Female bodybuilding has been around for a while now, yet many competitors are disappointed in their placings come contest time. Today we’re going to go over what female bodybuilders, figure models, bikini competitors, and just any female weightlifter that just wants to look freaking awesome should train and what judges are looking for.
Key Points To Keep In Mind
Women are very particular about their bodies, which is understandable. Who doesn’t want to look great and feel great in the process? You want to be lean, yet not skinny with too little muscle. You want to be toned, yet not jaw-droppingly huge. You want a flat and defined stomach with great definition. You want tight, awesome legs with a “perfect” and gravity-defying butt. Believe it or not, regardless of genetics, you can have all of these things, you just have to know what you’re doing. Starving yourself and doing excessive amounts of cardio (with little to no heavy weight lifting!) isn’t gonna work long term, or even short term.
The key is to lose the fat, keep the muscle. Even if you diet down to a low body fat percentage, you’ll look significantly worse if you have very little muscle. Keeping protein high and eating in a calorie deficit will help maintain lean muscle while dieting. The goal is to improve body composition instead of just focusing on “losing weight.” Weight Lifting (especially heavy compound weight lifting) will help greatly in leaning out and looking the best on stage.
Also, cardio is necessary, but doing large amounts of cardio can cause a large amount of muscle loss, which makes it even harder to get the body that you want! HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been shown to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss.
Weekly Split To Train
Women can benefit greatly from heavy compound weightlifting, just like men(there’s no reason for women to train differently than men). Judges will be looking for a developed body, and that’s what we’re going for here. Training frequency is a highly debatable topic, but training everything once a week seems to be optimal for most people.
A five day split with some added HIIT will be great for leaning down when combined with a caloric deficit. Women will want to focus on their whole body to really impress judges on stage, so a weekly split consisting of Chest, Back, Shoulders, Legs, and arms will most likely be optimal, but adding in some extra glute and leg work could be beneficial. Lifting in the 4-6 rep range and focusing on heavy compound movements will provide the best results as long as progressive overload is established(that is, lifting heavier weights over a given period of time).
Judges will be looking for body parts such as the glutes, legs, and overall leanness(we’ll get more into this soon). The downright best all time glute and leg exercises include squats, hip thrusts, romanian deadlifts, deadlifts, lunges, and bulgarian split squats and should be a staple in any program for women bodybuilders.
The most optimal type of training revolves around heavy compound weightlifting while focusing on progressive overload. Roughly 9-12 sets per workout in the 4-6 to 5-7 rep range with about 3 to 4 exercises would be optimal for most women bodybuilders. Also, focusing on the compound lifts(Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Overhead press, etc) will provide the best results simply because they work the most muscles. Revolve your training around this, and I guarantee you’ll be happy with your progress and results on stage.
What Judges Look For
So, what do judges look for? It depends. It can be different depending on what type of contest you are going into. For example, there’s Bikini, Figure, Physique, Fitness and Bodybuilding and all are judged in a certain way, although it’s relatively similar. First, we’ll start with bikini. Bikini women are judged on their lean physique, which is normally around 8-10 percent body fat. They’re scored on their symmetry, skin tone, balance, and shape. Of course, as mentioned before, abs, glutes, and legs are all important muscle groups.
For figure, judges tend to judge based on skin tone, symmetry, and presentation. Shoulders, back, quads, and glutes are generally what judges look for and these women tend to be in the 5 to 10 percent bodyfat range. Now, for physique, women are judged on their athletic physique with focus on tone, beauty, muscle tone, symmetry, and femininity. Generally, these women tend to be in the 5-8 percent range for body fat.
Next up is fitness, which mixes female bodybuilding and gymnastics into one. They are judged like the figure divisions, but then they perform a routine in costume showing off their athletic ability. Again, these women tend to be in the 5-10 percent body fat range. Finally, bodybuilding tends to gravitate more towards a larger more enhanced physique. Size and muscle striations are more likable, symmetry and shape are relatively important, and leanness and being shredded are desired. Overall, this is what judges look for in women competitors.
In the end, it comes down to what works best for you, but focusing on bringing up certain body parts may help you when competition time comes around. Whether your goal is Bikini, Figure, Physique, Fitness, or bodybuilding, you should always be trying to impress those judges!
Owen, Heather. “Divisions Explained – Women’s Bikini, Figure, Physique & Bodybuilding.” Get Fit Go Figure. N.p., 02 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
“Judging Criteria | World Natural Bodybuilding Federation.” World Natural Bodybuilding Federation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Boyle, Ellexis. “Female Bodybuilding and the Politics of Muscle : How Female Bodybuilders Negotiate Race, Gender, and (hetro)sexuality in Bodybuilding Competition.” – UBC Library Open Collections. UBC100, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.