How Big Should Your Legs Be?

Most guys have a subconscious instinct to squat a little less, bench a little more. Most lifting programs tell us that we should suppress that instinct. But what if those lifting programs are wrong?

What if this whole “don’t skip leg day” thing is making us think that we should be training our legs far more than we actually should be?

What if it’s just this new bodybuilder “X-physique” trend trickling down to the mainstream lifter, even though the average lifter is far more interested in building a strong, healthy, athletic, attractive, v-taper?

In this article we’ll cover:

  • The advantages of training your legs enough.
  • The advantages of prioritizing your upper body after that.
  • The most attractive proportions.
  • How most workout programs might have more leg work than you need.
  • How to get the most benefits with the fewest downsides.


Most guys go to the gym without a workout program, and most of those guys do spend too much time benching, too little time squatting. That’s not a… good… approach, but it’s a whole helluva lot better than nothing.

You’d think this would leave tons of guys with imbalanced physiques, but more often than not it just leaves guys stuck in a perpetual plateau. They gain ten pounds and then their gains stop. Their non-program just isn’t good enough to get them to the next level.

It’s no big secret that following an actual workout program is critical if you want results that go beyond a few weeks. And I’m going to argue that most of those workout programs will have you spending too much time on lower body training.

Yep, I said it. I think most guys would benefit from a more upper-body dominant program. Not just in terms of looking more attractive, but also when it comes to general strength and general health.

Now, before I tell you why most programs have too much lower body work, nobody is saying you should always skip leg day. Training your legs is important. In fact, the best programs have at least a little leg training in every workout. (The more frequently you do leg lifts, the better your coordination gets.)

So. Let’s start with the not-so-controversial stuff.

The Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Neglect Your Legs

Don't Skip Leg Day (Illustration)

Most people realise that they shouldn’t skip every leg day ever. As I like to say, chickening out on leg lifts will literally make you look more like a chicken. That’s why you rarely see guys who look like the fashionable man above.

But I have a confession to make. I skipped leg day. Now, to be fair, I was skipping push and pull day too. (And I didn’t know that dividing workouts into push/pull/legs was silly.) But I was a graphic design student who didn’t know a single person who went to the gym. I’m not even sure I knew what a gym was. Anyway, I had no legs for 22 years. Just stilts.

Here I am participating in a university photography project.

Shane Skipped Leg Day

And here are five reasons that you shouldn’t be like me:

5. Training your lower body is great for your health and your brain. You can get some of these benefits just with cardio, but for others, you need to be doing some pretty strenuous lifting. There are some upper body lifts that surely have this effect, but all the really heavy lifts are the ones with a major lower body component (e.g. deadlifts).

For example, here’s a study looking at the brain function of identical twins as they age. The guys with the stronger legs had better brain function and more grey matter than their identical twins. Lifting heavy can physically change our brains. Pretty gnarly.

4. Mastering the lower body lifts will make you a better athlete. No real room for argument here, at least for most sports. The bigger the muscle, the more powerful it is. This helps with sprint speed, strength, and verticality. Moreover, weightlifting is one of the best ways to improve coordination and flexibility.

Heavy full-body lifts are also the best for increasing bone density, reducing your risk of injury.

3. Leg lifts burn the most calories. Just kidding. I mean, this is true, but I’m just kidding about this being a benefit for us. #ectomorphstruggles

2. Having a powerful butt will help with nearly everything. There’s a common misconception that women like guys who are asses. In reality, women like guys who have asses. We’ve even had the wives and girlfriends of Beastly members write in, thanking us for giving their lover a butt.

I’m not even kidding.

As with most things that are considered attractive, there’s a reason for this. Asses are a natural indicator of health, athleticism, and strength. A strong pair of glutes will even help prevent lower back pain, which is one reason why the deadlift is so good for building up a strong, injury-resistant back.

1. Strength transference. Your legs are used to transfer strength in every single action that you do. Want to pick up a couch? Your grip strength, bicep strength or trap strength will probably be your limiting factor, yes, but if you don’t have a powerful lower body, you might throw out your back.

Hell, leg drive is even an important part of the bench press.

Now, the crazy part:

But You Still Might Want to Skip Some Leg Days

Hearty vs Modest Leg Volume

It’s pretty common for a guy to secretly skimp on his lower body training, but it’s very rare for a guy to be crazy enough to argue that we should be skimping on our lower body training.

Let me be that crazy person for a moment.

1. The health benefits of having a strong lower body cap out at a certain point. For example, last year I went to get a DEXA scan to measure my body fat percentage (which was 10.8%). Here in Toronto, you get DEXA scans at The Bone Wellness Centre, so, along with my body fat analysis, I got a bone-health consultation. I’ve only been lifting for a few years now and my bone density is already at the very top of the chart. No room for improvement.

That’s good news, yes, but hardly motivation to try and add another 100 pounds to my deadlift. At the time, I was deadlifting 375 pounds. I’ve since pulled 405. Is there really a reason to think that getting to 500 would further improve my general health?

It wouldn’t.

In fact, it would come with risks. While deadlifting heavy is fantastic for our brains, health and athleticism, deadlifting very heavy has a whole different risk/reward ratio. It’s actually pretty rare to see elite powerlifters who aren’t nursing some aches, pains, and injuries.

Same with squatting. (And, for the record, benching.)

2. The day-to-day benefits of having a strong lower body cap out at a certain point, too. Helping someone move when I was a super skinny guy was… not pretty. I was physically incapable of lifting heavier things, but even the lighter items were putting me at risk of injury.

I’m lucky that I didn’t throw out my back like my dad did. He was also super duper skinny, and a bad moving day left him with a lifelong injury that he still deals with today, several decades later.

I’ve helped with a surprisingly large number of moves since gaining 50 pounds, though, and I haven’t run into a single lower body strength issue. Not even one.

I’m not saying I’m immune to becoming tired, it’s just never my lower body that gives first. My fingers get tired, my traps get tired, my biceps get tired. It’s the same thing when I’m carrying around my girlfriend. Same with carrying groceries home.

