A question of age-old interest to men is, what do women actually find to be most physically attractive about them? Is it the way they dress, their gestures, posture, a handsome face, beard or lack of one, height, weight? Science has discovered that women find men’s strength their most physically attractive trait.
Strength accounts for 70% of variation in attractiveness
The study is “Cues of upper body strength account for most of the variance in men’s bodily attractiveness“. The researchers merely showed photographs of men of varying strengths to women, who were asked to rate the attractiveness of each man. The women doing the rating were students from Australia and Oklahoma.
The women not only found the stronger men attractive, but strength accounted for a full 70% of the variation in attractiveness between the men.
Other results include:
- Strength was a “robust and much larger predictor of attractiveness than either height or weight”
- “Height is attractive even independent of making a man look strong.” Not really news, I suppose.
- Weight is unattractive after controlling for how strong a man looks.
- Height, weight, and ratings of strength collectively account for 80% of the variance in attractiveness.
I’m surprised at the low ratings of height, and I’m guessing that it could be skewed by the fact of using photographs rather than in-person ratings. But who knows. The authors suggest that height matters to women precisely because it indicates greater strength.
In the case of strength, there was no evidence of a U- or J-shaped curve. Strength was linearly correlated with attractiveness, meaning that in this experiment, the strongest men were the most attractive. Although I wonder what most women have to say about someone like Phil Heath. In my experience, most women say they dislike the big bodybuilder look.
It’s important to note that strength was the most important predictor of physical attractiveness, not mate value. Science shows that women look for many other qualities in a mate, most notably social status.
Why strength is important
There are a couple of plausible reasons why strength is so important to physical attractiveness.
One, it indicates fighting and hunting ability, i.e. the ability of a man to protect and provide for his woman and their children.
Two, it indicates health. Lean muscularity is the ideal state of male health, which is a major theme here at Rogue Health and Fitness. Indicators of health in women are also attractive to men, traits such as long, thick hair, glowing skin, and waist- hip ratio, all of which indicate youth, health, and fertility.
Evolution has made us so, since those who had these qualities left more surviving offspring.
Strength is important for health even in women and even in those who are not young.
While fat loss is associated with lower mortality, weight loss, which includes both fat and muscle, is associated with higher mortality. This is why it’s so important to consume adequate protein and do resistance training if you’re trying to lose weight, so that you don’t lose muscle along with the fat.
Greater strength is also associated with lower cancer mortality.
Women find greater strength in men, as indicated by muscle mass, to be more attractive, as it’s an indicator of health and the ability to provide and to fight.
Therefore, adding muscle via strength training makes a man more attractive to women.
Thing is this study was a neck down assesment. Face is probably still the most important physical feature then strength and height at #2.
I’d have to agree that ultimately, physical strength is an attractive feature in a man (though intelligence and maturity of mind will always be the biggest turn on for me). Before I got married I briefly dated a guy who was below average in height, but well built (he could do an iron cross and things like that) and I was very physically attracted to him. Then I dated someone who was 6’4″ and thin and I wasn’t really physically attracted to him, but intellectually I was (till I found out how selfish and narrow minded he was 😉 Then I met my husband-to-be who was about 5’10 or so and nicely built from natural labor like iron work. To this day, I still find him physically attractive even though he looks fairly different (as we all do as we age). I would agree with other women that I don’t find huge muscles appealing at all; in fact I find it a turn-off for some reason. (that picture of you in the black tee next to a car is ideal, imo.)Perhaps on some subconscious level I realize that they must spend a lot of hours working out to build those bulky muscles and I’d rather know a man who is fairly well read on practical subjects like health and current affairs. I don’t need a genius, just someone who isn’t obtuse or hates to read or learn anything new.
Just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth…
“that picture of you in the black tee next to a car is ideal, imo” – thanks, TeeDee, I’ll take it!
“In my experience, most women say they dislike the big bodybuilder look.”
It is a RedPill truism that you NEVER listen to what women SAY about what attracts them. You only watch what they do.
In any event, “women don’t like guys who are too big” is firstly, an excuse that weak, lazy guys use to avoid going to the gym, and secondly, irrelevant because most guys are never going to spend the years in the gym (and use the ‘roids) necessary to get “bodybuilder huge”. You can certainly get “jacked enough” to be stronger than 90% of the men around you, and to attract women, without using steroids or getting “bodybuilder huge”.
