The Ultimate Guide To Bodybuilding Divisions

Working out to get big, gain more muscle and look fit, is one thing, but if you’re ready to take your prep to the next level, you’ll need to figure out what bodybuilding division you need to train for that completes your physique to have the best chance of competing.

Men’s Bodybuilding Divisions                                          

Men have three main bodybuilding divisions they can compete in; bodybuilding, classic physique, and men’s physique.

Bodybuilding Division

The men’s bodybuilding division, requires the most muscle mass and size, compared to men’s physique and classic. The men’s bodybuilding division is divided into classes by weight. In this division it’s really about being big and being ripped, emphasizing a smaller waist and wide v-taper.

Within Men’s Bodybuilding your entire physique must be very well balanced aesthetically. Every muscle group should be proportional to the other. Judges will base their decisions, from several different poses included a front double bicep pose, rear and front lat spreads, and abdominals with thighs pose.

The Ultimate Guide To Bodybuilding Divisions - The Swole Kitchen

Men’s Classic Physique

Men’s classic physique is not nearly as aggressive in build, lean dry muscle or muscle size as the bodybuilding division. In this division, the goal is to have the old school bodybuilder look (I.e. big round muscles, small waist, lean, and a posing style that mimics the Arnold style of bodybuilding and venice beach.

According to Center Podium (also our work neighbors) classic physique does have some requirements, regarding posing and as well as height and weight.

Here you can find all of the Classic Physique height and weight requirements

Athletes are required to wear posing shorts. Board shorts and bodybuilding posing trunks are not permitted. Shorts should be black with no graphics except on the waistband.

Men’s Physique

Men’s Physique division is perhaps the easiest to start with when you’re first looking to get into bodybuilding prep and competitions. In this division, athletes wear boardshorts, producing more emphasis and focus upon the upper body aesthetic. Again, this division like the others will focus on a small waist size, with a larger lat spread for a classic v-taper. In this division however, you want deep lines in your chest and back, without being too grainy, showing muscle striation and fibers.

Judges will focus on symmetry as well as muscle balance and size to form a cohesive and fit look.

Women’s Bodybuilding Divisions

Bodybuilding Division

Women’s bodybuilding is much like the men’s, focusing on muscle size, balanced aesthetic and muscle striation. Women’s bodybuilding will contain the most muscle out of any women’s division with serious size as the only goal. This is by far the most difficult, yet least popular division for women.

Women’s Physique

Women’s physique division is like women’s bodybuilding, it just creates a package that Is more attainable, in a smaller more compact package. Thick dense muscles should be avoided in this division with attention to elongated, symmetrical muscle tone showcasing femininity.

Women’s Figure 

Figure is focused on the natural v-taper, with emphasis placed on a small waist, wide shoulders, and wide back. Figure athletes are lean, with striations and muscle separation. Muscles should not be so grainy, that you can see all separation and striations, but should be feathered without being overly vascular. They key in figure, is maintaining a feminine look.

Women’s Wellness

Women’s wellness bodybuilding division, is a newer division introduced in 2020.  The desirable look and aesthetic goal for this division are focused on physiques that have a developed upper body, but a very muscularly developed lower body. The torso of the athlete is similar to the bikini division requirements, while the lower body requirements are more similar to the physique division, with greater definition and size specified in the thighs, glutes, and hip areas.

While any female can compete in the category, due to the larger muscle requirement size, it may be more ideal for female bikini competition athletes who have a more muscular lower body than the bikini division is looking for. It is also ideal for women who naturally hold more muscle in their legs and have a desirable look for the women’s physique level, without the desire to dive in that far, so to speak.

Fitness Division 

The women’s fitness division was first introduced by the IFBB in the early 90’s. Women who are less muscular yet athletic can also show their physique in motion. Athletes show their routines and are judged on their muscular balance, body shape, physique, and overall stage presentation. Physique makes up only one-third of the score, while the routine accounts for two-thirds of the overall score.

Bikini Division

Women’s bikini is the most popular NPC bodybuilding division. In bikini, judges look for a small midsection, round tight glutes, with good hamstring separation with a solid mix between lean and muscular. Posing accounts for a large part of the overall package and presentation.

The Ultimate Guide To Bodybuilding Divisions - The Swole Kitchen

WBFF League

The WBFF stands for world beauty fitness fashion, and is a league different than the NPC or IFBB. In this league, more emphasis is placed on how you look, in addition to your physique. It's essentially like a beauty contest and bodybuilding show into a fitness pageant. 

Within this league there are six different division for women and three for men. WBFF has a division for both men and women called the "transformational division" which is very unique, including participants who have gone through a massive weight loss transformation. 

Divisions include Diva BIkini, Diva Wellness, Diva Fitness, Diva Figure, Commercial model and Transformational model. For men divisions include Male Fitness Model, Male Muscle Model, and Transformational Model. 

For more information on competing in the WBFF here 

Divisions And Classes

All of these bodybuilding divisions are divided into classes by age, height, weight, novice, and open.

The main categories of classes are:

  • True Novice – Open to competitors who have never competed in an NPC contest.
  • Novice – Competitors who have not won their class in novice, open, or masters.
  • Master’s –  Typically 35 years old or older. This will vary show to show and you may see 35+, 40+, 45+. 50+, 60+, etc.
  • Teen – Class for teenagers. Minimum age is 18 years old and will also always include up to 19 years old.
  • Hero – Military, Police, Fire, Rescue. Not offered at all shows.
  • Open – An “open” class is open to all ages and levels. Open classes will be divided by height or weight depending on the class. Open is the only class that will qualify you for nationals

The number of classes for each division and which classes will vary from show-to-show.

Bodybuilding Divisions: Takeaway

It can be overwhelming at first to decide on what league and bodybuilding division to compete in, however matching your natural physique and body type with a division will be the easiest way to determine where you start. Meal prep and nutrition is the biggest factor in addition to your training, to get ready for prep. Hiring a certified nutrition coach to get you ready, is the best way to bring the best package to your show. 


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