In fact, I can’t think of a single time since getting to a 2-plate deadlift that my lower body strength has been a limiting factor. The main advantage to nearly doubling my deadlift strength was that it made my traps and forearms stronger.

I think we could probably do a better job of improving our day-to-day performance by swapping out some squats for farmer carries.

3. You don’t need huge legs for athletics. Again, the benefits cap out at a fairly modest point. If you disagree, check out Josh Norman, whose medium-sized legs are enough to earn him 15 million each year as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.

Josh Norman has some pretty ideal leg proportions

Nobody with a brain is saying he’s got chicken legs, but come on now, these are legs that still fit into regular jeans.

On that note…

4. Clothing companies don’t make pants for guys with jacked lower bodies. As Gregory O’Gallagher (from Kinobody) pointed out, if you keep going hard with the leg lifts, at a certain point, you need to start buying a too-large waist size or switch over to pants designed for overweight people.

Like us, O’Gallagher wasn’t saying that we should have small, weak or useless legs—he can also deadlift over 400 pounds—just that we don’t need to dedicate a ton of gym-time to them.

5. Squats won’t do much for your upper body. There’s a myth that to grow your upper body, you need to lift real hearty with your lower body. The idea is that it’s the lower body lifts, like squats, that stimulate the anabolic hormones—testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1.

That’s true, yes, and a few notable studies are often thrown around. It’s important to look at all the studies, though. To quote Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, who published a paper reviewing all of the studies done thus far, “What seems relatively clear from the literature is that if a relationship does, in fact, exist between acute systemic factors and muscle growth, the overall magnitude of the effect would be fairly modest.”

But even if you want to fully capitalize on that factor, starting off your workout with a couple big, heavy compound lifts will have you covered. Lifts like: the bench press, chin-up, overhead press, squat, deadlift, row.

6. Doing more upper body work than lower body work will make you look better. This is a contentious point, so let’s give it a whole section. Maybe two. After all, most of our readers are single but not planning on staying that way forever.

And for the guys who aren’t single, well, you already have someone who might appreciate this.

What Proportions are the Most Attractive?

What are the Most Attractive Proportions?

Different people have different stances on aesthetics. Women prefer guys who look fit/strong; guys will often want to look like bodybuilders; and bodybuilders will think that fit/strong guys don’t even lift.

If you want to know all about aesthetics, we’ve got an in-depth article on it here.

What we care about in this article is how big your legs should be compared to your upper body. Most guys have a fairly reasonable view on that. Women, too.

There’s one notable niche that disagrees: modern bodybuilders. Back in the golden era of bodybuilding, you’d have guys like Frank Zane (my favourite) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (most popular) winning the Mr Olympia title, and they had rather large upper bodies compared to their lower bodies.

Golden Era Bodybuilders Dig the V-Taper Aesthetic

Now it’s all about the X-physique. Here’s the most recent Mr Olympia winner:


That’s cool. Mad respect for those guys. This isn’t a professional bodybuilding website, though, and I suspect you aren’t on the road to Mr Olympia.

Pro-bodybuilding stuff really doesn’t have much to do with attractiveness, either. Almost all women prefer guys who are dramatically smaller than that. Guys who look like lumberjacks or athletes, not steroids. There’s a reason why Schwarzenegger stars in films for dudes and Ryan Reynolds stars in movies for women.

This kind of physique is widely considered attractive (and it’s way healthier):

Ryan Reynolds

We can get far more specific, though.

Dr Casey Butts found that Ancient Greeks and modern women tend to prefer a similar kind of physique, so he crunched some numbers and created a set of proportions that he calls the “sexy physique.” These proportions are optimally attractive to women while still looking badass and masculine.

It also reflects the physique of a man who’s fairly athletic in a wrestler/strongman/Olympian kind of way, which is why it looks so good in the first place—it looks like a manly man with elite athletic prowess.

According to Butts’ guidelines, your hips should be about 25% larger than your waist, your thighs should be about 25% smaller than your waist, your shoulders should be around 62% larger than your waist, and your biceps should be around 50% the size of your waist.

Here are the calculations:
Sexy waist = approximately 12% body fat
Sexy hips = waist x 1.25
Sexy thighs = waist x 0.75
Sexy shoulders = waist x 1.618
Sexy biceps = waist x 0.50

Here’s an example of a well-proportioned dude:
Waist: 30 inches
Hips: 37.5 inches
Thighs: 22.5 inches
Shoulders: 48.5 inches
Biceps: 15 inches

So to answer the question from up above, the beast in the middle is the most attractive.

Even for the very hardgaineriest of ectomorphs, all of these proportions are realistically achievable.

Why Are Bigger Upper Bodies More Attractive?

Attractive Proportions

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s because of sex differences. When we hit puberty, our shoulders grow broader. We also start storing fat primarily in our stomachs. We also tend to grow longer torsos than women.

The way that we build muscle lines up with this as well. We have a lot of androgen receptors in our trapezius and shoulder muscles, meaning that we tend to build muscle there quite easily. Far more easily than, say, our calves.

When women hit puberty, their hips grow broader, they start storing fat mostly in their lower bodies, they grow longer legs, and they have fewer androgen receptors in their upper bodies.

So men are kind of naturally upper-body dominant. If we get really fat, we look like that guy from Despicable Me. If we build a freakish amount of muscle, we look like Frank Zane. Even if we don’t have a single gain to our name, our upper body length and width is larger than it would be if we were women.

So being a man will usually make our upper bodies proportionally bigger than our lower bodies. But with enough deliberate effort, we can undo this…

If we spend a lot of time focusing on squats, for example, we’re going to wind up gaining a lot of lower body size without gaining a proportionate amount of upper body size.

How Much Leg Work Should You Do?

Ideal Lifting Balance

It’s time to get a little bit technical. Bear with me. The more time you spend lifting with a particular muscle, the more that muscle will grow. More lifting = more growth. But keep in mind that our ability to recover is finite. If we lift too much, we accumulate fatigue instead of gains. (Here’s a meta-analysis of all the studies done on this topic.)

