Interestingly, I read an interview with Sergio Oliva, who possessed some of the biggest arms ever, and he started that Arthur Jones measured his arms at 20.5 inches. A far cry from the 23 inches claimed for him.

As for Charles Atlas' bicep measurement, I believe he had a legit 17 inch arm. I've studied his pictures and he had a very long biceps muscle, attaching almost at the elbow. He also had good forearm/bicep tie ins. From the few pictures I've seen of Clancy Ross, he always looked larger than life to me. It is surprising that he had almost the same measurements, height, and weight at Charles Atlas at his best. Yet both looked very different.

Your summation of how strong John's forearms look, I would say is an honest appraisal. John is a very strong guy. He would also do well in Masters bodybuilding competitions if he ever took the notion.


b38 01-12-2011 09:54 PM


What I find interesting about these meausrements is the neck size. A couple folks in the list are near or over 200 LBS but no one had a neck measurement over 18 and many were less. I would have expected someone with larger arms to have an overall larger torso including neck size.

What do you think?


Paul Smith 01-13-2011 03:52 AM

Hey Friends,

I apologize for the length of these posts but I think they're relevant to the thread. The information about ideal size and how to properly measure muscles is valuable. You may want to copy and save it for future reference.


Muscle Building - Chapter 2 - The Ideal Measurements - Post 1 of 3
By Earle E. Liederman

I was down in Florida one winter at a time when quite a bunch of motion
picture stars and professional people were vacationing at the winter
playground. A little crowd of us were gathered on the beach doing various
athletic stunts--and believe me, some of those chaps were mighty clever.
After we got tired of our sport, we sat around on the sand talking, and
finally the subject came up as to what should be the ideal measurements for
a man.

One of the party spoke up and said: "This is a subject that is hard to agree
upon. The proportions of the old Greek sculptors for men varied a great
deal. For instance, take the Farnese Hercules, the Apollo Belevedere, the Laocoon
group--there's such a wide margin of variation that you have to accept
measurements based on some given type.

"While all women can aspire, at some given age, to the Venus de Milo, or the
Juno type, to classify a man for accurate measurements you have to picture
him as one of three or four very distinct types. And naturally, his
measurements will correspond with the ideal measurements of some particular

I then spoke up and said: "My ideal is not the man with the huge, abnormal
muscles of a Hercules; nor is it the lithe, slender form of an Apollo, nor
the somewhat better muscled Mercury. I like to see big, firm muscles,
combined with speed and flexibility. The question goes even deeper than
this. When holding up an ideal for scores of thousands to copy after, we
set the following requisites:

"A man should look good from every angle. He should have curves and contour
rather than great, disfiguring ridges of muscles. He should have a
development which is possible for attainment by almost any average boy or
young man, who will apply himself to development and cultivate strength,
speed and perfect health."

This made quite an impression on the crowd, and suggested to me the title of
this chapter.

The Ideal to Which You Should Aspire

Now, I want to say right here that it is exceedingly difficult to set any
standard of measurements which the student can use as a guide for comparison
in order to determine to what extent he should develop his muscles. When
you take into consideration the different sizes of the bones of different
individuals, and combine this with hereditary conditions, it is, in my
opinion, practically impossible to set any standard of proportion where each
part of the body will bear its proper relation to the others. Even though
the student should not obtain these relative proportions, still there is no
reason why he cannot possess a beautiful physique by approaching the
following, which is my idea of how a man should be proportionately built:

Average Height - 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches
Neck - 17 inches
Biceps - 16 inches
Calf - 15 inches
Chest Normal - 44 inches
Waist - 32 inches
Thigh - 23 1/2 inches

My reason for mentioning the neck, upper arms and calves first is that the
common conception of Grecian proportions stipulates the neck, upper arm
flexed, and calf to be of the same size, with which I do not agree, If an
individual possessed a 17 inch neck, and a 17 inch arm, he would undoubtedly
possess a phenomenal development. But if he had a 17 inch calf, it would
spoil his proportions, as it would make him look much too heavy in the legs.

