(Updated March, 2015) I figure there’s no sense denying that when it comes to dating, love and relationships, well, physical attractiveness matters. We’re very visually perceptive and we infer a lot from how people look. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s just how us humans work. The research clearly shows that whether or not people say they value physical attractiveness they still base their actions on it. Hell, even the people who truly believe that they don’t care about physical attractiveness still care about it just as much as everyone else when it comes down to who they actually date. (study, study)
These studies show that this is equally true for both men and women. Everyone places a great deal of importance on physical attractiveness. (Other very attractive traits include warmness and compassion, earning potential, etc, yet surprisingly these traits are seemingly far less important, at least at first.)
Is that the best way to pick a partner? Who knows. Probably not. However this isn’t an article about what we should find attractive, this is an article about what we do find attractive. Some of it might surprise you. Most people guess incorrectly about quite a bit of it. Just in case you disagree though, I’ll cite all my sources so that you can draw your own conclusions.
On that note, this article is long. I’ll understand if you don’t want to read the whole thing, so here’s a quick and simple trick to make yourself instantly sexier: have a drink. It will boost your attractiveness (to yourself) by 50%. This is called the reverse beer goggles effect, aka, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beer Holder. (study) Best of all, you don’t even need to have a real drink – the placebo effect is more than enough – you only have to think you’re having a real drink.
If you’re looking for a more wholesome and longer lasting aesthetic improvement, or perhaps an improvement that other people will notice too, don’t worry – that’s what the rest of this article is all about. This is an article about the biology and physiology of gut-level irresistible attraction and exactly what it looks like.
So let’s look into what’s actually optimally attractive so you can turn even more heads and drop even more jaws than you already do.
What is Sexiness?
At this point it’s probably a good idea to point out that focusing even more on our physical appearance can lead us down a path to insecurity. Sometimes cultivating a more aesthetically enlightened eye can just make us more critical of ourselves.
Always keep in mind that most guys aren’t looking at women critically. Men tend to love how women look in general. That doesn’t matter much when it comes to our own perfectionism though. Some of the most gorgeous people out there cry themselves to sleep because they’re so critical of their own physical appearance. That’s not the goal. I would prefer if you had more than your tears to keep you company at night.
What we’re talking about here is coming at this from the other side of things. Hotness, at its roots, is health and virility displayed in a very obvious and nearly impossible to fake way. In fact, this is arguably why we even value physical attractiveness in the first place. Sexiness is conspicuous health.
Exercise and nutrition doesn’t just affect how strong, lean and toned we look. That’s the positive change we see on the outside, yes, but that’s just the very tip of the iceberg. Leading a healthy lifestyle and lookin’ like da bomb also affects our longevity, mood, willpower, energy levels and all of our organs – including our brains. This is why we all intuitively assume that the cover of the book gives us clues about what’s inside.
For example, regardless of your race, healthy people’s skin looks a little different. A higher intake of vitamins and minerals (good nutrition habits), higher levels of oxygenated blood (good exercise habits) and a healthy amount of melanin (exercise, nutrition and sunlight) will turn your skin redder and yellower, giving you a healthier “glow”. It will probably go a long way to clearing up acne and improving your complexion too, but even just that ever so slightly different colouring subconsciously looks really damn hot to others. (study, study)
So, whether you’re interested in becoming the most undeniably beautiful babe on the block or you’re looking to become a smarter, healthier, stronger and more vibrant version of yourself on the inside, the methods are the same. This isn’t a makeup tutorial – the kind of physical attraction we’re talking about isn’t skin deep and, unfortunately, becoming drop dead gorgeous isn’t quite that simple.
This gets even more confusing when you start adding in all the mainstream media stuff. The mainstream media ideals when it comes to female attractiveness are often dead wrong. Not wrong in the moralistic sense of the word wrong – that’s a whole other debate – I mean factually wrong. They’re incorrect.
I’m not saying that the mainstream media is dumb. They’re not. They’re actually very clever. It’s not that they’re missing the whole point of physical attractiveness, it’s just that they’ve got a different target market. They aren’t marketing female bodies to men, they’re marketing female bodies to women. Very different market. We’ll talk about that a little bit later, but super health won’t necessarily get you as far with women as it will with men, since women are often competing based on different physical traits that aren’t relevant to physical attractiveness.
Now, on to understanding (and achieving) the ultimately attractive head-turning jaw-droppingly-hot female physique … which just so happens to be the most healthy and wholesome physique imaginable too:
Body types and the ideal female weight.
First, let’s take a look at a few everyday body types. The vast majority of women fall somewhere on this spectrum:
None of these women look morbidly obese or like they’ve been in a starvation experiment or anything, and these aren’t unhealthy or unattractive body types – far from it. These women look good, attractive and healthy, they just don’t necessarily look remarkably healthy.
The funny thing is, they may actually be remarkably healthy. For example, the thin gal may have a slender bone structure, have a naturally small appetite, eat lots of nutritious foods, and really enjoy forms of exercise that make her smaller – jogging, yoga, aerobics, etc. She may be in amazing shape even though she doesn’t look that strong or curvaceous.
