Ideal Body Proportions & Ratios in Relationship to Attractiveness

Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on September 30, 2021

In today’s image-focused and social media-driven world, having a proportionate body has become more and more desired, especially in the leg lengthening community. Human proportions and ratios have a range of deviation, but 9/10 times most people won’t notice if you have short arms unless its far outside average.

Nonetheless, the wingspan to height ratio and tibia-femur ratio are common concerns, but how exactly do other non-lengthens view these proportions, do most people have a preference and if so, is it a big deal?

Rest assured we answer all these questions, and do our best to not blow body ratios out of proportion.

What Does the Ideal Body Look Like?

The words “ideal physique” bring to mind the image of da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ – a proportional body of a male figure that is perfectly inscribed within a square and a circle. He considered this figure the ideal man who was healthy and physically fit. The man’s upper and lower body form a ratio of 3.75:6.25 (0.6).[1] This proportion is particularly close to the Golden Ratio of 1:1.6 (1.618).

The golden ratio is a mathematical miracle that’s abundant in nature. The spirals of flower petals, shells, honeycombs – all follow the golden ratio. Many believe that the closer the ratio of a man’s waist to his shoulder is to 1:1.6, the closer he is to achieving perfection.

On the other hand, artists use head heights to draw realistic anatomy. The proportional body is seven heads to an artist, and the perfect leg length is four heads. These standards can’t necessarily be applied to actual humans, though.

In real life, the ideal proportions for the body depend on the average proportions across the population and what most people find attractive. What are the Golden Ratios for the arms and legs, then? We can figure this out by exploring arm-to-body, leg-to-body, and intra-limb (upper-to-lower bone in the same limb) ratios.

What is Wingspan-to-Height (Arm-to-Body) Ratio?

Wingspan-to-height or arm-to-body ratio (ABR) is one way to check if your body is proportional. The wingspan is determined by measuring the distance between the fingertips of both hands when outstretched.

On the other hand, arm length is the distance between the ball of the shoulder and the wrist. Dividing arm length by the person’s height gives the ABR, and ABR tends to be more accurate than the wingspan-to-height ratio.

What’s the Ideal Wingspan-to-Height (Arm-to-Body) Ratio?

A study of over 300 women that examined the effect of ABR on attractiveness found that an “ideal” ABR doesn’t exist, and ABR by itself didn’t have any impact on men’s appeal.[2]

However, 1:1 is generally considered to be the ideal wingspan-to-height ratio.[3] An easy way to indicate this is the ape index – the difference between wingspan and height. If the height is 5’7″ (67 inches) and the wingspan is 70 inches, the ape index will be +3. On the other hand, if the wingspan is 63 inches, the ape index will be -3. On average, this number tends to be 0.

This ratio of 1:1 isn’t set in stone, though, as depending on height and torso length, a minor difference of up to about 5-10 cm isn’t significant enough to be noticeable.[4]

What’s the Average Leg-to-Body Ratio?

Measuring the distance between the thigh joint and the ankle gives the leg length, and dividing this length by the total height of a person results in the LBR. Measuring the inseam length from the groin to the base of the foot is another way of calculating LBR, but this is generally less accurate.

The average LBR is 0.529 for both men and women when measured from groin to base of the foot.[5] However, this value might differ from country to country and ethnicity to ethnicity since anatomic proportions are mainly genetic.

What’s the Ideal Leg-to-Body Ratio?

LBR has a much more significant effect on attractiveness than ABR. Generally, both men and women find legs longer than the average by 5% to be the most attractive.[6] However, when it comes to LBR, men with slightly longer torsos and shorter legs than average are seen as more attractive.[6] Women, on the other hand, benefit from a higher LBR.

Why is an Ideal Leg-to-Body Ratio Preferred?

The preference for leg-to-body (LBR) correlates quite strongly with people usually seen as having perfect bodies – lean models, well-built actors, and physically intimidating athletes. Perceived attractiveness leads to a “halo effect”, leading attractive people to be seen as kinder, better, and more capable than the rest regardless of their abilities.

People seen as attractive may earn more than those who aren’t. In a study conducted by Mobius and Rosenblat, employers were willing to give a 10.5% higher salary to potential employees simply by looking at their photographs.[7]

Conventionally attractive people are also understood to be “more sociable, dominant, sexually warm, mentally healthy, intelligent, and socially skilled” than others.[7] This belief leads attractive people to become more confident and develop better social and communication skills.