I have found by observation and careful study that the athletes who taper
down slightly are more pleasing to look upon than those whose legs are of
huge dimension, like the Farnese Hercules, for instance. Therefore, in
order to taper down, the neck should be a little larger than the arm, and the
arm a little larger than the calf.

Now, if a person has a 16 inch neck, his arm should measure 15 inches, and
his calf about 14 inches. If the individual has any smaller measurements
than these, taking for granted that he is of average height, he would be too
slim a type to attract attention in the physical culture world, as far as
strength and development are concerned. A man with an 18 inch neck, and a
17 inch arm , and a 16 inch calf would be very gigantic in size and undoubtedly
he would be exceptionally strong.

You very seldom see 17 inch arms and 18 inch necks or persons of average
height, for athletes possessing these enormous measurements usually are in
the neighborhood of a 6 feet tall. There are, of course, many exceptions to
this, especially among wrestlers.

For instance, George Hackenschmidt had an enormous neck. I have seen
measurements for this part of his body and therse measurements are given by
different authorities all the way from 19 1/2 inches to 22 inches.
Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of measuring Mr. Hackenschmidt,
consequently I do not care to express my opinion of the actual size of his
neck. However, I did have the pleasure of feeling his arm, and although my
own hands are of medium size, still I could not span the breadth of his
upper arm when I felt it. I have seen measurements of his upper arm given by
different authorities as being anywhere from 18 inches to 19 1/2 inches.
The reader will, therefore, note that no matter how Hackenschmidt's measurements
may vary in accordance with different writers, still everyone mentions the
difference between the neck and the upper arms.

Hackenschmidt was a rare exception in muscular development and strength, and
I want to make it clear that no matter how diligently a person may work,
there is not one athlete in ten thousand who would ever acquire
Hackenschmidt's proportions and strength.

The Size of the Head Is an Important Factor

The size of the head is an important factor covering neck measurements.
Therefore, if the individual has a long, narrow head, and is of a slender
type, it will be a physical impossibility for him ever to attain s neck much
over 17 inches, providing, of course, he is of average height. By average
height, I mean people ranging from 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches. If
the individual is near 6 feet, or even over, naturally he will have larger
measurements than the individual of only average height. However, if he is
below the average in height, say 5 feet 3 or 4 inches, he must not expect to
attain the measurements of an individual of 5 feet 9 inches in height. In
other words, the taller you are, the larger your measurements should be,
providing, of course, that you adopt scientific progressive training and
work faithfully to reach your goal.

Although I mentioned 44 inches normal chest measurement, yet it is
exceedingly difficult to standardize any chest measurement to correspond
with a 17 inch neck, for, owing to the different formation of everyone's torso,
the measurement of the chest varies as much as 4 inches in the normal girth.
Greater variation will be found in the expanded chest measurement. All I
can say on the subject is that anyone with a 17 inch neck and a 16 inch upper
arm when flexed, should have a chest normal of over 43 inches.

The waist also varies in size according to the frame and width of the hips,
and also the muscular development of the individual. A student who has
devoted considerable attention to his waist muscles, especially those at the
sides of his waist and lower back, naturally will have at least an inch
larger waist than a person who has neglected this part of his body, taking
for granted, of course, that the waist is free of all superfluous flesh.

Again, the height of the individual is an important factor in the size of
the waist measurement. A 6-foot man with a waist measuring less than 33 inches
would, in my opinion, appear weak, while a man of average height, whose
waist measured less than 31 inches, would also appear weak. On the other hand, if the individual was but 5 feet 3 or 4 inches in height, and if he possessed a
waist of 27 or 28 inches, he would still be in splendid proportions.

I Failed to Reach My Earlier Ideal

I have often thought how discouraged a student must be who has exercised
faithfully month after month, and even for several years, and failed to
reach the measurements he had set in mind as his goal. I can only tell you the
story of my own experience, which undoubtedly corresponds with thousand of
others under similar circumstances. When I first became interested in
physical education, I studied photographs and the measurements of all
professional strong men whose data I could secure. I noted the enormous
chest measurements given by some of these prominent strong men, many of them
reaching almost 60 inches around the chest when expanded. I envied those
whose normal chests measured anywhere from 47 to over 50 inches. I longed
to possess a chest like theirs.

