We wanted to figure out which male body types women would find the most attractive, as well as which body types men thought women would find the most attractive. To do this, we ran an informal study, surveying over 1000 people to see which bodies they preferred. The results surprised us.
We created several photo arrays and asked women to rate which male bodies they found the most attractive. Then we asked men to guess which bodies the women had picked. It quickly became clear that most men were trying to build bodies that women didn’t even find attractive, let alone ideal. (We’ve since confirmed these results with a second survey using illustrations instead of photos.)
There were some surprises for women, too. For example, when we asked women which celebrity had the most attractive body, the most popular response was Ryan Reynolds. However, when we cropped his head off and placed his body in a line-up, they told us that he was overly lean and musclebound.
On the other hand, Brad Pitt’s headless body (as Tyler Durden in Fight Club) performed incredibly well in the photo arrays, being rated as extremely attractive by both men and women, showing some overlap between male and female preferences. But what was so special about this particular body type?
After all, Ryan Reynolds is only slightly leaner and more muscular than Brad Pitt, and yet those small changes made a dramatic difference (for the worse). Women thought that Brad Pitt looked strong and healthy, whereas they thought Ryan Reynolds looked like a fitness model, assuming he must be obsessed with his appearance.
Along with covering which male bodies and physical traits were rated as the most attractive by women, we’ll also cover which physiques men found the most impressive and what level of leanness and muscularity guys were most eager to achieve.
Lesson #1: Strong Beats Musclebound
Brad Pitt was rated as having the sexiest male body by 73% of women. Even the women who didn’t vote for him still found him attractive, with 87% of women said he had a sexy physique.
In second place, we’ve got the musician Henry Rollins, with 12% of women chose him as their favourite, and 42% of women said he had an attractive physique.
The MMA fighter comes next, with 10% preferring his physique and 37% saying he was attractive.
In last place, with just 1% of the vote, 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 are attracted to.)
There are some interesting findings here. It’s no big surprise that Brad Pitt was rated as having the most attractive male body. His physique in Fight Club is famous for exactly that reason: because both men and women love how it looks.
However, what surprised me was that Henry Rollins’ thin physique took second place, outperforming the athletes and bodybuilders. It’s worth noting, though, that even though Henry Rollins is fairly thin in that photo, he’s known for lifting weights and being disciplined with his routine.
Perhaps most surprising, the starving sex icon Ville Valo beat out Frank Zane, the king of bodybuilding aesthetics. (Although we’ll explain how that can be misleading a little later.)
I also found it interesting that while almost all women loved Brad Pitt’s size, some were turned off by guys who were just slightly bigger (such as the MMA athlete), whereas other women were turned off by guys who were just slightly smaller (such as Henry Rollins). There may be other factors playing into that, though, such as body-fat percentage and proportions, which we’ll cover later.
The most interesting result, though, was that 50% of the men who completed the survey wanted to look like the bodybuilder Frank Zane, beating out the 40% of guys who wanted to look like Brad Pitt. This means that half of the men who completed the survey wanted the physique that women find the least attractive.
- If we filter the data by girls who self-identified as athletes, there’s a preference for more muscular male body types. Brad Pitt drops to 54%, the heavyweight fighter jumps to 31%, and the bodybuilder jumps to 15%.
- If we filter the data by girls who self-identified as creatives, the opposite happens, with a preference for thinner male physiques. Brad Pitt goes up to 73%, Henry Rollins goes up to 17%, and the heavyweight fighter drops to 7%
- If we look at the girls interested in fashion, there’s an even stronger preference for thinner builds. Brad Pitt drops to 67%, the healthy-looking Henry Rollins goes up to 22%, and the skinny Ville Valo goes up to 11%.
- No matter how we filter the results, Brad Pit’s Fight Club physique always wins by a landslide. It’s a physique that almost all women can agree is attractive, regardless of their differing personal preferences.
