difference between bikini and figure

Difference between physique divisions


Difference between bikini vs figure vs wellness divisions
If you are looking for the difference between women’s divisions in a bodybuilding show, you have come to the right place! Here I am going to explore the difference between bikini, figure, wellness, women’s physique, and women’s bodybuilding.

“Before you even consider beginning your bikini competition prep or stepping on stage for a figure competition, there are secrets the you must know to succeed!  Don’t go forward without these!!!” Julie Lohre, IFBB Pro & Olympia Athlete

Bikini Competition Line Up Winners

Which Division is Right for You? Understanding the difference between physique divisions in competition.

Bikini | Wellness | Figure | Fitness | Women’s Physique | Women’s Bodybuilding

One of the first questions I often get from women wanting to compete is what is the difference between physique divisions and what division should I compete in? Whether you want the look of a bikini model fitness competitor, want to compete in a bikini fitness competition or have always dreamed of having the muscle of a women’s physique competitor or bodybuilder you need to start by understanding where you will be the most competitive.

I want to help you understand the difference between the 5 competitive divisions for women in physique shows. There are many organizations to choose from when you want to compete… NPC (National Physique Committee)Fitness AmericaIFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders)OCB (Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders), WBFF (World Beauty Fitness & Fashion,  WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding),  INBF, UFE (Ultimate Fitness Events)… the list goes on and on of open and natural bodybuilding organizations.

The specific divisions will vary from show to show depending on the organization, the number of competitors and the choice of the promoter. That said, let’s go through the specific divisions for the biggest bikini bodybuilding organization on earth, the National Physique Committee or the NPC which is the organization that I turned pro in to become an IFBB Pro.  It is a great place to start!  

Here are the 6 options for women within the NPC and IFBB. Click to skip down to that division.

Women’s Wellness Competition is the newest division which started with the NPC in 2019.  The women’s wellness competitor body type lies somewhere between bikini and figure. It’s focused on a body type for women with a strong lower body but a less developed upper body. I like to think of it as a figure or fitness bottom and a bikini top.

figure competition and bikini competition differences

The answer to which division is right for you really is dependent on the type of physique you want for YOUR body. Do you want to have a sleek athletic toned physique? Bikini competitions might be your best bet.  Do you want a V-Taper and a moderate amount of muscle and a feminine look? The figure competition division leans in this direction. Do you have special gymnastics or dance talents you want to be able to incorporate into competing?  Fitness could be a great match.  Looking for more development in your lower body focusing on legs, glutes, and hamstrings?  You should consider the wellness competition division.

These questions should help you decide which competition division is right for you.

Below you will find a set of examples of what to expect in the competitive classes amongst physique shows. These are the divisions common to the NPC, some organizations will differ, but this will give you a good starting point in your journey.

If you are looking for the specifics bikini front pose or bikini back pose check out these other articles:
How to Pose for Bikini
How to Pose for Figure

Need Help With Posing?

Get Expert Advice NOW FITBODY Figure & Bikini Posing Video Analysis

Posing Analysis for Figure and Bikini

What is the difference between bikini, women’s wellness, and figure?

Bikini Wellness Figure Back Comparisons Glutes
If you want to know what the difference is between the women’s divisions in bodybuilding shows, the back poses for bikini, women’s wellness, and figure best demonstrate that.
Bikini v Wellness v Figure Division
While some overlap can be seen at the highest levels of competition, it is clear there are many differences when comparing bikini versus wellness versus figure.

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Bikini

Difference between bikini vs figure vs wellness

Competition Division:  BIKINI

  • Overall toned, defined, athletic look
  • Focus on great glutes, legs and abs
  • Modest amount of muscle with no striations
  • Very outgoing, even sexy posing that shows personality

What is the Bikini Division | Bikini Model Fitness

The competition division of Bikini has been around since 2010 and it has grown very quickly since it’s inception for a number of reasons.  The bikini model fitness look is one that many women strive for.  It is still quite athletic.  Most bikini competitors will have a decent amount of muscle compared to the average woman but far less than women that choose to compete in wellness division, figure, women’s physique or women’s bodybuilding.  

In recent years and in response to the overwhelming number of women that are competing in bikini, the NPC and the IFBB have chosen to grown this division by awarding a substantial number of pro cards and breaking the division down into many height classes at both large national qualifying bikini bodybuilding shows and national level shows.  As a result the division continues to boom and grow.  For example, at the last NPC Nationals which drew close to 1000 competitors from across the country, 32% of them were bikini competitors.  Each of the 8 national level classes held as many as 40+ women per height class!  In classes this big, being recognized is extremely difficult and only the best bikini model fitness competitors make it into the top call outs. 

