The Best Way to Measure your Muscle Size with Tape Measure

Measure Muscle Size

There are many methods to track your growth and progress in bodybuilding

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I am a beginner at weight training. Every day I am getting bigger and stronger. I like to measure and record the size of my muscles but I am not sure if I am doing this correctly. Could you please outline the measurement procedure? Should I do it at a certain time of day? Should I measure before or after a workout? This knowledge would really help me make the gains I am hoping for.


I have been asked this very question many times before. Accuracy and reliability in recording your measurements are very important, so I am always happy to provide information on the subject. The best practice is to have someone else take your measurements, ideally the same person each time. If you must measure yourself however, try to do it in front of a full-length mirror. This will allow you to see that the tape is in the correct position on the bodyparts to be measured, especially from the back view.

Accurate measurements are taken stone cold before a workout, not after. Late afternoon is usually the best time for this purpose. I recommend taking measurements of various bodyparts several times, at the same correct point of measurement, and then making a comparison of them to get an actual correct reading.

Contrary to what some people believe to be true, a cloth tape is better for body measurement than a steel one because cloth will conform more closely to the contours of the various bodyparts. The metal measuring tape has a value, though, in that you can use it to ensure the cloth tape is accurate and has not shrunk from dampness (skin moisture etc.) Such a tape would yield a larger measurement than actually exists.

Get used to measuring not only in inches, eighths, quarters and halves but also in tenths of an inch. Lay the tape at right angles to the long axis of the body or limb at the point of measurement. Slanting of the tape is absolutely not permitted. Each individual measurement should always be taken with a cloth tape in gentle contact with the skin surface. The tape should not be loose; nor should you compress the flesh by pulling the tape too tight. Be sure to measure arms and legs on both the right and left side of the body. This practice will I keep you aware of over- and underdeveloped muscle areas which can detract from symmetry. Of course, you must consider other variables as well, such as muscle bellies, origins and insertions.

I am including the following information on how to accurately take your muscle group measurements.

Neck - At the smallest part, just above the Adam s apple; head erect, muscles relaxed. If you by chance have a double chin, measure below it, where the tape will not be on a slant.

Upper arm, flexed (biceps) - With the arm raised to shoulder level and the biceps fully contracted (the back of the hand should face toward the ceiling), place the tape fairly and squarely around the biceps at its greatest prominence. Above all don't slant the tape.

Upper arm, straight (triceps) - With the upper arm held horizontally (in line with the shoulder joint) and relaxed, place the tape around the largest part. This is usually just below where the deltoid joins the arm.

Forearm - Measure at the largest part, with the arm straight, fist firmly clenched, and the wrist straight (no bending of either the elbow or wrist).

Wrist - Place the tape directly next to the base of the hand (between the bony knobs and the hand). Hold your hand open with the palm up, fingers straight, and hand in line with the forearm.

Chest, normal - Measure at the largest part immediately under the armpits. Held correctly, the tape will cross the shoulder blades in back and the nipples in front. Keep the torso erect, breathing quiet, and the muscles totally relaxed.

Chest, contracted - With the tape in the same position as described above, exhale all the air from your lungs and chest cavity and flatten your chest as completely as possible.

Chest, expanded - The measurement point is the same as for the normal and contracted chest. Inhale the greatest volume of air you can into your lung cavity and at the same time expand and contract your chest muscles for all they are worth. Don't forget to flex and spread your lats as well. For female bodybuilders the chest measurements are best taken above the level of the breasts in front, but otherwise in the same manner as for men.

Waist - Measure at the smallest part, which is usually just above the navel. The body is naturally erect in posture, with the abdomen neither drawn in nor protruded. Especially avoid at all costs the temptation to make the waist smaller while measuring it.

Hips - Measure at the largest part where the hips are the broadest from side to side and the buttocks deepest from front to back. Keep the feet together and the muscles totally relaxed.

Thigh - Measure at the largest part, usually in the crease just below the buttocks. Spread your feet about six inches apart and keep your bodyweight evenly distributed before measuring. The thighs should be relaxed, not tensed.

Knee - Place the tape across the middle of the kneecap or patella. Your knee should be straight and the thighs relaxed with your bodyweight evenly distributed on both legs.

Calf - Measure at the largest circumference with feet firmly against the floor. Do not rise on your toes or bend your knees. Either movement will expand the calf muscle.

Ankle - Measure at the smallest part, which is going to be about two inches above the bony knobs on the sides of the ankle

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