The Ideal Male Physique — What girls want & what guys want to be

Posted by W. Shane Duquette

Not surprisingly, the male and female perspectives differ — a lot! Turns out a typical athlete or amateur gym-goer wants a body that women don’t even find attractive, let alone ideal. If we want to be hotties, and honestly on some level most of us do, we’re totally clueless. Should that matter? I don’t know. Is it interesting? Definitely.

There are some surprises for women, too. Ryan Reynolds was one of the top picks when they were asked to write in the most ideal celebrity body… but even the girls that wrote in his name more often than not didn’t select his body (no heads were present) in the line-up. The body they selected in the line-up wasn’t even all that similar. So all of you guys thinking that you’ve got to have Ryan Reynolds’ body to be the handsomest hunk at the bar, or studliest stud on the beach… we’ve got some good news. What girls want is actually much easier to achieve. Brad Pitt ‘s headless body (as Tyler Durden in Fight Club), on the other hand, kicked some serious aesthetic ass in the line-ups.

And this isn’t all about aesthetics — don’t worry. We’ve tried to find out what girls want when it comes to looks, fitness, health and attitude in general. Don’t care what girls think? We’ve also found out what guys find the most impressive, and what guys aspire to achieve.

Lesson #1: Fit beats Freaky

We’ve got Brad Pitt in first place with 72.5% of women finding his body the MOST attractive and 86.7% of women being attracted to his body. In second place we’ve got the musician Henry Rollins (at his smallest) with 11.8% of women finding him the most attractive, and 41.8% of women attracted to his torso. The MMA heavyweight comes next with 9.8% liking him the best and 37% finding him attractive. In last place with 1% we have three time Mr. Olympia winner Frank Zane — famous for shifting the bodybuilding world away from mass and towards aesthetics. Evidently there’s still some shifting to do before he lines up with what women find aesthetically pleasing!

No big surprise that the Fight Club sex icon took #1. What DID surprise me is that the healthy looking musician took #2 — outperforming the athletes and bodybuilders. And even the starving sex icon Ville Valo beat out Frank Zane, the king of bodybuilding aesthetics. Looks like a life devoted to achieving the “perfect” physique gives you the worst body according to women. Yikes.

To make matters worse, 50% of the men that completed the survey (keep in mind these men are interested in physiques, or they wouldn’t have taken the survey) want to look like Frank Zane (last place), vs the 40% that want to look like Brad Pitt. Woah.

If we filter the data by girls that self-identify as athletes, Brad Pitt drops to 53.8%, the heavyweight jumps to 31%, and Frank Zane the bodybuilder jumps to 15%.
If we filter the data by girls that self-identify as creatives, artists or musicians the opposite happens. Brad Pitt goes up to 73.3%, Henry Rollins goes up to 16.7% and the heavyweight build only gets 6.7%

If we filter by girls that self-identify as fashionable, Brad Pitt drops to 66.7%, the healthy looking Henry Rollins goes up to 22.2% and the emaciated Ville Valo goes up to 11%.

Lesson #2: Flabs aren’t Fab…. But Neither is Skin ‘n Bone

Anthony Ketis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers takes home the prize here with 58.3% of women preferring his bodyfat levels and 81% of women finding his body attractive. Gerard Butler Came in third, albeit on an off-day, with only 15% of women preferring his bodyfat levels.  Poor Christian Bale, emaciated for his role in the Machinist, came in dead last with 0 votes.

Lesson #3: Healthy Trumps Hulking

We asked women to check off, based on words this time, what what was important to them about their man when it comes to fitness/health/physique (multiple checks allowed). Here are the significant results:

89.2% of women say that a man taking care of his health is important to them
74.5% of women want a man that’s stronger than they are
61.8% of women want a man that can protect them
60.8% want their man to look his best
58.8% think it’s important for their man to have bigger arms than them
38% want him to be strong and muscular.
38% are cool with average
2.9% want him ripped ‘n muscular like 50 cent

Lesson #4: Get the Results but not Obsessively — And Enjoy it.

There’s no doubt that women want a healthy man that’s strong and able to protect them. Aesthetics aside, girls want a guy that can effortlessly carry them around and make them feel safe on the streets at night. Who wants the fat guy with no energy that’s a slave to his cravings or the sickly scrawny guy that’d break like a twig? So let’s say you’ve somehow ended up either chubby or scrawny… well you’ve got to change your lifestyle and attitude, not just your body. Women want a guy who’s lifestyle and choices result in a great body — not the guy who stares at himself in the mirror all day while doing bicep curls and sipping protein shakes:

56.9% of women want him to enjoy doing physical things and naturally look that way
37.3% think that men should look good naturally without any effort

When it comes to health:
49% of women want absolute health, but not obsession
42.2% want him to be naturally healthy
5.9% just don’t want him to be sickly
and only 2.9% think being a health nut is okay

Hmmm. Looks like hitting the gym is out unless you enjoy it? But they do want the health/strength/protection/body… so you’d better enjoy it or you’re in trouble. Luckily, Jared and I have discovered, once you start heading down the healthy path it really does become enjoyable. And once you stop obsessing over the muscles that sprout up it really does transition well into effortless maintenance. It’s only the changing that’s hard.

