WAY back in the early days of this year’s Love Island season, one of the key dramatic moments was the arrival on the show of personal trainer, Adam Collard – a contestant whose job it was to steal one of the girls off one of the guys. “And here’s Adam,” Caroline Flack announced, as a hulk of a man all six-pack, brawn and pecs, swaggered into the villa wearing nothing but what appeared to be a pair of boxer shorts. There seemed to be a knowing wink in that introduction. Partly it appeared as if Flack were introducing the show’s latest prize bull and was rather pleased with it. Partly it seemed as if she were selling a hot, new weapon. Here’s Adam – so perfect a gym-crafted specimen of manhood, he’s like a bomb about to go off in the house.

The bomb of the hyper-defined, gym-worked male body has been going off in our culture for some time now. The rise of what has been called the “spornosexual” – a male body aesthetic somewhere between buff sportsman and chiselled porn star – has continued unabated since Telegraph journalist Mark Simpson coined the term in 2014. We see him everywhere – not just in advertising, but in the movies, where our favourite actors have been forced to bulk up and become Marvel superheroes. We glimpse him, all over Instagram, boasting about his latest workout, or toned through the wonders of an image-altering app. We gawped at him back in 2011 in Crazy, Stupid, Love, when, icon of the era, Ryan Gosling took his top off, and Emma Stone voiced a reaction which was probably what much of the audience was thinking: “Seriously? It’s like you’re photoshopped.”

The sculpted male body is not, of course, entirely new – from Greek statues to the muscular physiques of the 1930s that were inspired by Charles Atlas and his work-outs, it’s had many an antecedent – but it is an ideal that has increasingly started to dominate our television, film, advertising and media in recent years. Indeed, it feels we are coming to the end of a summer of beef and sinew, which included Poldark’s Aidan Turner’s oiled-up chest as well almost all the men on Love Island. The last few months of newspapers and magazines, it seems, have been filled with stories of how to get ripped like Poldark or shredded like Collard. Gyms, meanwhile, have tried to lure men in with the promise of the perfect beach bodies.

The lack of body diversity among the contestants on Love Island was not something that went uncommented on. Right at the start, social media got in a sweat about it. But also, more recently, actor Robson Green, star of new BBC drama, Age Before Beauty, added some observations. “‘[With] the guys, you go ‘wow, you look amazing’ and they do – they all look like they’re photoshopped – and then you go, ‘yeah but you’re mentally and emotionally unstable’. ‘You really are, and that show to me – like most shows like that – are about people who aren’t coping with distress and that’s the umbrella for those pieces.’”

There hasn’t yet been an actual study on what the impact of a 12-week televisual diet of ideal beach bodies and perfect six packs, of the type flaunted by Adam Collard or finalist Wes Nelson might be on the male psyche, but we can hazard a guess, and it’s unlikely to be to make Britain’s average, less gym-worked bodies feel good about themselves.

It's been known for some time that the body image pressures that have long plagued women are increasingly also impacting on men According to NHS figures, the number of men admitted to hospital with eating disorders rose by 70% between 2010 and 2016 – the same rate of increase as among women . A 2016 survey of 8-18 year old boys in the United States found that 23% of them said they believed there as a “perfect male body type”. Last year nearly 2500 men had some kind of cosmetic procedure in the UK.

It used to be that when one heard the term "beach body", one generally assumed the subject was a woman. That’s generally – in a culture that still regularly objectifies women – still the case. When tabloid articles praise someone for flaunting a beach body, or having perfected one, usually that person is female. Search “beach body” online and bikini shots are mostly what you find – but, add the word “male” and it becomes clear that the pressures on men nowadays to develop the kind of physique that would seem at home in the 2017 Baywatch film – not necessarily a muscle-mountain like The Rock, but at least a lean and toned Zac Efron – are mounting.

One of the factors contributing to ramping up this pressure is social media culture. A Men’s Health survey found, for instance, that one in three men admitted they feel pressure to look good on social media – and many would even edit photos to avoid being body-shamed online. Last year, an app titled Manly launched, offering users the ability to enhance images of themselves, adding pecs, toning abs, playing with contouring or making their skin clearer.

The pressures are most strong on the young. A ComRes survey found that more than half of 18 to 35-year-olds felt that reality television and social media were having a negative effect on how they see their bodies. That survey also asked people whether they would consider having plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure, with the younger respondents more likely than any other group to say they would.

Ripped. Cut. Shredded. These are the words for what men have to do to their bodies. How these spornosexual stars do it, also increasingly is the subject of fitness articles. Love island’s Adam Collard, we learn, crafted those pecs through workouts that included six rounds of 500m row, 300 wall balls and 30 box jumps. Before owning a fitness business, he underwent a huge body transformation, and “reverse dieted” adding calories, while doing high intensity workouts.

But the fascination with work-out and transformation is not restricted to the bodies of reality television stars. Anywhere there is a six-pack to marvel at, there’s an obsession with how it got there. In an interview earlier this year, Poldark actor Aidan Turner revealed how he built his physique for the series through fasting till 7pm and working out twice a day, and triggered a slew of articles on how to get “ripped” like Poldark. “I quite liked the hunger pangs,” he said. “It's good for the job. It keeps you in it, you know.”