Lesson #2: Soft Isn’t Sexy, But Neither is Bony
When comparing guys of different body-fat percentages and body mass indexes (BMI), Anthony Ketis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers took home the prize with 58% of women preferring his body-fat percentage and 81% of women finding his body attractive.
Gerard Butler’s overweight physique came in third, with only 15% of women preferring his higher body-fat percentage.
Christian Bale, emaciated for his role in The Machinist, came in dead last with 0 votes.
What’s interesting is that Anthony Ketis’ and Brad Pitt’s bodies are similar in many ways. Both have around the same BMI, both are lean, and both look healthy and fit. However, their muscle proportions are quite different. Brad Pitt built his physique by lifting weights, developing proportionally bigger shoulders, arms, and pecs, whereas Anthony Ketis built his body with surfing and cardio.
Fortunately, we also had a photo array where women had to pick between both. More on that at the end.
Lesson #3: Healthy Is More Attractive than Hulking
We asked women to check off everything they thought was important about a man’s physique. Here are the significant results:
- 89% of women said men who keep themselves in good shape are more attractive.
- 75% of women want their men to be stronger than them.
- 62% of women want a man who can protect them.
- 59% thought it was important for men to have bigger arms than them.
- 38% said that being physically strong was important.
- 38% said that having an average physique was okay.
- Only 3% said that being ripped and muscular was important.
Lesson #4: Being Obsessed with Looking Attractive Undermines Attractiveness
So far, it’s clear that women prefer the physiques of guys who are in great shape. All the top-rated bodies were built with exercise, and most of them were built by lifting weights.
However, women want a guy who looks athletic because he enjoys being active and lifting heavy things, not because he’s obsessed with his appearance. If a guy seems like he spends all day staring at himself in the mirror while doing bicep curls and sipping protein shakes, all of a sudden, he becomes even less attractive than the guys who don’t exercise at all.
To be clear, Brad Pitt, who built his physique by lifting weights, was rated as the most attractive by almost all the women who took the survey. However, Ryan Reynolds, who was only slightly leaner and more muscular, seemed to have a physique that looked contrived—like he must be a guy who’s overly concerned with his appearance.
If you talk about wanting to be strong, how you enjoy lifting weights, and how you love cooking good food, you’ll gain points. 92% of women said they want a man who keeps himself in good shape.
However, there’s a tipping point. Only 3% of women said that being a health nut was attractive. If you talk about bodybuilding in the gym every day, or you’re obsessed with training for a marathon, or you get stressed out by the thought of having a beer, then women begin to think that your priorities are skewed.
The more obsessed a man is with his body, the more unattractive it becomes. Women want fitness to be just one component of a rich life.
Lesson #4: Modest Confidence is Sexy
Next, we asked women to tell us how much confidence, shame, indifference, or narcissism a man should feel about his body. Here’s what they answered:
- 62% thought men should have modest confidence
- 35% of women said that a man should have pure confidence
- 3% said that men should feel indifferent about their bodies
- 1 woman preferred insecure men
Lesson #5: Wives Don’t want their Husbands to Have a Dad Bod
We asked women in relationships if they would be okay with their partners being chubby, like the photo of Gerard Butler on the left, or if they would prefer if he were fit, like on the right.
- 78% of women said they wanted their partner to be in good shape, like the photo on the right.
- 21% of women said they didn’t care.
- 1% preferred the chubby version.
Speaking of which, if you’ve got a skinny-fat physique and you want to get in shape, we have an article about how to approach losing fat and gaining muscle.
Lesson #6: Women Don’t Want Their Partners to be Underweight, Either
We asked women what they would prefer if they had a naturally skinny boyfriend or husband. Would it be okay if their partners were skinny, like the photo of Christian Bale on the left, or would they prefer if he bulked up, like on the right?
- 83% of women said they’d prefer if their partner bulked up
- 17% of women didn’t mind if he was skinny
Speaking of which, if you’re a skinny guy who’s interested in bulking up, we have an article about how long it would take to make a bulking transformation like that one, another about the best type of workout for bulking up, and a third about how to eat a proper bulking diet. In fact, we have an entire website about how to bulk up.