Lesson #4: Don’t love your body — have a great body, but save the loving for her’s

When asked to pick how much confidence, shame, indifference or narcissism a man should feel about his body, here’s what girls answered:

61.8% believe in modest confidence
27.5% want him to like his body
7% want him to love his body
3% expect indifference
1 girl voted for insecurity (but I wouldn’t want to date that girl)

Lesson #5: If you’re chubby and they love you… they’d still like your body better if it were fitter

We said “Let’s say you have a boyfriend that is naturally chubby, like the photo of Gerard Butler on the left. All else the same, would you prefer if he were fit, like on the right?”

78.4% of women answered yes. They would want him to look fit.
20.6% of women said they didn’t care.
1% liked the chubby version.

Here‘s an article on how to lean up the healthy way.

Lesson #6: If you’re skinny and they love you — even if they tell you they like skinny dudes — they’d still like your body better if you at least upgraded from skinny to slim/fit/svelte.

We said “imagine you had a boyfriend that was naturally skinny, like Christian Bale on the left. All else the same, would you prefer if he became fit, like on the right?”

82.4% of women said yeah, they’d prefer him fit.
8.8% of women were indifferent
8.8% of women said if he’s naturally skinny they’d prefer he stay that way

Another no-brainer. If you’re scrawny 82.4% of women, as a girlfriend/wife, would want you to bulk up. I’m guessing that percentage would be even higher if you’re looking to date and haven’t already ensnared a vixen.

Here‘s how to add muscle to your too-skinny frame.

Lesson #7: A healthy appearance and a great physique won’t ever hurt your chances. A bad one will hurt your chances (although perhaps only incrementally) 96% of the time

When looking at a suitor or date here’s what the girls said:

34.3% of women answered that they prefer active healthy guys, but personality is key as well.
18.6% would love to date a really fit guy, but only if he isn’t narcissistic
12.7% are okay with an okay body… but it can’t be obese or emaciated
8.8% think it shouldn’t matter… but they want him to look naturally strong
6% think aesthetics trump all
2% think it shouldn’t matter but want a naturally slim guy
1% say it shouldn’t matter but want a naturally chubby guy
1.1% think it shouldn’t matter and don’t mind a fat or emaciated guy

So, 96% of women want a good body. Only 1.1% of women claim that they really don’t care. If you’re fat or emaciated you can certainly win a girl over based on a myriad of other attributes and have a wonderful relationship despite of it… but only 1.1-3% of women won’t have cared at all about it when selecting you.

Lesson #8: You don’t need to be THAT big or THAT lean. In fact, if you get too muscular or too ripped girls don’t like it as much

When presented with these four “sex icons” 63.2% of women chose Bob Harper, the personal trainer from The Biggest Loser. Up next, with only 24.2% of votes is the coveted Ryan Reynolds body. Up third is Men’s Health / underwear model Scott Herman. Even with the “best abs on the East Coast” title under his belt he still can’t hold his own against the far smaller and far less defined Bob Harper. Why? Because Scott Herman looks like a model with a contrived body, and Harper looks like a fit man with modest confidence. Adrien Brody didn’t do so well either. I suppose he’s a little too small and defined, giving him that too-much-effort unnatural look.

We asked girls why they made their choice. Here’re some of their answers:

  • Because it’s at once lean and muscular. Not too muscular.
  • Fit but not overdone.
  • Greatly fit, but not overly muscular.
  • I don’t find particularly defined abnominal muscles nice looking.
  • I don’t like overly defined abs, its less natural looking,
  • He isn’t disgustingly ripped.
  • It looks the most natural/normal.
  • It seems most proportional.
  • It’s not.. too much…
  • Not excessively ripped!
  • Not too overboard in fitness
  • health, tonned but not too much… the others are a little too intense
  • it looks healthy, and not overdone!
  • looks healthy, young, and not overly defined
  • muscles well-proportioned
  • not as defined – i don’t like too much muscle, but i dont like skinny either
  • not obsessively or overly muscular
  • not over the top muscular
  • not too buff not too slim, jussstt right 😉
  • The abs don’t pop out as much, it looks more like a body of someone who is fit because of a sport as opposed to someone who does it for looks.

