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Quick Guide to Bodybuilding Competitions

April 10, 2014 2 min read

When I first started losing weight I began following a lot of different fitness icons on Instagram and Facebook for inspiration.  What I uncovered was an entire world that I had never seen before.  Women competing in bodybuilding competitions who didn't look like what I thought a typical bodybuilder should look like.  In my mind, women bodybuilders were big, bulky, muscular women who were far beyond the scope of my ideal body image.  However, I uncovered a world of lean, muscular women who had curves and still looked like.... well... Women. There are four categories of bodybuilding competitions: Bikini, Figure, Fitness and Physique. Each has a different requirement and a different set of rules for competition. Below I break down the four categories (aside from traditional bodybuilding) and the main components of each. 1) Bikini: The women in this category are VERY lean.  The competitors are judged based on balance, poise and physical appearance, from front and back angles. This category requires less muscle mass than physique and figure and traditionally bikini competitions are won from the rear.  One famous bikini winner Nicole Ankney can be seen here: nicolebikini 2) Figure: Figure competitions are based on muscle and body symmetry. The women are expected to have muscle separation but no visible striations.  In addition muscle tone is valued more than muscle size.  Competitors typically do a front, side left, back, then side right poses (Quarter Turns) for the judges.  The most famous figure competitor is Nicole Wilkins seen below:


3) Fitness: Fitness is the most unique category of all as it requires competitors to do a routine instead of just poses.  The routine combines balance, strength, and gymnastics to show athleticism and stage presence. Top fitness model Andrea Brazier is shown below:


Physique: The National Physique Committee (NPC) explains on its website that physique competitions are "for women who enjoy weight training, competing {and} contest preparation."  The main difference in this category from traditional bodybuilding is they are also looking for femininity and flow on stage. The most famous physique competitor is Dana Linn Bailey.  Although she did not win the 2014 Olympia her following is unsurpassed and her genuine personality makes it hard not to love her.


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