I don’t disagree with anything you wrote there, JP. My only reason for that point was because in the study, strength was linearly associated with attractiveness; if they had used photos of someone like Phil Heath, I have my doubts that it would be; there would be a U-shaped relation. But I could be wrong.
Sure, but I also think that there’s a lot of veracity to that platitude about women’s preferences. I think that many (perhaps the ones that you wouldn’t care about anyhow) are intimidated by such robust body building physiques because of a number of reasons, not the least of which might intimate some kind of overindulgent alpha male behavior or some extreme form of male dominance which might be perceived as tedious to deal with…
Of course and personally, I’m not taking any observational advice from any males regarding the “body building non-preference” cliche. But, it is not a forgone conclusion that more masculinity equals more attractiveness. Consider the example of big breasted women; basically all men appreciate a nice looking, healthy sized set, BUT many don’t prefer that they be too large for a number of reasons, not the least of those is how they look “unholstered.” Just sayin’…
Anyhow and speaking for myself, if being jacked was something that I was interested in for its own sake as it would confer health benefits, peace of mind, etc, I really wouldn’t care if women weren’t really “turned on” by it. That’s not why I’d be lifting all those weights and sticking to such a demanding regimen. I’m sure though, the sorts of discipline that one needs to exhibit to adhere to such a routine, for example, would also confer attractiveness via other channels.
Just going by what my wife always says, she doesn’t want a man who spends more time in front of the mirror than she does. She likes both physical and mental strength which express themselves as ambition and self confidence as well as a certain degree of success. Neither extreme of skinny or bodybuilder seems very attractive to her.
Very narrow study which does not reflect the reality of typical channels from introduction to dating. People who meet online have multiple photos including their face and engaged in various activities. It also takes effort between introduction and actually arranging a date that require good conversational ability.
People who meet in person tend to be more enticed by confidence and how the other person is able to elicit positive emotions. I dont think this study is a realistic reflection of the practical qualities to hone for seeking romantic success.
Of course, having a good physique will always be a net positive, but most people would be better served getting over approach anxiety and honing their conversational frame than adding another 20lbs to their deadlift.
Couldn’t agree more. Physical appearance will only get one’s foot in the door. It’s only when a person opens their mouth to speak that genuine attraction–or repulsion–can begin.
“It’s important to note that strength was the most important predictor of physical attractiveness, not mate value. Science shows that women look for many other qualities in a mate, most notably social status.”
Another important point regarding this study is that it gives the lie to the idea that strength, and along with it, masculinity, are not important. Current culture is trying to convince us that men can be weak and effeminate and it doesn’t matter, and that’s clearly false.
Great point. There seem to be certain laws of attraction that are immutable.
Amen. Pictures alone are such a poor reality to make sweeping judgements from. There is also strength in personality and character, how does one confront adversity. Not visible in any photo, but in any relationship it is very visible (or not.)
Henry Kissinger famously said, “Power is the greatest aphrodisiac.” And related to that is wealth, evidence of a type of power. If those pictures in the experiment and other qualifiers, “Very rich,” “CEO,” “not too bright,” or other descriptors, I’m sure the results would be skewed.
I’ve noticed that very few men of hunter-gatherer groups are well muscled by our contemporary standards. Or, look at the “strong men,” boxers, of the old eras.
Fascinating study. I train like a powerlifter, not a bodybuilder. I can out bench many local bodybuilders (I go to a pretty mediocre gym not a muscle-head gym) and I can out squat and vastly out deadlift most all of them. Yet I don’t look particular strong (I am P.D.s height and weight and build).
I guess point being you can’t always tell who’s strong by looking at them. Many of these local bodybuilders can’t do a good set of pushups, can’t squat 300 lb below parallel, etc. They’re training to look strong.
But it’s funny, women don’t typicalyl know the difference.
No doubt the study has significant design flaws, not that I disagree with premise that women are attracted to fit robust men. Last Inight I watched a science show on Fiddler crabs and similar animals, this is analogous. Female Fiddler crabs choose their mates based upon the size of the male’s left claw, and hence males have evolved to have ridulously large left claws, even though the giant claws have no functional advantage, they are actually a huge burden, and are just for display.
