A Guide: Female Bodybuilding Categories

Weight lifting is now one of the most popular forms of exercise for both men and women. This has quickly translated into the world of bodybuilding. With more and more women becoming interested in the sport. 

Women are ready to push their bodies and societal boundaries by competing within the sport. However, there are many challenges to be faced. 

In this article we explain the main categories of female bodybuilding. With hopes of giving a new generation of female bodybuilders the tools and information they need to start their career. 

Push your body to its limits by getting involved in the extreme sport, bodybuilding!

The Main Categories Of Bodybuilding 

Bodybuilding works similarly to other sports in terms of categories. There are 6 main categories which are determined by a womens weight when they enter the competition. 

Wellness Category

The Wellness category is a new category in women’s bodybuilding (see also ‘Wellness Category In Bodybuilding Competition, Women Recognized‘). Starting 2016 this created a larger sense of inclusivity for the sport. Women with a fuller, more curvaceous figure were granted the opportunity to compete. 

In this category, the judges aren’t looking for huge muscles or extremely low body fat percentages.

The focus of wellness is mostly on symmetry, proportions, overall attractiveness, and the “whole package.”

This category is focused on women who have the ideal healthy body. Competitors are generally slim with an athletic build meaning they are not jacked full of muscles. 

Women competitors are expected to have a healthy, fit body that is toned with fuller thighs, hips and a wonderfully round buttocks. 

Wellness Judging

Those competing within the Wellness category are judged across numerous points. Including:

  • Stage Presence
  • Vertical Proportions 
  • Horizontal Proportions 
  • Quarter Turns 
  • ‘I Walks’ (Across a stage or runway)

This is the category where competitors will be marked down for having extreme muscle definition, low body fat levels, bug muscle size, and separation. Competitors must sport and athletic, full figure that is the picture of health. 

Bikini Category

The bikini category may have been the one that attracted women the most to the sport. Due to the increasing interest in bodybuilding from women across the world, the Wellness category is becoming more popular over the Bikini category. 

The Bikini category is similar to the Wellness category where competitors are required to have well-balanced muscle definitions with being too extreme when it comes to size or low body fat levels. They should have a healthy physique that is well-balanced with slight definition. 

The judges are seeking a classic hourglass form, with a focus on strong, proportionate glutes, a tiny waist, and defined shoulder muscles.

Points are given to competitors for symmetry and balance of both muscle size and shape. The skin should also be evenly toned and moisturized when walking onto the stage. No patchy tan or dry patches of skin are allowed. 

Bikini Judging 

Bikini competitors are judges on similar areas as the Wellness category with a few slight differences: 

  • ‘I Walks’
  • Quarter Turns 
  • Posing 
  • Confidence 
  • Stage Presence 
  • Front and Back Poses

Competitions are judged across 2 rounds while wearing a 2 piece bikini and high heels. 

  • Round 1. Competitors will perform front, back, and side poses for the judges. 
  • Round 2. Competitors will begin with an ‘I WALK’ across the stage to showcase their stage presence and physique while they move. They will also perform another set of front, back and side poses. 

Figure Category  

The Figure Category is where the classic image of bodybuilding comes into play. Women are now judged on having a more muscular shape while remaining athletic. 

Figure competitors typically have broad shoulders, a smaller waist, and narrow hips along with a strong build.

Judges are particularly taken aback by robust, muscular shoulders and backs when it comes to muscle balance.

This should be counterbalanced with powerful quadriceps and glutes to create an impressive “X” shape.

The judges are looking for full muscles with clear separations. Competitors will be marked down for being too lean and not having a good level of visible muscle mass. It is optimal for competitors to have a body fat percentage of 8-12% to show off the right muscles and separation. 

Figure Judging 

The Figure category is where more focus is brought to muscle definition, shape, and size. 

  • Visible Muscle Separation 
  • Muscle size, symmetry, and proportion 
  • Quarter Turns 
  • Appearance: skin tone, make up, outfit, and overall appearance 

Poses are included within the classic quarter turns. Judges should be able to see the competitors physique from all angels to provide a true judging. 

