If you are an active bodybuilding competitor, prep coach, or thinking about getting involved in the sport then this blog is for you! We recently introduced the many divisions in the world of bodybuilding and physique competition in a previous blog, and are here to drill a little deeper into the numerous divisions and categories for men and women.
So, are you ready to get started? Whether you are a first-time competitor or experienced bodybuilding and physique athlete, you will want to start by hiring a reputable coach. It can be a bit overwhelming, but here are some key things to look for in a competition prep coach:
- Credentials, credentials, credentials
- Do they have formal education in this area?
- Do they have to experience coaching physique athletes?
- Have they ever personally competed?
- Get testimonials from some of their current or former clients
- Client outcomes, health, and placings
- Emotional Intelligence
- Do they have good interpersonal communication skills
- Can they empathize and relate to what you are going through
- Will you feel seen, safe, and supported by this coach?
- Other supportive certifications (i.e., NASM Physique & Bodybuilding Coach (PBC) certified)
- Cheaper does not necessarily mean better!
- Is there pricing on par with other elite prep coaches in the area?
- Will you be locked into a long-term contract?
- Services (i.e., Custom training plan, nutrition plan, posing, etc.)
- Is the plan a cookie-cutter plan, or truly custom?
If you need guidance on selecting a coach that’s right for you, a great place to start is by asking NASM Master Trainer, IFBB Olympian Athlete, gym owner, and contest prep coach Andre Adams.
Here are the basic competition levels:
● Amateur, Regional Shows
● Amateur, National Qualifier Shows
● Jr. National Shows
● National Shows – Pro Qualifier
● IFBB Pro Shows (tier 1, 2, 3…)
● IFBB International Shows (i.e., Arnold Classic)
● IFBB Mr. Olympia Contest
Starting at the amateur level there are multiple divisions an athlete can participate in as follows:
● Women’s Bikini
● Women’s Wellness
● Women’s Figure
● Women’s Fitness
● Women’s Physique
● Women’s Bodybuilding
● Men’s Physique
● Men’s Classic Physique
● Men’s Bodybuilding
Within those divisions as an amateur, it is possible to compete in any of the following that applies:
● True Novice
● Masters (35+, 40+, 50+, etc.)
Let’s look at the requirements for each of the men’s and women’s divisions to highlight some of the differences.
● Muscularity and Body Condition. This division requires athletes to be fit, well-conditioned (leanness), and display proper shape and symmetry built on a foundation of muscle. Extreme muscularity will be scored down.
● Stage presence and personality are also scored here, and the contestant should display confidence, poise, and personality to the audience.
● The legs are not scored directly in Men’s Physique since competitors are required to wear board shoes.
● The posing requirements are front and back poses (including transitions) with no arms up poses.
● A small waist is always ideal for men’s physique, and there will be different height classes at the amateur level.
Men’s Classic Physique
● Muscularity and Body Condition. This division requires athletes to be fit, well-conditioned (leanness), and display proper shape and symmetry built on a foundation of muscle. A small waist with large, full, and tight muscles is ideal.
● Stage presence and personality are also scored here, and the contestant should display confidence, poise, and personality to the audience with masterful posing.
● The legs are a very important part of any classic physique athlete’s presentation.
● The posing requirements include 5 mandatory poses and ¼ turns plus an evening finals routine.
● Posing trunks may be tapered or straight cut to show the upper quad and glutes.
● This is a great overall division that bridges the gap between men’s physique and open bodybuilding. There are multiple height classes with defined weight limits.
● Muscularity and Body Condition. This division requires the most extreme muscle development (mass), conditioning (leanness), fullness, and muscle density.
● Stage presence and personality are also scored, and the contestant should display confidence, poise, and personality to the audience with masterful posing.
● The posing requirements include 8 mandatory poses and ¼ turns plus an evening finals routine.
● Bodybuilding posing trunks are more revealing to show thigh and glute development.
● There are multiple weight classes in bodybuilding, and it is important to consider the athlete’s height and aesthetic proportions in any particular category.
Requirements for Female Lifters
● Muscularity and Body Condition. Bikini athletes should display a beautiful feminine physique that shows great shape (curves and X-frame), balanced proportions, and good conditioning on a foundation of muscle. Excessive muscularity, muscle separation, or striations are downscored.
● Key success factors include full round glutes with moderate separation at the hamstring tie-ins and a small amount of roundness/fullness in delts.
● Posing and stage presentation should be graceful and exemplify beauty. Bikini has front and back poses plus individual routines.
● Muscularity and Body Condition. Wellness athletes should display a beautiful feminine physique that shows the great shape, balanced proportions, and good conditioning on a foundation of muscle. Excessive muscularity or hardness, muscle separation, or striations are downscored.
● The conditioning is like a bikini, but the muscle is disproportionately developed in the lower body (thighs and glutes).
● Key success factors include full round glutes with moderate/strong separation at the hamstring tie-ins and a small amount of roundness/fullness in delts. More muscle development in the quads, hamstrings, and glutes with correct proportions is critical.
● Posing and stage presentation should be graceful and exemplify beauty. Wellness has ¼ turns and individual posing routines.
● Figure athletes should display more muscle development than a bikini with larger shoulders that are more capped, quad sweeps, good tie-ins between the glutes and hamstrings, balanced proportions top to bottom, V-taper, and good overall conditioning with some muscle separation.
● Figure athletes should NOT display the extreme amount of muscle, separation, striations, or density associated with Women’s Physique or Bodybuilding. Figure athletes should showcase a very feminine and beautiful physique.
● Posing requires ¼ turns and an individual routine wearing a 2-piece bikini with straps in the back.
● There are multiple height classes at the amateur level.
● Arguably the most difficult and highest skill division in bodybuilding. Athletes must compete for 2/3rds of their score by performing a fitness routine that consists of high-flying acrobatic/gymnast-type moves and mandatory skills. The remaining 1/3rd of the score is completed during a physique comparison round posing like the Figure Category.
● Athletes must possess a variety of skills and mastery to perform the fitness routine, but also display the same level of conditioning and muscle development as figure and present a feminine physique.
● There are multiple height classes at the amateur level.
● Women’s Physique should display more muscle development than seen in the Figure with clear muscle separation, full/round muscle bellies, greater density than Figure, and balanced proportions top to bottom with some striations allowed.
● Although the emphasis is on muscle development, women’s physique competitors are also scored on beauty and flow. Overall similar foundation and proportions as a figure with more muscle.
● There are height classes for amateur contests.
● Posing consists of ¼ turns, mandatories, and individual routines wearing a 2-piece suit.
● Same scoring criteria as Men’s bodybuilding.
● There are ¼ turns, mandatories, and individual posing routines with multiple height classes on the amateur level.
Here is a list of the most prominent bodybuilding federations:
● National Physique Committee (NPC)
● International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB)
● World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF)
● World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF)
● Organization Of Competitive Bodybuilders (OCB)
● Fitness America
Of these, the gold standard is the National Physique Committee (NPC)/International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB). The NPC is the official amateur league while the IFBB represents the professional bodybuilding league. These organizations make up the largest federation in the world for bodybuilding by both members and revenue.
To become the coveted IFBB Pro Athlete, competitors must win at different levels of the NPC and earn their pro card at one of the NPC national-level contests. For an in-depth review of this process, refer to this recent NASM blog!