Turner’s co-star in Poldark, Jack Farthing, recently observed: “Now more than ever, there is definitely a push on body image. For young men at the moment there's a real gym drive. It's bigger than ever and definitely present in the world of acting. Go and see any of the big films, and they're full of very toned, beefy people. It's totally normal now if you're cast in one of those big films to have to transform your body.”

Few men, outside the entertainment industry, have the time or motivation to commit to the kind of gruelling regimes it takes. Daniel Craig, whose Bond became of the early such icons of hypersexualised masculinity when he emerged from the water in Casino Royale, has complained about the gruelling work-outs that go into shaping this body ideal. "I work myself to death,” he once said. “It’s getting harder. But such is life.” His producer on Spectre also testified to this effort, saying: “I’ve never seen anything like it. He must have added, I don’t know, 10 inches to his thighs and the whole chest.”

The young Sean Connery with his rug of chest hair and only the subtlest of muscular definition, would surely have been kicked off a modern Bond set, and sent down to the gym, such has been the change in the aesthetic.

How have we come to a point where one of the things we are most asked to admire about actors is the gym hours they put in? Even Benedict Cumberbatch, who rose to stardom as a strange beauty and slender figure, has done his stint in the beefing-up system, as he piled on the muscle for Doctor Strange. When asked how he got so “henched”, he said: “The usual boring way. You eat very well, you get trained by brilliant people, you work out and you do yoga, you have a physio if you injure yourself, you do stunts, you do running, you have someone editing your diet. It’s all handed to you. It’s not that hard. You just really have to apply yourself. We’re lucky. People would kill for that kind of experience.”

But is this really a symptom of a problem? Men, of course, could just be going to the gym, and drinking all those protein shakes because they like and enjoy it, and not because they are driven by anxiety or inferiority. They could even just be there because, in some pragmatic way, they wanted to get rid of a few pounds. Research, however, does suggest otherwise. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a man's BMI did not predict his gym attendance, nor did his attitudes towards muscle – what did was his subjective perception of his body. If he had more negative views of his body fat he was more likely to go more frequently.

The tyranny of the body ideal is not as strong yet for men as it is for women. More men than women tend to say that they are satisfied with their bodies – 74% of men, by comparison with 63% of women according to a British Social Attitudes Survey in 2014. Yet, male body shaming without a doubt is on the rise. It has become commonplace to talk about the "dad bod" and the "man boob". And, even if fewer men experience dissatisfaction than women, there are still a significant proportion who are impacted by such feelings. Not only that, but a report published last year by Melbourne psychologist Dr Scott Griffiths, revealed that when boys are unhappy with their bodies it impairs their lives in the same way as it does girls.

“While the burden of body dissatisfaction clearly falls disproportionately on women,” Griffiths said, "research shows that it is increasingly becoming a problem for men. And while we don’t have data on whether it is an increasing problem or not among for boys, we can say that when body image is a problem for boys they are no less affected than girls.”

Given this, it’s good to see there is a growing male body positivity movement out there on social media. It is still tiny compared to what is now a conspicuous female movement, but it’s there, mostly making a statement on Instagram, and led by models and activists like Kelvin Davis, who writes the fashion blog Notoriously Dapper. Among those in the UK is Stevie Blaine, an Instagrammer who also vlogs about LGBT+ issues, and how he feels about his body.

In one video, Blaine poses naked, pointing out his bingo wings, the skin around his belly that he can never get rid of, and his freckles. “I’ve spent countless hours in front of the mirror, picking apart every cell of my being, wishing my flaws away and praying to look like anyone else other than me," he says. “Growing up and well into my early 20s, I felt that I wasn’t good enough because I put my entire worth on my body. I thought that I could never be happy, successful and popular unless I looked the way guys in the media looked.” But, says Blaine, after years of going to the gym, dieting, living on protein shakes, he is now happy with that body. “I may not,” he declares, “fit into your beauty standards but I sure as hell fit into mine.”

Danni Gordon, a female Scottish body positivity advocate observes: "Male body image issues are still way behind the female body discussion. That's because there is so much stigma against men talking about it as it is seen as a gay, female and a mental health issue. So not only do men suffer from that gender's unreasonable standards (perpetuated by media, celebrity culture and capitalism) and have less access to being vocal about it, so tend to suffer in silence, there is a huge trend towards men having to be buff, hairless, slim and super-fit, as well. It's all completely unattainable unless you are hitting the gym six days a week and eating a clean diet which is super restrictive and taxing on bodies and brains."

The battle for body positivity is likely to be a long and hard one. But it’s one worth fighting, on behalf of both women and men – for the last thing we want for the boys and girls of today, my sons’ generation, is for men and women to be equally oppressed by a beauty standard. We should want them both to be free of it.

Love Island may, meanwhile, in its own strange way, have done some little bit to loosen the grip of the spornosexual body ideal. After all, Adam Collard turned out to be one of the least appealing characters on the show and was widely berated for his behaviour towards fellow contestants. Meanwhile, the man who won, as one half of a couple with Dani Dyer, was Jack Fincham, whose physique was always at the softer, less “worked” end of the beach body ideal. I’d like to think this is testimony, not just to the likeability of this couple, but to the fact that we the British public are not having it.

Enough already. We’re bored with the six-pack. Rip it to shreds.