T Nation

Proportional Muscles vs. Strength


I hunted around and found a posting on the forums discussing the different shapes or proportions for bodybuilding in terms of ratio / proportion of the muscles and build and I got the impression there are a few competing ideas and pro-bodybuilding is a whole different ballgame. The ideals or aims mostly looked at size (muscles in inches) but I was wondering if anyone has any advice in relation to proportional strength (how much weight the muscle can lift)(assuming you want to look proportional / stay safely balanced / avoid injury) ?

For example (all for reps) if you can curl 40lb dumbells what should you be able to do for triceps? If you can squat 200 what should you be able to bench? I'm assuming there should be a relationship between the opposing muscle groups and maybe a relationship between the larger groups if you want to keep them proportional. Also I thought to do heavier lifts there is a certain amount of lower back strength / wrist strength which might be necessary to do the lift correctly. wondering if anyone has any suggestions or ratios relating proportionate strength?

If this should be put in another forum pls let me know.


There's an article that answers this exact question. Can't remember for the life of me what it's called but I think I saw a link to it posted up recently. Maybe someone else remembers.


There isn't a general one that I'm aware of for aesthetics.

For shoulder health, balancing the horizontal push/pull (or not getting your bench TOO far in front of your row-strength) is recommended. For specifics, look at the injury-free guys in the Brotherhood of Iron thread in the Bodybuilding forum. That should give you a general gist. As for Squat vs. Deadlift, in most cases, with raw lifts, the Deadlift is ahead of the squat. Just the dynamics of the lift. Maybe 25% or so. The 3/4/5 plate zone (for bench/squat/DL) is an old standard and might apply, but once you get into the 6-800 lbs range, it pretty much becomes what each competitor focuses on the most. Or where their leverages are at.

And once again, those are just general ranges. Everyone's different. Which is SO not the answer you were looking for, I guess.



some of the #s seem off though, for example deadlift being 140% of back squat seems too high


The inevitable flip side of your line of thinking is that, to ever employ any such information, you must deliberately do less well on your triceps (or biceps) than you actually could do, for the sake of not exceeding what you think is the best ratio relative to your biceps (or triceps.) Assuming that it is the case that your natural balance, working both to the best of your ability, doesn't match the figure you are given.

Now as to whether you will enjoy benefits from thus underachieving on that bodypart, I don't see the safety benefit and don't know what other benefit there might be, other than happiness in having matched an arbitrary ratio.

And then, the final disappointment when a Yet More Famous Name trainer, years later, writes a different ratio and you realize that the bodypart you were holding back on "so as to stay in proportion" actually is, in proportion, underdeveloped according to him, and so you were sabotaging yourself the whole time. Oh, the pain, the pain, the horrible pain.


Great post.

OP, Just start with a basic program (a lot of good ones on this site). As you learn more you will figure out what your weaknesses are and can prioritize or do more work for those.


Thanks for all the responses. I find that I see a lot of guys at the gym swaying when they do their standing curls, basically ruining their form to "lift" a heavier weight. Similar to people who do a neutered squat because they can't take the weight all the way down. Seems like they aren't working the muscles necessary to achieve the weight they want to lift. I read another pro's post who was saying he basically always lifts for reps and not max due to the risk of injury and strain (although there is no 100% rule for anything).


overhead shoulder press your bodyweight (BW)
bench 1.5x BW
squat 2x BW
deadlift 2.5 BW

thank you and have a nice day


I have the strange feeling there's a question in there somewhere, because it doesn't seem connected to anything anyone else has posted. I can't find a question mark though. Should there be one?