> even though the giant claws have no functional advantage, they are actually a huge burden, and are just for
This is EXACTLY what sexual selection is all about!
This is called “Costly signalling theory”:
To be a honest, not easily fake-able signal of superior fitness, it must be something that is exceedingly, ridiculously over-expressed and an outright “waste” of resources:
Consider the peafowl;
Its tail is ridiculously large and colorful:
1. It is metabolically expensive (it would be better for survival of the bird if those resources would go into muscles or energy storage)
2. It makes the bird more easily spotted by predators
3. It hinders movement/mobility/flight, therefore hinders finding food + escaping from predators
Natural selection should (and does) select against this outrageous tail.
But sexual selection selects for this tail, and sexual selection is stronger.
It is a honest sexual signal of fitness. Weak peafowls cannot afford to show off such a tail, they are hindered by it and fall prey to predators. Only the best, fittest, most healthy, strong male birds can present such a tail.
Weaker birds cannot fake it.
This also happens in humans:
Our “tails” are huge mansions, social status, outrageously expensive cars costing as much of a nice house, in men.
In women, it’s physical attraction when naked and “bare”.
Humans try to fake their genetic value to mates, for example by (in men) going in debt for luxury items (cars, watches, suits )or lying about one’s status; (in women) faking one’s physical attractiveness (corsets, makeup, artificial hair, beauty surgery).
Because cheaters are so common (among animals and us humans), costly signalling theory states that outrageously costly signals are superior signals of individual fitness, because they are more fake-proof:
Being really rich, owning yachts and airplanes and huge mansions and $500,000-watches is very difficult to fake outright by just lying, using debt or cheap fake watches – the very fact that a man is able to afford – that is, waste money for, such items that are economically stupid investments because they only depreciate in value – such signalling shows that he is truly superior in fitness over other men. Economic waste here translates into costly, honest sexual signalling – economically it’s stupid, but for sexual selection its ingenious.
In women having a really attractive body when naked without beauty aids+makeup is also a costly, honest signal (just judged economically, she would be better off not “wasting” resources of time and money to shape her body, but work more, receiving more wage and then use this to rear more children) – but with the proof of good genetics through signalling a really attractive body she has a higher chance for attracting a superior male, with his superior genes and resources, which translates into higher-quality, fitter, more successful offspring than not “wasting” resources for signalling and investing everything only in many children outright.
Pretty fascinating stuff
It gets even better:
Women (and men, perhaps in slightly different ways) have evolved perception systems that allow to exactly confer male upper-body strength of a man from the picture of this face alone (to press the remarkable finding again: Without seeing the actual body and muscles!).
And while we’re at the topic of human attractiveness and body fat/muscles:
I always found it remarkable what happens to facial attractiveness after losing excess body fat and/or gaining muscles.
I will link a few examples of before/after pictures; try to ignore everything below the neck, perceive only what happened to the faces:
In women, specifically(?), a high body fat percentage signals advanced age; a low one youthfulness and therefore higher sexual attractiveness.
Consider pics of this young girl – in her “fat pics” she was a few years younger:
That being demonstrated, it should be mentioned that this can be exaggerated to become a bad thing, for example in becoming bulimia.
Muscle is also for women very important for attractiveness, because waist-hip ratio, sexy thighs and buttocks and a general toned body cannot be had without what this actually is: muscles.
Al those sexy round shapes in attractive women are made up of muscles in exactly the right places.
One of the simplest things women can do to increase their physical attractiveness is the humble (body-weight) squat: It tones thighs and butt in just the right way.
Generally, most women would benefit much from just a modicum (say, 5 or 10 minutes of HIT per day) of exercise – otherwise rather unremarkable (slim) women could easily gain two points or so int he human “X/10” attractiveness scale. Sadly, most women do nothing much in terms of muscle development, which is especially unfortunate because just doing a little bit would improve them significantly, much more than the same amount of exercise would improve men (who need more and more intense training, compared to women).
She’s young+slim – but lacks muscle. With a more toned body, more muscle mass in butt+thighs, she would look significantly more attractive.