For those competing within the Figure category, the goal is to be lean rather than overly muscular. 

The ‘I Walks’ are commonly not included within this category. Competitors will be judged over two rounds wearing a one piece and two piece bathing suit to allow the judges to see the physique in different ways. 

Fitness Category 

The Fitness Category is where both fitness and talent combine. Competitors or the Fitness category will have a physique which is close to that of competitors of the Figure category. Although, a performance aspect is added. 

Competitors are expected to perform a fitness routine to music in addition to displaying a well-built physique.

This is a chance to show off your athletic prowess and fitness level.

This is a popular category among those who have an athletic background such as dance, cheerleading, or gymnastics. However, if you feel that you can appease the judges, you are welcome to compete. 

This performance does not have to be dance or gymnastics based, but it does have to be choreographed to music and include a range of moves:

  • Straddle Hold 
  • High Kick
  • Front and Side Splits 
  • Leg Extension Hold 
  • One Armed Push Up 

All of these moves showcase your physique and strength to the judges. 

Fitness Judging 

The Fitness category is judged over two rounds:

  • Round 1. This is a two-piece round where competitors are judged based on their physique. This includes the typical quarter turns and poses. 
  • Round 2. This is a one-piece round where competitors will showcase their talent. A performance is choreographed to a piece of music. 

In the second round, competitors are judged on their firmness, poise, athleticism, and stage presence along with their symmetry and muscle proportion. 

This category is extremely difficult to compete in as judges wish to be wowed within very specific parameters. 

Physique Category 

For individuals who find it simple to gain muscle and reach a greater level of muscle growth, the women’s physique division is ideal. Judges assess a contestant’s poise, symmetry, shape, and proportion.

Competitors are expected to have a muscular physique without being overly ripped or having extreme visible muscle mass. 

Points are awarded for having perfect muscle shape and symmetry while remaining poised and elegant. 

Physique Judging 

Women competing within the Physique category will be judged on a variety of poses:

  • Front ab and thigh
  • Side Chest With Arms Extended 
  • Front Double Biceps With Open Hands (No Flat Foot Full Front Pose or Front Twisting Pose)
  • Side Triceps With Leg Extended 
  • Back Double Bicep With Open Hands 

In the Physique category competitors are required to choreograph the above poses to a piece of music. Throughout this performance judges will assess competitors’ muscle mass. 

Competitors in the women’s physique division should enter the stage with relatively little body fat. In this group, certain muscular striations are acceptable.

The judges want an overall appearance that is slimmer and more muscular than those in the other categories. It is not preferred in this category for female bodybuilders to have their thick muscles and exceptionally low body fat percentages.

Women with good physiques should have wide shoulders and backs, a small waist, powerful, lean glutes, excellent symmetry, and a balanced frame with some muscular striations.

Bodybuilding Category

Due to the fact that most women do not wish to pursue a career in professional bodybuilding, the popularity of the female bodybuilding category has declined. It is still there, albeit in a considerably diminished form.

Only the bodybuilding division of women’s physique competitions uses weight rather than height to choose winners. This is due to the fact that body fat, athleticism, and femininity are not as heavily weighted in the grading as muscular mass and body composition.

It requires a ton of devotion to develop, maintain, and perfect your program and physique for this level, which is by far the most challenging.

Bodybuilding Judging 

Bodybuilding competitors are judges based on a variety of compulsory moves:

  • Front Ab and Thigh 
  • Side Triceps With Leg Extended 
  • Side Chest With Arms Extended 
  • Front Double Bicep With Open Hands (No Flat Foot Full Front Pose or Front Twisting Pose)

While these poses are mandatory for Bodybuilding competitors, the judges can also request other poses to be performed to make a better judgment. 

Then, bodybuilders are free to do their own set of poses. Competitors will create their own choreography for this.

Female bodybuilders have the chance to showcase their greatest stances, angles, and muscles in an effort to wow the judges.

Bodybuilding competitors are judged on muscle size, proportions, symmetry, and balance as well as lower body fat and ability to pose. 

