How Big Are 16 Inch Arms?

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: February 14, 2024

How can you determine whether your arms are average or exceptional? For many, the circumference of their upper arms is a standard for measuring progress, with 16-inch arms being a common target.

It turns out 16-inch arms are generally considered larger than average. But whether they look big on your frame depends on your height, weight, gender, and more.

16 Inch Arms

In this article, you’ll learn how to measure your arm size accurately. And then see how your arms compare to measurements of thousands of men and women.

I’ve even created an arm-size calculator to help you see how you measure up. Finally, I’ll give you some actionable pointers to help you build upper body muscle mass and get bigger arms.

What Is Arm Size?

Arm size is a circumference measurement of the mid-upper arm. So, “16-inch arms” are 16 inches (40.7 cm) around the widest part of the bicep and tricep.

How to Measure Your Arms

Before getting into arm sizes, make sure you’ve measured your arm accurately. Arm size is measured using a flexible measuring tape such as a tailor’s tape.

First, raise one arm parallel to the floor and drape the end with the number “1” over the front of your bicep. Then, wrap the other end of the tape around the widest part of your arm until the numbers overlap the end.

The number that intersects the end of the tape is your arm size. As you can see in the image above, bodybuilders measure their arms flexed.

Tips: Do not pull the tape too tight or your arm will appear smaller. Also do not wrap the tape at an angle or your arm will appear bigger.

How To Measure Arms

Are 16 Inch Arms Big?

Generally speaking, 16-inch arms are a respectable size. Anything over 14.6 inches is above average for men. And over 13.4 inches is above average for women.

However, you might want to be more than “above average.” And 16-inch arms could be on the small side if you have been working out for a while or have a large frame.

Whether your arms look big on your body depends on your age, height, weight, and body composition.

Arm Size by Age

Age is one of the most apparent factors influencing your arm size because we all start with skinny arms as children and grow through our teenage years.

Once you reach adulthood, your arm growth slows down. However, most people’s arms get slightly bigger through their 20s and 30s.

At some point in your 40s, however, your arms might gradually get smaller. This decline is due to the drop in hormones and decreased physical activity.

Table 1. Average Arm Size By Age For Men & Women (Unflexed)
Age Men Women
20-29 13.4 inches (34.1 cm) 12.4 inches (31.5 cm)
30-39 14.1 inches (35.9 cm) 12.9 inches (32.8 cm)
40-49 14.0 inches (35.6 cm) 13.1 inches (33.3 cm)
50-59 13.7 inches (34.8 cm) 12.9 inches (32.8 cm)
60-69 13.5 inches (34.4 cm) 12.8 inches (32.4 cm)
70-79 13.1 inches (33.2 cm) 12.6 inches (32 cm)
80+ 12.1 inches (30.8 cm) 11.7 inches (29.6 cm)

The data in the chart above comes from the National Center for Health Statistics in the US. But it’s important to realize that these measurements are taken with the arm relaxed or unflexed.

When you flex your bicep, your arm increases in size by roughly 5-10%. So, a 13.5″ unflexed arm is generally about 14.5″ flexed.

And, since you probably measured your arm flexed, it’s vital to adjust the data from the previous table to compare apples to apples. Below is the revised arm size data based on the estimated size increase with a flexed bicep.

Table 2. Average Arm Size By Age For Men & Women (Flexed)
Age Men Women
20-29 14.4 inches (36.6 cm) 13.3 inches (33.7 cm)
30-39 15.2 inches (38.6 cm) 13.9 inches (35.3 cm)
40-49 15.1 inches (38.4 cm) 14.1 inches (35.8 cm)
50-59 14.7 inches (37.3 cm) 13.9 inches (35.3 cm)
60-69 14.6 inches (37.1 cm) 13.7 inches (34.8 cm)
70-79 14.1 inches (35.8 cm) 13.5 inches (34.3 cm)
80+ 13 inches (33 cm) 12.5 inches (31.8 cm)

In Table 2, you can see that the average man has around 14½ inch arms. Therefore, 15-inch arms are above average biceps size. And 16-inch arms are pretty impressive.

The average arm size for women is a little smaller at 13½ inches. And 16-inch arms would be exceptional.

To put this arm size data in perspective, it helps to look at it in terms of percentiles. This shows how likely you are to have arms of a specific size.

Table 3. Arm Size Percentiles For Men & Women (Flexed)
Percentile Men Women
5th 11.9 inches (30.3 cm) 10.5 inches (26.8 cm)
10th 12.6 inches (31.9 cm) 11.1 inches (28.1 cm)
15th 12.9 inches (32.8 cm) 11.4 inches (28.9 cm)
25th 13.4 inches (34.1 cm) 12 inches (30.6 cm)
50th 14.6 inches (37.1cm) 13.4 inches (34.1 cm)
75th 16 inches (40.7cm) 15.2 inches (38.5 cm)
85th 16.9 inches (42.9 cm) 16.2 inches (41.2 cm)
90th 17.4 inches (44.2 cm) 17.2 inches (43.7 cm)
95th 18.4 inches (46.7 cm) 18.2 inches (46.1 cm)

Now, you can see that a man with 16-inch arms is in the 75th percentile. In other words, your biceps are bigger than 3 out of 4 guys if you have 16-inch arms.

For women, 16-inch arms put you in the 85th percentile. That means a female with 16-inch arms would have bigger biceps than about 17 out of 20 girls.

But you probably aren’t having a flex off with an 80-year-old. So here are some charts to help you visualize how big 16-inch arms are based on a normal distribution of arm sizes for people ages 20 to 59.