So the perfect workout program is one that has you lifting as much as you can fully recover from. Dr Mike Israetel calls this our maximum recoverable volume (MRV). The closer we can get to our MRV, the more quickly we’ll grow.

Since we can only lift so much, the price of a more powerful lower body is a less powerful upper body, and vis versa.

Furthermore, some lifts are harder to recover from than others. A squat is very taxing on our central nervous system, a bicep curl is not. If your program has 1 fewer set of squats, that might leave room for 3 more sets of curls. That might not sound functional, but I’d be willing to bet your biceps need that strength more than your legs do.

This means that when designing a program, we aren’t just trying to cram a bunch of compound lifts together, we’re trying to pick the lifts that offer us the best return on our investment.

I know this might seem like splitting hairs, but if you gain 30 pounds while following one program, you might wind up with a totally different physique than if you gained 30 pounds following another program. If you care about that, this matters a lot.

And different programs make these judgement calls differently.

Let’s look at a few popular approaches.

Upper-Lower Split Routine. An upper-lower split program alternates between upper-body days and lower-body days—50% volume for each. This is a popular approach for some athletes, and I’ve seen Eric Cressey recommend it in some of his programs. Great way of training for certain athletes and for X-physique guys.

Monday: Lower body.
Tuesday: Upper body.
Wednesday: Rest.
Thursday: Lower body.
Friday: Upper body.
Saturday: Rest.
Sunday: Rest.

5×5. Depending on the 5×5 program, it might have something like 40% lower-body lifts, 60% upper body lifts. (I got that breakdown from Stronglifts, which is a squat-based program.) The idea here is to gain a lot of strength in the powerlifting lifts, so that makes sense. 2 of the 3 powerlifting lifts are lower body lifts, after all.

Monday: Full body, squat emphasis.
Tuesday: Rest.
Wednesday: Full body, squat emphasis.
Thursday: Rest.
Friday: Full body, squat emphasis.
Saturday: Rest.
Sunday: Rest.

Triple-Split / Bro-Split / PPL. This kind of program has a push, pull, and leg day, with each of those days having a similar training volume. That’s 67% upper body, 33% lower body. These programs tend to be higher in volume (more lifts per muscle group per week) and thus do better at building overall muscle mass than strength-focused programs. Even these programs tend slightly more towards the X-physique, but depending on your style (and genetics), these can give pretty aesthetic results.

This isn’t my favourite way to design a routine for several good reasons, outlined in this article, but these programs are not at all bad.

Monday: Push, size emphasis.
Tuesday: Rest.
Wednesday: Pull, size emphasis.
Thursday: Rest.
Friday: Legs, size emphasis.
Saturday: Rest.
Sunday: Rest.

Bony to Beastly (Classic Full Body). Now for the crazy-sounding part. Bony to Beastly is around 75% upper body, 25% lower body. Our program is all about helping skinny guys gain size in a healthy and attractive way. As it turns out, this is best accomplished by mixing strength training and bodybuilding together. We even throw in some bulking tricks that strongmen and athletes use.

Monday: Full body strength + upper body size.
Tuesday: Rest.
Wednesday: Full body strength + upper body size.
Thursday: Rest.
Friday: Full body strength + upper body size.
Saturday: Rest.
Sunday: Rest.

This isn’t radical, just more classic. 50’s lifters like Steve Reeves would do full-body workouts three times per week that were around 75% upper body. His aesthetic became so famous that guys still aspire to look like him today.

Steve Reeves Proportions

It’s worth noting that not all aspects of his workout were ideal. Bodybuilding was a new thing back then, and over the past 60 years, we’ve learned a lot more about how to build an optimal workout program. He hit the nail on the head by doing 3 full body workouts per week, though, with modern research showing it to be the most effective way to bulk up. I think his upper/lower body ratio was spot on as well, although that’s more subjective.

The Takeaway

I think this whole “don’t skip leg day” thing is awesome. Training our legs is amazing for our health, fitness, brain and appearance. In fact, having strong, functional legs is important enough that I think we should train our legs three times per week (as part of a full-body workout). That higher frequency will give us the best gains, and also the best improvements in coordination.

But we don’t need to do that much leg volume, and I think most programs go way overboard with it. If we do too much leg volume, we’ll grow our legs larger than they need to be at the expense of our upper bodies. If you gain 10 pounds, that might not matter a lot. But if you’re on this site, I bet you’re after more like 30 pounds. Maybe more.

I would argue that leg training is an 80–20 kind of situation, where 20% of the leg-work yields 80% of the benefit (or more), leaving us lots of time and energy to focus on the areas that we’re more eager to grow.

So I think leg day is awesome. But we have this masculine instinct to spend more time on our upper bodies because we instinctively want to look more masculine.

And our instincts aren’t wrong.

If you want to see what that looks like, here’s an example. Thanos spent around 25% of his time in the gym on his legs, and I would say that he got very proportionate and aesthetic gains. Would he have looked or performed better if he did twice as much leg work and half as much upper-body work? I really don’t think so.

In fact, after just a few months of doing a workout routine that isn’t all that leg-centric, I bet he’s already at the most attractive leg size for his frame.

Bony to Beastly Before After Transformation Thanos

To wrap this up, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a higher leg volume. But there’s also no sort of moral imperative there either. You can do less if you want to. Or more. Just consider your goals when making that decision.

What do you think? Let us know down below in the comments!

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How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before


  1. Quadzilla on September 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    If you have to ask, they aren’t big enough.

    • John on September 27, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      You know that’s right

    • Shane Duquette on September 27, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Hehe. Oh Greg, I thought about your quads quite a lot while writing this article. Beastliest quads in the community for sure. But watch out. I’ve doubled my squat volume. I’m coming for you!

      • Quadzilla on September 29, 2016 at 8:48 am

        Haha! I’m flattered.

