The first female bodybuilder to bring home a first place trophy was Texan, Racheal McLish. Her goal was to inspire women to transform their bodies, empowering them to be better. Competitive bodybuilding has changed over the last 50 years into a world of die-hard athletes. Four divisions with specific physique and posing requirements make watching a show entertaining and enjoyable. However, understanding these divisions is essential for a first-time competitor. It’s important to understand the differences between each and choose the one that works for you. No matter the division, to be successful, competing takes commitment and hard work. Attack your training and prep with enthusiasm. Remember, competing is a choice only 3% of the population choose to do. Put in the work and you won’t regret it.
1. The Bikini Division
The latest addition to female competing is the Bikini division. Over the last ten years, it has grown to mammoth proportions, and women are flocking to compete. Bikini girls are toned and streamlined. Legs should appear long and lean with a great midsection. Glute and hamstring development is also critical for success in this division. Athletes wear a suit that is figure flattering and fastens like a bikini that is worn at the beach. Your stage presence and overall appearance should demand attention in an overly saturated division. Make sure your look is glamorous and flirty while highlighting your best qualities. As you move through a series of half turns, posing and walking should be sassy yet relaxed. While I have heard people use the term “more soft” when discussing this division, please do not make the mistake of thinking that strength training is not important. If you want first place, you better grow a booty that says, “I SQUAT!”
2. The Figure Division
When looking at pictures of professional figure competitors, you will immediately notice that they all have gorgeous shoulder caps and v-tapers. Posing is performed in a series of quarter turns while the athlete flares and flexes, making the body appear as conditioned and symmetrical as possible. When posing in front of the judges, shoulders should look capped with flared lats and quads should be defined and proportionate. After completing a quarter turn to the right, judges will critique arm and glute development. Your waist should also appear to taper. While facing the curtain, lats should look broad and flared. Hamstrings should look rounded on the back of your legs like a second pair of biceps. Posing is done in a regulation suit and 5-inch clear, plastic heels. With body fat percentages between 11 to 9%, women still look feminine yet athletic. Judges are not looking for vascularity or striations in this division. Competitors should never be described as “ripped” or “dry.”
3. The Physique Division
The female Physique division was created for women who love strength training and competition preparation. Women who compete in this division should have a conditioned, athletic, feminine build with more muscle definition than in the Figure division. Physique competitors will be required to complete a choreographed posing routine showing off their perfect symmetry and muscularity. Fluidity and execution during this routine will contribute to your overall score. Your appearance on stage also matters. Give much thought to your suit, hair, makeup, tan, and jewelry. Unlike the Bikini and Figure divisions, you will pose in bare feet, allowing more freedom to flex, rotate and pose to highlight your musculature. Posing is done with an open hand and not a closed fist.
4. The Bodybuilding Division
Women’s Bodybuilding is the oldest division. Over the last ten years, the number of competitors has shrunk significantly. Competing in this division takes insane dedication and macronutrient manipulation down to the single gram. These women are the leanest with a body fat percentages around three percent. Jacked musculature that looks almost 3D, perfect symmetry, muscular balance, and vascularity are all of the requirements for this division. Posing is extensive, and you will be required to flex and maintain poses highlighting specific muscle groups. Knowing how to execute these poses is essential for being successful in this group. If you have never competed in this division before, please, hire a coach to teach you how to properly highlight all of your hard work. Competition suits are cut similar to the Figure and Physique, and no shoes are worn. Skin should appear healthy, and makeup and hair should look feminine yet natural.