What do Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel have in common? They have broad and chiseled shoulders. Big and round shoulders are associated with power and dominance.
Wide shoulders can improve your physique aesthetics by making your waist look smaller and accentuating your V-taper. It is no surprise bodybuilding enthusiasts spend a considerable amount of time working on their shoulders.
The shoulder muscle, also known as the deltoids, consists of three heads — anterior, lateral, and posterior. You must work on all three heads from multiple angles to ensure overall development.
In this article, we cover why you should know about your shoulder width, the average male and female shoulder size, how to measure your shoulder width, factors that affect your shoulder size, and how to increase or reduce your shoulder width. There is a lot to cover, so sit tight.
Why is Shoulder Width Important?
Any fitness freak can tell you that building big shoulders is important. Only a few, however, can tell you why that is so.
If you are a sportsperson, knowing the average shoulder width of the top athletes in your sport can help you compare your biomechanics with theirs and design a diet and training program to maximize your potential. Shoulder width and strength can play a crucial role in sports such as bodybuilding, CrossFit, strongman, swimming, boxing, and weightlifting.
On the other hand, knowing your shoulder width can help you purchase clothes that look and fit better. Folks looking to create a new wardrobe after a physique transformation should measure their shoulders to avoid buying ill-fitting clothes. You don’t want to wear baggy clothes after spending months slimming down.
What is the Average Shoulder Width For Men?
According to the CDC data based on 7,476 American men, the average male shoulder width is 16.2 inches or 41.1 cm. Notably, these measurements refer to the biacromial breadth, which is measured between the outermost bony points on the top of each shoulder. 
The average shoulder width for men stays almost the same in the 20-59 age group and tapers off gradually as they enter their 60s.
Men, on average, have a 16.3-inch biacromial breadth in the 20-29 age group. It remains the same until they turn 50. Men see a 0.2-inch drop in their shoulder width as they enter the 50-59 age group.
Furthermore, men between 60-69 have a 15.9-inch shoulder width, which further shrinks to 15.6 inches in their 70s. According to American anthropometric data, an average American male in his 80s has a 15.4-inch shoulder span.
|Age||Average Shoulder Width (inches)||Average Shoulder Width (cms)|
Notably, the average shoulder width can vary according to ethnicity, genetics, weight, body type, diet, exercise, and family history. People of the same origin tend to have a similar physical structure.
What is the Average Shoulder Width For Women?
According to the same CDC report, the average shoulder width for American females is 14.4 inches or 36.7 cm. This data is based on 8,411 women aged 20 and above.
The average shoulder width for women in the 20-29 age group is 14.5 inches; it increases slightly to 14.6 inches for women in the 30-39 age group. However, women see a slight decrease in their shoulder width in the 40-59 age group as their shoulder size reverses to 14.5 inches.
Ladies, on average, see another fall in their shoulder size as their shoulder width falls to 14.3 inches in the 60-69 age bracket. The downward trajectory continues as the average shoulder width slips to 14.1 inches for women in their 70s. Finally, the biggest drop comes after women turn 80, as their shoulder size drops by 0.4 inches to 13.7 inches.
|Age||Average Shoulder Width (inches)||Average Shoulder Width (cms)|
What is the Average Shoulder Circumference For Men?
Are you confused already? You are not alone. Many people confuse shoulder width with shoulder circumference.
Here’s an easy way to remember the difference. A tailor takes your shoulder length measurement for making custom suits by placing a measuring tape across your shoulders.
On the other hand, shoulder circumference is measured by wrapping a tape around your shoulders. It is like taking a chest measurement, but a few inches above your pectoral muscles. Wrapping the tape around the middle of the deltoids gives you your shoulder circumference.
According to the anthropometric data published by the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, the average male shoulder circumference is 46.25 inches or 117.5 cm. 
Notably, this data is based on US Army soldiers, who tend to be fitter than ordinary folks. Furthermore, the average shoulder circumference tends to change with height. Taller folks generally have a bigger shoulder circumference.
What is the Average Shoulder Circumference For Women?
