Handgrip strength could be an indicator of evolutionary fitness in men

Handgrip strength appears to be related to sexual behavior, especially in men, according to a new article in Frontiers in Psychology. It could even be an indicator of evolutionary fitness.

“I became interested in handgrip strength as an undergraduate student, where I was involved in a study showing this trait to be a significant predictor of sexual behavior, body morphology and aggression in male but not female college students,” explained Andrew C. Gallup of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

“I was intrigued how this trait was such a good indicator of health and vitality among both sexes, but only predicted measures of sexual selection among men. I then continued to study handgrip strength for my dissertation, and have remained interested in the topic ever since.”

In a review article assessing the research about handgrip strength, Gallup and his colleague conclude that handgrip strength is related to overall health and provides a valuable measure for evolutionary behavioral sciences.

“Handgrip strength in men is a remarkable predictor of a wide range of variables linked with social and sexual competition, including aggression and social dominance, perceived formidability, male-typical body morphology and movement, courtship display, physical attractiveness, and sexual behavior and reproductive fitness,” he told PsyPost.

“Given the importance of handgrip strength within contexts of physical combat, hunting, tool-use and manufacture, and protection and provisioning of kin during human evolutionary history, it appears that this trait has been under positive directional selection among men. Indicative of testosterone levels and fat-free body mass, handgrip strength is highly heritable and appears to be one of the single best measures of male reproductive fitness to date.”

Four studies that investigated the association between handgrip strength and sexual behavior found that stronger hand grips among men were associated with having more sex partners.

“The studies reported within this review span a variety of measurement techniques, include samples from a wide representation of cultures and geographic locations, and many of the specific findings have been replicated in independent laboratories,” Gallup noted.

“While handgrip strength correlates with numerous fitness measures in men, and typically fails to correlate with these measures among women, there has been a disproportionate representation of male to female participants across studies so future research could more closely examine this trait among women,” he added. “Also, researchers currently use a variety of techniques for measuring this trait, so future studies on human sexual selection could work towards standardizing the approach for assessing this preeminent trait.”

The article, “Handgrip Strength as a Darwinian Fitness Indicator in Men“, was authored by Andrew C. Gallup and Bernhard Fink.