Bikini Posing continues to evolve over time but the bottom line is that you want to choose poses that highlight your assets and downplay your weaknesses.  As part of my Online Figure and Bikini Contest Prep training, I take you through everything you need to do with your posing to be sure you are showing your physique in the best light.

When deciding if bikini is the right division for you, there are several things to take into consideration.

  1. Are you naturally smaller in frame with a tight midsection and lean, round glutes?
  2. Do you prefer a division where you can express your individuality on stage and pose in a more fluid, sexy way?
  3. Do you prefer a slightly softer look where you have some muscle, but prefer to keep it on the smaller side?
  4. Do you naturally have trouble gaining muscle?

If you answered yes to these questions. then the bikini bodybuilding division could be a good match for you.

Bikini Competition Presentation & Bikini Posing

JENNIFER DORIE 2023 Bikini Olympia Bikini Front Pose
Jennifer Dorie, 2023 Bikini Olympia Champion, in her bikini front pose on stage. Perfect balance and symmetry.
JENNIFER DORIE 2023 Bikini Olympia Bikini Posing
Jennifer Dorie – 2023 Bikini Olympia Champion Poise, confidence, and authority… Jennifer demonstrates why she is indeed the champion through her stage presence.
JENNIFER DORIE 2023 Bikini Olympia Bikini Back Pose
Jennifer Dorie, 2023 Bikini Olympia Champion, in her bikini back pose on stage. Glute and hamstring definition rule the bikini back pose. And no, you do not need to move your hair.

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Wellness

Women's Wellness Division Front Pose

Competition Division:  Wellness Division

Wellness is a newer category for North America and made its debut in the NPC in 2019.  The wellness division has been seen in European and Latin American Countries in amateur competition divisions of the NPC and IFBB prior to adoption in the Americas. The physical attributes and body type for the wellness competitor according to the NPC and the IFBB rules is as follows.

The Wellness division is somewhere nestled between the bikini and figure divisions. The official word from the NPC and IFBB is that they’re looking for women who have a highly athletic looking physique. This is a great division for women who are former athletes and highly involved in sports.  Many women who played soccer, ran track, or were involved in dance or gymnastics typically have developed a musculature and body type that with the proper conditioning would be very competitive in this wellness division.

The wellness physique is more muscular than bikini competitors who are typically more slim and slender without having too much muscular development. Judges are keen to see women who have well developed lower bodies, especially great quads and of course glutes! Conditioning wise for a successful wellness competition, the judges want to see muscle separation without striation or overly “dry & hardened” physiques.

Since wellness competitions lie between bikini and figure, there is an aspect that plays a part similar to the bikini division…a well developed stage presence, style and pizzaz! In many competitions, you will complete the four quarter turns as in Figure and Fitness, but they may also incorporate a presentation much like the Bikini walk. So you ‘ll have the opportunity to show off a bit of personality and strut your stuff!

Not sure the division is right for you? If you’ve been told in the past that you have too much leg development for bikini or too much muscle, this is the perfect opportunity to try out something new. For those in figure who’ve been guided that they need to gain muscle, but don’t want to, this division could be the perfect fit for your physique. As always, almost all shows allow crossovers, so it might be the perfect option to see where you fit best!

What the judges are looking for… Wellness Competition Division

  • Heavy focus on body mass in the hips, glutes, and thighs
  • Lesser upper body development and muscle
  • Athletic look and overall tight conditioning
Women's Wellness Division Front Pose
In the women’s wellness division the front pose highlights the legs with less emphasis placed on balance.
Wellness Division Back Pose
Wellness Division Back Pose – It is all about the legs and glutes with clearly defined glute-hamstring tie ins.
Francielle Mattos IFBB Wellness Pro 2023 Olympia Champion
Francielle Mattos IFBB Wellness Pro 2023 Olympia Champion
Women's Wellness Division Back Pose
In the women’s wellness division, greater emphasis is placed on size of glute and leg muscles where as in the bikini division, glutes and thighs should be tight and lean, but not overly developed.
Competition Division:  Wellness Division

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Figure


The Figure division in bodybuilding, a category within women’s bodybuilding, originated in the early 2000s. This division was introduced to provide an opportunity for women who wanted to compete in a category that emphasized muscle tone and symmetry over muscle size, which is more predominant in traditional female bodybuilding categories. The Figure division quickly gained popularity as it offered a platform for competitors who aimed for a more “athletic” physique, rather than the extremely muscular builds required in traditional bodybuilding.

