Illustration showing a variety of female bodies, ranging from thin to muscular.

Survey Results: The Most Attractive Female Body Composition (Muscle, Fat & Proportions)

We’ve been getting requests to conduct research on female attractiveness for over ten years now. And we’ve finally done it! We surveyed 1,072 men, asking them to rate varying amounts of muscle and body fat, as well as which proportions they preferred and what muscles they found most attractive. We also surveyed 394 women, asking them how much muscle they wanted to build, their ideal body-fat percentage, and what muscles they wanted to emphasize in their training. Finally, we surveyed women who are attracted to women.

Unlike with male bodies, where men and women preferred different physiques, men and women tended to agree on which female bodies they were drawn to. All the groups we surveyed voted for the same degrees of muscularity and leanness and preferred the same proportions. There was also a wide range of bodies that were considered attractive, with most body types preferred by at least a small percentage of people.

In this article, we answer a few questions:

  • How muscular is the most attractive female body?
  • What’s the most atttractive female body-fat percentage?
  • What muscles and proportions do men find most attractive?
  • Do men prefer thicker thighs?
  • Do men prefer bigger butts?
  • Do men prefer thinner women?
  • How do men feel about cosmetic surgery?
Illustration of an athletic woman flexing her biceps.

Introduction: The Survey

Shane illustrated a variety of female bodies. We used those illustrations to survey over a thousand men, asking them which of those bodies they found most attractive. Then we surveyed our female newsletter, asking them what their dream bodies were. Finally, we surveyed women who are attracted to women, seeing what bodies other women find most attractive. Life decided to go easy on us, and the women who were attracted to women tended to prefer the same bodies that women wanted to build.

We focused on things that can be influenced by diet and exercise, such as body fat, muscle mass, and muscle proportions. We were less interested in body-fat distribution, muscle insertions, and bone structure (such as hip, waist, and shoulder width).

This survey is the fourth we’ve done. In the first and second surveys, we asked women which male bodies they found most attractive. In the third survey, we asked gay men which male bodies they preferred. As we collected answers from women, we had a number of them asking us to do a survey about women’s bodies, too. These are the results of that survey.

The idea is to arm our clients with practical information they can use in the gym. Women who want to build an attractive physique can see what men prefer. And as strength coaches, we can use your answers to make muscle-building programs that line up better with your goals.

When running the survey, the bodies weren’t labelled or ordered. We tried our best not to ask leading questions or bias the answers. For example, we asked, “Which body do you find most attractive?” and then showed them this spread:

Survey illustration showing varying degrees of female muscularity.

Note that we specialize in helping people build muscle. Most of the men and women who filled out the survey are interested in fitness and nutrition. The vast majority of them are between the ages of 18 and 39. This doesn’t line up perfectly with the general population. It could be, for instance, that because the average man is overweight, he prefers women with a lower or higher body-fat percentage.

We asked a few different questions. First, we asked men to choose which bodies they found most attractive. Then we asked them to select all of the bodies they found attractive. In some cases, that produced interesting results. For example, many men preferred the body with giant glutes—this was the most attractive physique. And yet, the balanced physique was rated as attractive by a greater percentage of men—this was the physique that was attractive to the most people.

The Most Attractive Female Body

How Muscular Should a Woman Get?

The first question looked at how muscle mass influenced attractiveness. When we conducted the survey, these bodies weren’t labelled or ordered. But to make the results easier to talk about, I’ve labelled them as thin, athletic, strong, and very strong.

Survey results showing the amount of muscle that men prefer on a woman's body.

Most men and women rated the “strong” body as the most attractive, and most women listed it as their goal body. The “athletic” body came in a close second, scooping up almost all of the remaining votes. We also asked men to select all the bodies they found attractive, at which point the “athletic” body pulled slightly ahead. It’s the body that’s attractive to the widest variety of people.

As we mentioned above, though, there was a wider spread of preferences here than with our other surveys. When we surveyed women about which male bodies they found attractive, some of the male bodies got 0 votes. But with women’s bodies, even the least popular option had 62 men saying they found it the most attractive.

Survey results showing the amount of muscle that men found most attractive in women.

We asked the same question again, this time showing a side view. Again, the “athletic” and “strong” bodies were rated as the most attractive by men and as ideal by women. In this case, though, the athletic body pulled slightly ahead of the strong body. (Except for women who were attracted to women. Most of them voted for the strong body.) Again, though, it was a close race. The takeaway, I think, is that anywhere in the athletic—strong range is similarly attractive.

