How to Pick Your Women’s Bodybuilding Division



Welcome back to another rousing post in our NPC competitive information series for women. In this post, we will discuss picking your category, deciding which level to compete in, and other fun qualification rules. Please note, we are focusing on the Women’s Divisions in the NPC.

The Divisions, and Their Basic Defining Characteristics

Bikini – The least muscular of the divisions, judges look for symmetry, muscle tone, and leanness in bikini girls. Bikini competitions are won from the back, they say, as full, round glutes are valued highly here. Also important is a small waist. More than in any other division, showmanship, look, and execution of posing are super important here, and account for half the score. In terms of muscularity, bikini is great for the beginner (or novice), as that would be a person who doesn’t necessarily have the muscle maturity of a figure, physique, or bodybuilding competitor.

Figure– More muscular than bikini, defining characteristics of the figure girl are a pronounced v taper, defined legs, and full, round delts. The figure girl is still ultra-feminine, but visibly more muscular than the bikini girl. Putting a figure girl next to a bikini girl, they may look very much the same, until they pose. Bikini girls who outgrow their own division, in terms of muscularity, often go the figure route eventually.  

Fitness – Aesthetically, fitness girls will look like figure girls in terms of musculature. What sets fitness apart from figure is the addition of a performance round, in which the competitor will perform a fitness-centric dance routine that shows off their athleticism and strength. The bulk of the score in Fitness comes from the Fitness Routine, with scoring being 1/3 on the Physique/2-Piece Swimsuit round, and 2/3 on the 2 Minute Fitness Routine.  The 2 Minute Fitness Routine scores are doubled.  Mandatory moves in the Fitness routine are: Push-Ups (any kind), High Kicks, Straddle Holds, and a Side Split, in no particular order. Clearly, the Fitness category is great for gymnasts and dancers, as the routines definitely take a lot of skill.

Physique– Physique girls are significantly more muscular and leaner than women in the previously mentioned divisions. Those that compete in the physique category have many more mandatory poses to hit, and actually perform their free posing routines barefoot.  

Bodybuilding – The most muscular of the divisions, women’s bodybuilding sees women with a high level of muscularity and leanness, while still remaining feminine. Women’s Bodybuilding competitors tend to be older, with high levels of muscle maturity.  

Each division has its mandatory poses, and mandatory bikinis. We have already covered these in our posing series. With a distinct look for each, pick the one that is most attainable and appealing to you.

The Shows, Their Levels, and Qualifications:

To compete in any show in the NPC, you need to purchase an NPC card membership for that year.

Regional Show: This is your smallest level competition, and is best for the beginners to get their feet wet. These shows are great for practice, but placing well at these shows doesn’t qualify you to the next level, except in rare cases where the first overall winner may be qualified to compete at some Pro Qualifying shows. These shows tend to be smaller, as well.

National Qualifier: In terms of competitions, National Qualifiers are the next step up. These shows will typically have a Novice, Open, and Master’s class.

National Qualifiers are a stepping stone towards National-Level, Pro Qualifying Shows. Competitors that place in the top three in each open class at national qualifying contests qualify for all national level competitions.

Pro Qualifier: The highest level you can compete in within the NPC, Pro Qualifiers (National Shows) enable the competitor to become an IFBB Pro, and compete in the IFBB, as opposed to the NPC. The first place winner of each open class at most Pro Qualifiers go pro, with the exception of NPC Universe, where first and second place of all open classes get their IFBB Pro Card.

In competing in the sport of bodybuilding, having the background information is key. When decided where and when to compete, take into account all factors, before making your decision.