All of the answers say basically the same thing. Girls like fit looking guys. If your super-chiseled abs looks like you eat low sodium plain boiled chicken breasts and unseasoned broccoli all day… well… that just isn’t as sexy.

Ironically, of course, the body that girls selected is famous for being a fitness guru. His body/health is obviously a huge priority to him.

We asked the guys the same question (which body do you think WOMEN find the most attractive). 60% guessed Ryan Reynolds, 22% guessed Scott Herman, and only 14% guessed correctly with Bob Harper. Guys have no idea that women don’t want to be dating a Men’s Health model.

Lesson #9 — If you really want to go overboard and get the Arnold physique you won’t have a problem with the babes

There’s a subset of girls out there that adore bodybuilder bodies. There aren’t many, but since there are so few bodybuilders out there, those guys have plenty of girls to choose from. In order to get that effect though, you really need to be absolutely freakin’ enormous. If only 1% of girls (as our bodybuiler question indicates) want a freaky huge man… you’ve got to be bigger and freaker than 99% of guys. And if you’re bigger than 99.9% of  dudes, well then you’ve got 10 girls competing for you.

Bonus Lesson (because we were curious) — Here’s what women think about grooming and manscaping:

Girls like guys that wear their hair medium and messy (39.2%) or short and carefree (39%). Sadly, it looks like only 7.8% of women dig my “long and wild!” haircut. I like to tell myself that girls like that I don’t care what they think about my haircut though.

Chest hair? 45% of women say keep it natural unless you’re a werewolf, and 36% say tame it. 4% like super hairy men. 15% like guys with shaved chests. I’m not sure how my naturally rather hairless chest fits into the mix here. Do I get points for being natural, tame AND shaven? That’d be pretty rad.

When it comes to facial hair 60% of women say scruffy and manly. Right on.  29% prefer ‘em smooth. 6% dig beards… but less than 1% dig the massive Hell’s Angels style beards… so don’t go too crazy! And mustaches and goatees collectively got 0%. Looks like we didn’t poll enough hipsters.

The hair down under? Manscaping? What do girls want? 85% say tame it — the 70’s are gone. 7% don’t like pubes and want ‘em shaved. Hopefully they don’t also prefer children. Yikes. And 8% think the 70’s are still on. So you’re allowed to have hair… just keep it, you know, clean.

Lesson #10 — Summer’s here. The Ultimate beach bod:

Once again the fit-but-not-freaky looking one takes the lead.

And the ultimate ideal perfect sexiest male body?

When shown all of the photos at once 23% of women chose Brad Pitt’s torso, 19% chose fitness guru Bob Harper, and 15% chose the bangin’ beach bod from up above. There’s a pretty well-defined “range of perfection”. You need to be muscular, but not too muscular. Being slim and well muscled is perfect, and so is being a little muscle-bound, so long as it looks natural and healthy. You can be lean like Brad, or muscular but with no abs like Mr. Speedo and girls love both. You’ve just got to be and look healthy. That’s harder for some than others of course. Some people find themselves “naturally” overweight or underweight (like Jared and I were) and it takes some work to get into that healthy and fit range (our transformation). Once there though, it’s a blast, and pretty easy to maintain without getting all obsessive about it.

What do men think? They preferred Zyzz’s body (right) — the body that didn’t even register on the females’ radar because of its too-swollen muscles and too-chiseled abs.

I like the survey results. Looks like the ideal male body is the one that visually exudes health and energy. Does it suck that emaciators, chubsters and steroid monkeys aren’t on an equal playing field? Not really. Perhaps it’ll encourage the unhealthy to become healthy. Many girls face the pressures of trying to get the underfed model look that runs rampant in the high fashion circles and pop culture magazine covers. Do guys really want a scrawny woman? I don’t. Similarly, it looks like girls don’t want the juicing giants on the covers of Men’s Health and bodybuilding magazines. Luckily, it seems, if guys act based on what the girls pressure them to be, they’ll end up healthy and active — and have a body that reflects that.

Have an opinion? Drop us a line in the comments below!

And if you’re on the scrawny side of things and thinking “man—I need to build some muscle!”, check Bony to Beastly out.

Update: inspired by the results of our survey, and intrigued by the comments demanding a more science-based approach … we’ve written up a new article based on dozens of studies. Check this article on aesthetics out.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
215 Responses to “The Ideal Male Physique — What girls want & what guys want to be”
  1. Barry Lyndon
    February 17th, 2016
    9:41 am

    Haha. Take a look at Zyzz doing an expo or trolling a kebab shop. He is batting the women off like flies and the ones he decided to pick up for a hug are giddy for hours. The photos of the bodybuilders are taken at contest time-photo shoot time in general they look far less… vascular and would come across as just more powerful looking versions of the more ‘natural’ looks. I’m sure it’s been said but no-one achieves a godly physique like Zane or Zyzz thinking about what women are looking for. It isn’t make up or plastic surgery it requires thousands of hours of intense mental and physical domination; the motivation of pleasing the fickle mind of a capricious girl is nowhere near enough to do it. Men push yourselves and discover what you are capable of don’t let anyone restrict what you can achieve let alone a no name girl you have never met.