Finally, we asked men how strong they wanted their significant other to be. The most popular answer was “stronger than average.” And when we asked women how strong they wanted to be, they too wanted to be stronger than average. (Note that the order of the questions was randomized, so some people were asked this question before being shown any photos.)

The good news is that an athletic “stronger than average” degree of muscularity is realistic and healthy for most women. Even naturally thin women should be able to gain that amount of muscle and strength. Neither men nor women chose the most muscular physique, and thankfully so, because few women could naturally achieve that degree of muscularity!

What Body-Fat Percentage Is Most Attractive?

Next, we showed a variety of different body-fat percentages, asking people which degree of leanness they preferred. The leanest option had chiselled abs and clear muscle definition, which is unrealistic for most women to maintain and can sometimes result in problems, such as amenorrhea. The second option was at the lower end of the healthy range, showing a fit and athletic physique. The third option was at the higher end of the healthy range, on the verge of being overweight. The final option was overweight.

Survey results showing the most attractive body-fat percentage for women.

We expected the athletic body to be rated as the most attractive and preferred body, and it was. It won by a landslide. But to our surprise, the “lean” body outperformed the “average” body by a small amount. We didn’t expect that. It’s always hard to say, and genetics certainly play a large role here, but the average body probably represents better health than the leanest one.

The good news is that even the most attractive amount of body fat is realistic for most women. It’s not so lean as to be unhealthy or unrealistic to maintain, especially for women who are naturally thinner. I suspect the “athletic” body is roughly 25% body fat, give or take 5%.

The other good news is that even the least popular option got twenty votes, meaning that some men found it the most attractive body type of all.

What Muscle Proportions Are Most Attractive?

After that, we determined what muscle proportions men found most attractive and women were most eager to build. The first question was a simple side-by-side showing a woman with a larger upper body and comparing her against a woman with a larger lower body:

Survey results showing that men prefer women with strong upper bodies.

These bodies are the two top-rated physiques (“athletic” and “strong”) with their upper and lower bodies switched. The woman with the more muscular upper body won, and I think I know why: it looks more balanced. The woman on the left looks like she may struggle with full-body lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, due to a lack of upper-body strength. Perhaps she’d also struggle with lifting things in her day-to-day life. The woman on the right might not be able to leg press or hip thrust as much, but her upper body strength doesn’t look like a limiting factor. As a result, the woman with a stronger upper body looks stronger overall.

Survey results showing that men prefer women who are strong everywhere but have bigger glutes/butts.

Next, we showed a spread of women with varying proportions, this time from a side view. The “balanced” physique was attractive to the widest variety of men, but the physique with a proportionally bigger butt was ranked the most attractive. The physique with the bigger butt was also ranked as the goal physique by the most women. So it seems there’s some truth to the idea that it’s attractive to build a proportionally bigger butt, but only if you also have a powerful upper body.

We didn’t just rely on the illustrations, though. We also asked a few questions. (The order of the questions was randomized, so some participants were asked the questions before being shown the illustrations.) First, we asked if women should be equally strong everywhere or if they should emphasize specific muscles.

  • 55% of men said that women should be equally strong everywhere.
  • 58% of women said they wanted to emphasize some muscles.

Then we asked if a woman has to emphasize something, what muscle should she focus on?

  • 57% of men said women should focus on their glutes.
  • 51% of women said they wanted to focus on their glutes.

When we asked men which exercise women should focus on, the vast majority said either squats, hip thrusts, or deadlifts, all of which are great for building a bigger butt. Squats and deadlifts have the benefit of being great for developing overall strength. Hip thrusts have the benefit of isolating the glutes quite well, giving them even greater emphasis.

Women mainly wanted to focus on hip thrusts and glute bridges. Squats and deadlifts were less popular; the other compound lifts were even less so.

So, overall, if you wanted to build a maximally attractive physique, you’d aim to be strong everywhere, with perhaps a bit of extra emphasis on your butt. To do this, you’d follow a balanced hypertrophy program that includes both squats and deadlifts (along with chin-ups, push-ups, rows, and so on). Then, at the end of your workouts, if you wanted, you could add in some extra glute bridges or hip thrusts to give your butt even more emphasis.

Thin Versus Skinny-Fat—Which is More Attractive?

Next, we took a photo of a “thin” body and compared it against the image of a “skinny-fat” body. The idea was to keep the muscle mass roughly the same but bring the BMI up to a healthy weight by adding fat. The skinny-fat body was rated more attractive by men and more desirable by women:

Survey results showing that being skinny-fat is more attractive than being thin.