That confidence that gets mentioned below. How do we obtain that, I wonder. I really really do wonder.
An established, robust way to increase self-confidence and self-worth is to win in competitions, to be successful over, not with, other humans, that is, to successfully dominate (win over, bully, enslave etc.) other humans, especially other men.
It works by immediately releasing a bout of testosterone (and perhaps other hormones or instinct patterns) immediately alternating behavior into being confident, over-confident even.
Beware: It works the other way around, too: Those who lose to other humans in dominance contests (extend this to being successful, richer, smarter, stronger, more handsome, or being promoted in careers over others) immediately suffer from their testosterone coming crushing down, they show behavior that is submissive and socially avoiding (hiding oneself socially, reclusiveness) and strongly correlated with gaining replacement rewards (food or drug – alcohol – binges, distracting from reality through TV or video games etc.).
If interested further, search for success and testosterone in pubmed etc., there are many studies showing this connection clearly.
But there is an even more sinister connection with being a loser, that is, having a low social status:
In primates, and of course humans, low social status is INDEPENDENTLY associated with significantly worse health- and life-span.
Explaining this here would take too much space, so I put it up there:
This is gravely important, because the evidence strongly suggests that not so much lifestyle, food choice or food or drug abuse or exercise are the most powerful determinants of life- and health-span in humans, but social status. And the problem with that is that it cannot be gained by everybody, because it is a zero-sum game: One can only gain the status others lose.
That’s very convincing and makes perfect sense to me. I believe that prior US Presidents have very long life spans and the link to less chronic stress is quite likely. We now live in a society where physical stress is rare but chronic emotional stress is common and of course we then try to combat this with medications. For a long time it was believed that money and status meant better and more frequent health care visits ( though there was never any evidence to support that notion), but your argument seems right to me.
I wonder how much of the effect of lower health- and life-span due to low social status (SS) is attributable to chronically elevated cortisol levels, an established effect of low SS in all primates, which includes, of course, humans.
Rising SS quickly and significantly seems not easy, and is obviously impossible for many. But if cortisol is the main driver of more disease and accelerated aging in people with low SS, then lowering cortisol may have a powerful effect:
Established methods to achieve this is simple meditation, with immediate and strong effects; and perhaps exercise, which acutely increases cortisol, but sometimes/usually(?) lowers it in the post-exercise phase.
I wonder if low SS is a component of common aggressive behavior: Because SS cannot be gained by rising one’s own SS, but also by lowering that of others, it may be actually a motivating factor for evil gossip, mobbing, bullying and much of all the other types of vulgar physical and psychological violence. It would be ironic if bullies are actually bullying because they try to instinctively improve their own health…
It’s off topic, but as we’re discussing SS and US presidents:
One hallmark of good scientific theories is that they can make surprising and correct predictions. Evolutionary psychologists came up with a hypothesis:
They expected that high-SS fathers would have more sons, and low-SS fathers more daughters, because having sons is risky, because an unsuccessful son may have low or no success in reproduction, while a daughter has always very high chances of successful reproduction – the other side of the coin is that daughters are always limited to low numbers of children physically, while sons, if they are successful, that is high-SS, can have almost “unlimited” numbers of children.
(Consider this gentleman:
He assembled a harem, just like his sons, too, with at least 50,000 young women.
Reproductive success of mass-murdering and mass-rapes: Today 0,5% of all people on earth are his descendants!)
To test their hypothesis they got out the “Who’s Who” for the world’s countries, which is a publication of the prominent leaders in each country (military, politics, economics, science). Compared to the average man (ratio here 100:100), those men in the Who’s Who had a ratio daughters:sons of 100:115.
So far, so good.
A smaller sample, but one with arguably max. SS, were the US presidents:
Here the ratio was 100:150!
The causes for this effect are, as far as I know, still unknown, but nature sure works in many fascinating ways.
“… Because SS cannot be gained ONLY by rising one’s own SS, but also by lowering…”
All very interesting, and thanks for taking the time to write those comments, Montgomery. Linda Gottfredson has written “Intelligence: Is It the Epidemiologists’ Elusive “Fundamental Cause” of Social Class Inequalities in Health?” Abstract:
Regarding those railroad workers, those who were appointed foremen were not a random sample of the workers, but likely (and on average, certainly) more intelligent than the rest. Social status is closely connected to intelligence in the modern era, and intelligence is in turn correlated to better health and long life.