  2. Jim Russell
    March 16th, 2016
    1:34 pm

    LOL Bodybuilders are a salty bunch of kunts.

    You’re on dat phaggy time Brah’s, the sloots ain’t mirin’

  3. Pimp
    March 27th, 2016
    7:28 pm

    I like how all the body builders or androgen-filled males saying the results is bogus because the survey goes against their preconceptions on athletic attractiveness

  4. JohnL
    March 28th, 2016
    5:05 pm

    No they say the results are bogus because it goes against what they see going on in the real world. If you look at calendars with pictures of men marketed towards women buyers or what the average male stripper is built like you see few, if any, built like the skinny 160lbs. Fight Club Brad Pitt or Bob Harper and an awful lot built more like Frank Zane and Zyzz.

  5. Joe
    April 25th, 2016
    5:55 am

    Anyway, who cares what girls want? Only those who need girls’ approval. Feel fit, with energy, healthy. The rest can go to hell.

  6. Kreshner
    June 5th, 2016
    12:48 am

    Uh, what? The “calendars with pictures of men marketed towards women buyers” mostly do contain guys built like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Ever flipped through a Playgirl magazine?

    You’re better off being toned and moderately muscular than bodybuilder-esque. This is a consistently well-established fact, tested and true.

  7. Quora
    July 20th, 2016
    11:12 am

    Are girls really that attracted to 6 pack abs?

    This question has actually been answered, in a reasonably scientific fashion (link posted below). Although, it doesn’t necessarily address 6 pack abs specifically, it is definitely part of the equation of the ideal male physique. I think you might be…

  8. Gwen Snowden
    September 2nd, 2016
    1:00 pm

    Lool,only white guys in those pictures..You mean to tell me that women only find white guys attractive and every other man of another race isn’t?


  9. Rob
    September 2nd, 2016
    3:56 pm

    Oh geez, another special sensitive snowflake complaining that something doesn’t cater to her own personal likes or dislikes. No one “means to tell you” that women “only” like white guys, but did it cross your mind that whoever made this study is white and is living in a country where the majority of the population is also white and therefore that’s why they structured it this way?

    If it offends you somehow that they only used see white guys for their experiment why don’t you make your own with whatever kind of guys you like instead of making childish snide and silly remarks?

  10. Sengau
    September 29th, 2016
    5:25 am

    The article fails to acknowledge the fact that not all women are heterosexual; there is a portion of the entire female population that is exclusively attrcated to women (lesbians). It would be appropriate to always mention HETEROSEXUAL women in order to avoid lesbian erasure.

  11. Rob
    September 29th, 2016
    10:07 am

    The article doesn’t fail to acknowledge anything, it’s well understood by anyone with half a brain that if you’re going to read an article about female preferences on male bodies that the article is about heterosexual women, why would they even need to mention lesbians at all since it’s not what the article was about? Sounds like you have an agenda of your own.

  12. Brianna
    October 10th, 2016
    1:27 pm

    I get it, percentages and all don’t account for individuals. But I came across this article trying to find something on coming to terms with body changes. I’very been with my thin guy for 5 years, and suddenly he started “sprouting muscles”. He doesn’t look bad, but it’s totally freaking me out. I’d been attracted to and fell in love with a skinny man, and it’s like I’m with a different person now. I’m being positive and supportive because it’s clear that it’s making him happy, but it has not increased my attraction to him. I wonder how that 80 something percent would feel if it actually happened. In theory it sounds great, of course you’d like it if the man you love got “better” looking. In practice it’s a lot to take in, and a little confusing.

  13. J
    October 11th, 2016
    9:23 pm

    Shut the F*** up Brianna your just scare that if he turns hotter he will leave you for a better looking girl which happens alot when a guy realizes what he is made of. Instead of complaining start working out or else you will lose him.

    October 12th, 2016
    3:44 am

    unbelievable what I’m reading and seeing women are just shallow and look like crap those are the ones that doesn’t appreciate a well built physique man gtfo.

  15. Rob
    October 13th, 2016
    9:42 am

    Although he could have been a bit nicer I agree with J, Brianna sounds like one of those people that feel threatened when their partner improves him or herself because she knows once he does he will start looking around for someone better.

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