I have worked faithfully for many years; yet I fall far short of these
measurements. Today my normal chest measurement is but 44 1/2 inches, and
my chest measurements, expanded, reaches 48 1/2 inches. Many times during my period of body building I became discouraged because my measurements were so slow in reaching the goal I had set for them.

Scroll Down for Part 2

Paul Smith 01-13-2011 03:53 AM

Muscle Building - Chapter 2 - The Ideal Measurements - Post 2 of 3
By Earle E. Liederman

I was also always anxious to obtain flexed biceps measuring 17 1/2 or 18
inches, but again I fell short of these proportions. Today my flexed upper
arms measures but 16 1/2 inches. If the reader should experience any
similar discouragement, let me console him with the fact that 90 percent of the
measurements given out by famous strong men are grossly exaggerated. I know
personally several athletes prominent in the physical culture world who
claim 49 inch normal chests and 17 inch upper arms, when, in reality, their chest
normal is many inches less and their upper arms are not as large as my own.

Only a few months ago a crowd of us were gathered in the private gym of a
well-known boxing trainer when this shy subject came up. The boxing
instructor, one of the finest developed men in his class, and one of
prominence as well, was telling us about of the famous athletes of a former
generation, when he happened to mention Matsada Sarakichi.

Some of middle-aged readers may recall this Sarakicki, a Japanese wrestler
of phenomenal development with the strength of an ox. The boxing master had a
framed photo of the athlete hanging on the wall, near his deak. Pointing to
the picture, he said, "How much would you boys say Matsada measured around
the chest?"

The Jap was a about 5 feet 11 inches in height and he looked as though he
weighed just about a pound less than a horse, so we guessed him - 50 to 54

"You're all wrong, said the old boxer. "He only measured 47 inches normal,
but when he folded those great arms of his over his chest and puffed himself
out, he looked as big as a whale."

And that's the answer. It isn't the size, so much as what the size looks
like when it's photographed. I shall have something very important to say
to you about this subject a little later on that may give you a lot of help in
presenting yourself to the public in a more pleasing and convincing form.
But I want to tell you something further about this question of

First and foremost I can't find it in my heart to blame a student for
becoming discouraged if he does not obtain the proportions some men claim
that they have. I became discouraged myself, and I know just how other
conscientious men, who have been working hard on their physical development,
would naturally feel about the matter.

Don't Fool Yourself in Your Measuring

I do not know whether the measurements given out by some professional strong
men are magnified for the purpose of self-gratification, or whether they
measured themselves and actually fooled themselves in taking their

If the latte should be the case, let me warn the student that when measuring
any part of his body, he must the most strict attention to the tape and see
that it does not sag in any part. For instance, if you are measuring your
chest, it is the simplest thing to fool yourself when passing the tape
around and under your armpits, and then taking a deep inhalation, to throw your
shoulders back and expand yourself and expand your chest as much as
possible. Of course you see the tape measure in front of you, but if could see the
tape behind your back, you might observe that it is displaced many inches
downward towards your waist.

Always measure yourself in front of a mirror, turning around so that you can
see your back as well as your front. If you have the tape fitting snugly,
with about two or three pounds pressure, you will obtain your actual
measurements. If these measurements fall short of the measurements you see
on paper concerning many strong men, do not be discouraged, for if you
possess a well-developed physique, you may be almost as large as these
strong men are themselves.

The same thing applies to feats of strength. I do not know at the present
writing how many claimants there are to the title "Strongest man in the
world," but there are more claimants to this title than there are feet in a
mile. As soon as an athlete obtains a little publicity and is able to lift
somewhere around 250 pounds, another "world's strongest man" is found, and
naturally more discouraged would-be strong men.

The Story of the Champion Lifter

It was only recently, at a weight-lifting tournament, that a well-known
lifter sent in his best lifts ahead of his appearance. I chanced to see his
letter and his phenomenal records actually scared me, for I had contemplated
entering the tournament myself, purely for the fun of it. However, I
diplomatically kept out of it as I really was afraid of this entrant. I was
asked to act as a judge in this contest, as long as I did not enter it.