A 1 standard deviation (about 15 IQ points) advantage in IQ is associated with a 24% lower mortality rate. Huge. Someone of very high intelligence, IQ >130, has only half the mortality risk of someone with average IQ of 100.
We’re thinking much alike.
IQ/g and conscientiousness (C) are both independent variables highly correlated with life success and SS. Taken together, they are an almost perfect predictor.
It should be noted that those with lower IQ and high C tend to do better than those with high IQ and low C; people with very high IQ that are junkies or homeless or people that gambled whole fortunes away are not that uncommon.
IQ/g are about insight capacity. Having more of this is always better. But one also needs to have the mental “machinery” to then be able to act on one’s insights, which is absolutely not the same: A high-IQ biochemist may have superior knowledge about nutrition/health/motivation/behavior – but that does not guarantee that he has the necessary willpower to do what he most exactly knows what is best; many medial doctors are overweight themselves, or smoke or abuse their own drugs (opiates, benzodiazepines).
If one looks at MENSA members (IQ 130+) (they have meetings and pics of themselves on the internet) and learns about their life it turns out most are far from universally successful.
It seems C and good health – and possibly other factors, perhaps a certain kind of ambitiousness, desire to win, a certain social aggression – are also needed to make it to the top of society, and all those traits have to come together in one person.
(Side note: I think that actors/musicians/pop or sports stars and the like are not truly upper class, but what I call “Potemkin rich” (from “Potemkin village”) that exist to distract the attention of the public away from the real upper class, shielding it from public attention, and to give lower-class people the – mostly false – idea that everybody can “make it” – if not by cognitive ability, then by looking or singing or playing ball nice, therefore stabilizing society by instilling a sense of false hope.)
I also thought about SS/social class and genes:
If IQ and personality traits are heritable (and they are, of course), then, given free selection of mates, good genes for health/beauty/strength/IQ/willpower etc. should slowly but surely drift towards the top end of society, while bad genes should drift downward. From that, it follows, that a meritocracy, democracy or not, would effectively and actually be a feudal system based on genetic quality. Sooner or later, perhaps, even a “homo superior”, a new species of human, that emerges out of the upper class, may come into existence (and perhaps the opposite, “homo inferior”, too, an intellectually challenged, weak-willed, ugly, unhealthy mere consumer on the lower end of the human spectrum).
I have recently written down some of my thoughts touching this topic, concerning morals and politics, but also SS and health (the pastebin.com-linked text above is copied from that); maybe you or others find it interesting:
Consider the curious case of Bill Clinton. Basically a middle class guy but clearly smart and conscientious so he makes his way to Oxford and then meets Hillary. At this point they would seem to be of equal social status. But then he ascends to the presidency which is the ultimate in SS, but now where is she in this picture? So he looks for an equal in a young and attractive woman, even at the risk of his presidency, and this almost brings him down. He’s still alive but this is through modern medicine or he would have died of a heart attack rather young. It is possible though that because of his SS he’s rushed rapidly to the best hospital and surgeons, and so his longevity will at least be indirectly due to his SS.
I’d argue that confidence can be viewed as more of a by-product of improving yourself….. I’ve noticed how much better I get treated by women who are serving me in some way – like at the supermarket for example, after having improved myself physically through a couple of years of weight lifting. This in turn has boosted my confidence which was poor to begin with. I’ve had women at the checkout talk to me more than you would normally expect when paying for a purchase and even had one go to considerable lengths to help me find something in a store I was looking for. Women reacting more favorably to you helps your confidence to improve, remember when in a public a woman will judge you on physical appearance as she has no other means to evaluate you – she does not know your education, wealth, or life experiences.
I think extremely muscular men are not as attractive to women because there is an innate sense that it is artificial . Drug enhanced. I think the female version, with great and butt implants has the same effect. By taking the hourglass figure to the extreme, it becomes too much. Just phony. Do either of these extremes struck anyone as healthy?