16 Inch Arms Percentiles Men
16 Inch Arms Percentiles Men

Average Size Arms by Height & Weight

Your arm size can appear different depending on your height and weight. For instance, a person who is 5’6″ tall and has 16-inch arms may look much bigger than a person who is 6’6″ tall and also has 16-inch arms. This means that if you’re taller, you’ll need more muscular arms to make them look impressive.

Similarly, your weight can also affect how big your arms look on your body. For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds with 16-inch arms may appear to have larger arms than someone who weighs 250 pounds and has the same arm size.

It is possible to create an illusion of big guns by losing weight to make the separation between your arm and shoulder more visible. Low body fat also makes your arms look bigger compared to your wrists, elbow, and waist.

As an example, take a look at the pictures below. My arms measure about 16 inches in both, but they appear larger when I am leaner. One picture was taken while I was bulking, and the other while I was cutting.

What Do 16 Inch Arms Look Like?

16 Inch Arms Bulk vs Cut

I weighed 198lbs on the left and 171lbs on the right and I’m 5’9″ tall. It goes to show that 16″ arms look bigger when you’re lean. I should also note that I had an arm pump in both pictures. Follow my fitness journey at jeremyfoxfitness.com.

Arm Size Pump vs No Pump

It’s essential to be aware that when you work out your arms, the increased blood flow can cause them to temporarily swell up, also known as “the pump.” This can add between 0.5 to 1 inch to your arm measurement.

To accurately measure your arms, it’s best to measure them when they are not pumped. This way, you will know your actual arm size instead of just the size caused by your workout.

However, it can be fun to measure your arms with a pump occasionally just to see how big they can get. But remember that the measurement you get with a pump should be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s not your typical arm size.

Arm Size Calculator

Height, weight, and age make it difficult to know if your arms are considered big. Fortunately, there are equations to predict average arm size based on these variables.

I created a simple calculator that shows you if your arms are big or small for your demographic. 

arm size calculator

Enter the information below to see if your arms are bigger than other people your age and size.

How To Grow Your Arms

Building a big set of arms takes more than just repping out sets of bicep curls. The good news is that you can increase arm size with a well-rounded plan, including nutrition, workouts, and a few proven supplements.

Workouts

To build big arms, you need to train your whole body. That may sound counterintuitive, but compound exercises like squats and deadlifts boost muscle-building hormones that help you build big arms.

In your arm workout, using heavy weights on compound movements like barbell curls for biceps is also beneficial. And triceps exercises like the close grip bench press are great for building arm muscles.

As for your biceps, they are made up of a short head and a long head. The short head creates size and thickness, while the long head adds to the peak. So, include a variety of exercises to hit both bicep heads.

Hammer Curls vs. Bicep Curls For Peak & Width

16 Inch Arms Outer Bicep Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly had 23-inch biceps in his prime.

Diet

Believe it or not, a balanced diet is just as important as how you lift when building muscle. You won’t progress in the gym if you don’t give your body what it needs to grow.

First, you need to create a calorie surplus to gain muscle consistently. That means you eat more calories than you burn each day.

Next, you must eat enough protein to give your arms the building blocks to grow new muscle tissue. And don’t listen to that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight bro science!

Your lean mass, activity level, and fitness goal dictate how much protein you need.

Calculate Your Daily Protein Intake

Some other nutrition advice I have is to eat mostly clean foods. Skip the junk and steer towards whole, natural foods to get the most quality gains.

Also, tap into nutrient timing to unlock the last 10% of potential arm gains. That means getting most of your carbs and calories around your workout.

bodybuilding meal plan

Custom Meal Plan

Get a personalized meal plan designed specifically for your body and lifestyle. Including custom recipes formulated to fit your macros and calories – no counting required!

All this for just $13.99/mo! Click here to choose your plan.

Supplements

As a word of caution, do not expect supplements to grow your arms in days or weeks miraculously. Instead, supplements are only an add-on to proper diet and exercise that may give you a slight boost.

In addition, there are a lot of snake oil supplements that cost a lot of money and don’t deliver results. Here are some proven muscle-building supplements that can help you build bigger arms.

How Long Does It Take to Get 16 Inch Arms?

The time it takes to get 16-inch arms depends on your starting point. For example, if you’re relatively new to training and already have 15-inch arms, you could reach 16 inches in a few months.

On the other hand, it could take you a year or more if you’ve been lifting for a while and need to gain more than an inch of arm size. But don’t get discouraged because 16-inch arms are easily attainable for most people.

How To Build Your Arms Faster

Now you know the average bicep size for your demographic and how 16-inch arms measure up. Once you get there, you’ll probably feel like building 17-inch arms or more!

If you want to grow your arms in weeks instead of months, start with a dialed-in muscle gain meal plan. And you can get a personalized, easy-to-follow nutrition plan right here.

Click the image or button below to learn more about Custom Meal Plans for Muscle Growth.

More Body Measurement Guides

If you found this article informative, I know you’ll enjoy these other body measurement guides.

Are 18-Inch Arms Possible for Natural Bodybuilders?

Average Forearm Size (Circumference) for Men and Women

Trend In Bodybuilder Height Since 1965

Survey Reveals Average Thigh Circumference for Male & Female

Typical Calf Size for Men & Women – How Big Is Healthy?

Average Butt Size by Gender, Age, & Ethnicity (with Charts)

With this information, you’re well on your way to building an impressive pair of arms. And if you liked this article, make sure you check out some of my other helpful content below!

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