As per a 2016 study, the average shoulder circumference for adult females is 39.4 inches or 100 cm. The subjects of this study were, on average, around 21 years old, 5’7″ tall, and had a 20-21 BMI. 
Shorter women, on average, will have a smaller shoulder circumference than 39.4 inches. Similarly, some shorter ladies might have a bigger shoulder circumference because of their genetics and broader shoulder structure.
Differences in skeletal structure and hormones lead to different shoulder widths in men and women. This difference can result in discrepancies in physical performance, especially in athletics. Since men have broader shoulders, male athletes have more upper body strength than their female counterparts in the same weight category. On the flip side, smaller clavicle bones give women an edge in sports that require flexibility and range of motion, such as gymnastics and dance.
4 Ways To Measure Your Shoulders
If measuring your shoulders was so easy, there would be no ill-fitting clothes in this world. The fact that this article shows four methods of measuring your shoulders should tell you that it is much more complex than what most people assume.
However, we have broken down these three methods into easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions to help you determine your exact shoulder width.
How To Measure Your Shoulder Length
This method is most commonly used by tailors. You need a tape measure and another person’s help for this method; it helps you determine your clavicle width and upper back size.
- Stand upright with a shoulder-wide stance and your arms at your sides.
- Ask your friend to run a tape measure across your upper back (shoulder to shoulder).
- Instead of running the tape straight across your shoulders, curve the tape slightly upward to factor in the size of your upper back.
- Place each end of the tape on the edges of your shoulders, where they begin to curve down.
- Note down your shoulder measurement.
How To Measure Your Shoulder Circumference
To measure your shoulder circumference, you must wrap the tape measure around your shoulders. You’ll need a friend’s help to determine your shoulder size in this method.
- Stand upright with a shoulder-wide stance.
- Have your friend wrap the tape around your shoulders. The tape should be parallel to the floor and wrap around the meatiest part of your deltoids. A tilted tape will give you an incorrect reading.
- Avoid pushing out your chest or rounding your shoulders during shoulder measurement.
- Record the number where the tape overlaps.
How To Measure Your Biacromial Breadth
This is the most accurate method of measuring your shoulder breadth. This method is used in the military and in scientific research, where they depend on accurate data.
This method involves using a large bone caliper to record the distance between your acromia, which is the bony part on the ends of your shoulders; hence this method measures your bone structure breadth and disregards your muscle mass.
- Take the biacromial breadth measurement shirtless for the most accurate results.
- Use a bone caliper and adjust the edges above your shoulder joints, where the shoulder caps begin.
- Note down the reading.
How To Measure Your Shoulders Yourself
The three methods listed above require a friend’s help, which might not be possible for everyone. To this effect, we are including a technique you can use to measure your shoulder width on your own. Notably, this method is not as effective and accurate as the three mentioned above as it includes shoulder and arm muscle mass and overlooks the back.
This method is also known as the triceps-to-triceps shoulder measurement. You will need a pencil for this measurement, and since it involves marking the surface, you want to do it on a wall that you don’t mind spoiling or stick a piece of paper on the wall before doing this.
- Stand upright with your back against a wall.
- Your head, shoulders, upper back, hips, and feet should be in contact with the wall.
- Grab a pencil in your right hand.
- Turn to your left side and mark the wall just outside the meatiest part of your left deltoid.
- Repeat on the right side.
- Use a tape measure or a scale to measure the distance between the two points on the wall.
How To Measure Your Shoulder Width For Bodybuilding
The sport of bodybuilding is all about aesthetics. You must have the perfect size, structure, balance, proportions, and conditioning to win a bodybuilding show. In short, it requires a holistic approach to developing your physique.
In this regard, you must measure your shoulder circumference to ensure you are on the right track. Measuring your shoulder circumference instead of your shoulder width helps you track your body fat, muscle mass, and shoulder development. On the other hand, measuring your shoulder width will only give you your clavicle width.
Using your shoulder circumference measurements will give you more data points, which can help you work toward your goal physique. Nonetheless, you can also use the shoulder width and biacromial breadth measurements for a holistic approach. However, if you want to limit yourself to only one measurement, it should be the shoulder circumference.
