I don't remember how I stumbled upon this 2005 article, but it's freely available online as a PDF. In these two studies researchers looked at the relationship between various measures of masculinity, femininity, and the drive for muscularity.
In Study 1, a sample of college-aged men and women completed measures of both gender-typed traits and gender-typed behaviors; in Study 2, a group of young men completed a measure of male-oriented gender-role conﬂict, as well as a measure of traditional attitudes about men. In both instances, the degree to which those gender-typed dimensions predicted the drive for muscularity was examined; in Study 1, the extent to which those relationships varied as a function of the participants’ gender also was assessed.I'm including the abstract and the literature review, which provides a nice overview of the field. In my gym, there is clearly a correlation between muscularity and masculinity - the bigger more muscular guys are more respected and revered. They are definitely the alpha males.
Full reference: McCreary, D.R., Saucier, D.M. & Courtenay, W.H. (2005). The Drive for Muscularity and Masculinity: Testing the Associations Among Gender-Role Traits, Behaviors, Attitudes, and Conﬂict. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, Vol. 6, No. 2, 83–94. DOI: 10.1037/1524-9220.127.116.11
The Drive for Muscularity and Masculinity: Testing the Associations Among Gender-Role Traits, Behaviors, Attitudes, and Conﬂict
Donald R. McCreary, BrockUniversity
Deborah M. Saucier, University of Saskatchewan
Will H. Courtenay, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Men’s Health ConsultingABSTRACTPrior qualitative research has suggested that people assume muscular men are more masculine. This assumption was tested quantitatively in 2 studies. In Study 1, men and women completed measures of gender-role traits and behaviors, whereas in Study 2, men completed measures of gender-role conﬂict and traditional attitudes about men. Study 1 revealed a correlation between self-rated male-typed traits and behaviors, with a need to be more muscular for both men and women. In Study 2, men with more traditional attitudes about men also wanted to be more muscular; men who wanted to be more muscular were experiencing conﬂict with regard to society’s expectations that they be successful, powerful, and competitive, and they reported that ﬁnding a balance between workand leisure is difﬁcult.Until recently, research exploring gender differences in body image concerns and their outcomes has been based solely on perceptions of adiposity (i.e., body fat). This research has led to the belief that because men are less concerned or dissatisﬁed than women with their degree of adiposity, are less likely than women to be dieting to lose weight, and rarely experience clinical disorders associated with body image (e.g., anorexia and bulimia nervosa), they are relatively happy with their bodies (e.g., Feingold & Mazzella, 1998; Garner, Olmstead, & Polivy, 1983; Muth & Cash, 1997). This belief, however, does not take into consideration the fact that adiposity is not equally important for men and women. That is, whereas the social standard of bodily attractiveness for women reﬂects being small and thin, the social standard for men reﬂects being big and muscular, what Mishkind, Rodin, Silberstein, and Striegel-Moore (1986) refered to as the “muscular mesomorphic” shape.
There is a growing amount of research demonstrating the importance of being muscular in both adolescent males (e.g., Jones, 2001; McCreary & Sasse, 2000, 2002; O’Dea & Rawstorne, 2001) and adult men (e.g., Fisher, Dunn, & Thompson, 2002; Jacobi & Cash, 1994; Lavine, Sweeney, & Wagner, 1999; Phillips & Diaz, 1997). For example, research has shown that many adolescent boys are engaged in resistance training activities to gain muscle mass (Ricciardelli & McCabe, 2003). Among adolescent boys, a higher drive for muscularity is associated with poorer self-esteem and more symptoms of depression (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). Pope et al. (2000) have shown that, when comparing men’s actual degree of muscularity to their perceived degree of muscularity, men signiﬁcantly underestimated their percentage of muscle mass. Pope et al. (2000) also showed that men’s ideal body size represents an average increase of 28 pounds (12.7 kg) of muscle and that men feel women are most attracted to a body shape that is, on average, 30 pounds (13.6 kg) heavier in muscle than their actual size. When asked where they would like to be more muscular, men and boys typically want larger pectorals, biceps, and shoulders (Drewnowski & Yee, 1987; Huenemann, Shapiro, Hampton, & Mitchell, 1966; Moore, 1990).
Some researchers (e.g., Grogan & Richards, 2002; Klein, 1993; Weinke, 1998) have suggested that one of the main reasons muscularity is so important to men and boys is that it is linked to perceptions of their masculinity; in other words, the more muscular a man or boy is, the more masculine he is. One might also suggest that boys and men who are not muscular (e.g., those who are endomorphic or those who are ectomorphic) may see themselves as more feminine. For example, Grogan and Richards (2002) have suggested that boys and men who diet run the risk of being perceived as feminine, in part because dieting is perceived to be a feminine-typed behavior.
One way to test these hypotheses is to explore the associations among masculinity, femininity, and the drive for muscularity. On the basis of ﬁndings from the qualitative research, we predicted that masculinity would be positively associated with the drive for muscularity, whereas femininity would be negatively associated with the drive for muscularity. However, there is an important limitation inherent in this prediction: Masculinity and femininity are global, higher order constructs and cannot be measured directly (Spence, 1984). Psychology has overcome this problem by developing indices of speciﬁc dimensions of masculinity and femininity.
Personality trait measures, such as the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ; Spence & Helmreich, 1978), the Extended PAQ (EPAQ; Spence, Helmreich, & Holahan, 1979), and the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974), are used to assess the degree to which men and women have internalized the gender stereotypic personality traits of agency–instrumentality (i.e., male stereotypic traits) and communion–expressivity (i.e., female stereotypic traits). Engaging in gender-typed behaviors is assessed using the Sex Role Behavior Scale (SRBS; Orlofsky, 1981) and its short form companion (Orlofsky & O’Heron, 1987). The degree to which people have adopted traditional versus contemporary or liberal views about men, women, and the relationships between men and women is assessed using measures such as the Attitudes Toward Women Scale (Spence & Helmreich, 1978) and the Male Role Norms Scale (Thompson & Pleck, 1986; Thompson, Pleck, & Ferrera, 1992). Other frequently used measures of gender-role socialization include the Gender Role Conﬂict Scale (GRCS; O’Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986), the Masculine Gender Role Stress Scale (Eisler & Skidmore, 1987), and the Feminine Gender Role Stress Scale (Gillespie & Eisler, 1992; see Beere, 1990, for more examples of how genderrole socialization can be measured). Thus, researchers examining the relationships between the drive for muscularity and perceptions of masculinity and femininity need to be very speciﬁc about the gender-role dimensions they are measuring.Read the whole article.