October 14, 2021
Are you looking to learn about the different bodybuilding organizations? Or maybe you are interested in competitive bodybuilding. It can be overwhelming because there are so many different organizations and competitions, and each of them has different goals, rules, and regulations.
If you’re interested to learn about competitive bodybuilding and the following bodybuilding organizations, WBFF, NPC, ICN, NABBA, IFBB, and ANB, which are the major bodybuilding organizations, you've come to the right place. We are going to break everything down for you, nice and neatly.
Without further ado, let’s go over the different bodybuilding and physique competitions and divisions.
We will first go over the main divisions in bodybuilding for men and women. Then, we will get into the different organizations and competitions for these divisions.
The are three main divisions in bodybuilding for men: Men's Physique, Classic Physique, and Bodybuilding.
1. MEN'S PHYSIQUE:
The Men's Physique division is actually relatively new. It was created back in 2013 for those who thought the bodybuilding divisions were "too big". And while it is new, it has exploded and is one of the most popular divisions. It makes sense considering you don't need nearly as much muscle mass to be in the Men's Physique division. Nevertheless, it is far from easy to do well in. In Men's Physique, you need to be muscular, very well-toned, and have great proportions.
Within the division, there are different classes based on height.
Note: Posing is done in board shorts.
2. CLASSIC PHYSIQUE:
Classic Physique is the middle ground between the Bodybuilding division and the Men's Physique division. They are not as big as those in the Bodybuilding division, but they are considerably bigger than the men in the Men's Physique division. The men pose in boxer briefs so they can show off the legs better.
Within the division, there are different classes based on height and weight.
The Bodybuilding division is the most muscular division. There is no weight limit. Within the division are different classes based on weight. It doesn't matter how tall you are, it's all about weight. Bodybuilding divisions use a specific kind of posing trunk that allows the entire legs and glutes to be seen (it's almost like a male g-string, but the butt area is more covered).
Depending on the bodybuilding organization, there may be different classes, but the above are the general divisions.
There are five main divisions in bodybuilding for women: Bikini, Figure, Physique, Bodybuilding and Fitness. Trying to decide which division you should enter will depend on your physique, development and goals. Each division emphasizes different levels of conditioning, sizes and styles.
Let’s look at each of the main women's divisions closer to determine which is best for you:
The bikini division is by far one of the most popular women's divisions. Because this bodybuilding division requires less muscular development it appeals to a wider variety of women. It’s perfect for those with the following genetics - small waist, curvy structure and long, shapely legs.
And the judges are looking for curvy, balanced physiques that have some muscle tone. But also an overall physical appearance and charisma.
Note: Obviously this division applies only to women.
The focus of this division is on a developed physique. The goal is to achieve muscular symmetry and proportion. Competitors should have good muscularity, with separation but not excessively lean. This division is best for those with the following genetics - wide shoulders and a small waist. For women if you carry more muscle naturally this is likely the best choice.
The women's physique division is perfect for those who find it easy to pack on muscle and achieve a higher level of muscle development. Judges look for symmetry, shape, proportion, muscle tone, and poise.
Competitors will perform a 90-second individual posing routine to music as part of the final judging.
This division is for those that love building serious muscle mass. Competitors will be somewhat of a total package with a balance in size, symmetry, and muscularity. This is by far the most difficult division, and it takes a tremendous amount of dedication to build, maintain and perfect your physique and routine. It's arguably the least popular for women as well due to the perception of the looks the women achieve to enter into this class.
Only some organizations will include this division.
You’ll often find gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers within this division - they have the muscle definition strength and have a routine to show off both. Unlike the Figure and Physique division, where your muscles are more for show, the Fitness division is about strength. You’ll perform a unique fitness routine, whether it’s dance, strength moves, or gymnastics to the music of your choice.
We placed this division as number 5 because it is more than just about physique.
Like with men, some organizations will have different classes, such as the somewhat newly introduced Wellness division in the IFBB and NPC. More on this below in the respective organizations.