Factors that Affect Shoulder Width
Shoulder width depends on a mix of factors. Some, such as diet, exercise, and body weight, are under our control, whereas others, like gender at birth, ethnicity, genetics, and hormones, are beyond us. Let’s take a closer look at these factors:
Men tend to have wider shoulders than their female counterparts. Wider shoulders are one of the reasons why males have greater upper-body strength than women, which translates to better performance in activities that require upper-body muscle power.
Shoulder sizes among people of different ethnicities in the same age and weight group can vary because of a difference in skeletal structure and body composition. Notably, the shoulder size difference between different ethnicities is relatively small.
Genetics plays a crucial role in determining your shoulder width. Our genes determine the skeletal structure of our shoulders, including the size and shape of the clavicle, scapula, and humerus bones.
Your shoulder width greatly depends on your hormones. With that said, testosterone is the main hormone responsible for muscle and strength gains. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid in males. It is also the primary reason men have broader and stronger shoulders than women.
This is one of the often overlooked aspects that affect shoulder width. Your lifestyle can majorly impact your shoulder width. Your diet, exercise, and sleeping schedule dictate your strength and muscle gains and can affect the shape and size of your shoulders.
Following a balanced diet and training program is one of the most effective ways of building bigger and stronger shoulders. Furthermore, you must sleep for at least 7-8 hours each night to give your body enough time to recover from your workouts.
Conversely, following a sedentary lifestyle can result in muscle atrophy, leading to smaller and slanting shoulders over time.
Medical conditions like scoliosis, which causes the spine to curve sideways, can cause uneven shoulder height and affect shoulder width. Other medical conditions that lead to overall health deterioration can also reduce your shoulder width. Plus, injuries can also affect shoulder width by causing muscle atrophy.
Check also: Find Your Body Type Endomorph, Ectomorph, or Mesomorph?
The Ideal Shoulder Width
Bodybuilding enthusiasts and folks chasing aesthetics chase muscular symmetry and balance. Knowing the ideal shoulder width can help them design a workout program to achieve the magic number.
The ideal shoulder width will be subjective. It is based on the factors listed above. Furthermore, the two ratios mentioned below will help you arrive at a number that will aid you in carving a more balanced and aesthetically appealing physique.
Broad shoulders and a narrow waist can accentuate your V-taper and add to the illusion of a bigger physique. It can make your waist look smaller and give you a commanding and authoritative presence.
The shoulder-to-waist ratio compares your shoulder and waist circumference. It is a great tool for assessing your body composition and gives an overall view of your health and fitness levels. Furthermore, it can help you arrive at the ideal shoulder width to improve your physique aesthetics.
Dividing your shoulder’s widest part’s circumference by the circumference of the narrowest part of the waist will give you your shoulder-to-waist ratio. For example, if you have a 32-inch waist and your shoulder circumference is 46 inches, your shoulder-to-waist ratio would be 1.4375 (46 divided by 32).
Routinely measuring your shoulder-to-waist ratio can be an incredibly effective way of tracking your transformation progress.
Generally, a higher shoulder-to-waist ratio is considered desirable for men as it is associated with a more athletic and powerful physique. A shoulder-to-waist ratio of 1.6 or greater is typically considered ideal for men. Conversely, a shoulder-to-waist ratio of 0.7 or lower is desirable for women.
Remember, these are just ideal numbers. Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot get close to these numbers. In his prime, the legendary bodybuilder Steve Reeves had a shoulder-to-waist ratio of 1.47, and he was considered to have the best structure in the business.
Use our Shoulder-to-Waist Ratio Calculator to learn more about achieving your dream physique.
Grecian Ideal Ratio
The Grecian ideal ratio is great for bodybuilding enthusiasts. It is easy to use and gives you all the data you need to build a Greek god-like physique. This calculator uses your wrist circumference to calculate your ideal muscle group proportions.