In Figure competitions, the athletes are judged on several key aspects. These include muscularity, symmetry, and overall aesthetic appeal. Unlike traditional bodybuilding, the emphasis in Figure is not on muscle size but rather on the balance and proportion of the competitor’s physique. This includes a well-defined, but not excessively muscular, appearance. Competitors should display a toned and fit body with shoulders, back, quads, and glutes being well-defined, but not as heavily muscled as seen in bodybuilding divisions.

Presentation is also a critical element in Figure competitions. Athletes are judged on their overall stage presence, which includes poise, confidence, and the ability to present themselves in a manner that highlights their physique effectively. The mandatory figure poses showcase the competitor’s strengths while minimizing any weaknesses. The competitors wear two-piece suits and high heels.

The Figure division has evolved since its inception, becoming more defined in terms of the expectations and standards set for the competitors. It continues to be a popular choice for female athletes in the bodybuilding community, providing a blend of muscularity and femininity that appeals to many. The division has also helped to broaden the appeal of bodybuilding to a wider audience, making the sport more inclusive and diverse. I competed in the figure division both at the NPC amateur level and as an IFBB Figure pro.

What the judges are looking for… Wellness Competition Division:  FIGURE

  • Tight, defined look
  • Focus on V taper with wide shoulder, defined delt caps, tiny waist, lean legs and round glutes.
  • Moderate amount of muscle with small amount of striations
  • Structured mandatory poses to show V tape
Figure Olympia CYDNEY GILLON Figure Posing Presentation
When competing in figure, it is important to take the whole package into account. Your walk and presentation play a big part in your success!
Figure Olympia 2023 CYDNEY GILLON Figure Front Pose
Figure Olympia 2023 Champion Cydney Gillon shows her symmetry in the traditional relaxed front pose for figure.
Figure Olympia CYDNEY GILLON Figure Back Poses
When you are comparing figure versus bikini divisions, the figure back pose really highlights the figure V taper, still requiring lean and defined legs.

What the judges are looking for… Figure Competition Division

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Fitness

Difference between competition divisions - NPC Fitness 2018

Competition Division:  FITNESS

At my heart, I am an IFBB Fitness competitor. I love the balance of physique requirements blended with the athletic prowess. To be a successful fitness competitor, you have to actually both look and BE truly fit! While the rounds have change over time, in 2022, for NPC and NPC Worldwide Fitness division, the Two-Piece Swimsuit Round returned just as it is in IFBB Professional League Fitness and counts for 1/3 of the score.

  • The bottom of the suit must be v-shaped. No thongs are permitted. All swimsuits must be in good taste.
  • Competitors must wear high heels
  • Competitors may wear jewelry

The Fitness Routines must include the following mandatory moves and be a maximum of 2 minutes to music of the competitor’s choice:

  • Push Up (of any kind)
  • High Kick
  • Straddle Hold
  • Side Split

The Fitness Routine will count for 2/3 of the score.

OKSANA GRISHINA Fitness Front Pose
The posing for fitness is the same as for the figure division of bodybuilding shows with mandatory front, side, and back figure poses.
The side pose for both figure and fitness can be slightly twisted to accentuate wider shoulders and a narrow waist, but competitors still need to look totally to the side.
Fitness Olympia Champion Oksana Grishina has perfected her back pose over the years balancing a strong upper body V Taper with lean and defined legs.
Julie Lohre Arnold Classic Fitness Routine
Julie Lohre Arnold Classic Fitness Routine
Julie Lohre Fitness Routine Arnold Classic
Julie Lohre Arnold Classic Fitness Routine

IFBB Fitness Routine Round

Julie Lohre – IFBB Pro Fitness Competitor – Arnold Classic IFBB Pro Fitness Routine

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Women’s Physique


Competition Division:  WOMEN’S PHYSIQUE

  • Extremely tight and defined muscular look
  • Focus on V taper with wide shoulder, defined delt caps, tiny waist, lean legs and round glutes.
  • Large amount of muscle with some muscular striations.
  • Structured mandatory poses to show V taper and muscle definition.
  • Bodybuilding posing routine

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Women’s Bodybuilding


Competition Division:  WOMEN’S BODYBUILDING

  • Most extreme tight and defined muscular look
  • Focus on V taper with wide shoulder, defined delt caps, tiny waist, lean legs and round glutes.
  • The most extreme muscle development with as much muscular striations as possible
  • Structured mandatory poses to show V taper and muscle definition.
  • Bodybuilding posing routine