Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday: 9 am to 6 pm
Saturday: 9 am to noon
Closed Sundays and holidays

Please follow & like us!
Follow by Email
RSS Feed
Subscribe by email
Get new posts by email:

The Sport of Bodybuilding. By Our Student Pharmacist, Christine Stearns, Who is also a Bodybuilder.

I had a few questions about my bodybuilding competitions from my biography blog post, so I wanted to provide some background on the sport including nutrition and training!

When most people think of bodybuilding, they think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but there are many that came before him. Bodybuilding originated from Europe in the early 1900s and increased in popularity in the US during the 1960s when more hardcore training gyms were established, such as Muscle Beach in Santa Monica.

In 1981, Jim Manion established the National Physique Committee, the NPC, which has been the most successful bodybuilding league to date, and is also the amateur league to the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, IFBB, or the pro leagues for bodybuilding. Since then, the sport has grown tremendously on both a national and international scale, and more divisions have been established to meet the needs of every type of athlete.

pic 1

As mentioned, there are several different male and female divisions within the sport, and they all differ in size, shape, muscle density, and posing.

  • Bikini (the most popular female division) attracts a smaller/more attainable look, similar to what you see in a Sports Illustrated magazine or on a Victoria’s Secret runway. These females are lean, but should have no muscle striations. The focus for a bikini competitor is full glutes, hamstring tie-ins, nice shoulder caps, a small waist, and stage presence.
  • Figure (my division of choice) requires more muscle density and separation than bikini. This is a more athletic look because these competitors are leaner and may have some muscle striations. In the figure division, the focus is on back width (a nice V taper), round shoulder caps, hamstring tie-ins, and quad separation.
  • Fitness is similar to the figure division, except these competitors are required to perform a gymnastics routine (which is the majority of the scoring). During these routines, they are judged on technique, flexibility, and tumbling skills. Fitness competitors are also required to do a posing round, but are typically smaller and contain less muscle than figure.
  • Women’s physique is a more muscular, leaner division than figure, fitness, or bikini. These competitors have denser muscle bellies and more striations than the other divisions. Women’s physique competitors also have a posing routine to music that they create on their own.
  • The women’s bodybuilding division is the most muscular and leanest of all the female divisions. At one point, women’s bodybuilding was the most prevalent female division in the sport but has slowly declined because of the presence of more attainable physiques in other divisions.
  • Men’s physique is the most popular male division in the sport currently. These are the competitors that wear board shorts and have a male model look. These competitors must come in pretty lean at the professional level, and judging is focused on back width/density, capped shoulders, abs, and a small waist. These competitors are not judged on their lower body.
  • Men’s classic physique has only been around for a few years but is quickly growing. These competitors have more of an “Arnold” look that focuses on classic poses from the 1980s. These competitors wear black trunks and come in leaner and more muscular than men’s physique. The judging is primarily focused on shape, lines, quad separation, and hamstrings. This class does have weight thresholds based on the competitor’s height.
  • 212 bodybuilding is when we start seeing the bigger guys. 212 competitors have more muscle, are just as lean as classic physique (if not leaner), and must weigh in at 212 pounds or less to be eligible to compete. This is why these competitors tend to be shorter.
  • Open bodybuilding has no weight limit, as these are the huge competitors that you see on posters and magazines. This is the extreme of bodybuilding and what most spectators want to see. Open bodybuilders have the most muscle and are the leanest of all the divisions.

In addition to different competitor classes, there are also different levels of competition within the sport. There are local and regional shows, which are typically smaller and cater to first time and amateur competitors. These shows can also be used as a warm up show for more seasoned competitors for bigger shows later in the season.

Then there are national shows where professional status can be earned, depending on your placing. This is where you transition from an amateur to a professional competitor. From that point forward, you would compete in the IFBB for monetary prizes. The winners of IFBB shows qualify for the Olympia, which is basically the Olympics for the sport. It is the biggest and most respected show for the bodybuilding community with the biggest prize money (over one million dollars spread over the winners of each class).

pic 2

A major component of preparing for a competition is training.

Weight training is essential in the sport. Bodybuilding is not powerlifting, so the goal is not necessarily to lift the maximum amount of weight, but to really contract and stretch the muscle in order to build lacking areas (but heavy weights are incorporated, especially in the off-season). Training style and rep schemes will vary among each competitor, but typically a few compound movements and some isolation movements are incorporated into a daily workout.

Cardio is another component to pre-contest. As the date for a show draws closer, cardio typically increases to get rid of any extra body fat. There are two major types of cardio: LISS and HIT.

LISS, or low intensity steady state, is a type of cardio that is typically performed at a constant speed, such as incline walking or on the elliptical. These sessions are typically longer in duration, but easier for the body to recover from.

HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is cardio involving short intervals of high intensity to rapidly increase the heart rate and then a longer resting period. The recovery is longer for workouts like this, so LISS is performed more often in pre-contest.

The most important component of pre-contest is the diet. The majority of a competitor’s diet will consist of clean foods:

  • Lean meats: white fish, chicken, turkey
  • Quality fats: oils, almonds, nut butters, avocados
  • Carbs/veggies: rice, potatoes, oatmeal, rice cakes

Most competitors will severely limit dairy products and foods high in sugar (even fruit). At a certain point in competition prep, in order to lose those last few pounds of fat, most competitors significantly reduce their carb intake and transition to a version of the keto diet. Unlike a true keto diet that is used for certain medical conditions (which is 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% carbs), most competitors will have low carb, high protein, and moderate fat intake in order to maintain as much muscle as possible, but keep low blood sugar levels in order to burn more body fat.

Because of the high amount of cardio and intense training regimen, competitors make it a point to stay hydrated. Most competitors drink one to two gallons per day, which is why you may see many of us carrying around gallon jugs everywhere. Water also helps suppress your appetite, which is important when one is extreme dieting.

Supplements are not necessary, but are useful for workouts and to insure the body is getting enough nutrients during the dieting phase. These could include pre workouts, BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), glutamine and vitamins. Protein powder is also a viable option. There are several different types of protein powder including:

  • Isolate: highly filtered, less carbs and fats, little to no lactose (so better for those who are intolerant), more expensive
  • Whey: contains a little more carbs and fats than an isolate. Lactose is not removed through the process, so less ideal for those with dairy intolerances.
  • Casein: digested slower than whey protein, but not as appetizing

Posing is one of the most important aspects of our sport. You can do all this hard work dieting down and training to get ready for the show, yet ruin your package by lack of proper posing. This is why it is crucial to practice your posing routine far in advance to the show. This way, it becomes second nature on stage (even when you are nervous). Different divisions have different mandatory poses, but the goal is muscle flexion that flatters your physique and stays away from poses that do not compliment your physique. Most of the female divisions wear heels while on stage, so it is important to feel comfortable walking in them prior to the show.

The last component is stage presence. Competitions are treated almost like a muscle pageant. Your whole package will be judged, so your hair, nails, makeup, jewelry, and suit choice can make or break you (especially in the female divisions like bikini). An ill-fitting suit that does not sit correctly on your hips can throw off your physique, so most suits and trunks are custom made.

Another requirement for the stage is the tan. All competitors are required to have a tan to get on stage, so it is crucial that your tan be even and dark enough for your skin tone. The physique of the competitor is judged first, but if it is a close competition, these factors can mean the difference between first and second place.

pic 3


Post to Twitter

Leave a Reply