Key Takeaways

  1. Research shows most women are attracted to men who are more muscular, stronger, and leaner than men who are smaller, weaker, and fatter.
  2. Research also shows that to maximize your attractiveness to women, guys only need to gain about 20 to 30 pounds of muscle and reduce their body fat percentage to 8 to 12%.
  3. Read this article to learn exactly what kind of body women do and don’t find attractive, and how to get the kind of body they want.

One of the main reasons many guys get into working out is to be more attractive to women.

And for good reason—it works.

Men have known for thousands of years that women generally prefer men who are muscular, lean, and strong to those who are soft, fat, and weak, and modern research has vindicated this fact.

This isn’t surprising, of course. 

Having a fit, healthy, athletic body is a good indicator of many desirable traits, such as discipline, determination, patience, perseverance, and self-respect.

So if you’re a guy and looking to improve your chances of finding a partner, getting in better shape should be near the top of the list. 

Of course, that raises the question: 

What kind of body do women find most attractive? 

On the one hand, many guys will tell you there’s a linear relationship between sheer size and female attraction. The more jacked you are, they say, the more the ladies swoon.

To them, this is more or less the goal: 

Their argument is simple: Women are attracted to big, strong men who look like they can defend them. Thus, the bigger and stronger you are, the more women are attracted to you.

On the other hand, some guys believe being moderately muscled and lean is the key to a sexy body—a physique more like Cristiano Ronaldo than The Rock:

And there’s a smaller cohort of guys who think it doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you have charisma/make women laugh/are nice/etc. 

Who’s right? 

Well, luckily, scientists have actually been studying what women find attractive in men for decades, including what kind of body they want their men to have. 

While the exact preferences of every woman differ, research has proven most women are consistently attracted to a handful of physical traits in men, and striving to achieve these traits can make you significantly more sexy to women. 

Keep reading to learn what kind of body women find most attractive.


What Type of Physique Do Women Find Most Attractive? 

Evolutionary theory states that a fit, healthy, capable male looks strong, lean, and muscular, and women have learned over the course of millennia to recognize and prefer these outward displays of health.

There are many reasons for this. 

For one, men who are more muscular, leaner, and stronger are perceived as healthier and thus more likely to produce healthy, robust children. 

Second, these traits are also signs of physical formidability—what researchers define as perceived strength and fighting ability.

While most modern humans don’t need to hunt, fight, and kill for food, resources, and protection, we did for thousands of years, and this genetic programming doesn’t disappear after a few decades of peaceful living. In other words, women perceive stronger men as better able to defend them and their children and secure resources than weaker men.

In other words, there’s a kernel of truth to the typical meathead logic of more muscle = more attraction.

It’s clear women like men who are bigger, leaner, and stronger. 

Does this mean the bigger, leaner, and stronger you get, the more attractive you’ll become to women? 


In fact, research conducted by scientists at Chapman University shows that past a certain point, becoming bigger and leaner (and thus appearing stronger), becomes unattractive. As the authors concluded, “ . . . men with moderate muscularity are rated most attractive.”

What’s more, other research conducted by scientists at the University of Texas shows that although many men think women prefer the bulky bodybuilder look, in reality women prefer more moderately muscled, athletic-looking guys.

The same study found a few other fun facts about what women do and don’t find attractive in men: 

  • They found many guys tend to think women care most about their upper bodies, but in reality women prefer men with well developed legs and upper bodies. 
  • They also found that more attractive women generally have higher standards for what they find physically attractive in men—wanting their partners to have “more developed” (but not necessarily bigger), muscles. 

In other words, they want guys with slightly more muscle and significantly less body fat than the average person. 

  • They found that women were most attracted to muscles that are harder to develop, primarily the abs and biceps. Interestingly, the muscles women found most attractive were, in this order: glutes, biceps, abs, pecs, shoulders, obliques, triceps, and quads.

That said, none of these muscles seemed to be deal-breakers in terms of attractiveness. Although the women in this study had slight preferences for particular muscles, it was the whole package that made them swoon: a well developed upper and lower body with low levels of body fat.