Similarly, the naturally heavier gal may be a professional rugby player who exercises for several hours each day and eats a ton of nutritious food. She may be in excellent shape and excellent health, just with a higher body fat percentage.
… Or they may not be. The thin gal may be someone who doesn’t eat well enough to support muscle growth or someone who doesn’t exercise at all. Since muscle is so closely correlated with strength, she surely isn’t as strong as she could be.
And the plumper gal may be someone who doesn’t eat well, eats too much and doesn’t exercise. Since excess weight around the midsection is so closely correlated with health problems, if her lifestyle isn’t a healthy one she may be flirting with something like heart disease or diabetes.
These girls may be healthy, but they aren’t conspicuously healthy. Whether our instinctual judgements are fair or not, it’s hard to tell.
There’s nothing wrong with looking like a gal of average health who’ll live till she’s 81, but looking like the national average sure won’t get you noticed … especially when there are the rarer and more remarkable physiques of women who look like they’ll surely live to 120:
Obviously what size you’ll look and feel your best at varies depending on your body type and bone structure. Girls who are naturally thin are often able to build up enough muscle to look “slim & fit” very quickly, then could gradually work their way up to looking “strong & toned” … but it may be nearly impossible for them to rock the “strong & curvy” physique shown on the right. (example)
Similarly, someone who’s naturally voluptuous can usually become “strong & curvy” fairly quickly just by losing a bit of body fat … but may never be able to rock the very slim physique shown on the far left. (example)
With these three physiques, what men see is someone who only needs to make one trip with all of the grocery bags, someone who can easily muscle open up an old jar of honey with a sticky rim that’s keeping the damn lid glued on, someone who will make our best friends a little bit jealous, someone who can pick us up and carry us to the doctor if we get the flu, and someone who will surely pass all these impressive traits and abilities down to the next generation.
All of a sudden we’re struggling to get our hearts out of our stomachs, because that’s the kind of vibrant health and strength that we’re irresistibly drawn to.
It’s also rare enough that it stands out in a crowd. If head turning and jaw dropping is your goal, that’s important.
Most women will have a preference for the gal on the left. With lots of media exposure (a passion for fashion, say) you may have a preference for even thinner women than shown here. Men, on the other hand, more often love the look of fairly strong women, since visible strength makes people look even healthier and more capable.
Why don’t male and female ideals line up? Just like men are taking the “muscle is masculine” thing to extreme levels, female fashion and pop culture are taking the “slenderness is feminine” thing to extreme levels. Women do dig men with some lean muscle mass, and men do dig women who are healthfully slender … but only within the realm of healthful normalcy.
Women who are fashion models (or who are exposed to photos of a lot of fashion models) often want to be fashion-model-thin. Similarly, men who are bodybuilders (or exposed to photos of a lot of bodybuilders) often want to be bodybuilder-big. This is a well known and well researched phenomenon. In more extreme cases, it can cause psychological issues, often causing steroid abuse in men and eating disorders in women. (study)
Is being incredibly thin or super enormously muscular impressive? Hell yes. These are people devoting an incredible amount of time and energy to their hobbies.
Is this the way to become maximally attractive? No. Male bodybuilders appeal to men and women who are into bodybuilding. Female fashion models appeal to other models and fashion designers and such. They don’t suffer for attention from the opposite sex – there are plenty of people who adore these exaggerated physiques – but they aren’t good at attracting the majority of the opposite sex.
So just like you probably want your lover to be strong and healthy but not ridiculously so, well, so do we. We prefer women of average healthy weight. Totally average BMI. No need to get your freak on, Missy Elliot, we prefer a pretty run of the mill bodyweight. (study)
Now if “average” healthy weight sounds a little too good to be true … well you have a point. We aren’t talking about looking like the average girl – she doesn’t eat well and she doesn’t exercise. We aren’t even talking about the average healthy girl, who may eat well, exercise, and weigh a healthy amount. What we’re talking about is someone who’s the same weight as your average healthy gal, but far more conspicuously healthy in appearance.
Not in an obsessive or unhealthy way, mind – we’re talking about women who are really thriving in their bodies here. They’re lively, energetic, vibrant, strong, fast – and they look it. Instead of subconsciously wondering about the possible ailments that may come about due to poor nutrition and exercise habits, we subconsciously assume that your ridiculous degree of hotness means total perfect health:
So by conspicuously healthy I mean the type of health that makes guys glide their sunglasses down to the bottom of their noses and say “damn … that girl’s heeeeeealthy*!” – that kind of healthy. And that kind of health is a pretty hard to achieve in a society where the scent of Cinnabon wafts through the air as you’re hustling from your bed to your car to your office chair. Life’s hard. #firstworldproblems
*Men often use slang words for impressively healthy like: hot, fine, sexy, foxy, smokin’, babeshow, etc.