  2. John on September 27, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    StrongLifts 5×5 rocks!

    • Shane Duquette on September 27, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      I agree. I think it’s pretty cool 🙂

      In case it isn’t clear, we only mention researchers, experts, competitors etc that we respect. We think very highly of all the names mentioned in this article.

  3. Ben on September 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Where should we measure our thighs? Because e.g i’m 170 cm tall, have 56 cm circumference about midway, but a few centimeters higher where my quads come in, it’s 60,5 cm. That’s a huge difference! And i’m fairly lean (can see my upper abs still after bulking up +21 kgs in 3 months)
    Also, where to measure shoulders? A few cms above my armpit it’s 119 cm, a bit above my nipples, under my armpit it’s 122 cms. Totally different numbers.
    Thanks for the answer.

    • Shane Duquette on September 27, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Nice job, Ben! 21 kilos in 3 months and still lean!? WTF holy gains 😀

      Measure yourself at the widest points. The only exception to that is with your waist, which should be measured at the narrowest point 🙂

      • Ben on September 28, 2016 at 9:50 am

        Thanks! I think i’ll send you guys some pictures when i end the program, so you can show everyone that your program works like a charm! I went from 52 kg to 73 kg in 11 weeks, eating lots of bananas eacb day, so carbohydrates are the secret i swear!
        Anyways, which one is a bigger turnout for girls: a weaker, less developed leg, or a stronger, bit overdeveloped leg? Because well, i guess i have to somehow weaken my legs if the weaker is more attractive, since i started phase 3 this week, and they’re already as huge as I want some more size to my upper body, but i guess im doimg good already, if these numbers are correct.

        • Krsiak Daniel on September 29, 2016 at 4:25 am

          Out of personal experience. I never had legs or butt to begin with and there was no problem in the past to get a date 🙂 Are you a trained guy, perfect, girls notice for sure, you get points. What is no good and I see it all the time in friends who are powerlifters. Girls see it instantly and it is not good. Too much big legs are for average girl turn off.

        • Shane Duquette on October 1, 2016 at 9:31 pm

          You’re doing crazy good, Ben! 😀

          I think strength is very rarely a weakness. I wouldn’t try to weaken my legs if I were in your situation, I’d just focus a little more effort on the areas that aren’t growing as quickly. So maybe one fewer set and an extra rep in the tank on the squats and deadlifts, an extra set on the curls, pushdowns, lateral raises, flys, etc.

        • Shane Duquette on October 1, 2016 at 9:33 pm

          And definitely send us those pictures! 😀

  4. JK on September 27, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Great stuff again. Im going with 4 sets of legs each week and the rest is 14 sets of upper body (8 for back and chest and 6 for arms and shoulders). Idk if thats all good but it puts me in that 25-30% of effort put in legs (excluding cardio). But I have noticed I have some lower back problems that werent caused by an injury, they just kinda sneaked up on me, since you talk about this a bit in your article would you have any advice as to how to go about mending this through exercise?

    • Shane Duquette on September 27, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      4 sets per week for your legs is very low volume. However, I know you have a great base of strength, your lifting technique is solid, and your mobility is good… so you don’t necessarily have a problem there. 4 sets per week, after all, should be more than enough to maintain your great lower body strength and function. This frees up room to accomplish your other goals.

      As for your lower back, that’s a very good question. In your case, my guess would be that your hips are tilted forward, your lower back spends all day a little contracted, and those muscles get fatigued. Even with a lower volume approach, that area just isn’t getting to fully recover. It’s overworked.

      I don’t think the problem is that you’re lifting heavier than your structure is built for, but we might want to work on your posture and see if there’s something in your technique that we can clean up. But, from what I remember at least, your technique looks pretty good.

      In the community, could you send me a side view of yourself standing sideways, relaxed posture? And then maybe a video of your squat and deadlift?

      • JK on September 27, 2016 at 5:08 pm

        Oh I feel so stupid and sorry for waisting your time (by giving you wrong information to work with) but i somehow managed to jumble up all the numbers for my sets. Its actually broken down like this 12 legs 12 chest 12 back 6 biceps 6 triceps and 6 shoulders. For the other part you must have me confused for someone else since im not a part of the community just a guy that likes to read the articles and always finds something to ask in the comments section 🙂

        • Shane Duquette on September 27, 2016 at 5:16 pm

          Oh! Yep. We have a member with your first name and last initial. I saw your email and assumed you were him. I’m sorry about that.

          Okay, so your volume sounds pretty reasonable now. But… I have no idea what’s going on with your back. That’s a tricky issue. Even WITH all the information, there’d still be some trial and error involved to fix you up.

  5. Y on September 28, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Have the winners been selected for that promo comp thing jared sent out?

    • Jared Polowick on September 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Not yet. The software we used to log your feedback was having some serious technical issues 🙁 We heard from a number of people through email that they were having a hard time getting in touch with us. We’re hoping the tech guys have fixed it by now, we might send out one reminder email and extend it for a couple more days. But we might just wrap it up now, and then just do something again like this in the future—hopefully without the technical glitches. If you filled it out, we really appreciate your time Y!

  6. Joe tijerina on September 28, 2016 at 7:24 am

    Hey Shane I purchased B2B last August but I never got around to actually starting the program. Will I have to pay the full $200 for another year or is there a discounted price for those choosing to continue after their year is up? I’ll buy again either way. I belive in you guys and your program. Thanks Shane.
    Joe T.

    • Jared Polowick on September 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Hey Joe,

      You’re free to keep the eBook, program, recipe book, etc. that you got when you signed up. That’s yours and you paid for it. If you lost it, that’s 100% okay, we can email it back out. I’m not sure if you lost the files, but I’ll email them to you now.

      We also have a couple renewal options for members. If you log in to your account, and then click “Add/Renew” you’ll see them there 🙂

      The great news is that renewing your account will get you access to the brand new Second Edition of the program.

      I hope that helps. Feel free to email us if you ever have any problems or questions like this!

