The main scientific theory explaining why we find certain traits attractive is that they showcase genuine advantages (study, study, study). For example, the healthiest body-fat percentage range for men is between 10–20% (study), so we’d expect that amount of fat to be considered the most attractive by women. That’s not what we see on magazine covers, though, where men are typically far leaner.
Do women really find men with the healthiest body-fat percentage the most attractive? Or do they have a preference for even leaner men with more chiseled abs?
A few years ago, we ran a survey where we asked women to rate photos of male bodies to see which physiques they found the most attractive. Our results showed that the vast majority of women preferred men who looked strong but not overly musclebound.
However, a new study titled Cues of Upper Body Strength Account for Most of the Variance in Men’s Bodily Attractiveness, authored by Aaron Sell, PhD, found that the more muscular a man’s body was, the more attractive women found it. None of the male bodies were rated as being overly muscular. In fact, the most muscular body in the study was rated as being the most attractive.
I think this new study, combined with all of the other research published since 2011, show that we need to adjust our description of the ideal male body… although maybe not in the way you’d expect.
Let’s dive in.