You are here

Five Ways to Look Bigger Than You Really Are

Plus, what makes a guy look "dominant," according to science.
Chris Pratt

Quick: What do Superman, Bart Starr, and every character Arnold Schwarzenegger played in the 1980s have in common?

They're tall, sure. And yeah, they're rugged manly men. But any casual moviegoer or sports fan knows: These guys are straight-up dominant.

Now, scientists have some evidence that those traits—height, masculinity, and "dominance"—are bound together. And Hollywood is backing them up.

In a new study published in the journal Perception, scientists at Scotland's University of St Andrews altered photos of 25-year-old men to appear up to 3 inches taller, 10 years older, or "more masculine," and asked study participants to give their opinions of the men. The kings of the hill: Tall, masculine guys who look like they're about 35 years old.

And while that might seem reasonably obvious—the bigger the guy, the more likely he's a physically dominant presence—it also reveals inherent human biases when it comes to electing leaders or even picking a mate.

"Understanding what influences dominance perceptions is important since a dominant appearance in male faces is associated with a variety of social outcomes, ranging from high rank attainment of cadets in the military to high levels of sexual activity in teenage boys," Carlota Batres, who led the study, said in a press release.

It's also a defining factor in picking Hollywood's leading men—like, say, 36-year-old Chris Pratt, who stands a burly 6'1" and just so happens to be one of the top movie stars these days. Two other guys who land close to the mark: Channing Tatum (6'1", age 35) and Henry Cavill (6'1", age 32), who play Magic Mike and Superman, respectively. And consider this: The Avengers who do most of the powerhouse hand-to-hand fighting—Captain America and Thor—are played by taller actors (Chris Evans is 6'0" and Chris Hemsworth is 6'3"), while Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr., who's 5'9") tends toward ranged combat. Hulk is, well, Hulk.

So as far as anecdotal evidence goes, Tinseltown is backing up the St. Andrews study.

Of course, height and and age aren't exactly something guys can really control. The solution? Hit the gym, where targeting particular muscles (and burning stubborn fat) can help you sculpt your dimensions and achieve that dominant effect. (After all, Pratt was just a schlub on network comedy before he got absolutely ripped to play Star-Lord in Guardians in the Galaxy.)

Here are five key tips to get that "dominant" physique:

Trick 1: Boost Your Shoulders

Training your delts and traps will add much needed width across the top. Especially if you’re a taller guy, width is going to be a major standout feature to dictate whether you’re deemed “skinny” or “big”. Putting beef on your shoulders and neck are a good place to start.

Key Exercises:

> DB Clean

> Barbell Z Press

Trick 2: Blast Your Upper Back

Chin ups, rows, and pulldowns need to become your new best friends. Put bench press and biceps curls on the back burner and focus on adding width to your upper body. A wide upper back will have much more impact on your presence than an overtrained chest will, also because all the back training will open up your shoulders and improve posture. You’ll look wider just because you’re standing taller and more open.

Key Exercises:

> Bentover Rows

> Overhead Squats

Trick 3: Cut Stomach Fat

Eating clean and tapering down at the waist is a great way to accentuate the V-taper and overall “X” shape of the body. Plus, the lean look will not only be limited to the waistline, rather the whole body, making your muscles look more defined and ultimately more prominent. Go low carb for a few weeks and notice the differences.

Trick 4: Train Your Legs

Getting a good set of wheels will not only encourage the entire body to grow too, but it will complete an “X” shape. Filling out a pair of jeans and growing a pair of glutes will aesthetically convey much more athleticism than someone who just has some muscle on the upper body alone. Healthy legs let the viewer know that “this guy must train”.

Key Exercises:

> Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat

> Romanian Deadlift

Trick 5: Dress Right

Avoid clothing that’s excessively baggy. Clothes that accentuate a smaller waistline will bring out width in shoulders. As far as colors go, lighter tones and horizontal stripes can go a long way to draw the eyes towards the body’s widest points. Fitted clothing works, but don’t go too fitted. Too tight will defeat the purpose and the illusion will be lost.

Summary: Skinny & Jacked

Getting big is a process, but applying these tricks of the trade will speed it up, and make that process slightly more enjoyable as you begin to see results. Of course, there’s no shortcut for the real thing, so keep working hard and earn the benefits for your effort.


Want more Men's Fitness?

Sign Up for our newsletters now.