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2016 at 11:37 am

      Thank you so much for supporting us, Joe! You don’t need to buy the whole program again, like Jared said, and you can renew your account from here on out for just 9/month.

      Sounds like you never got to actually use the program, though, and you never got the results that we promised. I’m going to shoot you ANOTHER email with some extra stuff, and we’re going to help you out 🙂

  7. ea on September 28, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    hey there b to b,

    Would you ever sell that glorious looking cookbook alone?
    I would really like to know some high calorie recipes , as my apetite is sinking in to the abyss. My muscles are not happy.

    Also, how do i get my muscles look hard? ive gained more than 40 pounds but still look kinda soft. im fairly lean too. Genetics? Anyway great post as always.

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2016 at 11:50 am

      If you’re signed up to the newsletter, we might have some good news for you soon!

      You might also really love the community, though. That’s where we test out all our new recipes, we’ve got a lot of members sharing their own recipes, and tons of cool conversations about how to hack our appetites so that we can eat more, more enjoyably 🙂

      Muscles hardness is a super confusing topic. For whatever reason, it’s very understudied. Most of the “answers” are more like guesses. For example, there have been studies looking into the density of muscles built with either higher or lower rep training, but still, nothing really conclusive about which leads to harder muscles. So most of the opinions there are just theories and bro-science.

      There are two things you can do, though. The first is getting even leaner. I know you’re fairly lean already, but most people are holding more fat than they suspect, and even a little bit of fat on top of your muscles will make them look and feel a lot softer. Fat can even be inside our muscles, sort of like how fattier cuts of steak have fat marbled into them. The second thing you can do is build even more muscle. That would increase the ratio of muscle to fat, making them harder. You’ve already built a helluva lot of muscle, though, so losing a bit of fat might be easier.

  8. Gio on October 1, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Hey B2B,

    Great article! What is your take on calves tho? You mention that it has less androgen receptors. How can the calves be stimulated properly?

    • Shane Duquette on October 1, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Calves have notoriously low growth potential in a lot of guys. It’s fairly straightforward to stimulate them—both standing and seated calf raises work quite well—but they won’t respond by growing as large as many of our other muscles. It’s also worth pointing out that most guys seem happy with their modest calf growth from just sticking to the compound lower body lifts.

  9. Krsiak Daniel on October 8, 2016 at 3:40 am

    I look like the guy that “skipped torso day” 😀

    • Shane Duquette on October 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Hehe. I wouldn’t say you look like that guy, Daniel, but I can see how you’d be more susceptible to that look. Seems like a lot of us are. Maybe in part because we have smaller rib cages.

  10. Andy on October 10, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    How were the formulas determined regarding the proportions? If the legs were to be 25% smaller than the waist, it doesn’t make sense for the hips to be 25% larger than the waist – that is actually a very feminine shape. I would assert that the hip:waist ratio actually decreases significantly beyond 1.25:1 as one gets leaner past a certain point (holding muscle mass constant), but I don’t have any scientific proof to back this, only personal anecdote & experience

    • Shane Duquette on October 11, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Hey Andy, good question!

      The waist-to-hip ratio that’s generally considered the most attractive for women is 0.7 (hips 43% larger than waist). For men it’s 0.8 (hips 25% larger than waist). That may not sound like a huge difference, but it sure looks like one.

      I got these proportions from the researcher Casey Butts’ book Your Muscular Potential. He compared a few different studies and philosophies regarding proportions, but the main study cited for the most attractive male waist-to-hip ratio was Visual perception of male body attractiveness.

      If a guy is losing fat and keeping his muscle, my guess would be that he’d be losing a lot of fat under and over his abs, which is where men tend to store most of their fat, making his waist a lot smaller. His butt would surely get smaller as well, but my guess would be that he would wind up with even larger hips compared to his waist.

  11. PG on November 27, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Does your recipe book contain vegetarian options?

    • Jared Polowick on November 28, 2016 at 10:16 am

      At the moment, most of the recipes are vegetarian, but it’s quite light on vegan options. The second edition of the recipe book, which is coming out very soon (and you’ll get it free if you sign up now) will have more plant-based options. (Our homemade gainer shake is already vegetarian by default and has fully plant-based options included.)

      The good news is that the main eBook teaches you everything you’ll need to know about nutrition, vegetarian or not, including how to tweak your current diet into a muscle-building one. So you don’t need to eat the foods that we like, rather you continue to eat the types of foods that you like—just with a few small tweaks. I hope that helps!

  12. Juan Guerrero on December 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Hi guys, very interesting subject. I am from Colombia and I wanna thank you for all of the amazing info you share with us. My question, I have very big quads compared to my hamstrings, I have been lifting very heavy and my lower body has been growing really fast. I want to focus more on my upper body, which is the best way to mantain my lower body size? Also Id like to improve my quads-hamstrings imbalance.

    • Shane Duquette on December 15, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      The simplest way to bulk your hammies up a little bit would be to isolate them with lifts like romanian deadlifts, swiss ball leg curls, hamstring curls. Not sure why your quads are comparatively big, though. Are you sumo deadlifting and quarter squatting? Because then that might explain why your quads are growing and your hamstrings aren’t. But if you’re conventional deadlifting, Romanian deadlifting, and doing deep back squats—plenty of opportunity for your hamstrings to grow—then my guess would be that you have a huge butt that’s stealing gains away from your hamstrings.

      The best way to maintain your lower body size is to keep a couple compound lower body lifts in your routine. You could squat once a week (2+ sets), deadlift once every 2 weeks (2+ sets), and maybe toss in an assistance exercise for your hamstrings a couple times per week—I’d say the Romanian deadlift. That’s a bare minimum, so feel free to do more, but it should do the trick 🙂

  13. Donald on February 4, 2017 at 5:10 am

    My experience is that men store most bodyfat in the legs, butt and belly. So most of your leg size will be fat tissue anyway.

  14. MB on March 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    According to this article ideal biceps are half the size of your waist, should I bulk them up to half of my waist or just keep them in the 14-15″ size? What’s is more attractive?

