Although bodybuilders are stronger than the average person, most view aesthetics or appearance as far more important than strength. For example, bodybuilders want broad shoulders, a narrow waist, a deep chest, a wide yet thick back, big arms, and powerful-looking legs. A low level of body fat is also desirable, so the muscles are well-defined.
Of all these aesthetic characteristics, a V-taper is amongst the most desirable. That’s not just an opinion, but scientific fact! In studies, broad shoulders and a narrow waist are directly linked to physical attractiveness (1).
In this article, we reveal the ideal shoulder-to-waist ratio, how to measure it, and how to achieve it.
Shoulder-to-Waist Ratio Calculator
What is Your Shoulder-to-Waist Ratio?
Your shoulder to waist ratio is the relationship between the circumference of your shoulders and the circumference of your waist. The wider your shoulders and the smaller your waist, the more favorable the ratio will be.
The ideal shoulder-to-waist ratio for men is 1:6, meaning the shoulders are significantly larger than the waist. For women, the perfect shoulder-to-waist ratio is a little less at 1:4.
These figures are based on something called the Golden Ratio, also known as the Adonis Index. Cultures all over the world are subconsciously influenced by this ratio and use it to judge physical attractiveness (2).
Broad shoulders paired with a narrow waist are also good indicators of health. That’s because a large waist normally indicates a surplus of abdominal body fat, which is linked to a wide range of medical conditions and illnesses, not least type 2 diabetes, some cancers, coronary heart, and premature death (3).
As such, you may be interested to know your shoulder-to-waist ratio so you can see how you measure up and whether you need to try and improve it.
How is Shoulder-to-Waist Ratio Calculated?
Shoulder-to-waist ratio is very easy to calculate. Simply take your shoulder circumference and divide it by your waist circumference.
If your waist measurement is 32 inches and your shoulders measure 46 inches, your shoulder-to-waist ratio would be 1.4375 (46 divided by 32).
As easy as determining your shoulder-to-waist ratio is, there is no need to do it yourself. Just use our calculator!
How To Use The Shoulder-to-Waist Calculator
Our shoulder-to-waist calculator is incredibly simple to use! Just follow these steps:
- Measure the circumference of your shoulders and waist. For your shoulders, measure around the widest part and around your navel or belly button for your waistline. Make a note of these figures. You may find it easier to have a friend or family member take these measurements for you.
- Choose your preferred unit of measure on the calculator, i.e., imperial (inches) or metric (centimeters).
- Enter your measurements into the correct boxes.
- Hit “Calculate“.
Your results will be displayed as a ratio in the box below.
Interpreting your Results
So, how does your shoulder-to-waist ratio measure up?
- The ideal shoulder-to-waist ratio for men is 1.6
- The ideal shoulder-to-waist ratio for women is 1.4
If your ratio is lower, i.e., below 1.6 for men and less than 1.4 for women, this suggests either your waist is bigger than it should be, your shoulders are narrower than they should be, or a combination of these two factors.
Factors that may affect your readings include:
There are three basic body or somatotypes: endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.
Endomorphs tend to have naturally wider waists and a propensity toward abdominal fat storage. Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and usually have a narrow waist and broader shoulders. Ectomorphs tend to have slender waists and shoulders. Of these three, mesomorphs are more likely to hit the perfect shoulder-to-waist ratio.
Tip: Find what body type category do you fall within? Find out with our body type quiz so that you can adjust your lifestyle to reach your fitness goals.
Gynoid or android body shape
People with a gynoid body shape tend to be rounded and apple-like. They often have no discernable waist. Those with an android or “pear” body shape tend to have narrower waists and may even have an “hourglass” figure.
Fat deposition sites
Some people are genetically inclined to store fat around their waist. Blame your parents and grandparents for this trait!
For example, someone with a natural tendency to store fat around their waist will score a lower shoulder-to-waist ratio than someone with a naturally smaller, leaner waist, even if they have bigger than average shoulders.