The Grecian ideal measurements include:
- Shoulders: 1.618x larger than waist
- Flexed arm: 2.5x larger than non-dominant wrist
- Flexed calves: Same size as flexed arms
- Chest: 6.5x larger than non-dominant wrist
- Upper leg: 1.75x larger than knee
Eugen Sandow, also known as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding,” is credited with creating the Grecian ideal ratio. He visited museums and measured the proportions of the statues to create the Grecian ideal ratio. Bodybuilders like Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Lee Labrada followed the Grecian ideal to build their iconic physiques.
You shouldn’t, however, look at the shoulder-to-waist ratio or the Grecian ideal ratio in isolation to assess your fitness levels. Combine them with your body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and body fat percentage to get a holistic view of your overall health.
Check out our Grecian Ideal Calculator to determine your ideal body measurements.
How To Increase Shoulder Width?
Now that you’ve learned about the average shoulder width, the ideal shoulder width and the shoulder-to-waist ratio, and the Grecian ideal ratio, it’s time to put all this knowledge to work.
Let’s say you now know you are an inch away from your ideal shoulder width but have no idea how to get there. This section is for you!
Below is how to add meat to your shoulders:
Improve Your Posture
Poor posture is one of the biggest reasons behind smaller shoulders. Most people spend a good part of their day hunched over their phone or laptop. This leads to a rounded back and shoulders, which can make your delts look smaller.
Improving your posture will enhance your physique aesthetics and instantly make your shoulders look wider. Pull your shoulder back and push out your chest. You must monitor your sitting and standing posture throughout the day.
Doing resistance training exercises and actively correcting your posture throughout the day will be your first step toward broader shoulders.
Non-trainers must start lifting weights to build wider and stronger shoulders. On the other hand, exercisers must perform a dedicated shoulder training session in their weekly training regimen to build a more aesthetically appealing physique.
Your shoulder workouts should have a mix of compound (multi-joint) and isolation (single-joint) exercises and should target all three deltoid heads (anterior, lateral, and posterior) from multiple angles to ensure overall development.
Furthermore, you must include advanced training principles like dropsets, supersets, intraset stretching, and rest-pause sets to progressively overload your muscles and induce hypertrophy. Switch up your training intensity, volume, and frequency to keep your muscles guessing and avoid hitting a plateau.
Alternating between strength-focused and hypertrophy-focused workouts can help build thick and dense muscles. Perform 1-5 reps per set to build strength. On the other hand, stay in the 8-12 rep range to induce hypertrophy. 
Also, you must work on your supporting muscles, such as the triceps and core, to improve your pressing performance. Perform all exercises with the perfect form to get the best bang for your buck and reduce your risk of injury.
It doesn’t matter how hard you train; you cannot out-train a bad diet. You must back your workout regimen with a balanced diet with the right proportions of macro and micronutrients. Eat a protein-rich diet to build muscle mass and strength and improve your recovery. Plus, eat a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates to support your energy levels during workouts.
When you eat a balanced diet, you are in a better position to lose weight, which can help you lose the spare tire and improve your physique aesthetics. Ir will make your shoulders look wider and stronger.
You must give your muscles enough time between workouts to ensure optimal recovery. Sleeping for 7-8 hours each night puts you in the sweet spot. It fastens your muscle recovery and boosts growth hormone production, which can aid in boosting muscle and strength gains. 
Dress To Impress
Dressing according to your body shape can make all the difference in boosting your aesthetics. If you have small shoulders, wearing clothing with shoulder pads like blazers and coats can make your shoulders look wider.
On the flip side, donning fitting clothing can make your shoulders pop during the summer. Folks with narrow shoulders should avoid baggy clothing, as they can make their delts look small, slanting, and weak — a trio you want to avoid.
Wearing horizontal stripes can make your shoulders look wider. Overweight folks, however, should avoid horizontal stripes as they can make them appear larger.
How To Reduce Shoulder Width?
Reducing your shoulder size can be harder than gaining shoulder width. Your genetics, gender, hormones, and ethnicity generally determine your shoulder width. It can be challenging to lose shoulder width if you have a normal BMI and have never engaged in strength training.
