I am always amused by women who will deny their genetics simply because they are enamored with a certain division. Some women are so stubborn that they will struggle in a division that they are clearly not suited for, getting pummeled with low placings, when all they would need to do is cross over to a different division. For example, I have met women who were clearly so muscular and thick that they were made for the more muscular divisions, but who stubbornly insisted on competing in the Bikini division because they liked the posing or the suit cuts better. I have also seen ladies competing in more muscular divisions who would place higher if they competed in a less muscular division. For this reason I honestly believe that the saying “The division chooses you” is very accurate. Pay attention to the lines of your body and what your natural tendency towards muscle gain is. Though there is a certain flavor or flair in each division, the worst thing you can do is to pick a division to compete in solely on the basis of the poses which define the division.
The first thing you need to do is look at your body type to determine where you fit in best. Generally speaking, if you have a tendency to put on and maintain an appreciable amount of muscle, you should explore the more muscular divisions. Another general rule is that symmetry, balance and proportion are important in all the divisions. If you are not sure which division you are best suited for, ask someone who truly knows what the judges are looking for in the different divisions. Let’s break down the divisions a bit more to help you determine where your genetic tendencies will ensure the best success onstage.
BODYBUILDING: This is the most muscular of the female divisions, displaying considerable mass, clear muscle separation, very low body fat and the striated, shredded and dry look which also characterizes male bodybuilders. Bodybuilders must perform routines which incorporate certain mandatory poses to display their muscle definition and size. Typically, most women just beginning to compete will work up to this division, but a few ladies already possess the size necessary to be competitive at the local level in Bodybuilding.
PHYSIQUE: This division displays less muscle density than bodybuilding, but muscle bellies are full and toned, waistlines are nipped in, and there is a natural grace which defines this division. Women who are too muscular to compete in Figure but not quite muscular enough for Bodybuilding are made for this division. Physique competitors also perform choreographed routines onstage which incorporate mandatory poses, but they must keep their hands open with “pretty hands” during their routine.
FITNESS: This division is perfect for women who have strong backgrounds in gymnastics and dance with fantastic flexibility and strength. You MUST have great stage presence and personality which emerges onstage, because this division relies on those elements. Judges will evaluate flexibility, strength, technique and difficulty. If you are a dynamo onstage and can carry the mood and energy of a fun theme and costume throughout an entire routine, this division is perfect for you. There is a swimsuit round as well, during which you will be compared against the other competitors. During this round, muscle tone and definition will be assessed.
FIGURE: Figure competitors have less muscle than the Bodybuilding or Physique divisions, but there is still a decent amount of curvy muscle, combined with a feminine appearance. There is some muscle separation but striations are a no-no. Rounded delts, defined quads, and a nice wide back coming into a nice, small waist taper are ideal for this division. Women who do not have the athleticism or the stage presence to perform acrobatic routines onstage but who have the degree of muscularity I just described would do well in this division.
BIKINI: If you have an athletic and fit body without muscle separation, you are most likely well suited for this division. Bikini competitors are never overly muscular and do not display the delt caps or quad sweeps that the other divisions do, and muscle separation is the kiss of death in this division. However, do not be fooled into thinking that you don’t need muscle to do well in this division. As this division has progressed, a greater degree of conditioning is being rewarded. The key here is to target a tight, lean, toned physique which is still very feminine.