Big shoulder muscles don’t usually happen by accident. Building muscle takes time, effort, and dedication. Sedentary people and endurance athletes are much less likely to have the well-developed shoulders needed to score a 1:6 shoulder-to-waist ratio.
Needless to say, being pregnant will significantly affect your shoulder-to-waist ratio. As your pregnancy progresses, your waist measurement increases, and your shoulder-to-waist ratio will change. This is a natural and unavoidable part of being pregnant. As such, the shoulder-to-waist ratio calculator is probably not much use if you are expecting a baby!
How to Improve Your Shoulder-to-Waist Ratio
Regardless of your genetics or body type, you can always improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio. In most cases, you need to adopt a two-pronged approach to a) increase the girth of your upper body and b) make your waist smaller. This requires equal attention to exercise and nutrition.
Building bigger shoulders
While most upper body exercises involve your shoulders, you’ll need to target them directly if you want them to grow to their full potential.
The main muscles that make up your shoulders are the deltoids. There are three sets of deltoid fibers, called heads, and each one has a different function:
- Anterior deltoid (front of your shoulders) – shoulder joint flexion and horizontal flexion.
- Medial deltoid (side of your shoulders) – shoulder joint abduction.
- Posterior deltoid (back of your shoulders) – shoulder joint extension and horizontal extension.
While all three deltoids contribute to the circumference of your upper body, the medial deltoid is the most important for upper body width. As such, this is the deltoid head you must emphasize in your training.
Good medial head deltoid exercises include:
- Dumbbell lateral raise
- Cable machine lateral raise
- Resistance machine lateral raise
- Resistance band lateral raise
- Barbell/EZ bar upright row
- Dumbbell upright row
- Cable Machine upright row
Here’s a workout you can use to develop your shoulders. Do it as part of a split training program, where you work different muscles on different days. For example, train your chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, shoulders on Wednesday, legs on Thursday, and arms on Friday.
Alternatively, you can train your shoulders twice a week to build them a little faster, e.g., Monday and Thursday.
|1||Cable lateral raise||3||12-15||60-90 seconds|
|2||Seated dumbbell Arnold press||3||8-10||90-120 seconds|
|3||Side-lying dumbbell lateral raise||3||10-12||60-90 seconds|
|4||EZ bar upright row||3||8-10||90-120 seconds|
Related: Build V-Taper Guide.
Nutrition for a Smaller Waist
Use the following nutrition tips to lose fat from your entire body, including your waist:
1. Create a calorie deficit
Using our TDEE calculator, work out your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and then subtract 500 calories from this number. That’s how much you need to eat to lose fat and get lean.
Be prepared to adjust your calorie intake based on your progress. 500 calories is just a handy place to start, and you may need to increase or decrease your intake to get the desired results.
In contrast, if you want to build muscle and increase shoulder size, you need to 1dd 500 calories to your TDEE calculator result. These extra calories will fuel your training, recovery, and muscle growth.
2. Consume one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
Using a food tracking app, make sure you consume around one gram of protein per pound of body weight (or about two grams per kilo). Not only will this help keep you feeling full, but eating protein may increase your metabolic rate, so you burn fat faster. But, most importantly, eating enough protein will help prevent the muscle loss that often accompanies a fat-reducing diet.
3. Eat clean 90% of the time
Eating clean means chowing down on natural foods and cutting back on processed and junk food. Clean foods are generally higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, more filling, but lower in calories than foods that have been heavily processed.
To determine if a food is clean, just ask yourself whether you’d be able to find it out in nature. For example, chicken is a clean and natural food, whereas donuts are not. After all, donuts do not grow on trees!
If you eat clean most of the time, you can afford to have the occasional junk food snack or cheat meal. This doesn’t mean you are free to pig out and binge every couple of days. Instead, you can have a modest amount of junk food without feeling guilty about it or sabotaging your progress.