I expected great things from this wonderful strong man. Therefore, you can
imagine my surprise when the best lift make at this open competition was
only 220 pounds! In all fairness to the competitors, I am sure they could have
done better, but the reader can imagine my consternation when a 220-pound
lift secured a championship gold belt, when I myself had many times lifted
in practice more than this. I simply mention his occurrence as it is a similar
case to what I have to say on measurements.

It is a sad thing for me to tell the reader not to believe all he hears
regarding feats of strength and measurements of prominent strong men. Do
not misunderstand me, and think that I am including all strong men in this
category. Such men as Arthur Saxon, George Hackenschmidt, Joe Nordquest,
and many others, did not exaggerate their feats of strength nor the size of
their measurements - they did not have to. There are hundreds of others, too,
whose records and measurements are absolutely reliable.

Let the student continue diligently with his training and endeavor to secure
as well-muscled proportions as possible. Even if he does not obtain
measurements any larger than my own, do not let him feel discouraged. Any
young man who is from 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches in height should
have no difficulty in obtaining at least a 16 inch upper arm and a 17 inch
neck, as well as a 46 or 47 inch expanded chest. If the student around 6
feet in height, he should have no difficulty in eventually obtaining a 17
1/2 inch neck, a 49 inch expanded chest and 16 1/2 inch upper arm.

If the student is but 5 feet 3 inches or 4 inches in height, he should have
no difficulty in obtaining a 16 inch neck, a 15 inch upper arm and a 44 inch
expanded chest. Of the three above-mentioned groups many obtain
measurements even beyond the ones I have outlined, for it is not impossible. But hey should not expect to reach the Herculean proportions of a Hackenschmidt.

How to Measure Your Muscles

When measuring your muscles, the tape should be passed around the largest
part. Let us begin with the neck. To obtain the proper measurement of the
neck, the head should be held erect, chin to the front and the tape passed
around the lower part of the neck, just above the point where the trapezius
muscle begins to slope towards the shoulder. Place about two pounds
pressure on the tape in taking these measurements.

If you bend the head back and throw out he muscles of the neck, the neck
will increase about one to two inches in size. However, you will not be
obtaining your actual neck measurements, but will be obtaining a measurement of your expanded neck. You should never consider the expanded back measurement, for in all measurement tables given of athletes, the normal neck measurement is
always taken for granted. If you consider your expanded back measurement
and develop your other muscles in proportion to this, your neck will never be
properly developed, for you are utilizing your expanded measurements in your
table of proportions.

In measuring the chest, the tape should always be passed under the armpits,
in a straight line around the chest, about one inch above the nipples. By
exhaling all the air from your lungs and relaxing your muscles, you obtain
your contracted chest measurement. Now adjust the tape again to the
previous position and stand perfectly normal, head erect, muscles relaxed and chest corresponding with your erect standing or walking posture. This will be
your normal chest girth.

By inhaling as much air as you possibly can, and at the same time expanding
your latissimus dorsi muscles and swelling your chest to its utmost, you
will obtain your expanded chest measurement. These measurements, of course, will not be measurements of your actual lung expansion, because they are assisted
by your muscles.

Scroll Down for Part 3 (Final)

Paul Smith 01-13-2011 03:54 AM

Muscle Building - Chapter 2 - The Ideal Measurements - Post 3 of 3
By Earle E. Liederman

To obtain the actual measurement of your lung expansion, you should pass the
tape around your lower chest at the ninth rib, which is a few inches below
the nipples. The difference between your normal and expanded chest
measurements at this point will be very slight. In fact, if you expand
three or more inches, you have wonderful expansion. However, these lower chest
measurements are rarely utilized in any table of measurements of athletes.

How to Measure the Index of Strength

Your upper arm may rightly be regarded as your index of strength. If a chap
has any development worth talking about, it usually shows in the upper arm.

