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Transcript of Female Bodybuilding
Female bodybuilding is the female component of competitive bodybuilding. It began in the
late 1970s when women began to take part in bodybuilding competitions.
Female bodybuilding originally developed as an outgrowth of not only the late nineteenth-
century European vaudeville and circusstrongwomen acts, Bernarr Macfadden's turn of the
century women's physique competitions, and the weightlifting of Abbye "Pudgy" Stockton, but
also as an outgrowth of the men's bodybuilding. The contest formats of men's events during
the 1950s to the mid-1970s had often been supplemented with either a women's beauty
contest or bikini show. These shows "had little to do with women's bodybuilding as we know it
today, but they did serve as beginning or, perhaps more properly, as a doormat for the
development of future bodybuilding shows." Physique contests for women date back to at
least the 1960s with contests like Miss Physique, Miss Body Beautiful U.S.A.,
W.B.B.G. and Miss Americana, I.F.B.B.. Maria Elena Alberici, as listed in the Almanac of
Women's Bodybuilding, won two national titles in one year: Miss Body Beautiful U.S.A. in 1972,
promoted by Dan Lourie and Miss Americana in 1972, promoted by Joe Weider. Mr.
Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a judge at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York
when Maria Elena Alberici (aka) Maria Lauren won Miss Americana. It was not until the late
1970s, after the advent of the feminist movement and female powerlifting events that women
were seen as capable of competing in their own bodybuilding competitions.
Prior to 1977, bodybuilding had been considered strictly a male-oriented sport. Henry McGhee,
described as the "primary architect of competitive female bodybuilding", was an employee of
the Downtown Canton YMCA, carried a strong belief that women should share the opportunity
to display their physiques and the results of their weight training the way men had done for
years. The first official female bodybuilding competition was held in Canton, Ohio, in November
1977 and was called the Ohio Regional Women's Physique Championship. It was judged
strictly as a bodybuilding contest and was the first event of its kind for women. Gina LaSpina,
the champion, is considered the first recognized winner of a woman's bodybuilding contest.
The event organizer, McGhee, told the competitors that they would be judged "like the men,"
with emphasis on muscular development, symmetry, and physique presentation. In 1978,
McGhee organized the first National Women's Physique Championship, along with the short-
lived United States Women's Physique Association (USWPA), which he formed to help
organize women interested in competing in bodybuilding. The USWPA became defunct in
On August 18, 1978, promoter George Snyder organized a "female bodybuilding" contest
known as The Best in the World contest, which was the first IFBB-sanctioned event for women
that awarded prize money to the top finishers, with the winner receiving $2,500. It was
considered the forerunner for the Ms. Olympia competition. Although sanctioned as a
bodybuilding contest, women were required to appear on stage in high heels. Doris Barrilleaux
found the Superior Physique Association (SPA) in 1978, the first women's bodybuilding
organization run for women and by women. She also began publishing the SPA News, a
newsletter dedicated exclusively to female bodybuilding. SPA disseminated information to
women about contests and proper training and dieting. On April 29, 1979, SPA held Florida's
first official women's contest in which thirteen women competed. She also began publishing the
SPA News, a newsletter dedicated exclusively to female bodybuilding. SPA disseminated
information to women about contests and proper training and dieting. On April 29, 1979, SPA
held Florida's first official women's contest in which thirteen women competed. Also in 1979,
the IFBB formed the IFBB Women's Committee; Christine Zane was appointed the first
chairperson to serve as head of the newly formed committee. One of the significant differences
between the SPA and the IFBB was that while the IFBB was organized and run by men, the
SPA was run by women and for women.
More contests started to appear in 1979. Some of these were the following:
The second U.S. Women's National Physique Championship, won by Kay Baxter,
with Marilyn Schriner second and Cammie Lusko third.
The first IFBB Women's World Body Building Championship, held on June 16, won by Lisa
Lyon, followed byClaudia Wilbourn, Stella Martinez, Stacey Bentley, and Bette Brown.