    • Shane Duquette on March 20, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Hmm. What’s your body fat percentage? If it’s over 15% (no abs visible even in favourable lighting), then trimming down your waist would be your best bet for health and attractiveness, especially since 15″ is a pretty great arm size for most guys unless they’re quite tall or quite sturdily built. If you’re already lean, though, then bulking up your arms a little more might be a good idea 🙂

      • MB on March 31, 2017 at 11:33 pm

        I think my body fat percentage is about 12-14% because I can barely see my abs without flexing, I have around 31″ waist at almost 5’10”. So at 31″ waist, would 15.5″ biceps would be more attractive than my current 14.25″?

        Supposse I increase my waist to 32″, my biceps to 16″ and shoulder to 52″, would that put me at the “Strong” or “Jacked” category at my height of 177cm? Should I remain at 31″ waist?

        What would be an example measurement of someone with 50% lower body and 50% upper body? and someone 75 – 25%?


        • Shane Duquette on April 2, 2017 at 11:36 am

          It’s hard to say if going from 14.25″ up to 15.5″ biceps will make you more attractive. It’d definitely be far more impressive to other guys, and it definitely wouldn’t lose you any points with women. But will it significantly impact your attractiveness with women? I’m not sure. Both are very good measurements for your height and waist size.

          It’s hard to say exactly what category different measurements put you in. I’d say that anything up around 13″ would be considered pretty fit and quite attractive. If you’re flirting with 15″ biceps you’re in the strong category and most likely optimally attractive. 18″ would definitely be jacked, and while you’d gain lots of respect points with guys, it probably wouldn’t be as attractive to most women. Between 13 and 15″, or between 15 and 18″… you’ve got some grey zones. 14.5 or 16″? Both would probably register as close enough to “strong” and be pretty great.

          31 and 32″ are both good for your waist. If you gain some core muscle, probably a good thing. If you gain some stomach fat, probably a bad thing. That’s not a huge change, though.

          For an example of what a lower-body-dominant program could yield, let’s say >22″ thighs with <13" biceps.

  15. Jack on March 24, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I’m constantly going back n forth in my head deciding how much of a focus I want to place on my lower body. I personally like having dedicated lower body days instead of full body days so I train them anywhere from once to twice per week (and everything in-between).

    If I’m hitting them 2x/week I sometimes feel like I’m not being efficient with my energy like you said. I look at some people and think man they’d look better if their legs were a little smaller b/c it can proportionally hurt the aesthetic appeal of the upper body. Plus most males train legs 1x/week which means they’re able to do more upper body volume than me. I feel in a way that I’m at a disadvantage compared to them in the public eye. The public will rarely see or look at your legs anyways.

    On the other hand if I’m at 1x/week I may notice someone with a really developed lower body that I think looks amazing which just makes me want to add leg volume. Almost like their big legs are adding proportion. Maybe if I’m watching a sport like MMA or just someone who fills out (muscle-wise) a pair of pants/shorts rather than having them fit loosely. Random examples:

    My lower body has always been behind my upper body but it’s not too drastic. Currently I’m hitting them 1.6x-1.7x/week but I’m considering going back up to 2x. I guess it still comes down to level of development and overall proportion why big legs can look good on one person and not good on another. I’m probably overthinking this, haha. Have you noticed the same?

  16. Jk on April 2, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I have a quick question the example you gave for a well built dude with a 30inch waist, what height does that assume? And what waist size should different height men aim for? I’m at 187cm so is there an equation for height to waist ?

    • Shane Duquette on April 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      We assumed the average male height of around 5’10. Seems like ectomorphs might trend a little taller with similarly sized waists, though. (I was 6’2 with a 28″ waist starting out, and now a 31″ waist after gaining 55 pounds.)

      You could calculate your ideal waist based on your height, but bone structure is such a huge part of it that it’s far better to get your ideal waist measurement from your natural proportions when you’re lean and strong. So a good way to start is to get down to a pleasantly low body fat percentage, measure your waist, and then budget in an inch of muscle growth for every 15 or so pounds of muscle you plan on gaining. While bulking, your waist will balloon out from all the food in your stomach, but even after an epic bulk you’ll only have gained a couple inches of muscle there.

  17. Nahid Salman on May 1, 2017 at 12:54 am

    Good to see that the proportions are mentioned and specified perfectly. I did a lot of research on the perfect body that attracts women. I have gone through many of the fitness pages for the perfect measurements. Smoe popular pages related to the golden ratio like Adonis index by John Barban, Kinobody by Gregory O’Gallagher . They all ended up with 1.618 the golden number. But for the lower body and other measurements, it varied a lot. Some concluded that the arm, neck and calf should be identical in size. On the contrary, Steve reeve’s formula emphasizes on the wrist size. But I truly believe that those were made by professional bodybuilders as a reflection of their bodybuilding career and experiences. So Casey Butt’s measurements are more accurate as he examined and surveyed the attraction from the opposite sex and finalised it. So thanks to him.
    But it would be really helpful if there was a measurement for an attractive chest like the shoulder, hip, thigh and biceps measurements. You know, attraction from opposite sex is not about only having 1.618 in shoulder and having a smaller chest girth or having a huge chest like man boobs. So we hope that there should be a perfect measurement like the other ones.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Shane Duquette on May 1, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      Sounds like you really did your research, Nahid! I think you’re right. I think Steve Reeves, for example, was likely trying to build a badass body from his own perspective, and perhaps from the perspective of other men. That’s fundamentally different from a guy who’s trying to look attractive to the opposite sex, and the ideal proportions are going to be way different.

      There’s an ideal chest size, it’s just not as important as the shoulder size, so it gets talked about less. It’s still important, though. If I recall correctly, Butts’ ideal measurement for the chest was about 1.4x the waist.

