Mens And Womens Bodybuilding Divisions Explained

The world of bodybuilding can be complicated. With several different leagues and divisions, each with their own set of rules and regulations, it can be confusing to know exactly where to start. But if you’re ready to take your bodybuilding and competitive goals to the next level, you’ll need to understand what bodybuilding division and federation is right for you.

Men’s Bodybuilding Divisions                                         

Men can compete in three different bodybuilding divisions: bodybuilding, classic physique, and men’s physique.

Men's Bodybuilding Division 

The men’s bodybuilding division, requires the most muscle mass and size, compared to men’s physique and classic. The men’s bodybuilding division is divided into classes by weight. In this division it’s about being big and being ripped, emphasizing a smaller waist and wide v-taper.

Within men’s bodybuilding your entire physique must be very well balanced aesthetically. Every muscle group should be proportional to the other. Judges will base their decisions, from several different poses included a front double bicep pose, rear and front lat spreads, and abdominals with thighs pose.

Men’s Classic Physique

Men’s classic physique is not nearly as aggressive in muscle mass requirements as the bodybuilding division. In this division, the goal is to have the old school bodybuilder look (I.e. big round muscles, small waist, lean, and a posing style that mimics the Arnold style of bodybuilding and Venice beach. Dry, vascular and cut is still the goal, but overall mass requirement is not nearly the same.

Classic physique does have some requirements, regarding posing and as well as height and weight. Here you can find all of the Classic Physique height and weight requirements

Athletes are required to wear posing shorts. Board shorts and bodybuilding posing trunks are not permitted. Shorts should be black with no graphics except on the waistband.

Men’s Physique 

The Men’s Physique division is one of the most popular and best divisions to compete in when you’re getting into competitive bodybuilding. In men’s physique, athletes wear board shorts, emphasizing focus more on upper body build. This division like the others will focus on a small waist size, and a large lat spread for a classic v-taper. Judges will look for deep cuts in your chest and back, without too much muscle striation and visible fibers.  Judges will heavily focus on symmetry as well as muscle balance and size to form a cohesive and aesthetically fit look.

Women’s Bodybuilding Divisions 

There are five women's bodybuilding divisions, some more popular than others. Depending on the competition, you may or may not see divisions like women's bodybuilding or fitness division.

Bodybuilding Division 

Women’s bodybuilding is much like the men’s, focusing on muscle size, balanced aesthetic and muscle striation. Women’s bodybuilding will contain the most muscle out of any women’s division with serious size as the only goal. This is by far the most difficult, yet least popular division for women.

Women’s Physique 

The women’s physique division is very similar to women’s bodybuilding, just which a much smaller and more attainable muscle mass requirement Thick dense muscles should be avoided in this division with attention to elongated, symmetrical muscle tone showcasing femininity. Balance is emphasized, with strong features. 

Women’s Figure

Figure is focused on the natural v-taper, with emphasis placed on a small waist, wide shoulders, and wide back. Figure athletes are lean, with striations and visible muscle separation. Muscles should not be so grainy, that you can see all separation and striations, but should be feathered without being overly vascular. They key in figure is maintaining a feminine look, while still being built with an athletic physique. 

Women’s Wellness

Introduced in 2020, the Women’s wellness bodybuilding division, is a newer division which focuses on a muscular built legs and small waist. The desirable look and aesthetic goal for this division are focused on physiques that have a developed upper body, but a very muscularly developed lower body. The torso of the athlete is similar to the bikini division requirements, while the lower body requirements are more similar to the physique division, with greater definition and size specified in the thighs, glutes, and hip areas.

While any female can compete in the category, due to the larger muscle requirement size, it may be more ideal for female bikini competition athletes who have a more muscular lower body than the bikini division is looking for. It is also ideal for women who naturally hold more muscle in their legs and have a desirable look for the women’s physique level, without the desire to dive in that far, so to speak.

Women's Fitness Division

Although entertaining, the women's fitness division is one of the least popular divisions due to the requirements of gymnastics and dance-based routine. The routine must include a push up variation, high kick, straddle hold, and side split.

Standards of physique are very similar to the figure division. Judges will score with a large emphasis placed on the routine which makes up 60% of the entire score.  

Bodybuilding Divisions: Takeaway 

There are many different bodybuilding federations to choose from, such as NPC, IFBB, and WNBF. The NPC is the largest amateur federation in the world and the only federation that allows you to become an IFBB Pro and compete at the Olympia.

No matter what bodybuilding division you choose, if the goal is to become a professional bodybuilder, competing in the NPC and working your way to become an IFBB pro, is the best path for success. 


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