There are six major competitions that we will cover:
Every organization has different goals with different opportunities that will give you an outlet to achieve these goals. When you're looking to participate in any competitions, you’ll want to learn about their processes, opportunities and choose the best division for your body type and commitment.
Let's go over each in-depth...
The NPC, or the National Physique Committee, is the most well-known amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States. As long as you are a member, you can participate in the competition for bodybuilding, fitness, figure, bikini, and physique.
Many of the athletes will move on to attend a professional IFBB event later in their careers if they’ve been successful in this competition. The NPC’s athletes often appear in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness and Muscular Development, to name a few.
The most popular divisions within the NPC are the Men’s physique and Women’s bikini fitness. Competitors in these two categories often appear in various magazines and marketing campaigns. While the NPC competitions are not for hardcore bodybuilding contests, they celebrate the amateur competitors’ achievements and host many events.
THE NPC MALE CATEGORIES:
This is not a bodybuilding competition, but you’ll need proper shape and symmetry with excellent musculature and overall condition. Judges look for personality, confidence, and creativity with posing.
The following are the weight classes for male competitors:
Men’s Classic Physique
The Classic Physique is for competitors who have an excellent muscular physique and symmetry. In other words, they should have strong muscle development but not bulky. The judges are looking for marketability and personality, and stage presence is important.
THE NPC FEMALE CATEGORIES:
The Wellness competition is for athletes with more body mass in the hips, glutes, and thigh areas. The upper body is developed but not as developed as the lower body. This competition is about showing off the beauty of the female body and to show more body mass in their hips, glutes, and thighs.
These are the different weight classes for female competitors:
The competitors in Figure should have a V shape figure with a small degree of muscle definition. The judges look for symmetry and balance that shows the beauty of each contestant.
The Bikini competition is a foundation of muscles that gives shape to the female body - round full glutes, a slight separation between the hamstrings and glutes, and a small amount of roundness in the glutes. The judges are looking for muscularity, condition, symmetry, and balance, as well as presentation.
In the Women’s Physique category, women are lean and muscular, with a balance of the upper and lower body in a feminine way. Judges look for symmetry, shape, proportion, muscle tone, marketability, stage presence, and confidence. They’ll wear two-piece suits with V-shaped bottoms, and posing is similar to traditional bodybuilding such as quarter turns.
The International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, or IFBB, was founded in 1946 in Montreal by Ben and Joe Weider. The two brothers wanted to take the sport to the next level. Today IFBB has more than 170 national federations worldwide and holds over 2500 events globally. The competitors with the most success go to the IFBB Hall of Fame.
This is the professional division.
Note: The NPC is the amateur division of the IFBB.
IFBB MALE CATEGORIES:
This competition is for athletes who prefer a lighter physique through eating clean and weight training. Their physique will be less muscular but be well developed and aesthetically pleasing. They are in excellent condition. The judges are looking for the proper shape and symmetry, with musculature as well as personality and confidence.
The classes are based solely on height:
Classic Physique is for men who have taken muscularity and size beyond the level of Men’s Physique, yet not to the extremes of Bodybuilding. Classic Physique will emphasize good size, proportion, symmetry, pleasing lines, and a small waist. Essentially, the focus is on aesthetic qualities with great muscularity and definition.
Here are the different classes based on heigh and weight:
The competitors in this division will train their bodies and muscles for maximum size while maintaining symmetry and balance. The athletes who have mass, muscle details and an excellent balance of physique will be the winners of this competition. The judges are looking for athletes without any weak points.
Here are the classes, which are based solely on weight:
This is for competitors who don’t want to be overdeveloped. These competitors will have a lighter look of a “classic physique”. The judges are looking for physique, body proportions and lines, muscle shape, balance, and routine. You must have excellent muscle shape and definition.
There are five different height categories for this contest:
Games Classic Bodybuilding
This contest is for men who are less muscular compared to the Classic Bodybuilding category. Because muscle mass is limited, the judges are paying attention to overall physique and symmetry, and they look for muscle shape and condition, stage presence, and marketability.