  18. Mike on January 2, 2018 at 11:31 am

    You said that you believe a 75%/25% upper to lower distribution of volume is better for ideal male proportions. And you do this through full body sessions. Not sure if youve noticed the same but as Im reaching more advanced stages my body feels better/healthier if Im training my movement patterns 1.5-2x/week rather than 3x/week. Typically I do this through rotating PPLs or ULPPLs but like you said I feel it wouldnt be a bad idea to be more upper focused. Ever run a 75/25 distribution as a 4 day split to get more recovery? For example Push/Pull/Legs/Weakpoint.

    • Shane Duquette on January 2, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      Hey Mike, that’s a good point.

      I should clarify that we aren’t recommending doing deadlifts three times per week or anything like that. We’ll often do, say, back squats on Monday, barbell deadlifts on Friday, and then some assistance exercises sprinkled in, such as romanian deadlifts and goblet squats. Even with the bench press, you won’t find us doing a barbell bench press more than twice per week… but you might find us tossing in some incline bench presses, some push-ups and some flyes alongside them. That way we still hit every muscle group each workout, but with a different emphasis and purpose behind it.

      As for a 4-day split, we usually opt for hitting target muscle areas at least twice per week. Since most of our members have a LOT of target muscle groups, that means hitting quite a lot of muscle groups each workout. However, dropping the frequency down to just once per week isn’t a bad idea. The difference between splits and full-body workouts isn’t that huge, and your plan sounds like it could work.

      In some of our advanced specialization programs we increase the frequency and intensity for some muscle groups while emphasizing recovery on other ones. As members cycle through the different specialization programs, they’re emphasizing growth and recovery in different areas. It works pretty well, and it’s not so different from your push/pull/legs/weak point idea, with the weak point being the specialization focus. (We also have a maintenance routine if people want to take it easy in the gym and FULLY emphasize recovery / lifestyle.)

  19. Josh on January 6, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Is there anyway to caculate your max weight shoulder, bicep, arm, leg, and chest size potential? For us hardgainerd. By your height and frame size and such.

    • Shane Duquette on January 15, 2018 at 11:22 am

      Yes. We cover that in some of our programs, but if you’re just curious about that (and not as much about how to achieve it), then I’d recommend Dr. Casey Butts’ stuff. He’s got a great eBook on it, but he also has free calculators online 🙂

  20. James on February 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    Great post. I have naturally muscular legs. I never train legs and they still get big if I eat too much!
    I lift upper body everyday never train legs (not even bike) and watch how much I eat. I don’t look weird.
    Everybody is different.

  21. Steve S on July 11, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Hey guys, new to your site. I haven’t bought your program, but I love the articles and your philosophy. I have learned so much, so quickly from just perusing the blog.
    About 7 years ago I bought Vince Del Monte’s No Nonsense Muscle Building and did it for a little under a year, went from 135 to just under 145, plateaued, thought I needed to eat even more (which seemed impossible) and relaxed my diet and training, lost my gains, and decided the effort wasn’t worth the fleeting success.
    Since reading your articles I understand better why I plateaued. Now I’m older, sitting at 155, and excited to be getting back into the gym and eating more, but I’m wondering if you think the NNMB program is still a good fit. It uses about 8 lifts/workout, paired up into 4 supersets, usually using opposing movements. Only 1 superset/workout is dedicated to legs (squats, lunges, RDL) which seems in line with the 25% you recommend, and there are a variety of exercises for upper body: DB, BB, machine, bodyweight. Are there any major changes you’d recommend? Or things I should watch out for?

    • Shane Duquette on July 11, 2018 at 6:29 pm

      Hey Steve, congrats on the gains, man! Being up twenty pounds is awesome 🙂

      I’m all for everyone who’s trying to help skinny guys build muscle, and I’m really happy that Vince “The Skinny Guy Saviour” Delmonte is here helping. I remember being a skinny guy and buying four muscle-building prgorams: Anthony Ellis’, Vince Delmonte’s, John Berardi’s, and Sean Nalewanyj’s. The plan was to do one program each month and compare them afterwards, seeing which one gave us the best results. After the first month (doing Ellis’ program), we met Marco, and we switched over to doing more of an athletic bulking routine that he was using on his professional football and rugby players. We LOVED it, and that eventually evolved into Bony to Beastly.

      Anyway, we never actually wound up trying Vince Delmonte’s Program, and I haven’t read through his content in eight or nine years. We keep up-to-date on a lot of the top muscle-building researchers (such as Dr Eric Helms, Dr Brad Schoenfeld, Dr James Krieger, and Dr Stuart McGill) and a lot of the top science communicators (such as Greg Nuckols, Menno Henselmans, Dr John Berardi, and Mike Israetel). Since I’m more familiar with their content, I’m happy to recommend it. However, I’m not as familiar with Delmonte and some of our other competition.

      If I were to guess, I’d bet that Vince Delmonte’s muscle-building workout routine will be good enough to get you good results. Good visual results too, with good upper-lower balance, as I believe he comes at this from the fitness model perspective, right? I’m sure we’d change a whole slew of things, some changes based on Marco’s expertise and our training philosophy, and other changes based on the research that’s come out in the past eight years… but I think you’ll get good results with it. The main thing I’d be wary of is a restrictive diet. I don’t know how he is with nutrition, but restrictive diets are common, and it can really make a bulk needlessly harder. So just in case, here’s our approach to a bulking diet so that you can compare and contrast:

      However, while I have nothing bad to say about Delmonte, and while fully acknowledging my bias, I really do believe that our program is the best one on the market for skinny guys trying to build muscle. At the very least, hop on the newsletter (top right corner of the site) to get the free newsletter series. I think you’ll get some good value from it as you get back into building muscle 🙂

      Good luck, man!

  22. Steve S on July 12, 2018 at 8:56 am

    I believe you that your program is the best, you guys definitely know your stuff. I wish I had the money to “upgrade.”
    The tough thing with Vince’s program has been the compound lifts. I’ve already adjusted to the “starter” lifts you suggest, and it is perfect. I wish I knew about goblet squats 7 years ago.