Lesson #7: A Great Physique Won’t Ever Hurt Your Chances, But a Bad One Will Hurt Your Chances 97% of the Time
Next, we asked single women what they were looking for in a man when it comes to health, fitness, and his body:
- 62% of women were looking for a man with a great physique but pointed out that it was just one of many factors
- 13% said that a guy’s physique doesn’t need to be great; he shouldn’t be overweight or skinny
- 6% said that a guy having a great physique is one of the most important factors
- 2% said it shouldn’t matter, but wouldn’t date a chubby guy
- 1% said it shouldn’t matter, but wouldn’t date a skinny guy
- 1% said they truly wouldn’t mind if a guy is out of shape
Adding those groups up, 96% of women said they would prefer dating a guy who’s in good shape, whereas only 1% of women were totally open to dating men of any size or shape.
Now, to be clear, if you’re in bad shape, you can certainly win a girl over based on a myriad of other attributes… but 97–99% would still have found you more attractive if you’d been in better shape.
Lesson #8: Women Don’t Like Guys Who Are Musclebound or Shredded
In this photo array, we chose male physiques featured on magazine covers because of their purported sex appeal. We asked women to rank their bodies from most attractive to least attractive.
63% of women said that Bob Harper, the celebrity personal trainer from The Biggest Loser, had the most attractive best male body. They told us that they chose his body because it looked “natural and fit.”
In second place, with 24% of votes, is Ryan Reynolds, who women said was less attractive because he was “excessively ripped.”
Up third, with 12% of votes, is the underwear model Scott Herman, another famous personal trainer who has modelled for Men’s Health. Again, women said that his body was too big, too muscular, and “overboard.”
In last place, with just 1% of the votes, we have Adrien Brody. Women said he was too thin.
Here are some quotes from the survey where the women explain why they chose a particular body:
- Because it’s at once lean and muscular. Not too muscular.
- It looks the most natural/normal.
- It looks healthy and not overdone!
- Fit but not overdone.
- Fit but not overly muscular.
- I don’t find particularly defined abdominal muscles nice looking.
- I don’t like overly defined abs. It looks less natural.
- He isn’t disgustingly ripped.
- It seems most proportional.
- It’s not… too much…
- Not excessively ripped!
- Not too overboard in fitness
- Healthy, toned, but not too much. The others are a little too intense.
- Looks healthy, young, and not overly defined
- The muscles are well-proportioned
- I don’t like too much muscle, but I don’t like skinny either.
- Not obsessively or overly muscular.
- Not over-the-top muscular.
- Not too buff, not too slim, just right 😉
- The abs don’t pop out as much. It looks more like the body of someone fit because of a sport as opposed to someone who does it for looks.
All of the answers say basically the same thing: there’s such a thing as being too lean. It turns out that women like guys who are in good shape because they live a healthy lifestyle, not because they’re obsessed about their appearance. When women see a guy with chiselled abs, they imagine a guy who cares about his appearance so much that he eats plain low-sodium boiled chicken breasts and unsalted broccoli all day. That doesn’t look sexy to them; it just looks vain.
Ironically, of course, the male body women rated as the sexiest belongs to a celebrity personal trainer. His physique is a huge priority, and he approaches his workouts and diet with an incredible amount of discipline. In fact, he likely puts more effort into his physique than Ryan Reynolds does; it just doesn’t look that way.
Interestingly, when we asked men to guess which body women would find the most attractive, 60% guessed Ryan Reynolds, 22% guessed Scott Herman, and only 14% correctly guessed Bob Harper.
Guys assumed that Bob Harper didn’t look lean or strong enough. They thought women would prefer a guy with bigger muscles and better abs.
Lesson #9: Paradoxically, Guys Who Are Shredded and Musclebound Still do Great With Women (Due to Their Scarcity)
It would be fair to assume that because bodybuilders are consistently being ranked as having worse physiques by women, they’d have trouble dating. That’s actually not true, and it has to do with how rare their bodies are.