In this competition, the competitors will need to show both strength and muscle definition as well as flexibility and confidence. Judges look for an overall balance and strong, well-developed physique with excellent presentation.
This category has four height categories:
The IFBB selects Olympia contestants based on the highest-placed competitors at various qualifying competitions, which are known as the Olympia Qualifying Season.
As you probably know, the Olympia is for the best of the best in bodybuilding.
The qualifying season for each Olympia runs for a year. It ceases a few months before the competition, which is an annual event.
To qualify for most divisions at the Olympia an IFBB athlete must meet one of the following criteria:
"For certain divisions with more than 25 qualifying competitions, slightly different rules are used: The previous Olympia winner is automatically qualified, plus the winner of each qualifying competition and the top five in total points.
The IFBB Professional League also has the discretion to extend special invitations to other competitors. " - Wikipedia.
This applies for both men and women divisions.
IFBB FEMALE CATEGORIES:
The competitors in this division have an overall athletic physique and less musculature. There are only two height categories – up to 163 cm and over 163 cm. Judges look for an athletic physique, strength and condition, confidence, and stage presence.
Women Body Fitness
The competitors need to have a symmetrical athletic appearance for this competition, with a small amount of body fat. There are four body height categories - 158 cm, 163 cm, 168 cm, and over 168 cm. The judges are looking for a balanced physique, overall muscle development, confidence, and stage presence.
The competitors in this category are usually not bulky, however, they will need to have a nice body definition with some musculature. This competition is for women who stay in shape by eating healthy and weight lifting.
There are eight height categories for this competition:
The female athletes in this division will have an aesthetically pleasing bodybuilding-style body while still looking feminine. The two categories for this division are – up to 163 cm and over 163 cm. Judges look for a well-balanced and symmetrical athletic physique. As well as stage presence and confidence.
Women’s Wellness Fitness
In this category, women can have a muscular physique that’s bulkier than the other categories and have four different categories:
In this category, women participating in the female physique or female fitness category can compete with a male partner performing in a male bodybuilder competition. The judges are looking for symmetry, muscle size, definition, and skin tone. And will judge the couples based on how they complement each other’s physiques.
This is the only sports division for children no older than 16 years old. Judges look for athletic performance, stage confidence, and personality. The more creativity used to display personality, the better the advantage for the competitor.
The age categories are broken down as follows for girls:
The age categories are broken down as follows for boys:
Professional athlete Paul Dillett founded the WBFF, or World Beauty Fitness and Fashion. And because a professional athlete created this bodybuilding organization, it offers competitors the ability to grow through marketing opportunities with music, fashion, beauty, and fitness.
But that’s not all. They also provide support for their partners to promote health, fashion, and entertainment as well. Because of their connections, athletes get sponsorships and marketing opportunities, and the events are more like fitness shows, with the best muscle models, both males, and females.
The WBFF has been raising the industry’s standards with professionalism and honesty to reach the next level in bodybuilding competitions. They don’t want to be just a fitness organization.
THE WBFF MALE CATEGORIES:
The Male Muscle Model category judges athletes who are too muscular to be in the Fitness Model category but don’t have the muscle mass of a bodybuilder. And there are no weight limitations for this category, and they are judged on their physique, symmetry, conditioning, and muscle definition.
When on stage, the muscle models will perform a T-walk for both the preliminary and final shows and will be required to perform quarter turns for the judges.
Male Fitness Model
The men's fitness models category is judged on their symmetry, tone, and athletic physique. They’ll need good poise and posture with a masculine appeal. Competitors can wear plain or patterned square-cut shorts.
The Transformation Division is for those transitioning into a healthier lifestyle and not ready for the advanced division. In order to participate in this division, you’ll need before and after photos and a brief bio about your personal journey to a healthier life.
THE WBFF FEMALE CATEGORIES:
Diva Wellness is for competitors whose lower body physique is more developed. It’s focused on muscle and tone, and judges are looking for overall beauty and marketability.