In order to gain the best Bodybuilding physique should be:

  • Dry. The body should have as little water as possible under the muscles.
  • Vascular. The body fat percentage and water should be low enough that the blood vessels appear large, thick, and are visible through the skin. 
  • Granular. The body fat percentage should be low enough that the muscle texture can be seen underneath the skin. 

This is an extremely difficult physique to achieve and maintain for the majority of women. Hence why this category is diminishing in popularity. 

How To Find Your Bodybuilding Division 

Are you interested in becoming a female bodybuilder? To see where your physical limits lie? Well, we have created this simple guide that will help you find your perfect bodybuilding division. 

Whether you prefer the talent aspect of bodybuilding or have a healthier physique, you can compete and push your body to its limits with bodybuilding. 

Identify Your Body Type

Given your preparation schedule and your body type, think carefully about which divisions are appropriate. Tall, lanky ladies find it challenging to appropriately develop their lengthier muscle bellies for physique, just as shorter, thicker-waisted girls frequently struggle in the slim and curvaceous bikini division. 

Keep in mind that just because you don’t have the “ideal” body for a division doesn’t imply you can’t succeed in it; it just means it will be harder.

Ability To Grow Muscle

Are you a hardgainer who must battle for every gram of lean mass, or a mesomorph who fights to hold it down for a figure (or bikini)? Muscle gain will inevitably become a problem once you begin training for your competition goal.

Additionally, think about what you are ultimately happy with and how much size your body can bear visually.

With recent developments within women’s health, it has been discovered that women typically hold onto fat a lot more than men. Meaning reaching that healthy, toned physique can be rather difficult for females. 

However, with the correct nutrition and exercise, women can drop fat and begin building muscle. Depending on which category you wish to enter, you may need more focus on muscle conditioning rather than muscle growth. 

If you are starting from the beginning then you may have a focus on dropping some body fat and gaining some muscle. For someone who has competed in the past, you may want to focus on strength conditioning to ensure the muscles are aesthetically pleasing without being too aggressive. 

Find The Time

Make a thorough inventory of your preparation for the stage, including your workout, diet, posing practice, attire, and appearance.

Are you prepared to commit to every single one of them? It’s not easy to train for a bikini competition, and physique or fitness add even more to your to-do list, such as additional practice sessions for your routine and choreography.

Bodybuilding can become a full-time job and requires a lot of time and effort to perfect your routines and physique. Ensure you have the time to commit to training before you sign up for a competition. 

Tips For Female Bodybuilding

To be successful in female bodybuilding, it can take a village. We have some tips to help make it a little easier:

Hire A Coach

Whether you are a football player, a swimmer, or a tennis player, everyone has a coach when they are ready to take their skills to the next level. Bodybuilding is no different. 

A coach can help take you to a professional level as they know what you need to get you there. 

A professional coach is essential to your success since they can advise you on competitive standards and give you a frank assessment of which category they believe will fit you best.

Your coach will (should) make sure you are in top physical shape when you enter the stage.

Do Your Research

It is important that when you are signing up for a competition, each federation has their own set of rules and regulations that you have to be aware of. 

One of the best methods of research you can do is to attend a bodybuilding show as a spectator before signing up as a competitor yourself. This will allow you to see how the show runs. From the poses and routines, and the way in which competitors are judged before they even take to the stage. 

Take it a step further by striking up a conversation with some strangers, finding out about their experiences, and allowing yourself to truly gain a sense of the bodybuilding world. You can learn from people’s mistakes and understand what is expected of you when you compete. 

Define Your Goals

Knowing what you want to achieve from bodybuilding can help propel your career forward. 

Take a long time to define your goals and ensure you know what needs to be done to get you there. 

Final Thoughts

Bodybuilding overall, is a difficult sport to succeed in. From the intense training to the rather brutal judging, many find themselves giving up before their first competition. 

However, if you think you’ve got what it takes then it’s time to know what you’re getting yourself into. We explain each category of women’s bodybuilding, how they are judges, and we even have some tips and tricks to help make you successful. 

So, discover your category and get to training!

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