Determining the Right Division for Your Female Physique Athlete

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As physique competitions continue to become more popular and ‘mainstream’ in today’s society, there now seems to be a division for everyone!

While this is great – it can lead to a little confusion when it comes to deciding the RIGHT division for your client to enter. So let’s have a look at the requirements for a few of the divisions your female client could compete in. Keep in mind – while we will give you a general summary here, mainly looking at the IFBB Pro League and the WBFF, there will be differences BETWEEN federations when it comes to the exact requirements for a division. Make sure you check the different federation websites to ensure you know exactly the look you are aiming for with your client.

Is the bikini division?

If your client is on the smaller side when it comes to the amount of muscle mass they carry on their frame, Bikini might be the division for them. In the Bikini division, body ‘shape’ (cue a small waist with well defined glutes and shoulders) is usually often more of a requirement than is size. Competitors will also be judged on the level of balance, proportion, and symmetry displayed in their physique.

Bikini will be the ‘softest’ out of all the women’s divisions, with a higher level of body fat usually being a requirement. Competitors might generally range between 10-14% body fat in this division, and can be marked down if they are TOO lean come show day. Remember that this is just an estimate – 10% body fat on one competitor can look very different to 10% body fat on another competitor!

Bikini is the most subjective division of them all, and competitors will be judged on their overall appearance as part of the criteria.

This will include their:

  • Complexion
  • Skin tone
  • Hair
  • Makeup
  • Tan
  • Choice of bikini colour
  • Confidence
  • Presentation and posing on stage 

If competing with the WBFF – the competitor’s marketability is also scored, no matter the division they choose to enter.

Depending on the federation, the posing and presentation requirements of the bikini division can be VERY different, and this may impact on your client’s preference towards one, over the other.

Within the IFBB Pro League – your client will wear a bikini as they do an individual walk in the ‘Pre-judging’, and again for the comparison round, or the ‘Finals’, where the different athletes will be compared side-by-side on stage.

Within the WBFF – there will be a ‘Bikini’ round where the individual walk is completed, and an ‘Evening Gown’ round – which is more of a runway-style event.

Clean Health Online Master Coach & IFBB Bikini Pro, Jade McKee

This is a relatively new division. Wellness sits between the slightly less muscular Bikini division, and the more muscular Fitness division. The conditioning expected for Wellness competitors is generally the same as for the Bikini competitors, with the main difference being the muscle development required. If your client has a more well-developed lower body, in comparison to their upper body – this might be the division for them! Again – ‘shape’ is a requirement of the Wellness division, as is the overall presentation of the athlete.

The on-stage requirements for this division are the same for both the IFBB Pro League and the WBFF Bikini divisions.

This division can have completely different requirements depending on the federation.

With the IFBB Pro league, for example, a Fitness competitor will be judged on their performance of a routine. Criteria will include strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, creativity, their choice of costume, and overall presentation. This is a division that expects more muscle mass, and a higher level of conditioning than the Bikini and Wellness divisions. 

In the WBFF – the Fitness division does not require a routine, but is the next progression from Wellness in terms of increased muscle mass, and a higher level of conditioning. Again – these competitors are judged on their tone, symmetry, and definition, along with their confidence and presentation, marketability, and beauty. These athletes will partake in both a ‘Bikini’ and a ‘Theme-Wear’ round.

As we move ‘up’ to the Figure division, the level of muscle mass these competitors are expected to present with also increases. Figure competitors are expected to have a more developed muscular appearance, with a lower body fat percentage once again – in order to show muscle definition. These competitors might range anywhere from 8% -12% body fat. This division will also have a stronger focus on the athlete’s symmetry, balance, and proportion. In the Figure division, the athletes will also be judged on their confidence and overall appearance.

IFBB Pro League competitors will wear a 2-piece figure suit for both the ‘Pre-Judging’ and ‘Finals’, while WFBB competitors will have a ‘Bikini’ and a ‘Theme-Wear’ round.

Physique / Bodybuilding
These divisions are have become less popular in recent years, as many people may consider them the more ‘extreme’ female physique divisions. Size, symmetry and muscularity are all part of the judging criteria within the IFBB Pro League. As you move from Physique to Bodybuilding, there is less emphasis on ‘beauty’ as a requirement, and more emphasis on a conditioned, striated physique.  Competitors are barefoot throughout the judging process, and wear a 2-piece figure suit. They will perform both a routine, and the same mandatory poses as the men’s bodybuilding competitors.

While factors like genetics will play a role in the division your client will be most suitable to enter, the choice may ultimately come down to your client’s personal preference. They may prefer a certain division, or a “look”, which may be the deciding factor. If you are still unsure and need some clarification around your choice – reach out to the federation. The promoter in your state will often be more than happy to help.


  1. Dr Layne Norton. (2020) Training The Physique Athlete. Clean Health Fitness Institute.
  2. IFBB Pro League International Regional and Pro Qualifier Rules. Accessed 21st October 2020 from
  3. IFBB Pro League Wellness. Accessed 21st October 2020 from 
  4. Owen, H. (2015) Divisions Explained – Women’s Bikini, Wellness, Figure, Physique & Bodybuilding. Accessed 21st October 2020 from 
  5. WBFF Categories. Accessed 21st October 2020 from

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