An odd thing happened recently, which was that people started to tell me I was better looking than I used to be. Not always in those words of course, they were coy about it, but they'd start saying things like 'you're looking really good these days' or 'you know, you're not half as ugly as you used to be'. My friends are charming like that.
At first I couldn't put my finger on what it was, until I met up with a friend I hadn't seen for a few months and she commented that my face looked slimmer and that it looked 'really good'. I of course was pleased at the comment, even if it was a little odd, until she then went on to tell me that I looked 'generally slimmer'. For most people that might be a compliment, but to an amateur bodybuilder it's quite the opposite.
I discussed the matter with my girlfriend and she told me that I did appear to have lost muscle, and that it showed in my face. She too was a fan. So of course the question then raised itself: does building muscle make your face less attractive? I knew that girls generally preferred a toned look to an Arnie look, but could it be that even my face looked worse when I started lifting heavy weights?
This also created a dilemma. Of course I was upset that everyone had told me I'd lost weight (I had been recovering from a knee injury), so I wanted to pile muscle back on. But would it come at the cost at my newly improved looks? (Just to get some perspective here I still didn't look like Tom Cruise or anything, I just got a little easier on the eyes... )
Does Building Muscle Make Your Face Less Attractive?
I thought about it, and took some measurements, and found that the mystery deepened. The thing was, that I actually wasn't any less muscular than I had been. In fact, in the most prominent places I was actually now stronger than before. I had bigger arms, a bigger chest and more developed shoulders. So what was going on?
Eventually I found the explanation: while most of my physique had continued to improve, my traps had actually suffered. This was because I struggled to shrug without putting weight on my knees (you tend to shrug standing up, though of course there are other ways to do it) and had opted to simply remove the exercise from my training.
For those who don't know, the traps are the back muscles that surround the neck (as opposed to the lats which are located under the armpits) – and my neck itself would have gotten weaker because I dropped the traps too. Suddenly then, I realised that my face looked slimmer because the neck and traps around it looked slimmer.
In short then, because there was less muscle around my neck and my neck was slimmer, it made my jaw line look more defined. So building muscle per-say won't make your face look less defined and attractive, but building up your traps and your neck just may. If your jaw is a feature that you're proud of, then that's something to take into account when training. Note though that you shouldn't just drop the traps entirely from your workout, as it will result in a muscle imbalance that could affect your posture and cause injury. A solution may be to grow some stubble around your chin, or it may be to refocus your training goals altogether; but at least you're aware now.