The Best In The World contest, held at Warminster, PA on August 18, featuring a $5,000
prize fund, with $2,500 awarded for first place. Patsy Chapman was the winner, followed
by April Nicotra, Bentley, Brown, and Carla Dunlap. (Levin, 1980)
The Robby Robinson Classic, held at the Embassy Auditorium in Los Angeles on August
25. Bentley finished first, also winning best legs and best poser, followed by Brown, Lusko,
and Georgia Miller. (Roark, 2005)
Although these early events were regarded as bodybuilding contests, the women wore high-
heeled shoes, and did not clench their fists while posing. Additionally, they were not allowed to
use the three so-called "men's poses" the double biceps, crab, and lat spread. The contests
were generally held by promoters acting independently; the sport still lacked a governing body.
That would change in 1980.
The 1980s of female bodybuilding has been regarded as the golden era and the height of
female bodybuilding. The early 1980s signified a transition from the fashionably thin "twiggy"
body to one carrying slightly more muscle mass. The National Physique Committee (NPC)
held the first women's Nationals in 1980. Since its inception, this has been the top amateur
level competition for women in the US. Laura Combes won the inaugural contest. The first
World Couples Championship was held in Atlantic City on April 8. The winning couple
was Stacey Bentley and Chris Dickerson, with April Nicotra and Robby Robinson in second.
Bentley picked up her third consecutive victory in the Frank ZaneInvitational on June 28, ahead
of Rachel McLish, Lynn Conkwright, Suzy Green, Patsy Chapman, and Georgia Miller Fudge.
In 1980, the first Ms. Olympia (initially known as the "Miss" Olympia), the most prestigious
contest for professional female bodybuilders, was held. Initially, the contest was promoted by
George Snyder. The contestants had to send in resumes and pictures, and were hand-picked
by Snyder based on their potential to be fitness role models for the average American woman.
The first winner was Rachel McLish, who had also won the NPC's USA Championship earlier
in the year. The contest was a major turning point for the sport of women's bodybuilding.
McLish turned out to be very promotable, and inspired many future competitors to start training
and competing. Stacey Bentley finished in fifth place, in what turned out to be her final
competition. Also in 1980, the American Federation of Women Bodybuilders was also founded,
representing a growing awareness of women bodybuilders in America. Winning competitors
such as Laurie Stark (Ms. Southern States, 1988) helped to popularize the federation.
Rachel McLish became the most successful competitor of the early 1980s. She lost her Ms.
Olympia crown by finishing second to Kike Elomaa in 1981, but regained the title in 1982. A
new major pro contest, the Women's Pro World Championship, was held for the first time in
1981 (won by Lynn Conkwright). Held annually through 1989, this was the second most
prestigious contest of the time. McLish added this title to her collection in 1982. George Snyder
lost the rights to the Ms. Olympia in 1982, and after this the contestants were no longer hand-
picked, but instead qualified for the Ms. Olympia through placings in lesser contests. Women's
bodybuilding was officially recognized as a sport discipline by the 1982 IFBB Congress
in Brugge, Belgium.
As the sport grew, the competitors' level of training gradually increased as did the use of
anabolic steroids (most of the competitors in the earliest shows had very little weight training
experience or steroid usage), and the sport slowly evolved towards more muscular physiques.
This trend started to emerge in 1983. With McLish not competing in the big shows, Carla
Dunlap took both the Pro World and Ms. Olympia titles. Dunlap possessed a more muscular
physique than either McLish or Elomaa, and though she never repeated her successes of
1983, she would remain competitive for the rest of the decade.