4. Try carb and calorie cycling
You’ll lose fat faster if you eat a little less on non-training days. After all, you don’t need as much energy if you are mostly sedentary between workouts. Try cutting a couple of snacks from your diet or eating fewer carbs on non-training days to speed up fat loss.
However, take care not to cut protein; you still need one gram per pound/two grams per kilo, even on rest days. Instead, cut carbs as, on non-workout days, you don’t need the fast-acting energy that carbs provide.
5. Get plenty of sleep
While sleeping more isn’t a nutritional strategy, it’s still something that you need to do if you want to improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio. Too little sleep can interfere with fat burning and muscle building. It could also increase insulin resistance, which is linked to abdominal fat storage.
Try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night. This may mean you need to go to bed earlier, but that’s the price you must pay to build the body of your dreams.
Shoulder-to-Waist Ratio FAQs
1. How accurate is the shoulder-to-waist calculator?
Our shoulder-to-waist calculator is as accurate as your measurements! If you want the results to be correct, make sure you take your measurements carefully. For this reason, you should recruit someone to do the measuring for you. While taking your own waist measurement is easy enough, it’s MUCH harder to measure your own shoulders.
2. Do I need to make my waist smaller or my shoulders bigger to improve my ratio?
That’s very hard to answer without seeing you! However, if you carry fat around your waist, losing fat will improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio. But, if you are quite slender, beefing up your shoulders may be the only way to increase your score, as your waist may not get much smaller.
For the average person, losing fat and building muscle is the best way to score a better shoulder-to-waist ratio.
3. What is the best workout for building bigger shoulders?
Bodybuilding-style training is probably the best way to beef up your shoulders. That’s because the aim of bodybuilding is to increase muscle size. Bodybuilding uses high-volume, high-intensity strength training to break down your muscles, so they grow back bigger and stronger. This is arguably the most efficient way to increase muscle size.
4. Which type of cardio is best for fat loss?
Losing fat will automatically improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio. Cardio can help burn excess calories and put you into a negative energy balance, forcing your body to burn fat for fuel.
There are two main types of cardio to choose from – Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Both can work, but HIIT is a little more time efficient as you burn more calories per minute with that type of workout.
Try them both and see which one you prefer. Alternatively, you can read about the pros and cons of each here.
5. What diet should I follow to improve my shoulder-to-waist ratio?
Your diet needs to support your training goal. For example, are you trying to lose fat and sculpt a smaller waist? Or are you working on beefing up your shoulders and building muscle mass?
This will determine which type of diet you need to follow.
That said, plenty of great eating plans are available, so you should choose the one that appeals the most. After all, food should be one of life’s pleasures and not a chore!
Once you’ve picked a diet you think you can live with, create a 500-per-day calorie surplus to lose fat and reduce waist size or a 500-a-day calorie surplus to build muscles and increase muscle and shoulder size.
The best diet will always be the one that matches your goals and that you enjoy following. After all, improving your shoulder-to-waist ratio and reaching the 1:6 golden standard could take several months.
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While your shoulder-to-waist ratio is useful to know, it’s not the be-all and end-all of a good physique. Other things to consider include good posture, a broad back, vascular arms, sculpted abs, and well-developed legs. It’s just one aspect of your physique, and achieving a 1:6 ratio should not be your sole focus.
That said, if you want to look your best, a narrow waist and broad shoulders are aesthetically pleasing and make you look athletic, healthy, and even virile. Subconsciously, these are traits many of us look for in a prospective sexual partner.
Use our Shoulder-to-waist calculator to see how your proportions measure up and track your progress over the coming months.
1. PubMed: Visual perception of male body attractiveness https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1634963/
2. PubMed: Physical attractiveness: the influence of selected torso parameters https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7212994/
3. PubMed: A review of the association between abdominal fat distribution, health outcome measures, and modifiable risk factors https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10148711/