Frequently, people tell me they want to “get in shape.” And, each time, I have to hold back the dad joke that inevitably pops to mind: “Which shape?”
Turns out, that’s not actually a ridiculous question. At least from a purely aesthetic perspective, there’s an increasing body of research backing very specific proportions as being nearly universally most attractive, across cultures. Like so much else in the world, it comes down to the Golden Ratio.
So, if you’re searching for specific workout goals, here’s the formula to look your best:
For men, your waist circumference (measured at the narrowest point, usually right by your belly-button) should be 44.7% of your height. Your shoulder circumference (measured at the widest point, usually right at the top of your armpits) should in turn be 161.8% of your waist.
For me, at a towering 5’6”, that pegs my ideal waist measurement as 29.5”, and my ideal shoulder at 47.7”. I’ve got the waist nailed, but I’m apparently an inch and change short on shoulder; time for more handstand pushups.
For women, waist circumference (similarly measured at the narrowest point, which is usually slightly higher than on men, above the belly-button) should be 38% of height. Shoulder-to-waist ratio is still 161.8%, and hip-to-waist ratio (with hip circumference similarly measured at the widest point) at 142%.
So, if I were a woman, I’d ideally have a 25” waist, a 40” shoulder, and 35.6” hip. Based on that, I make a pretty terrible woman.
But, either way, there’s your goal. If your waist number is high, fat loss is usually your best first step. Once that’s on (or near) point, your next focus is to add muscle to hit the shoulder (and, for females, hip) number. Get to work.