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“Which Muscles do Women Like”… and what’s the BEST way to build them

Well… here we go again. ‘The Postgame’ has published one of those ‘which muscles do women like’… “the MOST”… type of article. These lists draw attention, for sure. Some guys who see this stuff are probably spending a few more seconds in front of the mirror wondering if they’ve got enough ‘pec meat’ or ‘biceps bulge’ to catch (or keep) a woman’s eye. Still others likely have the following questioning thought:

Inshape Couple‘Okay… are the ladies visual… or are they NOT visual? I keep getting opposing messages.’

The answer probably lies somewhere in between. If there’s anything implicit that these ‘which muscles do women like’ studies reveal, it’s that we guys tend to project our own notions of what “being visual” means onto women. We’re visual at a level of “immediacy”; a trait that bodes well for serving our brief role in reproduction before getting the hell out of “the cave” and becoming providers. They’re visual in a more instinctively strategic sense; a trait that serves well for picking a mate that will likely be the best provider for offspring.

Given those distinctions, the study findings of ‘which muscles do women like’ tend to make sense. What women find appealing are muscles that most easily prove a guy’s physical provider capabilities (in a primitive sense) with just a quick glance. Big upper arms are a easily observable sign of strength and physical prowess. ‘Six-pack abs’ are a sign of “hunter endurance” as they signal that their owner has mid-body strength and the stamina that comes with low body fat. Responding to these is an instinct from the past; a throwback to the nomadic days of mankind. It seems superficial only in the surroundings of our contemporary hunter/provider environment, which often consists of desks, office cubicles, and water coolers.

With that preface, let’s go over the list of ‘which muscles do women like’ along with some better tips on how to develop them.

‘Which Muscles do Women Like’… and how do you best build them?

The following is a list of ‘muscles that women love’ according to a study from Western Illinois University cited by ‘The Postgame.’ They’re in order of most to least important, according to the alleged findings.

  1. Abs
  2. Biceps
  3. Chest
  4. Obliques
  5. Triceps
  6. Butt

What I find really lacking in such lists is their accompanying workout advice for developing each of the body parts. For example, this piece by ‘The Postgame’ links out to supposedly relevant articles on how to best build these muscles. As if to add confusion to half-heartedness, they link to an article on how women should build their butts after revealing that women like men to have nice posteriors. The result is more of a hodge-podge of workout advice sources that, by my estimation, will provide mediocre results… if you’re lucky. No wonder the internet continues to build a reputation for being a repository of half-assed snippets for ‘info-junkie’ entertainment.

In contrast, I’ll briefly go over each of the allegedly desirable muscles and provide (what I think is) more cutting-edge advice to produce better results.

Abs: No surprise that this is the top answer in the ‘which muscles do women like’ category. We’ve been hearing that women love abdominals on guys (ad nauseum) for at least a couple decades. The problem here is that, if you’ve got genetics like mine, the abdominals are a difficult muscle group to build and even harder to make visible. A ‘six-pack’ seems miles away when you still haven’t landed a decent four-pack (Geez… what ever happened to “washboard abs?”)

If you’re facing such mid-body challenges, advice like that cited by The Postgame write-up is nearly laughable. They link to a Men’s Health article on ‘stability exercises.’ While there’s nothing inherently wrong with stability exercises, I’d classify them more as overall ‘core exercises’ than abdominal developers. They’re great for older people and/or as “topping off” techniques after you’ve actually performed a ‘spine-hinging’, movement-centric abdominal workout.

The following are 4 keys I’ve found to be extremely useful in building six-pack abs:

  1.  Work lower abs before upper abs
  2.  Hinge at the waist (not the hips) when working abs
  3. Use ‘progressive overload’ to build abs (as with any muscle)
  4. Fat loss through better eating and cardio workouts are key to making abs ‘visible’


Biceps: Okay, now these are on the list of ‘which muscles do women like?’ Twenty years ago, forearms were on the list and these were not. Maybe we should just be balanced body-builders and build... uh… all the muscles? Maybe we ought to develop them in a balanced manner?

Anyway, much like the advice for getting abs, the Men’s Health article that’s linked to is devoted to “new” biceps moves, as if ‘new’ means “better” and the tried-and-true methods of bodybuilding’s past aren’t trendy enough for the contemporary metrosexual (whatever).  One-Armed Biceps Curl

Okay, enough with the cryptic blasting of pop culture fitness trends. Bottom line: If you want bigger biceps, you’ll get better results by “hyper-isolating” the muscle than by combining it with some ‘core exercise’ that would have you taking a rest-pause between each repetition. 

How do you isolate the biceps better?

Rather than bog you down with unnecessary written words, I’ll just link to a video in which I demonstrate this kind of ‘hyper-isolation.’ You can find it right here.


Chest: ‘The Postgame blog’s recommendation on building this muscle is pretty frustrating. That’s because it’s nearly worthless. After being revealed as one of the “muscles that women like”, there’s no advice in the written piece other than “psyche yourself up before bench presses.”