Now, you’ll occasionally run into women who claim to prefer “skinny guys,” but, like men, what they say they want is often different from what they actually want. In an anonymous research setting, women almost universally prefer stronger, leaner, more muscular men to weaker, fatter, less muscular ones. 

For example, in a study conducted by scientists at California State University, the researchers showed 160 women in their late teens and early 20s shirtless pictures of similar-aged men, some of whom were recruited from college gyms and others from psychology classes.

The results were crystal clear: 

The more muscular, lean, and athletic-looking the guy, the more attractive he was to the women. 

As the researchers concluded, “None of the 160 women in our study who rated attractiveness produced a statistically significant preference for weaker men.”

In fact, the correlation between perceived strength and muscularity and attractiveness was much stronger than the correlation between height and attractiveness. That is, while women generally prefer taller men, they care much more about how strong, muscular, and athletic they look.

Now, this might seem to contradict the research you just learned about showing “bigger isn’t always better,” but if you look at some of the pictures of the “muscular” guys in this study, it’s clear none of them were #dedicated bodybuilders. Their physiques ranged from fat, to skinny fat, to kinda athletic, to somewhat muscular and ripped (which the women found most desirable). 

In other words, a fairly average range of bodies from a college campus.

Although the researchers didn’t take precise measurements, I can make some educated guesses as to what these guys looked like based on how much muscle you can gain naturally, how long these people had likely been training properly (2 to 3 years), and the quality of their training and diet (probably not great).

Based on that info and the few pictures the researchers shared in the study, I’d say the most muscular guys in this study likely had about 15 to 20 pounds of additional muscle and were around 10 to 15% body fat, which anyone can achieve with a halfway decent diet and training plan.

In other words, simply lifting weights a few times per week, maintaining a relatively low body fat percentage, and eating properly will instantly make you much more attractive to most women.

For comparison, the average American male is 30 pounds overweight, has a waist circumference of 40 inches, a BMI of about 29, and little to no muscle mass.

So, with the bar so low, you really don’t have to work that hard to make yourself stand out from the herd.

Now, all of this begs the question: is it possible to get too big without taking steroids? 

Summary: Research shows women almost universally prefer more muscular, leaner, stronger-looking men to less muscular, fatter, and weaker ones—to a point. In general, the “ideal” male physique to most women means having moderate (not massive) amounts of muscle in the upper and lower body and a low body fat percentage. 

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Can You Really Get Too Big? 

Can you build enough muscle that you actually become unattractive to women? 

Well, yes and no. 

I’d say yes if you’re taking steroids or have too high of a body fat percentage.

I’d say no if you’re a natural weightlifter with a low to moderate body fat percentage.

If you’ve ready anything about the effects of steroids like testosterone, Winstrol, or trenbolone, you know these drugs allow you to reach levels of leanness and muscularity that, evolutionarily speaking, make absolutely no sense and haven’t been possible until the past ~70 or so years. 

Here’s what I’m talking about: 

While this guy obviously has an impressive physique in terms of size and conditioning, it looks . . . unnatural. 

And if you were to show this picture and others like it to most women, the reaction usually ranges from apathy (“he must work out, huh?”) to curiosity (“how did he get that big?”) to outright aversion (“ewwwwww”).

The fact is that most women don’t like the way steroid users look.

Even if they have good proportions, steroid users’ freakish size simply looks ridiculous and more often than not indicates undesirable qualities like insecurity, narcissism, and selfish, short-term thinking. After all, steroid use is associated with and may even contribute to poor mental health.

And that’s not to mention the accompanying acne, male pattern baldness, water retention, breast growth, and other nasty visual side effects of steroids that could repulse women.

As you learned a moment ago, research confirms this: there is a point where more muscle becomes less attractive, and it’s not unreasonable to assume this threshold would be somewhere around the natural limit for most guys. 

After all, why would women evolve to be attracted to cartoonishly large muscles, when that look simply didn’t exist until the last few decades? 

Here’s another reason I don’t think you can get “too big” naturally: 

Even with great genetics, your physique at its absolute best will still look remarkably normal as a natural weightlifter. 