Cory Everson's reign
In 1984, a new force emerged in women's bodybuilding. Cory Everson won the NPC Nationals,
then defeated McLish to win the Ms. Olympia. At 5'9" and 150 pounds, Everson's physique set
a new standard. She would go on to win six consecutive Ms. Olympia titles from 1984 to 1989
before retiring undefeated as a professional, the only female bodybuilder ever to accomplish
During this period, women's bodybuilding was starting to achieve some serious mainstream
exposure. Pro competitor Anita Gandol created a stir by posing for Playboy in 1984, earning a
one-year suspension from the IFBB. Erika Mes, a Dutch competitor, posed nude for
the Belgian issue of Playboy in September 1987, also earning a one-year suspension.[citation
needed] Lori Bowen, winner of the 1984 Pro World Championship, appeared in a widely broadcast
commercial for Miller Lite beer with Rodney Dangerfield. Additionally, competitors Lynn
Conkwright (1982) and Carla Dunlap (1984) were included in ABC's Superstars competition.
In 1985, a movie called Pumping Iron II: The Women was released. This film documented the
preparation of several women for the 1983 Caesars Palace World Cup Championship.
Competitors prominently featured in the film were Kris Alexander, Lori Bowen, Lydia
Cheng, Carla Dunlap, Bev Francis, and Rachel McLish. At the time, Francis was actually
a powerlifter, though she soon made a successful transition to bodybuilding, becoming one of
the leading competitors of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The main theme of the movie pitted
the sultry and curvaceous Rachel McLish, the current champion; against the almost manly,
super-muscular Bev Francis. This "rivalry" brought to light the true dilemma of Women's
Bodybuilding and exposed the root of all the controversy (aesthetics vs size) which was the
focal point at that time and which still continues today. Also in 1985, the National Women's and
Mixed Pairs Bodybuilding Championships was held in Detroit, Michigan by
promoter/bodybuilder Gema Long was the first amateur bodybuilding event televised
internationally by ESPN Sports.
For several years in the mid-1980s, NBC broadcast coverage of the Ms. Olympia contest on
their Sportsworld program. The taped footage was telecast months after the contest, and was
usually used as secondary material to fill out programs featuring events such as boxing.
Typically, the broadcasts included only the top several women. Nevertheless, Rachel McLish
and some of her leading competitors were receiving national TV coverage. McLish authored
two New York Times best-selling books - "Flex Appeal" (1984) and "Perfect Parts" (1987)
and was also starring in action films. The popularity was growing and women were being
empowered and inspired to train. In 1983, the top prize money for the women bodybuilding was
$50,000, equal to that of male bodybuilding.
The Ms. International contest was introduced in 1986, first won by Erika Geisen. In 1987
the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), who were sanctioning amateur bodybuilding at the time,
positioned the International as a premiere amateur event. It was held in Atlantic City, New
Jersey. The AAU brought Serge Nubret (a former Mr. World, Mr. Universe and Mr. Europe)
from France to be the featured guest poser. Since 1988, the competition has been sanctioned
by the IFBB. Since the demise of the Pro World Championship after 1989, the Ms. International
has been second in prestige only to the Ms. Olympia. The 1989 Ms. International was
noteworthy for the fact that the original winner, Tonya Knight, was later disqualified for using a
surrogate for her drug test at the 1988 Ms. Olympia contest. Consequently, runner-up Jackie
Paisley received the 1989 title. Knight was suspended from IFBB competition through the end
of 1990, and was forced to return her prize money from the 1988 Ms. Olympia and 1989 Ms.
International, a total of $12,000 (Merritt, 2006).
Lenda Murray's reign
Normally, competitors must qualify for the Ms. Olympia by achieving certain placings in lesser
pro contests. However, the cancellation of the Women's Pro World contest in 1990 left only the
Ms. International as a Ms. Olympia qualifier. Consequently, the IFBB decided to open the Ms.
Olympia to all women with pro cards, and a field of thirty competitors entered. Lenda Murray, a
new pro from Michigan, earned a decisive victory and emerged as the successor to Cory
Everson. Murray became the next dominant figure in the sport.
A new professional contest, the Jan Tana Classic, was introduced in 1991. The contest was
named for its promoter, a marketer of tanning products, and ran annually until 2003 with the
departure of Wayne Demilia (it was later briefly revived in 2007). The inaugural event was won
by Sue Gafner. The Jan Tana filled the void left by the Women's Pro World contest, and
occupied the number three slot on the pro circuit throughout its lifetime. 1991 also saw Tonya
Knight return to competition, winning the Ms. International.