On the other hand, overweight folks might find some success in losing shoulder width by adjusting their diet and training program. Furthermore, you could influence your physique aesthetics and make your shoulders look smaller by working on your lower body.
Here are some ways to reduce shoulder width:
Do More Cardio
This tip is primarily for overweight people. Losing weight is one of the most effective ways to shed shoulder width. Do two cardio sessions daily to prioritize weight loss. The first should be a 15-20 minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout done on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
You should then do a 30-40 minute low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio session later in the evening. Doing two cardio workouts in a day will help you enter a calorie deficit and spike your metabolic rate, which will ensure you are burning calories throughout the day, even when you are physically inactive.
Modify Your Workout Routine
If you are a regular lifter, you must make significant changes to your workout training regimen to lose shoulder width. You must begin by cutting out shoulder workouts from your training routine. That’s right, no more shoulder presses, lateral raises, upright rows, or shrugs.
Cutting out shoulder workouts will ensure that you are not building new muscle tissue in your shoulders, making them bigger and denser. Plus, you must recomp your training program and add another leg workout into your schedule instead of the shoulder workout.
Building bigger legs can take away the attention from your shoulders and contribute to developing a more balanced physique.
Change Your Diet
Folks trying to lose weight should enter a calorie deficit, meaning they should burn more calories daily than they consume. Additionally, you must rejig your diet by lowering your calorie intake or adjusting your macronutrient ratios.
You must, however, ensure that you are eating enough protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to support muscle maintenance and recovery. Hiring a professional with a proven track record can save you time, effort, and money in your goal of reducing your shoulder width. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, especially if you are a beginner and aren’t equipped to complete a physique recomp.
Avoid Lifting Heavy
Some lifters develop physique imbalances by overemphasizing a certain muscle group. If you are one of them, you must take your foot off the pedal and lower your training intensity and volume.
Besides cutting out shoulder workouts from your training regimen, you must lower the weight you lift on other compound movements, such as the incline chest press. After achieving your body structure goals, you can ramp up your training intensity, volume, and weight.
Must read: Quick Guide to Reducing Broad Shoulders
How many inches is a broad shoulder?
This is a subjective question, the answer to which depends on your height, weight, and gender. Generally speaking, you can consider folks with wider-than-average shoulders (according to the tables above) to have broad shoulders.
Are shoulder width and shoulder length the same thing?
Yes, you can use shoulder width and shoulder length interchangeably to refer to the clavicle width. Measuring your shoulder width using a tape measure (the first method in this article) and the bone caliper (the third method) will give you your shoulder length.
Can I measure shoulder width without a tape measure?
Yes, you could use the fourth method mentioned in this article to measure your shoulder width without a tape. Plus, you don’t need a friend’s help with this method. You will, however, need a scale and a pencil for this method. The bone caliper method also doesn’t require a tape measure, but you will need someone’s help for it.
This article gives you the average shoulder width for men and women across age groups. You can use this data to determine how you stack up against your peers. However, you must remember that there is nothing like the perfect or ideal shoulder width. Your shoulder width will vary based on your ethnicity, genetics, weight, body type, diet, exercise, and family history.
Use the tips in this article to build muscle mass or reduce your overall body fat. Your shoulder size will depend on your clavicle width, and it might take some time before you begin to see the needle budge in the right direction. Be patient, and the results will follow. Best of luck!
- McDowell MA, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Anthropometric reference data for children and adults: United States, 1988–1994. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 11(249). 2009
- Mitchell, K. B., Choi, H. J., & Garlie, T. N. (2017). Anthropometry And Range Of Motion Of The Encumbered Soldier. U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/AD1028746.pdf
- Keizer A, van Elburg A, Helms R, Dijkerman HC (2016) A Virtual Reality Full Body Illusion Improves Body Image Disturbance in Anorexia Nervosa. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0163921. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163921
- Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 4;16(24):4897. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244897. PMID: 31817252; PMCID: PMC6950543.
- Dattilo M, Antunes HK, Medeiros A, Mônico Neto M, Souza HS, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2011 Aug;77(2):220-2. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017. Epub 2011 May 7. PMID: 21550729.
Leave a Reply