What is a Large Body Frame?

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  • Originally Written By: Lisa O'Meara
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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A large body frame is a skeletal structure that is bigger, wider, or denser than average. A person with a larger frame often stands taller and is broader than his or her peers. It’s easy to confuse big frames with fatness, but the two are usually really different. A person with this sort of bone structure can be in great shape and have a normal body mass index (BMI) but not be slender or thin. People can lose weight through diet and exercise, but there’s not usually any way to make a skeleton smaller. Medical experts can sometimes determine whether a person has a large frame by measuring the wrist and elbow, but most are also quick to emphasize that overall health is more important than size or raw weight.


Wrist Measurements

Whether or not a person has a large frame isn’t usually a matter of precise science, and the term doesn’t have an exact definition. Still, there are a few informal ways of figuring out whether a large person is big because of excess weight or big because of bone structure. One of the quickest is for a person to wrap his or her thumb and longest finger around the wrist. If the two fingers do not touch, that person could have a large frame, while someone whose fingers overlap could be considered small framed. Actually measuring the wrist is usually a bit more accurate, and when this number is combined with a person’s height the results are often pretty easy to quantify.

Sex and height become factors when using wrist measurements to determine body frame size. If a woman under 5 feet 2 inches (about 155 cm) tall has a wrist over 5.75 inches (about 146 mm) around, then her body frame may be considered large, but a woman over 5 feet 5 inches (about 163 cm) tall might not be thought to have a large frame unless her wrist was over 6.5 inches (about 165 mm) around. A man over 5 feet 5 inches (about 163 cm) tall with a large body frame would generally have a wrist circumference of over 7.5 inches (191 mm).

Elbow Width

Another measurement that can help determine a person's body frame size is elbow width, which is taken by bending the elbow and holding the forearm up to form a 90° angle. On either side of the elbow, a protruding bone can be located and it is the distance between these bones that makes up the person's elbow width. A 5 foot (about 150 cm) tall woman with an elbow width of more than 2.5 inches (about 64 mm) is usually considered large framed, although a 6 foot (about 180 cm) tall woman would need to have an elbow width over 2.75 inches (about 70 mm) before she fell into the large range. Taking sex into consideration, a 6 foot (about 180 cm) tall man with an elbow width of over 3.125 inches (about 79 mm) may have a large frame.

BMI Calculations and Adjustments

Most medical professionals and health care providers pay the most attention to patient BMI. A person can be well within the healthy range while still looking big if he or she has a large body frame.

BMI is typically calculated by measuring weight in relation to height. It can be a good general benchmark for health particularly when looking at large sectors of society or general age demographics, but it does not take into consideration that people have different body frames. A person with a large body frame may have a slightly higher BMI than that someone of the same height and basic physique who has a smaller frame because his or her bone mass will necessarily be greater.

In most cases the BMI will still give a general indication of a person’s health, but the higher number can be discouraging. Some experts factor frame in with the BMI to calculate a more realistic “ideal” or “healthy” weight range. Generally, a person with a large frame can determine this range by using the BMI and then adding 10 percent to that number.

What Frames Say About Healthy Weight

Despite what many cultural and societal messages about weight and “ideal” body types, most health care providers stress that the most important thing is that people are healthy. Having a healthy weight is not usually the same thing as looking thin and svelte. People with large frames can be toned, fit, and healthier than others who are smaller, even though their body shape may not fit the mold of what society considers desirable.


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Post 8

I have been large framed my entire life. I have some muscle, but I still need to work out more. After all, muscle weight more that fat.

As a female, I could only go a from a size 16 to size 14 at most. I can't fit in a size 12 unless my bones shrunk! I would have to be the perfect model slim stick for even size 13.

I had a friend in the military who said he couldn't get the all fat off of his stomach either.

I roll my eyes at the BMIs I get. I'm supposedly obese. I'm overweight, but not obese. I'm not blind that I have extra fat. When my body had a lot of muscle, the BMI still told me I was almost obese!

Post 7

I think this is a great article and provides excellent information. I have a huge body frame and weigh more than all the guys in my grade by about 60 pounds. But I'm not anywhere close to fat though, but I didn't think that. After reading this article, it made sense. I squat 400 and I'm 15.

Post 3

Many people are surprised to hear that you can be short and have a large body framed body! That's exactly my situation, and I am tired of explaining that no amount of dieting is going to change that.

I find it a little challenging to buy clothes which will flatter and fit well, but I'm sure that's not much different for people with other body types.

Post 2

Thanks for including so much easy to read information in this article. I am going to use some of it when I go for my yearly medical next week.

Last time I was told to lose weight because my BMI was too high for my height. I knew that this was unfair but was stuck for evidence to dispute it.

Post 1

I was a heavy child and teenager, and came to dread meeting relatives at weddings or other social gatherings. If I had a dollar for every time someone tried to excuse my size by saying I must be 'large boned' I'd be rich!

It was only when I shed the weight that it became obvious I didn't have a big body frame. I just ate too much and didn't move enough to justify the calories!

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