As with all these questions, we’re trying to find a practical path forward for our naturally thin readers. It seems that for women who are underweight, bringing their BMI up into the healthy range is the best first step. Obviously the goal is to gain mostly muscle, but even if you mess it up and wind up gaining mostly fat, it can still have a positive impact on your appearance.

I hope this takes away some of the anxiety surrounding bulking. It’s unlikely that a naturally thin woman could ever build so much muscle as to become “bulky,” and even gaining some fat doesn’t tend to harm appearance, provided they stay within the healthy range.

Do Men Prefer Women Who Get Cosmetic Surgery?

Cassandra has many friends getting cosmetic surgery (such as breast implants and nose jobs) or treatments (such as Botox). She’s sometimes wondered whether she “should” be getting work done. For instance, pregnancy and breastfeeding can change the appearance of breasts. “Should” she be getting breast implants to “fix” them? If everyone else is doing it, it can create a feeling a societal pressure.

Men feel a similar pressure to be lean and muscular, and 9% of our male readers said they were considering taking steroids. They worried they wouldn’t be able to build an attractive body without them. But when we asked women what they thought, 99.5% of them said they preferred men who didn’t take steroids. 80% of women said they wouldn’t even consider dating a guy who took steroids. Plus, women rated the more natural male bodies as being more attractive.

With cosmetic surgery, the treatments are legal, and the impact on general health isn’t as straightforward as the downsides of taking steroids (or TRT or SARMs). As with everything, we aren’t trying to say what people “should” do. But when it feels like there’s a societal pressure to get cosmetic surgery, we think it can help to at least know what that societal pressure really is.

In this case, 88% of men said they’d prefer if their significant other didn’t get breast implants. 93% of men said they’d prefer if their significant other didn’t get any other cosmetic treatments. However, the vast majority of men also said that whatever a woman chooses, it won’t be a dealbreaker. (This is in contrast to 80% of women saying they’d never date a guy who took steroids.)

When we asked our female readers what they thought, 15% had gotten breast implants and 19% were considering getting breast implants. With cosmetic surgery/treatments overall, the majority of women have had work done or are considering it.

Is Cellulite Unattractive?

Another common concern we hear from our clients and readers is cellulite. Some women already have it and want to get rid of it. Others are worried that if they try to gain weight, they might develop visible cellulite. And when we surveyed women, 68% said they didn’t want to have any visible cellulite.

When we asked men what they thought about cellulite, 56% of them either said they didn’t care, didn’t notice, or found cellulite attractive. That’s not an overwhelming majority, but it does show that most men don’t mind if you have cellulite. It comes down purely to your own personal preference.

Summary: The Most Attractive Female Body

These results are interesting to me because it seems that both men and women prefer the same female bodies. That wasn’t true when we surveyed men. On all questions, men wanted to be quite a bit leaner and more muscular than women preferred. But when looking at women’s bodies, it seems that both sexes prefer women who look fit, healthy, and athletic.

The other interesting thing is that even though most men prefer women who look strong and healthy, on every single question we asked, there were at least a few men who preferred every body type. So no matter what you look like now, there are some men who think you look totally killer.

Survey results showing that men find women who are fit, healthy, strong, and athletic as the most attractive.

If you’re looking for specific goals, think of a body-fat percentage in the mid-twenties (give or take 5%) that feels comfortable and healthy to maintain. (If you feel permanently hungry and fantasize about food, that can be a sign that you aren’t eating enough.) Think of lifting weights, growing gradually stronger, and not being afraid to gain weight/muscle. For most women who aren’t taking performance-enhancing drugs, it’s impossible to become “too” strong, so don’t be afraid to see what you’re truly capable of. As for proportions, think of doing all the compound lifts with equal fervour—variations of chin-ups, push-ups, deadlifts, and squats. If you want more, consider adding in a bit of extra isolation work for your glutes, such as doing some extra hip thrusts.

Alright, that’s it for now. If you liked this article, I think you’d love our muscle-building newsletter. We’ll keep you up to date on all the latest muscle-building information for women. Or, if you want us to walk you through the process of building muscle, including teaching you the lifts, giving you a full workout program, a complete diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Bombshell Program.

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Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has over ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people build muscle, get stronger, and gain weight.

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Cassandra González Duquette is a certified nutritionist (CNP) who studied at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, Canada. She's personally gained 22 pounds, going from 97 up to 119 pounds.

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1 Comment

  1. mimi lil on October 3, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    amazing

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