Don’t get me wrong: if you’re at your genetic limit for muscle growth and sub 10% body fat, you’ll turn heads at the pool.

But you still won’t be all that big, more like “not small.” And while you’ll look better in clothes than most people, you won’t look all that different from someone who’s ~12% body fat and has a little more muscle than the average guy.

Now, it is possible for some muscle groups to become disproportionately large compared to others, even without steroid use, thus scrambling your proportions and hurting your overall “aesthetics,” as the narcissistic bodybuilders call it.

For example, at one point my legs looked far too big compared to my upper body. 

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Some would say at this point I should have focused on losing muscle in my legs, but I didn’t want to do this because:

  1. I like having strong legs and squatting hundreds of pounds.
  2. Although my legs were big, they were still about as big as you’d expect them to be after years of consistent lower body training.
  3. I’d rather build up my upper body to make my legs more proportional, rather than shrink my lower body.

And so that’s exactly what I did, and while I still haven’t quite evened out the imbalance between my upper and lower body (I could use some more shoulders and biceps), none of my body parts are obviously out of proportion.

In other words, the problem wasn’t that my legs were “too big,” but that my upper body was too small in comparison. 

Another way you can look “too big” as a natural is if you have a large amount of muscle mass and too much body fat. 

That is, if you have 30+ pounds more muscle than the average guy and you’re 15+% body fat, you can start to take on a bloated, puffy appearance, especially when you’re in clothes (when it’s more difficult to tell the difference between fat and muscle). 

Of course, this isn’t a problem of excess muscle, but of excess body fat, which is easily corrected by a proper weight loss diet.

So, all in all I’d say it’s more or less impossible to build too much muscle as a natural weightlifter. As long as you don’t take steroids, focus on improving your bodily proportions, and maintain a low body fat percentage, you’ll likely fall somewhere in the sweet spot for what women find physically attractive.

What’s more, the same behaviors that give you a lean, muscular, strong physique also improve other aspects of your appearance that women find attractive. 

For example, eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with a healthier skin tone and increases ratings of attractiveness by the opposite sex, and getting enough sleep also makes you look healthier and more attractive.

On a final note, research also shows that in the big scheme of things, women rate other factors like socioeconomic status, extraversion, kindness, and having a sense of humor as more important than physical traits when it comes to what they find attractive. If you have all of those things and abs, though, that’s even better. 🙂

Summary: It’s nearly impossible to get “too big” without taking steroids or having a high body fat percentage. If you focus on gaining as much muscle as possible naturally, maintaining a low body fat percentage, and improving your physical proportions, you’ll probably end up with a body most women find attractive.

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The Bottom Line on What Women Find Attractive

Having a fit, healthy, athletic body is a sign of many desirable traits, which is why women have evolved to find fit, healthy, athletic-looking men more attractive than fat, unhealthy, unathletic guys.

In general, this boils down to having more muscle and less body fat than the average guy. 

Specifically, the physique women find most attractive seems to be a guy with 20 to 30 pounds more muscle than average and a low body fat percentage (8 to 12%). 

What’s more, women weren’t all that focused on any one muscle group, instead preferring guys with a well-defined upper and lower body.

Ironically, though, this doesn’t mean you become more attractive to women the more muscle you build. 

In fact, there seems to be a point of diminishing returns past which more muscle actually becomes less attractive to women.

The good news is this point is likely only achievable with steroids.

That is, it’s probably impossible to get “too big” naturally, as you simply can’t get all that big without taking drugs, especially if you stay lean, too. 

So, at bottom, here’s what you want to do if you want to be physically attractive to women: 

  1. Gain 20 to 30 pounds of muscle using a well-designed strength training plan and an effective meal plan for lean bulking.
  2. Reduce your body fat percentage to around 8 to 12%.
  3. Focus on improving your overall bodily proportions using the guidelines in this article:

How to Build the Mathematically Ideal Male Body (According to Science)

That’s it! 

Do those three things, and you’ll be more attractive to just about all women.

What do you think of maximizing your attractiveness to women? Have anything else to add? Lemme know in the comments below!

+ Scientific References