Now I’m not saying that average bodies aren’t attractive – they are – what I’m saying is that they aren’t necessarily invading our minds with the uncontrollable urges that a fiery hot impressively healthy gal would. They just aren’t the bodies whose scents draw us compulsively in like a freshly baked Cinnabon. They might be amazing people, drawing us in like broccoli, because we know that’s where the wholesome amazingness is to be had … but you can totally get the best of all worlds and become a delicious fresh wild blueberry – impulsively delicious like a Cinnabon and totally wholesome on the inside and in the longterm.
(I’m sorry for the weird food references. The talk of Cinnabons kind of made me hungry.)
– Anyway, many cubicle latte babes are furiously struggling to become underweight. They’re working their asses off, not realizing that it’s usually better to work their asses on. It’s not even that they’re lazy – they’re often trying really damn hard! Like, harder than most men could possibly even imagine.
It’s just that if you’re a woman, well, when you look into exercise and nutrition all you tend to find is weight loss information. Even the muscle-building stuff seems to be aimed at people trying to lose weight overall.
What does this do? Well perpetually battling to become underweight doesn’t make you stronger. Leaner? Yes, well, sometimes, kind of. More often than not it makes you lighter – smaller.
They’re starting to look into the psychological side-effects of this mainstream desire to become physically smaller, and it’s a little scary. For example, it seems like eating less food is directly linked with submissive body language. Trying to diet down to a smaller body is not just reducing women’s physical strength, it’s possibly also reducing their social confidence? (study)
Moreover, since the average healthy weight is considered optimally attractive, this means that if you’re already of average weight (or below) then getting skinnier, smaller or littler won’t really get you any closer to becoming as attractive as you can be, and in fact it’s more likely to take you further away.
Oftentimes efforts to lose weight are combined with cardio, aerobics or yoga. All great forms of exercise with loads of health benefits, but combined with a calorie deficit and in absence of any heavy weightlifting … they’re atrocious when it comes to preserving muscular size, strength, power and speed. (study, study, study) So the underweight warriors often aren’t the toned kind of lean that made every man in the world fall in love with Jessica Biel when she buffed up for her role as a warrior:
That’s because Jessica Biel isn’t underweight. She’s not skinny. She’s not even “thin”. She’s fit as hell, but she’s also average weight in a visibly healthy way. And men don’t dig her bod’ because she has abs – she doesn’t have abs – they dig her bod’ because she has strong confident shoulders, glutes that can crack walnuts, and legs strong enough that she could probably pick up a runway model, put her on her shoulders and squat her for at least two reps. And she looks like she eats. She looks like she eats a whole helluva lot. You can’t build muscle like that by just crunching on carrots and munching on cupcakes.
And that’s why our jaws drop: she’s strong, healthy and vibrant. She doesn’t look like she spends her day nibbling on croissants in bed while browsing Facebook on her smartphone, she looks like she just beat her boyfriend in a decathlon and then had a wholesome feast to celebrate. And then some dessert.
(You don’t need to have guns as big as hers to be optimally attractive – it looks like she did a lot of focused arm and shoulder work to really create that distinctive look – but hey badass biceps certainly don’t hurt either.)
It’s not like being slender is unattractive – of course it isn’t – but many women still underrate the value of visible strength.
So … average healthy weight isn’t as common as you might think. But it’s actually not that hard to be remarkable either. We’re not talking about needing to train six times per week, or live on broccoli and chicken. We’re talking about genuinely living a healthy lifestyle in a way that will make you look like you genuinely live a healthy lifestyle. That takes cleverness, but it doesn’t take that much time, that much obsession, or that many sacrifices.
Many people take the other approach, actively trying to ignore this strength, fitness and nutrition stuff, telling themselves that their lifestyle just doesn’t have room for it, that it doesn’t matter, or that they’ll get to it later.* Those rationalizations also make it hard to stand out. That’s why impressively fit physiques are so rare.
Sometimes this can take up even more emotional space than actually leading a healthy lifestyle. Now that I go to the gym a couple times per week and regularly eat well, I find I have more energy and more time… and I never need to stress about health/aesthetics anymore.
Oh – and this isn’t the time to be cursing your genetics. Yes, rad genetics make this easier, but there are many attractive body weights, shapes and sizes (and goals). With that said, the sexiest bodies are nonetheless defined by several common characteristics.
So onward into the specifics:
The Ideal Woman’s Waist to Hip Ratio
Fit young boys and girls tend to be built like string beans. They’re just kind of narrow everywhere. But as soon as puberty hits men and women are born.
Men are shaped by testosterone. Strong healthy men with high testosterone are shaped like V’s – big broad shoulders, lean stomachs, small hips. Women tend to dig that stereotypically masculine shape because it’s indicative of good strength (broad muscular shoulders), good health (small lean waistline) and you can see it at a glance. It’s the quickest (a fraction of a second) and most accurate (most physical and mental health markers relate to muscle, hormones and fat) way to get an immediate snapshot of a guy’s overall health.
