We’re all a bit guilty of having been programmed to think that the Waist to Hip Ratio truly is the top universal trait of womanly beauty. I mean, just picture the quintessential hourglass figure on a woman like Marilyn Monroe: It just oozes temptation and exudes a magnetic aura.
But what if I were to tell you that this narrative doesn’t actually tell the full truth? Call it what you want, the small of your back, your lower back, or as the French say, “la chute des reins” (the cascade of the loins), there’s proof to suggest that the lumbar curve could very well be the most attractive part of a woman.
What’s the Big Deal with the Lumbar Curve?
As humankind evolved to walk bipedally, our torso has had to adapt to support the full weight of our upper body. Compare the bone structure of a human and an ape in profile view, and you’ll see two additional curves that our primal ancestors didn’t need: the cervical curve and the lumbar curve. Throughout our evolution, human man and woman have developed further sexual dimorphism in our spinal curves than non-human relatives, with the female spine having a “statistically significant greater curvature,” and three wedge-shaped vertebrae in comparison to the male spine’s two wedge-shaped vertebrae.
In our world of ever-changing, impossible beauty standards, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting whiplash by what body shape is in style. At the turn of this century, the bombshell with slim hips and a plastic surgery-boosted bosom was one of the ideal body types, but in more recent years, the slim-thick influencer body with a small chest and BBL-style butt has been all the rage.
The slim-thick body shape of bygone years dramatically exaggerated a woman’s lumbar curvature, and while many have been speculating that the big BBL-bum is on its way out as the KarJenners allegedly moved toward the “country club BBL” or “skinny BBL,” what’s becoming glaringly obvious is that the hourglass figure as the universal trait of female beauty may just be a misguided narrative.
Men prefer women with a defined, angled lumbar curve over women with more mass to their bums.
Research suggests that men actually prefer women with a defined, angled lumbar curve over women with more mass to their bums. The ideal silhouette, according to science? A woman with a lumbar curve between 45 and 47 degrees.
Weaker angles and more exaggerated angles actually were shown to be less attractive since they both were perceived as causing lower back pain. If you’re regularly arching your back too far for that cheeky Insta shot, you may start to feel lumbar lordosis and compress your joints.
The Science behind the Attractiveness of the Lumbar Curve
There are a few different theories behind why lower back curves catch the male gaze. Firstly, a defined, curved back is biomechanically ideal for a woman to aid in pregnancy and childbirth. The female body evolved to already have a greater spinal curve to the tune of 18 degrees or more in preparation to offset the weight of a baby and the movement of internal organs. Since spinal curve during pregnancy increases “by 18% between 12 and 22 weeks and by a total of 41% between 12 and 32 weeks,” the fact that men perceived the most attractive female silhouette to be a woman with that 45-degree lumbar curve suggests to me that men are naturally inclined to love the look of a fertile woman.
Spine health is also arguably one of the most revealing physical traits of a person’s vitality since it’s the largest part of the musculoskeletal system, plays a major role in coordinating the central nervous system, and protects your mental health from hormonal imbalances. Hunched backs not only communicate to people around you that you’re weak and uninterested through nonverbal signals, but they also suggest a slew of physical problems. We know it’s not healthy to carry extra fat on our backs or midsections, which would conceal any noticeable spinal curve. It’s also worth noting how lumbar curvature can suggest heightened levels of flexibility – the reasons why a man would prefer this should be glaringly obvious. Bottom line is, a healthy spine universally indicates that someone leads a life of vitality.
The appeal of the lumbar curve also ties into the scientific reason that men like the look of a woman in high heels. Heels give a figure-flattering effect to a woman’s lumbar curve by pushing our bums out a little bit since we’re balancing forward on the balls of our toes. A study was done in 2021 to elaborate on this hypothesis and dive deeper into the phenomenon of men finding the lumbar curve uniquely attractive. The researchers showed participants videos of women walking in high-heeled shoes and women walking in flat shoes. The videos were filmed from a “theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature,” and what do you know, the results showed that the women wearing high heels were perceived by participants (both male and female) as having increased levels of attractiveness.
Heels give a figure-flattering effect to a woman’s lumbar curve by pushing our bums out a little bit.
Whether a woman is wearing heels or naturally has this posture when standing on flat feet, arching of the back has also been found to indicate a willingness for courtship. The research done can also be backed up by fact that animals push their pelvises back when they’re ready to mate.
How Can You Achieve That Alluring Lumbar Curve?
First things first: You can’t fake lumbar curvature. As I mentioned earlier, surgical and cosmetic procedures can enhance the amount of mass a woman has to her bottom. In theory, this would give the illusion of a stronger lumbar curve, but attractiveness decreased when a woman’s lumbar curvature was too exaggerated.
A real, natural lumbar curve comes from postural awareness and stronger muscles. It’s definitely an added bonus that your body might be perceived as more attractive to your current or future husband, but the benefits to your own personal health now and down the road if you decide to bear children are numerous!
A few best practices in your daily life to maintain a stronger spine, and thus maintain a better lumbar curve, would be getting up and changing positions often, striving to take brisk walks daily, placing a cushion or rolled towel behind your lower back when you sit down, sleeping on your side with your knees bent and supported by a knee pillow or sleeping on your back with your knees elevated by a pillow, and picking up objects using force from your bent knees instead of placing strain on your back.
As a self-proclaimed gym bunny who has a passion for strength training instead of exhaustive cardio, I have a select few favorite exercises and stretches to recommend if you’re looking to build your back strength.
Considered the king of all exercises, the deadlift is a compound lift so it works multiple muscle groups. This posterior strengthening exercise can be done with a barbell or two dumbbells. No matter what variation of deadlift you do, make sure you hinge your hips properly, maintain a straight and taut spine, and keep your shoulders back.
2. Back Extensions
Back extensions are a great accessory lift to warm up your muscles or to use as a finisher at the end of a workout. Depending on the way you position your feet and hold a weight, you can give an extra focus to your glutes and hamstrings as well. I personally love the 45-degree hyperextension while holding a dumbbell to my chest, but starting out just with bodyweight is a great way to work your back safely. You also don’t necessarily need fancy gym equipment for this one!
The bridge works your back, glutes, hamstrings, and core, and can be done with or without equipment. If you’re building up strength, I’d recommend adding a dumbbell resting on your pelvis or booty bands to hold your knees stable. Just make sure you’re not adding extra stress to your back. You can avoid that by tucking your hips under, maintaining a neutral core, adjusting how far your feet are from your bottom, and engaging your abs.
4. Downward Dog
One of the most common yoga poses, downward dog targets your back muscles in a spine-stabilizing way. Holding this pose regularly or in a flow with other back-friendly poses like a plank can help build your back strength just with body weight.
5. Cat and Cow Pose
These might look a bit whacky, but they should be a staple in your exercise rotations to increase your back flexibility and elongate your spine. The Cat and Cow pose can be a great warmup before you decide to do anything like deadlift as well.
While there is truth to the idea that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, time and time again, studies show us that there is objective beauty. Our brains are biologically wired to prefer beauty, as suggested by neuroesthetics, and displaying certain beauty traits can mark an individual as being a better partner. This doesn’t mean that a person who lacks a 45-degree lumbar curve is not sexually attractive, but it's worth recognizing that this trait appears to represent timeless beauty and universal attractiveness.
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