Only a small subset of women adore bodybuilder bodies, but since there are even fewer bodybuilders out there, they still have plenty of women to choose from.
Think of it this way: if 1/100 women prefer dating bodybuilders, but only 1/1000 men is a successful bodybuilder, then you have a situation where ten women are competing for every single bodybuilder. This is why the guys with more impressive physiques are often convinced that women love big muscles. In their world, women do love big muscles.
Now consider someone who’s out of shape. Let’s say that 1/50 women are perfectly okay dating someone who’s out of shape, but 45/50 guys are out of shape. Many guys in poor shape are competing for a small number of women. This can make it much harder to date.
Lesson #9.5: Grooming and Manscaping
Hair length: Most girls like guys with medium-length (39.2%) or short (39%) hair. Only 8% of women prefer men with long hair. But because fewer than 8% of men have long hair, every guy with long hair will have multiple women who favour him.
Chest hair: 85% of women liked guys with chest hair. However, many of them pointed out that if a guy is especially hairy, they will find him more attractive if he tames his chest hair (without shaving it off completely).
15% of women liked guys with shaved chests.
Facial hair: When it comes to facial hair, 60% of women preferred scruffy guys because they thought it looked the most masculine.
29% of women preferred men who shaved their bodies smooth.
6% of women preferred men with beards. However, less than 1% of preferred the massive Hell’s Angels-style beards.
0% of women preferred men with moustaches and goatees.
Manscaping (shaving pubic hair): 93% of women said they preferred men with pubic hair, with 91% of them wanting it trimmed and 9% wanting it wild.
7% of women preferred men with completely shaved pubic hair.
Lesson #10: Confirming Results with Speedos
In this photo array, we found photos of guys in speedos and had women rank their physiques from the most attractive to the least attractive.
As expected, the guy who looked naturally strong and fit was rated as having the most attractive male body, beating out the guys who weren’t muscular enough, as well as the guys who were considered overly musclebound.
Speaking of speedos, there’s a weird phenomenon where male muscularity tends to be judged by just upper-body muscularity. Leg size doesn’t seem to be much of a factor. Not that having muscular legs is bad or anything, just that leg muscularity doesn’t seem to affect a man’s attractiveness at all. Women don’t appear to notice or care unless a man’s legs are glaringly disproportionate.
When it comes to the female bodies men find most attractive, lower-body size matters greatly. It’s an interesting difference in how men and women think differently about attractiveness. (We’ve got an article on the most attractive female body here.)
Which Male Physique Was Rated #1 Overall?
Finally, we showed women all the photos at once and asked them to pick their absolute favourite male physique. Here’s what happened:
- Brad Pitt’s body came in first, with 23% of women saying that his torso was the sexiest male physique overall. If there’s an ideal male physique, it seems like this is it.
- 19% of women chose Bob Harper’s body as the most attractive overall.
- 15% of women chose the muscular beach body, an old-time natural lifter, back before steroids were invented.
There are a few interesting things about these results:
- Women preferred the bodies of guys who lift over the bodies of guys who do cardio. Anthony Ketis’ surfer body didn’t make it into the top three. In fact, all three most attractive bodies were the result of lifting weights.
- There’s a range of perfection. It would help if you were muscular, but not too muscular. Being slim and well-muscled is perfect, and so is being bigger and more muscular, so long as your body still looks natural, healthy, and not overly contrived.
- Women don’t care if you have abs. If anything, if your abs are too chiselled, women might start to think your body looks worse.
Which physique was rated #1 overall by men? When we asked men which male physique they thought looked the best, the vast majority preferred Zyzz’s body— a body that didn’t even register on women’s radar.
However, Brad Pitt’s Fight Club physique was also quite popular, making it a great example of a physique considered ideal by both men and women.
Read Next: A Scientific Look at Building an Attractive, Aesthetic Physique. Intrigued by the results of this survey and inspired by the comments demanding a more science-based approach, we’ve written up a new article that goes over all of the research on which male body types women find the most attractive.