Bulky biceps, chiseled abs, and humongous shoulders: these used to be the physical characteristics that women desired in men.
But in recent years the scales have tipped in favor of the common man, with multiple surveys and reports indicating that the ‘dad bod’ is becoming increasingly exciting.
DailyMail.com analyzed several peer-reviewed studies looking at the ideal male body type (according to women) to see if the trend stands up to scientific scrutiny.
The research suggested that while women prefer a more realistic physique to the Hollywood hero look, they still want to see some definition.
There is some debate about what constitutes a “dad bod,” although it is generally a well-groomed but relatively slim body, and not too lean or toned.
Studies suggest that women actually prefer muscular frames like those of David Beckham and Zac Efron.
The above shows male bodies on a muscularity scale from very little muscle, at 10, to a lot, at 90. The results showed that women preferred men with an average level of muscularity.
The above shows men according to changes in their waist. The study revealed that among the college women surveyed, there was a preference for more athletic men.
There are many theories about why women prefer different physiques, but it is believed that women associate large muscles with strength, health, and protection.
A Yale professor has claimed that some women choose men with dad bodies because the physique indicates the man would be a good father.
They liked more rounded physiques less. Pictured above is Gerard Butler in Malibu in 2021.
The articles, which featured hundreds of women, presented a somewhat contradictory picture, but two things were certain: Women don’t like too much muscle or too much fat.
The sweet spot seems to be somewhere in between.
Take for example a 2012 study published by researchers at the University of Washington.
He recruited 842 college-educated women and showed them artist’s impressions of 18 male bodies to determine the desirable level of fat and muscle.
The women were shown sketches of nine bodies that varied in terms of musculature: from virtually no muscles (10) to very muscular (90).
They were then shown nine bodies representing different levels of fat, with 10 being the thinnest and 90 being the fattest.
Overall, women were more likely to say that a thinner man (scoring 40 out of 90) was the most attractive.
But they preferred a man with a little more muscle, achieving an average score of 50 out of 90.
However, it is worth noting that this man did not have bulging abs or biceps, suggesting that he desired a more normal, average appearance.
Women in Italy were asked to rate which male body type they found most attractive by varying body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). They found that the man in the top center was the most attractive.
The researchers noted in their conclusion: “Men exaggerate the level of muscularity that women actually find most attractive.”
Another study published in 2022 and carried out in Italy reached a similar conclusion: the 378 university women surveyed also said that they preferred a man with a certain amount of muscle and a medium build.
They were asked to rate three bodies based on body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
The women were shown physiques who had a BMI of 18 (which is considered underweight), 24 (which is at the top of the “normal weight” range) and 30 (which is considered obese). They chose the average physique.
The ideal body fat percentage was 17 percent, which is much lower than the less than 10 percent that Hollywood action stars have when they shoot their movies.
Some bodybuilders go as low as four percent for competitions.
Other studies have supported the conclusion that women prefer a man with a medium build and some muscle.
The above is an example of the ideal body that women in a UK study constructed.
In a study conducted in the United Kingdom, 40 women in their late teens and early twenties were given access to image-generating software and asked to design their ideal partner.
The software allowed women to vary all aspects of the male physique (including waist, legs and arms) to build their ideal partner.
The results showed that women opted for men with muscular legs and a V shape with broad shoulders.
In their conclusion, researchers from the University of Newcastle noted: “Features important for the masculine ideal are a slightly heavier and more muscular body with a specific V-shaped upper part.”
More studies on the topic are needed, as well as meta-analyses that bring together the results of several different articles.
Additionally, limitations of the research include that it has only looked at the opinions of women in their twenties, rather than older people.
The studies did not consider other factors that may influence attractiveness, such as height and perceived age.
The ideal appearance of the male body has changed substantially over time: one artist suggested that in the 1870s women preferred rounder male bodies, and in the 1980s they were more interested in muscular physiques.
Over the years, several surveys have suggested that women prefer a “dad bod.”
They include a statement from Planet Fitness published in 2021 that found that 70 percent of women thought the dad bod was better after surveying about a thousand women.
Other surveys from websites like Dating.com have also suggested that the dad bod was still on top.
But these surveys were not peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal, meaning their results were not vetted by scientists.
Dr. Richard Bribiescas, an anthropologist at Yale University, suggested in 2016 that women preferred a “dad bod.”
He said at that moment: ‘Macho makes you sick.
“The Hollywood image of the arrogant, handsome man who dispatches bad guys and gets ahead evokes a perception of indestructibility.
‘While men are on average larger and physically stronger than women, men have considerable weakness.
“We have a harder time fighting off infections and diseases than women, and…men just don’t take care of themselves.”
This has a “significantly negative impact” on the rate at which men age, he added.
In his book, How Men Age, he suggested a theory called ‘The Chubby Dad Hypothesis’, where he suggests that a father’s body may actually be healthier because higher levels of fat reduce testosterone levels, which makes more likely that a man can survive and have a stronger immune system.