Same deal with women … except not at all. Women are shaped by estrogen, and strong healthy women with lots of estrogen are shaped like hourglasses – strong broad shoulders, lean waists and very strong hips. Just like you can size up a man’s health in a split second based on his body shape, the same is true with women. Strong women are wickedly muscular in the hips and glutes, indicating fearsome strength and bone structure, and lean through the waist, indicating healthy levels of body fat. (study)
Although, interestingly enough, some women are cheating the system, using estrogen to signal to their bodies to store fat in their butts and upper thighs instead of their stomachs. By moving their fat from their tummies to their tushes they’re enhancing their hotness via their fat stores. Kind of cool … kiiind of deceptive. You tricksters.
If at this point you’re thinking “but Shane – I’m a woman and I’m still a bean!” don’t fret – you may not actually have small hips. Yes, bone structure is probably a factor, but chances are that your hips also have undeveloped musculature that just isn’t poppin’ in all the right places. Most women these days can’t perform a proper hip hinge, resulting in muscles accumulating in their lower back and quads instead of in their butts, hips and hamstrings. While the bone structure of your hips won’t change, you can certainly build up strong curvaceous hips in the gym. (Tip for the non-genetically-gifted: curvaceous hips = strong muscular hips = hips that can lift, like, hundreds of pounds.)
Here’s a great gal, Reetta, with great genetics. She preferentially stores fat in her tush. Amazing. You can see what that looks like on the left. Over the course of a couple months she got a lot stronger and lost a bit of fat. You can see what a booty built out of muscle looks like on the right:
This works well for those who aren’t genetically gifted too. I have this friend who, once upon a time, was queen string bean. People would jokingly tease her about having no hips and no butt. (Funny joke, right? Nope.) Fast-forward a couple years and her nickname is Buns, because, well … her hips are pretty damn impressive. (She got a rugby scholarship – tons of heavy weightlifting and sprinting combined with eating tons of food at the all-you-can-eat college cafeteria.)
Anyway, what’s the ideal waist to hip ratio?!
The waist to hip ratio most correlated with health is 0.7 (study), and not surprisingly that’s what’s fairly universally considered the sexiest ratio, although it varies slightly between cultures. (To measure this you would take the circumference of your waist at the narrowest point and divide it by the circumference of your hips at their widest point.)
… But this is one section where the studies really diverge, which is kind of ironic because this is the part that gets talked about the most when it comes to the most attractive female physique.
There are two things that are generally agreed upon: 1) the healthiest body composition is the hottest body composition; and 2) a stellar waist-to-hip ratio is heart-stoppingly attractive. (study)
That’s where things get interesting. Is it the being fit part or is it the bone structure part? Not all women have the same bone structure … and thus it’s possible to be a very healthy weight and still not have the “ideal” waist to hip ratio. It’s also possible to be overweight or underweight and be rockin’ a perfect waist to hip ratio.
Some studies show that wide hips and a slender waist is ideal, because that’s what instinctively looks the healthiest. (study, study) Other studies show that a healthy weight and a relatively lean waist matter more, whatever waist to hip ratio that happens to result in. (study) Either way, you’re best off taking advantage of both by rocking a healthy body fat percentage and becoming super strong through the hips. Usually they go together, after all. A leaner and healthier waist and a stronger and more muscular butt = better hip to waist ratio.
Plus, having a bodacious bottom has a whole category to itself because it makes such a profound impact on how sexy you look. There’s really no downside to filling your trunk up with junk.
But first the lean waist part:
The Ideal Women’s Body Fat Percentage
Body fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in women. I’m not saying you should be unhealthily overweight (medically this is called morbid obesity). That obviously isn’t optimally attractive. What I’m saying is that you don’t need to become unhealthily underweight or be totally ripped to shreds or anything. If you can’t see your abs in the mirror you might care, and that’s cool, but men won’t. (Visible abs aren’t essential for great health either, even in men.)
Fat is feminine. I mean, more hormonally masculine men are often harder and more chiseled than less hormonally masculine men, as higher levels of testosterone reduce fat storage in the face and body. Similarly, the fact that healthy men have less estrogen than women causes less fat storage in a man’s chest and hips. Very manly men thus stereotypically have faces and bodies defined by muscle, and it’s not uncommon for athletic guys to effortlessly maintain 8-12% body fat year round. (I.e. some healthy men have visible abs even without needing to flex them under flattering bathroom mirror lighting.)
But that’s not true when it comes to stereotypically womanly women. Women hold onto more fat in their faces due to lower levels of testosterone, hold onto more fat in their hips and breasts due to higher oestrogen, estradiol and progesterone. This means that in order to look stereotypically feminine you actually don’t need to be that lean, just healthfully lean.
The healthy range varies depending on age (and which expert / study you consult), but most sources would agree with the following:
Dangerously underweight: <14%
Extreme (athletes and fitness models): 14-18%
Visibly and genuinely healthy: 19-24%
According to Abernathy and Black, the healthy range is between 20-30% for women … with an important caveat: “Although persons with BMIs and percentages of bodyfat above these values have an increased likelihood of being functionally obese [aka unhealthy], not everyone will be. Equally important, many within these ranges will be functionally obese.” (study)
What this means is that being strong, active and eating well may very well matter more than your body fat percentage as far as your health goes.