  23. Steven S on August 28, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Just want to drop you guys a note and say thanks again for all of the info you put on your blog. I am up 10 pounds during these last 6 weeks. My chest is growing (for the first time ever, so thanks for the tips on modifying chest presses), my legs are filling out my slim fit pants, I’m feeling confident deadlifting, I’m using the heaviest dumbbell for goblet squats so I’ll be switching over to real squats soon, and all thanks to what I’ve read here.

  24. lkjslkdfjsidjfnsil on November 28, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    This is a lot of very subjective thinking, selective framing (“here’s Arnold and here’s Phil Heath, doesn’t arnold look better? therefore legs aren’t as important”) and I disagree with your opinions on a lot of this. It’s fine that you have those opinions on legs but I would just want readers to know that it’s really just your opinion and the body shape you are advocating isn’t “better” than one with bigger legs. To me it feels like a lot of the wording in your articles targets the insecurities of straight men. Not as much as something like sixpackshortcuts (god I hate them) and your articles are still fun to read.

    On a related note, it’s weird that your website seems to cater only to straight guys from what I’ve seen, always talking about what women like in men, when the gym has historically been such a gay domain. I guess a straight guy wouldn’t really have that perspective (I’m guessing you’re straight) but I just think it’s funny how you always talk about what women would want from my body and how I can best attract women, which I and many other potential readers don’t care about at all

    • Shane Duquette on November 28, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Hey lazzilmasselassil, that’s a good point.

      First of all, I agree that this is one of our most subjective articles. But we aren’t trying to target insecurities, just trying to figure out what goals we may wish to strive for. I think that’s one of the coolest things about lifting—we have plenty of control over the bodies that we build. People can decide what they want and then build it.

      Third, when writing these articles, we’re niche in some ways but mainstream in others. So, for example, we write specifically for hardgainers/ectomorphs, which is an extremely niche audience. We also write in English, which again cuts out most people in the world. We also write for men, which cuts out half the population. At that point, though, we just try to write about what our audience is interested in. Most of our articles are based off of questions that we get asked over and over again. Although, unavoidably, our own experiences and biases are often expressed on some level or another.

      We’ve had one gay member express the same concern as you—that a lot of our articles about attractiveness seem to be written from a straight perspective… and that’s true, so we worked with him one-on-one in the community to help him accomplish his own specific goals. We’ve had a similar concern brought up by an Arab member who said that all of our diet articles assume that the reader is eating a Western diet, so he created a thread in the community with some diet strategies for other guys living in the Middle East. Recently we had a blind member point out that our program relies on videos and illustrations that he cannot see, so we wrote descriptions of the exercises and illustrations for him.

      This is all to say that our articles might not all be relevant to all of us, but we’re game to help every naturally skinny guy build muscle. If a member’s concerns aren’t addressed in our articles, we’ll gladly work with them one on one. That’s why we offer coaching in the community—because we’re all at least a little bit different from one another.

      So, anyway, getting to the interesting part now, I’d love to hear your perspective on this. How do you find that sexual orientation affects the body proportions we should aim for?

      • lskjdflsdkjdlfksjsl on December 3, 2018 at 12:55 am

        Thanks for responding.

        I don’t know how sexual orientation affects the proportions people aim for. It’s pretty hard to analyze IMO. In the gay community your body is really tightly linked to your value in the “sexual marketplace” for a lot of reasons, many of which are specific to LGBT people. There are also a lot of different “cultures” of body types. They even get their own names, like twink, twunk (hunk + twink, basically a buff twink), bear, otter, and more. Body image in the gay community is a weird thing sometimes. It’s not really something I could really get that deep into in just a comment but if you are curious to get a perspective there are many articles (and books I’m sure) about it and maybe I could look some up. Guys who like bears aren’t gonna be impressed by a small waist/chest ratio for example. I don’t know specifically how our preferences differ from those of straight women–we certainly seem to categorize and label men’s body types more than women do. But in general, a lean, muscular physique is most commonly considered to be attractive among gay men–or, at least, it’s gonna get you the most attention. (which, hey, might mean it’s a market worth exploring for somebody like you)
        My point wasn’t so much that gay men don’t usually value the same proportions–it was more about how your articles always seem to assume all the guys reading your pages want to attract women. And to be honest, that’s fine, gay guys are used to it and you don’t have to include gay men when talking about what guys want to attract. It’s not like you have to write about how to get guys, your website and brand definitely are successful already and I’m not saying it’s offensive to only ever talk about attracting women. But at the same time, it’s like…..would it really hurt to add two words “or men” every once in a while.

        I’ll rescind what I said about you said about targeting the insecurities of straight men–I don’t really get that impression from your articles tbh. It seems like that’s more just a natural and obvious question a blog like yours is trying to answer (though…sometimes I think you talk about women’s taste in men like it’s completely unanimous…just a bit). There are definitely a lot of fitness companies that do target sexual insecurities, and I don’t think you are one of them. Six pack shortcuts is the kind of company I’m thinking of (IDK if they are still as bad about it now as they were when mike chang was in charge of that company)

        I think my first post was kind of muddling three things I was trying to say:
        the first–I don’t really think there’s a single “ideal legs proportion”
        the second–only ever talking about attracting women as the goal
        the third–taking advantage of guys’ insecurities, which yeah I don’t think you are really doing

        Best wishes

  25. Andre Masters on December 3, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    I’ve been training for a long time and I’ve tried lots of different exercise routines such as circuit training, freeletics, gymnastics, callisthenics, running and free weights, all with some marginal success in various (different) ways but consistently, I trained legs because (in my opinion) small, thin and weak legs look ridiculous. Every gym has the traditional ‘skip all leg days’ advocate who wears a minimal thread vest with tracksuit trousers (never shorts) and struts around like he’s lost his horse. There are many (too many) in the callisthenics community too because ‘heavy legs’ are a hindrance and impact their ability to swing around but they look like they’re hobbling around on withered matchsticks or 11-year-old girlie baguettes.
    It’s also a proven fact that training large muscle groups together improves overall growth and strength whilst helping to burn calories and reduce body fat so hitting the squat rack is a win-win situation.

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