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Do women REALLY love a dad bod? We analyzed research on the type of male physique most desirable to women


Bulky biceps, chiseled abs and hulking shoulders – these used to be the physical characteristics women desired in men.

But in recent years the scale has swung in favor of the common man, with multiple surveys and reports indicating that the ‘dad bod’ is increasingly becoming a turn-on.

DailyMail.com analyzed several peer-reviewed studies that looked at the ideal male body type (according to women) to see if the trend holds up to scientific scrutiny.

The research suggested that while women do prefer a more realistic physique over the Hollywood hero look, they still want to see a bit of definition.

There is some debate about what constitutes a ‘dad bod,’ though it is usually love-handled but relatively slim – and not too lean or toned.

Studies suggest that women really do prefer muscular frames like those of David Beckham and Zac Efron

Studies suggest that women really do prefer muscular frames like those of David Beckham and Zac Efron

Studies suggest that women really do prefer muscular frames like those of David Beckham and Zac Efron

The above shows male bodies shown on a scale of muscularity from very little muscle, at 10, to a lot, at 90. Results showed women preferred men with an average level of musculature

The above shows male bodies shown on a scale of muscularity from very little muscle, at 10, to a lot, at 90. Results showed women preferred men with an average level of musculature

The above shows men by shifts in their waistline. The study revealed that, out of the college women surveyed, there was a preference for more athletic men

The above shows men by shifts in their waistline. The study revealed that, out of 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 thought that females associate big muscles with strength, health and protection.

A Yale professor has claimed some women choose men with dad bods because the physique indicates the man would be a good father.

They were less keen on more rounded physiques. Pictured above is Gerard Butler in Malibu in 2021

They were less keen on more rounded physiques. Pictured above is Gerard Butler in Malibu in 2021

The papers — which involved hundreds of women — were a bit of a mixed 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 the middle.

Take a 2012 study published by researchers at the University of Washington, for example.

It recruited 842 undergraduate, college-educated women and showed them artistic impressions of 18 male bodies to work out the desirable level of fat and muscle.

Women were shown sketches of nine bodies that varied in terms of muscularity — from virtually no muscle (10) to heavily muscled (90).

They were then shown nine bodies that depicted different levels of fat, with 10 being skinny and 90 being the fattest.

Overall, the women were most likely to say a thinner man – scored as 40 out of 90 -was the most attractive.

But they preferred a man with a little more muscle — reaching a median score of 50 out of 90.

Notably, however, this man did not have the six-pack or bulging biceps, suggesting a more normal, average look was desired.

Women in Italy were asked to rate which male body type they found the most attractive by varying body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). They found the man top center was the most attractive

Women in Italy were asked to rate which male body type they found the most attractive by varying body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). They found the man top center was the most attractive

The researchers noted in their conclusion: ‘Males exaggerate the level of muscularity that females actually found most attractive.’

Another study published in 2022 and carried out in Italy reached a similar conclusion, with the 378 undergraduate women who were surveyed also saying they preferred a man with some musculature and an average build.

They were asked to rank three bodies based on body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) – which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Women were shown physiques that had a BMI of either 18 – which is considered underweight – 24 – which is at the top of ‘normal weight’ range – and 30 – which is considered obese. They chose the middle physique.

The ideal body fat percentage was 17 percent – which is far lower than the sub-10 percent Hollywood action stars have when they shoot their movies. 

Some bodybuilders get down to as low as four percent for competitions.

Further studies have backed up the conclusion that women prefer a man with an average build and some musculature.

The above is an example of the ideal body that women built in a UK study

The above is an example of the ideal body that women built in a UK study

In a study from the UK, 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.

Results showed women opting for men with muscular legs and a V-taper with broad shoulders. 

In their conclusion, the researchers at the University of Newcastle noted: ‘The features important to the male ideal are a slightly heavier, muscled body with a specific V-shaped upper body.’

More studies are needed into the topic, as well as meta-analyses pulling together the results of a number of different papers.

Additionally, limitations of the research include that it has only looked at the opinions of women in their early 20s — rather than older individuals.

The studies did not consider other factors that can influence attractiveness such as height and perceived age. 

The ideal male body appearance has shifted substantially over time — with an artist suggesting that in the 1870s women preferred rounder male bodies, and in the 1980s were more interested in buff physiques.

Several surveys have, over the years, suggested women prefer a ‘dad bod’.

They include a release from Planet Fitness published in 2021 that found 70 percent of women thought the dad bod was best after surveying about a thousand women.

Other surveys from websites including 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 scrutinized by scientists.

Dr Richard Bribiescas, an anthropologist at Yale University, suggested in 2016 that women preferred a ‘dad bod.’

He said at the time: ‘Macho makes you sick.

‘The Hollywood image of the swaggering, dashing man dispatching bad guys and carrying the day conjures up a perception of indestructibility.

‘While men are on average larger and physically stronger than women, men have a considerable weakness.

‘We have a harder time fighting off infections and illness compared with women, and… men simply do not take care of themselves.’

This has a ‘significantly negative impact’ on the pace at which men age, he added.

In his book, How Men Age, he suggested a theory called the ‘Pudgy Dad Hypothesis’ — where he suggests a dad bod may actually be healthier because the higher levels of fat lower testosterone levels, making it more likely that a man could survive and have a stronger immune system.



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