How can you maximize attractiveness? A certain amount of body fat is actually feminine and healthy, and being shaped by it isn’t unattractive to men, especially if those fat deposits are landing in stereotypically womanly places (boobs, butt, thighs, hips, etc). Having a leaner waist is very very strongly correlated with health and has a good chance of improving your lifespan and mood alongside your attractiveness. (study) So you’d just try to get your waist in shape.
You don’t, however, need raging abs or anything. We have electric washing machines now, so you don’t need your stomach to double as a washboard. Being in the healthy body fat range is more than enough, and if you really want to get into that conspicuously healthy zone you’d just aim a little teensy bit lower – 18-22%. Part athlete, part head-turning hottie.
Note: You can’t spot reduce fat or anything, so just leading a healthful lifestyle that has your hormones as healthy as possible + losing fat overall is the best way to achieve a leaner waistline.
Sexiness and cellulite. Cellulite is dimpling created by body fat pushing up against your fascia. I liken it to fishnet stockings vs regular stockings. Men usually have fascia more like regular stockings, so it’s very very rare for any dimpling to show through. Women usually have fascia more like fishnet stockings, so you almost always have some dimpling showing through. It’s more common than you might imagine. (Just because it’s photoshopped out of most photos doesn’t mean that most women aren’t rockin’ cellulite.)
Yes, you can minimize the appearance of it by reducing your body fat percentage, but you can never totally get rid of body fat (and your lower body is a very feminine place to store fat anyway) so for a lot of women cellulite’s just something that will always be there.
Interestingly, when it comes to what’s considered optimally attractive … cellulite really doesn’t matter. It’s not unattractive or anything. It’s a very very feminine trait – it’s caused by feminine fascia combined with feminine body fat storage patterns. You or your female friends may care (although I’d argue that you shouldn’t), but most straight men have no issue with cellulite whatsoever, since they find feminine traits in women incredibly sexy.
If you happen to find a guy who does care about cellulite, just cancel his subscription to Cosmo and his problem should eventually go away.
What’s the Sexiest Amount of Muscle
As far as overall musculature goes there’s a big discrepancy as far as what the vast majority of men find attractive (strong women) and what most women find attractive (thin women). (study) The above “strong” corresponds with what men find most attractive and the “thin” corresponds with what women find the most attractive. (study)
The male ideal isn’t surprising since, as with all the other attractiveness indicators, it corresponds with what looks the healthiest. I mean the female ideal can be healthy too, especially in women with smaller bone structures, but even then it often isn’t as healthy, since having more muscle mass is generally great for you.
Just to be sure though I tried to dig a little deeper, and I couldn’t find anything to dispute it. There are a lot of studies showing that slenderness is attractive, but only through the waist. In those studies they were strictly measuring body fat, not muscle mass. Even then the stronger girls with bigger hips/glutes were deemed slightly more attractive. (study) As far as muscle goes men really do seem to love strong and visibly healthy women.
This may seem confusing at first. Lighter forms of exercise will train your muscles for endurance and efficiency, and give you improved lung power and cardiovascular health. These are good things – excellent for your health – and yet that style of training will obviously not make you any stronger, bigger or curvier. (You’d be relying strictly on genetics for your curves and muscles.) So why are perfectly healthy types of exercise not necessarily making you hotter?
Well cardiovascular and aerobic health is just one piece of the puzzle. It will help with other things, like not overeating and thus helping you avoid becoming unhealthily overweight, and it will probably make your skin glow a little sexier. Both of those things will indeed make you hotter and healthier … but simply being not overweight and in good cardiovascular shape is still not a complete health/hotness indicator because that’s just one part of fitness.
Muscle indicates a whole hell of a lot of other amazing things. Obviously more muscle means more strength, speed and power – and that’s healthy, impressive and hot. There’s more to it than that though.
First, building up muscle takes plenty of food, and not just any old sort of food either, it takes plenty of hearty nutritious food. This means that if you see a gal sporting badass muscles, chances are she’s feeding herself like an empress.
Second, muscle mass also makes our muscle cells more insulin sensitive. This makes becoming lean a lot easier and helps prevent a lot of obesity related health issues down the road. (study, study) The food that you eat will start being used to make you stronger, not fatter. (study) This makes you look more curvaceous in all the right places (shoulders, hips, legs, etc), making you appear more stereotypically feminine/fertile.