Attractive people can use their enhanced skillset to earn better, which means they tend to be happier than those seen as unattractive. Ideal LBR lends itself to increased attractiveness, which is why it’s inherently advantageous.

Are Ratio & Proportion Preferences Universal?

No. Since the average ABR and LBR vary across geographical and ethnic groups, preferences for these ratios also vary. Usually, people think of legs and arms measuring closer to the average more attractive, while they see those that differ vastly as unattractive.[8]

There are also groups like the Himba in Namibia, who have an opposite set of preferences. This population sees women with relatively lower LBRs are seen as more desirable. Men, meanwhile, are preferred if they have relatively higher LBRs than average.[9]

Do Femur to Tibia Proportions Matter?

The ratio of the femur to the tibia can play a part in making your legs look more aesthetically pleasing. Femur-to-tibia is an intra-limb ratio that has at least a slight impact on perceived attractiveness as well.[2]

On its own, the ratio of the femur to tibia doesn’t have a noticeable effect on attractiveness. Once the ratio of the upper and lower arm bones is changed too, both ratios combined affect how a man is perceived.

The average ratio between the femur and the tibia is 0.743, and heterosexual women seem to find men with legs that come close to this average to be more physically desirable.[2] In the long run, though, the leg-to-body ratio has a much more significant effect on attractiveness.

How do Femur and Tibia Ratios Affect Leg Lengthening?

If you’re considering leg lengthening surgery, femur lengthening is generally a safer option than lengthening the tibia since it’s less complicated. Different surgeons will have different ways of assessing which bones to extend, though.

At the Paley Institute, if the ratio between the femur and the tibia is less than 0.78, your surgeon may recommend you to get tibial lengthening performed. While this will make your legs look more proportional, you should remember that the tibia can be safely lengthened up to only 5 cm, while surgeons can safely lengthen the femur up to 8-10 cm.[10]

If you’re acutely self-conscious about your proportions or overall height, you may be suffering from height dysphoria. Leg lengthening surgery is almost 100% successful and can help make your body look more even and proportionate.[11] Even if you’ve already had your femur lengthened, you may be highly bothered if you think your legs look disproportionate. Whether you’re looking into tibial lengthening or just height surgery itself, the body you desire is within your reach.

References

[1] Meisner, G. (2014, July 7). Da Vinci and the Divine Proportion in Art Composition. The Golden Number. https://www.goldennumber.net/leonardo-da-vinci-golden-ratio-art/

[2] Versluys, T. M. M., Foley, R. A., & Skylark, W. J. (2018). The influence of leg-to-body ratio, arm-to-body ratio and intra-limb ratio on male human attractiveness. Royal Society Open Science, 5(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5990728/

[3] Science Buddies & De Brabandere, S. (2017, March 16). Human Body Ratios. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-body-ratios/

[4] Wingspan to body height ratio. (2015, June 29). Limb Lengthening Forum. http://www.limblengtheningforum.com/index.php?topic=2384.0

[5] Bertamini, M., & Bennett, K. M. (2009). THE EFFECT OF LEG LENGTH ON PERCEIVED ATTRACTIVENESS OF SIMPLIFIED STIMULI. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 3(3), 233-250. https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/~kmb/MyPublishedPapers/bertaminibennett2009.pdf

[6] Sample, I. (2008, January 17). Why men and women find longer legs more attractive. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/jan/17/humanbehaviour.psychology

[7] Baer, D. (2014, November 10). Scientists Identify 3 Reasons Why Attractive People Make More Money. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.in/strategy/scientists-identify-3-reasons-why-attractive-people-make-more-money/articleshow/45102751.cms

[8] Kiire, S. (2016). Effect of Leg-to-Body Ratio on Body Shape Attractiveness. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(4), 901-910. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26474977/

[9] Sorowkoski, P. (2012). Are preferences for legs length universal? Data from a semi-nomadic Himba population from Namibia. The Journal of Social Psychology, 152(3), 370-378. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22558830/

[10] Paley, D. (2018). Stature Lengthening Guide Book. Paley Orthopedic & Spine Institute. https://paleyinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/StatureLengtheningGuide-Website.pdf

[11] Rozbruch, S. R. (2020, April 28). Limb Lengthening – An Overview. HSS. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_limb-lengthening-overview.asp

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