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We’ve all been there – trying to work out if we look like we ‘lift’ or not! The secret is – as we all know – huge arms (disclaimer: I may be exaggerating…) What I wanted to know was whether aiming for 14 inch arms when unflexed was a good goal for someone my height (5’7”). The answer was pretty compelling…
At a glance…
- 14 inch arms when unflexed are significantly larger than the average adult male
- Whether this is considered ‘good’ will depend on your height, weight, bodyfat percentage as well as your perception of what you see
- 13 inch and 15 inch arms CAN be good in the right context depending on the above factors
- We are talking about UNFLEXED arms here – typically most measurements quoted online will be for FLEXED arms, so be wary of comparing online!
14 inch arms when UNFLEXED are ABOVE AVERAGE!
The average male has 13.5” to 14” arms when FLEXED which typically equates to 11.75” to 12” UNFLEXED. Arms which measure 14 inches when unflexed are therefore 15% – 20% larger than the average mans. This assumes an ‘average’ profile – body fat, height and similar. If you are lower than average bodyfat (below 15-20%) and/or shorter (around 5’8” and below) then 14” arms are even more impressive.
So what is a good arm size unflexed then?
As noted 14 inch arms unflexed are significantly above AVERAGE and therefore for an otherwise AVERAGE person 14 inch arms when relaxed are GOOD!
If you are outside of the AVERAGE it gets more nuanced – so if you are 6 feet tall for example or carry a lot of bodyfat then 14 inch arms unflexed become less impressive.
Are 15 inch unflexed arms big?
This trend continues across all arm sizes – so 15 inch arms are significantly above AVERAGE but whether that is classed as ‘good’ or not will depend on your own judgement as well as other metrics such as height and weight.
What about 13 inch arms when unflexed?
Yes you guessed it – it depends on your height and weight. If you are very short or ultra-lean 13 inch arms might look amazing, but if you’re a bigger person then they won’t really stand out I am afraid.
How to measure your arms: Flexed vs unflexed
Arms are unique in being the only body part that is widely measured when FLEXED. This means arm sizes quoted are typically when flexed, unless otherwise stated. Flexing the arm draws the muscles in to contraction making their bellies fill out and ‘pop’. This means when flexed your arm circumference is at its largest.
Conversely when relaxed (or unflexed) the muscles are not under tension and your arm circumference will be smaller. The amount of ‘pop’ will vary depending on arm elevation and how you are measuring it.
Fat mass is inert when flexing
Flexing is contracting the MUSCLE mass in the arm. Any fat carried will remain unchanged. This means more muscular individuals will see a bigger difference between flexed vs unflexed arm measurements as they are able to contract a larger percentage of their arm mass.
The opposite is also true – if someone is carrying a lot of fat on their arms (or generally higher bodyfat percentage) then their arm measurements will vary LESS between flexing and not.
There we have it – for someone like me who is relatively short (at 5’7”) and low bodyfat (somewhere around 15% or below) 14 inch biceps when unflexed are pretty good! With that all said I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied – the unfortunate downside of being interested in weight lifting and bodybuilding is that sometimes ‘big enough’ is simply not big enough 😉