Third, it improves bone density and posture. (study)
Fifth, and perhaps most interestingly, strenuous physical activity (like heavy weightlifting, sprinting, etc) stresses the brain and promotes adaptation and growth, improving brain function and allowing the brain to better respond to future challenges. As such, lifting very heavy weights and becoming wickedly strong / fast can positively impact your memory, concentration and ability to learn. (study) Improving your strength can also improve your mood, reduce anxiety, decrease chances of becoming depressed and improve your energy levels. (study)
Visible strength is pretty undeniably incredibly healthy, since muscle doesn’t tend to hang out on girls who aren’t taking advantage of all of those benefits. Also keep in mind that hotness is visual health, and getting strong is what promotes better body composition (more muscle mass, less fat). Strength training / weightlifting / bodybuilding / etc – these are the types of exercise that result in your body adapting by becoming drop-dead-sexier.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also exercise in ways that won’t increase your muscle size. As far as training goes you probably want to do a mix of exercises that are good for both your strength / aesthetics (like heavy weightlifting) and your heart and lung health (like cardio). If you can be both strong and fit you’ll raise your IQ (especially logical thinking and verbal comprehension), improve blood flow to your brain, increase basal ganglia and hippocampal volumes (higher attention span and enhanced cognitive control), lower your chances of depression, increase your energy levels, reduce anxiety, etc. (study, study)
Luckily there are many ways to capitalize on both strength and cardio benefits simultaneously, and one way is performing big heavy compound lifts in circuits and/or with relatively short rest times. So, say, slowly working your way up to being able to do a 225 pound hip thrust followed by a few chin ups. Or a bunch of pushups followed by some heavy deadlifts. Or you could do some heavy weightlifting, then do some bike sprints or an intense aerobics circuit or some such. As far as aesthetics goes, this happens to also be an extremely extremely effective way to burn fat – often much more effective than straight cardio training or straight weightlifting. (study)
Can you become too muscular? Sure, depending on what your goals are. I mean there isn’t really such a thing as “too” muscular. Even if you’re totally jacked there will be a ton of jacked guys who are into bodybuilding who think you look absolutely amazing. But there is a point where you’ll start becoming less attractive to the majority of guys. For some women, and for naturally thin women especially, this isn’t a concern and never will be – their slender bone structure and naturally slender musculature won’t ever grow so large that it would in any way ever become remotely unappealing.
… but for many women becoming too muscular for their taste can indeed happen. Reetta, the girl with great genetics that we showed up above, told us after just a couple months of weightlifting that her back was “finished”. It was as muscular as she ever wanted it to be. At that point we simply switched to maintaining strength in her back and began focusing more on other areas that she did want to work on.
On that note …
The Ideal Butt
Things are interesting when it comes to the female hub of muscularity and strength – the butt and hips. This is the focal point of female strength and where a man’s attention is instinctively tugged. According to the studies I managed to dig up, most men (60%) are more attracted to a woman’s butt than her breasts. (study)
Men are notorious, of course, for not having any idea of what they actually want, so they also tracked eye movements to see where their gaze rested … and it did indeed rest more often than not on a woman’s tush.
Why do we care about butts? There are a few theories. One interesting theory is that bigger butts lead to greater balance (lower centre of gravity) and thus improve athleticism. In order to retain agility, reserves of fat should be placed as close to the centre of gravity as possible, which is near to the navel. In men, fat can actually be placed inside and around the naval (aka in the beer gut zone). That’s not an option for women though, as your abdomen is already occupied by a uterus (and possibly a fetus!). So the next available place is on the butt, upper thigh and thorax – whatever the hell thorax means. (Thorax is by far the least sexy way to say “the boob area”.)
As a result, fat distribution is apparently a good indication of femininity and good health. Some girls get really lucky genetically, rockin’ big butts and small waists despite not being very lean or having very strong glutes. Other girls need to build their bottoms.
And then there’s also the fact that women can have incredibly powerful hips. Impressively strong glutes are a good way to spot a really athletic and powerful woman. When it comes to strength and athleticism the hips are an area where women really shine. By this I mean that they’ve got better hips than men. In terms of bone structure their wider and shaped more favourably, allowing for more mobility and strength. You can probably learn to squat and deadlift deeper and hip thrust with a lot more power than your male friends can. Rocking strong round glutes is often a natural byproduct of being a powerful healthy athletic woman.
So if you want to have a killer pair of glutes that a man will find incredibly attractive, just get a nice strong butt as shown second from the left:
You can also just get super damn strong everywhere and your butt will become enormous along with the rest of your body … but it also seems that a slightly disproportionately large butt is seen as being hyper-attractive. (study) If you want to give men whiplash as you walk down the street, you might want to thus build up an even bigger booty – a bombshell booty.
To do this you’d get your butt incredibly strong by doing extra heavy hip work, you know, like men do extra bicep curls. Steal a trick from female bikini models and use bodybuilding tricks to become totally bootyful. You’d use a variety of glute exercises (glute bridges, hip thrusts, backwards lunges, romanian deadlifts, etc) and a variety of rep ranges (from 3-20 reps).