Diva Bikini Model
The Diva Bikini Model is a beauty contest for females with exceptional tone definition and slightly muscular looks. There is an over 35 years class. The judges are looking for a lean and firm physique that is scored on proportion, symmetry, balance, shape, and skin tone. Beauty and marketability are looked for as well.
Diva Fitness Model
The Diva Fitness Model is for female competitors that have more muscle tone and definition than the Diva Bikini Model and less muscle or definition than a Figure competitor. The judges are looking for a classy feminine with athletic physiques, great marketability, and confidence on the stage.
Diva Figure Model
The Diva Figure Model is a blend of fitness and bodybuilding - shoulders, back, quads, and glutes with a small waist. If you have more muscle and definition than fitness models or Diva Bikini, then the Diva Figure Model competition is for you. The judges look for symmetry, presentation, marketability, incredible physique, and excellent stage presence.
Commercial Models are for competitors between the ages of 17 to 45. This specialized branch of modeling can be especially lucrative. The judges look for beauty and marketability. The winners will pose for well-known magazines.
The International Competition Network, or ICN, was initially created with a world-class level in mind back in the ’90s. Today they run about 40 competitions each year. However, their focus isn’t just about running events; it’s also about educating young people about being healthy. The goal of the organization is to help athletes naturally develop their physique.
With eight independent state organizations, ICN is still one of the most critical Australian bodybuilding organizations.
ICN MALE DIVISIONS:
Fitness Model competitions are more along the lines of a beauty contest rather than a bodybuilding competition. The competitors need to present themselves professionally as a model. Judges look for symmetry, body competition, stature, poise, and charisma, as well as marketability.
The competitors in Men’s Physique should be well developed with a muscular upper body that places emphasis on broad, round shoulders and a small waist. The judges are looking for symmetry, muscularity, stage presence, confidence, tan, and presence.
Bodybuilding competitors in this competition will have large muscle groups, with great definition between the muscle groups. The judges are looking for vascularity, symmetry, and a well-balanced physique with excellent stage presence.
ICN FEMALE DIVISIONS:
The competitors in this competition will have a softer body but have a nice toned body with enough body fat that there is no clear six-pack and muscle separation. The women will be judged on emphasis on shape, symmetry, toned condition, stage confidence, and presence.
The competitors are fit and healthy and perform in an evening gown. They are being judged on overall appearance, presentation, elegance, beauty, and confidence.
The athlete in this division will have excellent muscular development from head to toe. Good tone and condition to show muscle separation and be less lean than a fitness competitor. The judges are looking for an overall model appearance, symmetry, fullness in muscle groups, stage presence, and confidence.
The competitors in this category will be in a one-piece outfit to showcase their bodies—a nice toned body without muscle separation or six pack abs. The judges are looking for beauty, symmetry, body composition, stage presence, and confidence.
The Angels division is for all female competitors - Bikini, Fitness, and Figure competitors. In this division, competitors are able to express their personalities through creative ways, need to display confidence, and have excellent body composition. They are being judged on a combination of beauty and presentation.
Competitors in this category have developed muscularity with balance in the upper and lower body, and they will be less muscular than a figure competitor and lean. The judges are looking for a balance of beauty and musculature, along with six-packs, stage presence, and confidence.
This division is open to both Fitness and Figure competitors. The women in this division will be muscular and lean, and they will need to have a creative presentation. The judges are looking for overall symmetry, balance, and excellent stage presentation.
This competition is open to both Fitness and Figure competitors and has to show a feminine side with a muscular and lean body. The judges are looking for symmetry, less bulk, good body structure, and stage presentation.
In this category, the competitors will have the bulk and muscle definition to showcase their musculature. Judges look for an excellent tone, symmetry, and body structure.
The National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association, NABBA, was created in 1948 and is one of the original competitive bodybuilding associations. Competitors come from all around the world to compete for the title Mr. and Ms Universe. Legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Pearl, and Reg Park competed in the NABBA.
