Do Muscles Really Make Men More Attractive To Women?
From movies to advertisements in today’s modern media, the ideal man is almost always well built. Stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone still stand out decades after the zenith of their movie careers as the epitome of masculinity, prompting millions of men to start lifting weights and in many instances drive them to extremes such as using anabolic steroids to achieve their goals. Media hype aside however, is there any real proof that having a well muscled physique makes you more attractive to the opposite sex? Interestingly enough, there actually are scientific studies out there that answer that question, though the answers might surprise you.
Our Built In Body Image Bias
As early as when they are in kindergarten, children appear to prefer males with more muscular builds over those that are naturally on the heavier side (endomorphs) or those with inherently lean and thin physiques (ectomorphs). Young children in general have a slight aversion towards a people that are heavyset (sorry, Santa Claus) and in one study children aged 10 to 11 years old related muscular mesomorphs as “all things good”, while attributing less favorable descriptions to ectomorphs and endomorphic body types.
Prejudices Against The Obese
Fatter children generally have a negative perception of themselves , which can lead to a generalized negative self image. Negative reactions to overweight individuals are an undeniable fact of modern Western life. People that are obese are often discriminated against in obtaining life insurance, getting jobs, and gaining entrance to college education. As much as we might try to ignore it, such discrimination, while not coming from a place of malice or prejudice, still does create serious and almost institutionalized problems for many. A study of 10,000 people aged 16 to 24 that spanned a seven year period found that being obese meant you were less likely to marry, more likely to have a lower income, and more likely to receive less schooling as well. People in this society also perceive the inability to lose weight as a character flaw, which is ironic given that obesity is a rapidly spreading epidemic that affects almost percent of the population and that 63% of the American population is overweight and almost one third of them can be categorized as being obese. (Read more about stigmas against overweight individuals in my article here)
The Muscle Man As An Ideal Mate
Well it depends on who you are asking. Researchers found that women who saw themselves as conservative and feminine tended to favor ‘muscle men’ while more ‘liberated’ women leaned more towards thinner and more linear bodies. What was also observed was that big women preferred big men. As interesting as these findings might be in terms of women’s ideal mate choice all these factors fall aside when researchers observed their actual choice of mate. Overwhelmingly bodies of research have shown that the best clue to a women’s favorite male physique is the type of physique belonging to the man who is ‘the most important to her at that time in her life.' The fact that women prefer the physique of the man that is currently important to them suggests that partners are selected for many reasons besides physical attractiveness, and that people can favor an ideal body type but still not be happy with someone that fits that ideal.
Now there are groups of women that find muscular men incredibly attractive and some go so far as to only date men that are well muscled, however they are small in number relative to the size of the female human population. I myself started out at 125 lbs and did indeed see a tremendous difference in the way I was treated by the opposite sex as I slowly transformed into a 225 lb natural bodybuilder. It was truly an interesting experience to say the least, and I do think muscles do give you the potential of a good first impression- but after that it character, personality and a host of other factors will determine one’s eligibility. It might sound strange coming from me, but I do think that men, just like their female counterparts should focus more on being themselves rather than living up to media driven ideals. The desire for a well developed body should spring from a genuine wish for self improvement and overall health, and certainly not only as a way to pick up women. Besides, as the studies show, muscles aren’t always everything.
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Kevin Richardson is an award winning health and fitness writer, natural bodybuilding champion , creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City. Learn more about Kevin’s unique and holistic system of body transformation at www.naturalllyintense.net
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2. Portnoy, 1993
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5. The National Center for Health statistics
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