For an example of what that might do, here’s naturally thin Ioulia getting stronger, gaining weight, and adding a few inches to her tush:
Sexiness and Muffin tops. Sometimes you can get muffin tops because you’ve got fat building up in your love handles, which is a pretty common area to store fat … but just as often it’s simply because you’ve grown too large for your clothes. If you aren’t gaining the kind of weight you want to be gaining, that can obviously be frustrating, but when it comes to building up a badass butt I would consider growing too bodacious for your bottoms a total win. (Although I do hope your jeans don’t explode in public. That happened to me once … )
Genetics? Apparently (aka this is a rumour) one reason why Brazilian women stereotypically have larger butts is because they do tons and tons of glute-specific exercises. It’s a cultural exercise trend, not just lucky genetics. The same is often true of people with great physiques. They seem like they’ve got great genetics, but really it’s just a good lifestyle they’ve developed. Genetics definitely play a role – some girls have such great genetics they don’t even need to lift – but the cleverer and more consistent you are with your exercise and nutrition, the better your genetics will seem.
Is a very big tush still absolutely optimally healthy/attractive? Of course! I’ve not yet come across a study that suggests that there’s such a thing as a butt that’s too muscular. Being strong and muscular is healthy, and the hips are actually a very functional place to carry some extra muscle. It’s actually not just a bikini model thing either. Since it will improve your balance and speed, it’s also a very sprinter-ly physique:
p.s. Sprinters also lift really damn heavy weights in order to get stronger and faster on the field.
p.p.s. In order to build a butt like this you also need to lift very well. It’s often pretty hard to use your butt and hamstrings to lift instead of your lower back and quads, and thus lifting technique has a huge impact on the shape of your hips and butt (especially if you don’t naturally have a big strong butt).
Is a disproportionately bigger bottom necessary to be healthy? Not at all. You could definitely skip that step and train using a more unisex approach that doesn’t emphasize hip strength, size and power as much. You’ll still be super healthy and super attractive, just not disproportionately bunned.
Women often place a little too much emphasis here. This is understandable, because men find them absolutely fascinating. So fascinating that men are more than twice as likely to glance at your breasts before your face. Pretty wild / weird. While we find them fascinating though, we really don’t care much about how big they are. Really. We actually care more about the leanness of your waist and the bodaciousness of your butt. (study)
According to the researchers, “men may be looking more often at the breasts because they are simply aesthetically pleasing, regardless of the size.” That means that if you’ve got big boobs, men will love them. It also means that if you’ve got small boobs, well, men will love them. Basically, if you’ve got boobs at all then you’ve got the ability to keep men fascinated for hours, as I’m sure you already know. (Believe it or not, for us men, boobs are even better than Breaking Bad.)
The most common Google search us men make about our girlfriends’ boobs is: “I love my girlfriend’s boobs.” Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, an economist and big data analyzer, commented on this peculiar truth with, “It is not clear what men are hoping to find from Google when making this search.”
Here are some more “interesting” facts about boob aesthetics:
1. Poorer men prefer larger boobs. Generally in times when resources are lacking men gravitate towards women with higher body fat stores, of which boobs tend to be a good indicator. Even simply reminding a man that he’s poor will make him up his cup size preference. I admit it – us men are weird. (study)
Just incase that last weirdo fact wasn’t enough for you:
2. Hungrier men also prefer larger boobs. (study) Sexy tip – to make the most of a dinner-and-a-movie date, wear a push-up bra before dinner and then switch into a sports bra for the movie.
3. Sexist men prefer larger boobs. (study)
How do you pump/plump up the sex appeal of your boobs? While size doesn’t matter that much, symmetry and perkiness do. (study) Genetics help there, but both symmetry and perkiness are greatly improved by getting strong and lean. Being lean will often make your boobs smaller, yes, but this will also make them lighter, perkier and more symmetrical. Plus, since there will be less fat surrounding your boobs … they often look about the same size as they did before, just “better”.
Building up stronger pecs will make your boobs look bigger and perkier. I mean your boobs will still be the exact same size, but your pecs sit right under your boobs, so building them up bigger and stronger will push them upwards and outwards – sort of a natural push up bra made out of muscle. (Some breast implants are even done this way.) If you’re a girl with relatively small boobs this can apparently have a huge visual effect.
Quasi Modo was the only hero in Disney history not to get the gal. He was also the only guy in Disney hero history not to rock absolutely perfect posture. Coincidence? I think not. Plus, the girl they were all fighting for, Esmeralda – well she had absolutely perfect posture. As with any good true story, I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned here.
Chances are you had pretty solid posture by default but your lopsided desk-damsel lifestyle #$%& @$%#^ up real bad. Yes, some people have, say, scoliosis (curving of the spine). Well I’ve got news for you – that’s no longer an excuse. You can still take your body to superhuman levels and develop amazing posture and strength even with a few quirks. (Just make sure to ask your doc for clearance first, obviously.)
There are a ton of different defective postures out there, but the most common one is a forward tilt of the hips. It’s caused by a few things, but a big part of it is often due to weak hip extensors (aka a weak butt) and then this whole compensation pattern gets set up that wreaks havoc on your posture:
Here are two photos of Sara taken 10 weeks apart. They show five pounds gained, a bit less fat and improved posture in a relaxed position.
The hips usually tilt forward asymmetrically as well – one side tilts further forward than the other – which will cause the shoulders to tilt in the opposite way to counterbalance the lopsided hips. As a result nearly everyone will have one shoulder sitting higher and more internally rotated higher than the other. This will also make one of your boobs look smaller than the other, and one side of your lower back look bigger than the other.