NABBA MALE COMPETITIONS:
Men’s Sports Shorts
Competitors in this category need to be defined with abs but not a bulky physique. This is more like a beauty contest rather than a bodybuilding competition, and the judges are looking for a well toned body composition and symmetry.
Competitors will have an overall muscular development and weigh a maximum of 80kg to participate. The judges are looking for symmetry of body composition and equal development of body parts.
NABBA FEMALE COMPETITIONS:
In this competition, the women competitors will wear a one or two-piece bikini with a natural tan that shows off their physique. The judges are looking for musculature, beauty, and personality.
Miss Toned Figure
Miss Toned Figure is more of a beauty contest, and competitors should not have too much musculature and should allude confidence in their presentation on stage. The judges are looking for an athletic figure, balance, and symmetry.
Miss Athletic Figure
For this competition, athletic and feminine women compete. Competitors should have muscle definition and low body fat, and the judges are looking for a healthy balance and musculature.
Miss Trained Figure
The competitors must have a trained look with a feminine shape, and they will have low body fat without being too developed or defined that it takes away from their femininity. The judges are looking for musculature, beauty, and well-balanced body definition.
The Australian Natural Bodybuilding Federation, ANB, was created in 1983 by Robert Powel. He had a passion for strength training. The goal of this organization is to raise the standards of bodybuilding, health, and fitness. They offer support to the athletes with sponsorships and marketing opportunities. One of ANBs focuses is giving the athletes the ability to build a legacy of their own by giving them maximum exposure through their shows.
ANB MALE CATEGORIES:
The competitors in this category will have a little muscle definition, and they will not be as bulky as the classic bodybuilders. The judges are looking for a muscular body that has an athletic physique.
There are five different divisions:
The competitors in this category will wear European trunks to show off their muscles. This is more about beauty, but the judges are looking for a well-balanced physique. Competitors will have more muscles than within the fitness model category.
There are five different divisions:
The competitors should have well-defined muscularity and a six pack. The judges are looking for muscle definition, condition, symmetry, shape, and presentation.
There are ten different divisions to choose from:
ANB FEMALE CATEGORIES:
This competition is open to all bikini and fitness models, and competitors are required to wear a one-piece swimsuit. Competitors should have muscle definition, tone, and athleticism. The judges are looking for symmetry, excellent stage presentation, and posing.
The competitors will need to be in excellent shape, demonstrate symmetry and stable conditions. The judges are looking for beauty, musculature, confidence, and stage presence.
Here are the five divisions:
Competitors will have an athletic appearance with a full six-pack and X-shape physique. The judges are looking for confidence, stage presence, and a more athletic physique compared to the other female categories.
This category has five divisions:
The competitors in this category will have good muscle definition but not look like professional bodybuilders. Judges look for symmetry, musculature, condition, excellent stage presence, and body shape.
There are six divisions in this category:
Theme Wear is open to all female models; this category is about showing your personality through creativity. The judges are looking for creative costumes and props to show off in a fun way that compliments their physique.
This competition is open to all female competitors and models that have muscularity. This division has the most muscle mass. Competitors can show off how strong they are in this category. The judges are looking for symmetry, shape, condition, and presentation.
Deciding to compete in any division or competition is a big decision that comes with a significant amount of commitment. Understanding your goals, level of commitment, and abilities is essential to making the right decision.
Here are few factors that you’ll want to take into consideration when trying to choose the proper bodybuilding division and competition,
Your body type. Your body type is important to take into consideration when choosing a division, especially if you have limited time to prepare. But just because your genetics is better for one division doesn't mean you can only enter that division. If you have a reasonable amount of time to prepare, you can select any division that you want.
How much time you’re able to commit? Training, nutrition, posing practice, wardrobe, and appearance require commitment every single day. Each category requires different levels of commitment - training for a bikini competition is easier than physique or fitness. The bodybuilder division requires the most commitment between training and extra practice sessions.
Do you enjoy performing? If you like being in the spotlight, choosing a division that has greater opportunities for posing might be the best option for you. Figure and physique both offer you the opportunity to perform a routine.
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