OBJECTIVE : This study investigated associations between anthropometric measures and physical performance in black South African adults. It was hypothesized that noninvasive, simple anthropometric measurements, such as calf circumference (CC) and body mass index (BMI), may be useful predictors of physical performance and strength. METHODS : Black human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) negative men and women (aged 32‐93 years) participating in the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study were enrolled at baseline in 2005 = 1428). Men and women's anthropometry, socio‐demographics and physical activity (PA) were assessed at baseline, 5‐ and 10‐year follow‐up. Physical performance (walk speed, chair stand and handgrip strength [HGS]) were assessed at 10‐year follow‐up. Linear regression models adjusted for potential confounders were used to evaluate the association between anthropometric measures and physical performance. RESULTS : The combined overweight and obesity prevalence among both men (P = .02) and women (P < .001) increased significantly over 10 years, with significant increases over time in BMI and CC in the women, whereas PA decreased significantly over time in both men and women (P < .0001). BMI and CC were positively associated with HGS in the men (P = .02, P < .0001) and women (P < .0001), while CC was positively associated with walk speed in men only (P = .006) in the cross‐sectional analysis of 2015 measurements. CONCLUSION : BMI and CC in both men and women were positively associated with HGS, but CC was associated with walk speed in the men only. Our study suggests that CC may be a useful predictor of physical performance in black men and to a limited extent in black women.