The implications of improving your posture even just a little bit are pretty huge. Posture has been found to communicate even more about you than your facial expression (study), and several personality traits are subconsciously inferred from how we stand: aversion, openness, irritation, happiness and self-confidence. The slumped over position with internally rotated shoulders that most of us adopt is communicating all the wrong things: low self confidence, untrustworthiness, shyness, discomfort, etc. By building up the muscles that hold your body in a stronger position all of a sudden the impression you give off will change dramatically. You’ll appear more confident, more trustworthy, happier, etc. (study)
Posture is so finely tied to health and confidence that improving your posture will improve not only the first impression you give off, but also how confident you feel. It also makes it easier to breathe well and to breath deeply, making you calmer and more relaxed. To make things even more interesting, proper posture even changes your hormone secretions, further emphasizing all those positive changes to your mood and wellbeing. (study)
There’s an interesting caveat here. Women will sometimes rock the bikini model pose, intentionally booty poppin’ their butt out backwards by tilting their hips:
That’s okay. There’s a big difference between being stuck in that position 24/7 because you’ve got a weak glutes … and stylistically striking a pose to show off your strong glutes.
As far as strength and athleticism goes, proper postural alignment allows you to correctly transfer strength from your lower body to your upper body. This means you can lift heavier things and run faster and further when things are aligned properly … and you won’t be placing any negative stress on your lower back, tearing muscles or spraining ankles while doing it.
Badass posture will also make you look one whole hell of a lot younger. Over the course of our lives we slouch, slump and sit. Muscles atrophy, posture degrades and people gradually crumple up. You know what I mean – you’ve seen old people. You don’t need to be seeing an old person every time you look in the mirror though.
How do you improve your posture? We’ll cover that in more detail in another post, since it’s such a huge topic. For now, think of improving your posture like building a clay vase. First you mould the vase to temporarily get the right form (developing mobility and practicing proper postural alignment) and then you harden it in the oven to make those changes permanent (aka build up muscle and stability using heavy weights).
It’s basic human nature to care about being attractive, so there’s no reason not to take full advantage of your physique. Being as attractive as you can be really will help, not because attracting superficial men is all that matters, but because love means a lot to everyone, and we’re all naturally drawn to people who are visibly vibrant, strong and incredibly healthy. Plus, actually being vibrant, strong and healthy is pretty incredible in and of itself.
We all also care about everything else, especially in the longer term. Looking and feeling great physically will not only make us radically more attractive, it’ll help us feel fantastic mentally too, which is also a huge attractiveness feature. Have you ever been moody because of hunger, pain, the flu, cramps, fatigue, etc? That stuff affects our disposition and saps our willpower. Having a body that functions well inside and out will go a very long way to affecting your disposition positively. It’s easy to be “on” all the time when your physical fitness is helping keep you calm, confident and full of energy/willpower.
What do you have to lose? Well being impressively healthy isn’t easy, and not everyone manages to do it, as much as I wish they did. It takes time and effort, and not only that, it takes time and effort doing it correctly, and doing it correctly is a lot easier said than done.
Really that’s about it. There’s no major downside and there’s no reason not to strive towards it, even if you have a newborn babe and a hubby who values your time dearly. In fact, that might be an even more powerful reason to get into this stuff. We have a lot of people report having more energy to play with their kids, more energy to take their husbands out on dates, more confidence with the guys they’re attracted to, less moodiness, more focus at work, etc, after getting their physiques under control. Looking and feeling great isn’t necessarily a narcissistic, self-centred or selfish endeavour. It can be the opposite.
It also doesn’t take that much time or that much effort if you do this stuff cleverly and efficiently. You only need to train about 3 hours per week. During those 3 hours you can do strength training and cardio simultaneously. (Who ever said you can’t get your heart rate up while lifting heavy things?), and you can work all of your major muscle groups with just a few big compound lifts. (Why isolate and work all your muscle groups individually?)
Similarly, nutrition doesn’t need to be restrictive, time consuming or expensive either. It definitely doesn’t need to taste bad. Nutritious food can be just as decadent and indulgent as non-nutritious food, and there’s even plenty of room for non-nutritious food in a healthy and balanced diet.
I’m not going to lie – getting to an elite level takes time. Getting most of the way there doesn’t though. With dedication and a good plan you’ll likely notice improvements in the mirror in a couple weeks, pop into the “super beautifully healthy and vibrant” category in a couple of months. Men aren’t looking for freaks of nature after all.
Easier said than done, I know, but these are extremely achievable goals with huge rewards, both inside and out.
Then, while already experiencing all the benefits of having a hot and attractive physique, you can gradually and enjoyably work towards building the most badass body ever over the course of several years. Just remember, as you’re in this stage, to really and thoroughly enjoy your body for what it can do. Far too often we just keep upgrading our standards as we accomplish our goals, never stopping to appreciate how incredible of a job we’ve already done.