First off, this assumes that heavy bench pressing is a universally great pectoral building exercise. That falls into the category of absurd. It doesn’t require exceptional observational skill to see that some great bench pressers (including many power lifters) possess terrible pec development. The extent to which bench pressing contributes to developing a guy’s chest depends on three factors:

  1. How the exercise is performed
  2. Genetic predisposition to pectoral muscle recruitment on this exercise
  3. The effectiveness of the entire  pec-building routine as it relates to muscle breakdown/muscle recuperation

I learned from a great magazine article back in 1988 about how bench pressing can pale in comparison to flye exercises for building pectorals. It was written by legendary pro bodybuilder Scott Wilson. If you’re having lackluster chest building results from using bench pressing, I suggest you consider his insights and begin using ‘flye-centric’ workouts for your pecs.


Obliques: I find it peculiar that this is on a list of ‘which muscles do women like.’ I’ll bet most people don’t even know what an oblique is, much less be inclined to point them out on a person’s body. What’s probably mistaken for “nice obliques” is a small waistline with little to no fat in this area. What women probably like more than anything is an absence of “love handles.”

My advice to guys (and gals) is to focus on better eating habits if you’re concerned with improving this area. That, along with some intense, spine-hinging abdominal workouts will do more for your obliques than performing endless, isometric ‘side bridges.’

The article recommends “offset” lunges and squats for the obliques. This is a lunge or squat done with a dumbbell in one hand and nothing in the other. While that’s not bad advice for putting stress on the muscle, an important caveat should be mentioned about such ‘stabilization’ type exercises: If other muscles (or the body) get fatigued sooner than the muscle you’re targeting (in this case – the obliques), then you’re likely not working the intended ‘target muscle’ as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Translation: Weighted side-bends might be a better choice, since you’ve already got dumbbells in your hands anyway.


Triceps: Another new one on the latest list. As I alluded to before in regard to ‘which muscles do women like’: We might as well just build all of them… in a balanced manner. Whatever’s not on the lists now will likely be there next time.

The Postgame article goes on to mention what many of us know already – that the triceps contribute to two-thirds of upper arm size. It then recommends doing “pushups (with hands) on a stability ball” because research shows it produces “30% more triceps activation” than a standard pushup.

This, of course, assumes that pushups are a good triceps builder in the first place.

Do any other guys find this advice slightly insulting? Is it assumed that we’ve all lost our friggin’ mojo? Who really attempts to build decent triceps size with pushups (other than the Tony Horton crowd)? Nothing against Tony Horton, but I wouldn’t follow his routine for getting triceps to pop to an appreciable degree.

Bottom line: If you want bigger arms, get some decent resistance, do some triceps extensions, and increase the resistance in a systematic manner.


Butt: This one’s no surprise as an item on the list of “which muscles do women like.” It might have been a mini-bombshell a couple decades ago, but we’ve heard it repeatedly since then.

I won’t mince words: Whether you’re male or female, you really need to effectively target the glutes and increase resistance volume if you’re ever going to improve your butt. The best way to do that is with deep squats or deep leg presses with a wide foot stance.

Again, it’s only by volume overload that you can actually build the muscles back there. If you decide to do lunges for a better butt and you’re still using the same weight in the future as you are now, your glutes will not change. It’s only through higher volume workload capability that muscles are augmented.


Scott Abbett

Hi Sammy,

Interesting take. In my eyes, you're contrasting two extremes. You say that women prefer a 'Ryan Gosling' or 'Ryan Reynolds' appearance over a "huge, jacked-up" type of guy. Wouldn't you say there's a lot of leeway between those two examples... between bodybuilding drug freaks and movie stars that have selective nubs of teenaged-like muscle? What about a Sly Stallone type of bodybuilding appearance? In my opinion, he looks a lot more proportional and muscular than the two dudes you've mentioned, but he's a long way from the 'freaky-huge' category; He says he weighs all of 178 lbs.

I fully agree with the second half of your comment. It reminds me of something funny a guy said to me at the gym when I was about 28 years old. Over some years, I'd gotten very fat from following the "lift heavy/bulk up" mentality. I then went on a crash diet that left me 30 lbs. lighter within two short months. I'd lost a lot of strenth. My bench press went down substantially (OMG). When I shared my dismay at my strength loss with this guy, he said the following:

"Well, you look good... It's not like a woman is ever going to look at you and say... 'Gee, he's kind of fat, but he sure can bench press a lot... so I guess I can overlook the fact that he's fat.'"

Looking back: I think obsession with strength gains is an instinctive thing for guys. I think it comes from a need to feel assertive and able to be an adequate protector. Sometimes it might be motivated by a desire to perform better in a sport. The exact need might differ, but the instinct is present. Regardless, progress in this area is really only acknowledged and validated by other guys. I think this reason for working out with weights is more the motivator in youth, while staying healthfully in shape and looking youthful is more the motivator with age.

Nothing wrong with that.

Thanks Sammy,



I have never met a woman, excluding the one I know who is a bodybuilder fan, who thinks a huge, jacked guy is sexy. Never. They all, to a woman, prefer the Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds muscular but very lean look. It's been my experience that ironically, the huge, vascular muscles on top of muscles look attracts more male muscle-heads than women.

Same goes for guys lifting in the gym. Guys seem to lift very heavy weights - usually more than they can lift with good form - to impress other guys. Women, in my experience, don't notice the amount of weight lifted. And, again ironically, any guy who has an ounce of knowledge, can tell which guys at the gym are lifting way more than they can really lift.

I love the irony of it all.

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