difference between bikini and figure

Difference between physique divisions

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

Bikini | 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 America, IFBB (International Federation of 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 5 options for women within the NPC and IFBB:

  • Bikini
  • Wellness*
  • Fitness
  • Figure
  • Women's Physique
  • Women's Bodybuilding

*New division for 2019 and only exists in the NPC as of now.  This new division body type lies somewhere between bikini and figure. It's focused on a bodytype 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? Do you want a V-Taper and a moderate amount of muscle and a feminine look? Do you have special gymnastics or dance talents you want to be able to incorporate into competing?

These questions should help you decide which 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

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Bikini

Difference between divisions Bikini

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 and most bikini competitors will have a decent amount of muscle compared to the average woman and far less than women that choose to compete in any of the other show categories.  

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

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Wellness

Difference between divisions figure

Competition Division:  WELLNESS

Wellness is a brand new category for North America and made it's 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.

This division is somewhere nestled between bikini and figures.
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, the judges want to see muscle separation without striation or overly "dry & hardened" physiques.

Since this division lies 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 developed a physique 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

  • 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

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Figure

Difference between divisions figure

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

What the judges are looking for... Figure Competition Division


Difference Between Physique Divisions – Fitness

Difference between divisions fitness

Competition Division:  FITNESS

  • For 2018, the fitness division no longer includes a 2 piece bathing suit round.  All judging is done only on routines.
  • All athletes will complete a routine that is no longer than 2 mins and will be judged on their routines including the following mandatory moves:
    Push Up (of any kind)
    High Kick
    Straddle Hold
    Side Split
Julie Lohre Arnold Classic Fitness Routine
Julie Lohre Arnold Classic Fitness Routine

IFBB Fitness Routine Round

Difference Between Physique Divisions – Women’s Physique

Difference between 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 Physique

Difference between divisions Women's Physique

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

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