In measuring your upper arm, first pass the tape around the largest part of
your upper arm when the arm is straight and held relaxed horizontally.
Next, flex your arm by vigorously contracting the triceps and biceps, bring the
fist as near the shoulder as possible, and turning the palm of your hand
towards shoulder. By doing this, you will obtain the largest girth of your
flexed upper arm, providing, of course, you pass the tape around your
largest part.

In measuring your upper arm, in this case, do it before a mirror, so that
you can see both the back and front, and note whether the tape is passed
straight around the arm, or whether the tape is passed straight around the arm, or
whether it is on a slant. By having the tape slanting, you only fool
yourself. I am convinced that it is undoubtedly just such a slanting tape
that produces the magnified measurements of a great many professional strong

The forearm should be measured also around the largest part with the arms
straight and fist clenched. To obtain the contracted forearm measurement,
bend your arm and pass the tape around the largest part as near the elbow as

The waist should be measured when standing in an erect posture, not drawing
in too much, neither should you allow your abdomen to protrude. By holding
the chest up in a military carriage, you will obtain your normal waist
measurement. The tape should be passed around the waist at about the height
of the navel.

In measuring the hips, pass the tape around the largest part and apply about
four pounds pressure, thus allowing for irregularities of this part of the

The measurement of the thighs should be taken around the largest part of the
thigh, which in most cases is directly below the crotch. If your legs are
exceptionally developed, with pronounced curves to the extensor muscles,
perhaps your largest girth may be a little lower than this. However, this
can be taken in a complete state of contraction; that is, when you stiffen
the knee and tighten the muscles.

The calf should be measured around the largest part. By raising your toes
off the floor and simply standing on your heels, you will obtain a slightly
larger girth than if you stood flat footed, because you can get a slightly
greater expansion of the muscles in this position.

The measurement of the wrist and ankle should be taken around the smallest

You should, when you begin your development, take a complete set of these
measurements, keeping them carefully, so as to see what progress you are
making. In this way you'll be able to get a mental picture of yourself, at
any time, just the way you were before you commenced your training, and
surprise all your friends with the progress you are making.


Greg Newton 01-13-2011 08:21 AM

Hey Bill,

Most of those guys had decent looking necks. I don't think the measurement is as important as if the neck looks column-like with a masculine thickness. However, in general, I go with the idea of having the neck, arms, and calves roughly the same size.


the Liederman article was interesting. However I disagree as you see above. Liederman made an important point. He never built his arm size past 16 1/2 inches. However he looked huge. The thing that I want our readers to see is that you can look impressive WITHOUT a great deal of body weight. Most of those early Mr. America's weighed under 200 pounds.

Rather than measurements, I lean towards the Vince Gironda assessment of ideal proportions; column like neck, capstone shoulders, delineated lower pec line, trim and sculpted abdominals, strong forearms, and thigh muscles that flow from hip to knee. It is the visual impact rather than the actual proportions. Even with the methods we advocate here, it is easy to overbuild different areas of the body if you are not careful.


Greybeard 01-13-2011 03:36 PM

Paul, Enjoyed your disertation on measurements. One reason Clancy Ross's forearms were smaller than Charles Atlas's is that Clancy was a smaller boned man. Bone size is a consideration. Muscle type is an other. Armand Tanney was of a flater muscle type than Clancy Ross or Steve Reeves or John Grimek for that matter. Armand gave a different appearance altogether. My muscle type resembaled Armand Tanney.
I'm an old man now but at my best I was 5-11 and 193lbs.I had a 16 1/2 upper arm and 16 '' calf. The strangest part was my neck which I did nothing for ended up being 18 1/2 to this day. Go figure. It's hard to find shirts that fit.

Paul Smith 01-13-2011 04:48 PM

Hey Greybeard,

Thanks, but I just copied and pasted a chapter from Earle Liederman's 1924 book, "Muscle Building."


Greg Newton 01-13-2011 05:38 PM

Hey Greybeard,

I've never seen a listing for the wrist size for C/A. I'm thinking maybe 7.5 - 8 inches, because he appeared to have thicker wrists in proportion to his ankle size. By any chance have you ever come across that measurement?


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:58 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.