The 1991 Ms. Olympia contest was the first to be televised live. Lenda Murray faced a serious
challenge from the 1990 runner-up, Bev Francis. Francis had started bodybuilding in the mid-
1980s, converting over from powerlifting. Over the years, she had gradually refined her
physique to be more in line with judging standards. However, she came to the 1991 contest
noticeably larger than in previous years. Francis was leading going into the night show, with
Murray needing all of the first place votes to retain her title. Murray managed to do just that,
winning a somewhat controversial decision by one point.
1992 IFBB "femininity" requirements
In 1992, there was more controversy, this time at the 1992 Ms. International contest. In
response to the increased size displayed by Murray and Francis at the previous Ms. Olympia,
along with increasing drug abuse and androgenic side effects, the IFBB made an attempt to
"feminize" the sport. The IFBB, led by Ben Weider, had created a series of "femininity" rules;
one line in the judging rules said that competitors should not be "too big." Since extreme size
generally requires extreme AAS usage, with more women gaining more adrogenic (masculine)
side effects, this was clearly an attempt to retain a higher level of female aesthetics and
maintain the standard. The judges guide to the competitors stated that they were looking for a
highly feminine and optimally developed, but not emaciated physique. The contest winner was
Germany's Anja Schreiner, a blue-eyed blonde with a symmetrical physique who weighed 130
pounds at 5'7". The announcement of her victory met with so much booing from those who
prefer size over aesthetics that Arnold Schwarzenegger had to step on stage to address the
audience, saying "the hell with the judges". Many observers felt that the IFBB had instructed
the judges to select the most marketable aesthetic physique, not the most muscular.
The 1992 Ms. International is also famous for an incident involving British competitor Paula
Bircumshaw. Bircumshaw was the same height as Schreiner and possessed a similar level of
symmetry and definition, but carried significantly more muscle, weighing in at 162 pounds. She
was the clear audience favorite, but was relegated to eighth place. Normally, the top ten
contestants are called out at the end of the show when the winners are announced, but the
judges only called back the top six, hoping to keep Bircumshaw back stage. This resulted in an
uproar from the crowd. With the audience chanting her name, Bircumshaw returned to the
stage along with the top six competitors.
Advertising in Muscle & Fitness for the 1992 Ms. Olympia featured Schreiner prominently,
relegating two-time defending champion Murray to a small "also competing" notice.
Nevertheless, Murray also apparently met the "femininity" requirements, and managed to retain
her title; Schreiner finished sixth, and promptly retired from competition.
Following the 1992 debacles, the judging rules were rewritten. The new rules retained
provisions for aesthetics, but allowed the contests to be judged as physique contests. Lenda
Murray continued to dominate the sport from 1990 to 1995, matching Cory Everson's record of
six consecutive Ms. Olympia titles. Murray's closest rival was probablyLaura Creavalle, who
won the Ms. International title three times, and twice was runner-up to Murray at the Olympia.
During this time, some additional professional shows were held, in addition to the three
mainstays. The 1994 schedule included the Canada Pro Cup, won by Laura Binetti, and the
first of three annual Grand Prix events in Prague, won byDrorit Kernes. In 1996, the Grand Prix
in Slovakia was added. Besides providing the competitors with extra opportunities to win prize
money, these contests also served as additional Ms. Olympia qualifiers.
Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls's reign
The mid-1990s of bodybuilding was known as the "Dorian Era", AKA the "drug years". In
1996, Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls would win the Ms. Intentional and dethroned the Ms.
International champion, Laura Creavalle. Also in 1996, she would unseat six-time defending
champion, Lenda Murray. This was the first time a pro female bodybuilder would win both the
Ms. International and Ms. Olympia in the same year. She would retain her Ms. Olympia title in
1997 against Lenda Murry, who retired afterwords. At the 1997 Ms. Olympia, she competed at
157 pounds (71 kg). In 1998, she again won the Ms. Olympia title. The 1998 contest was held
in Prague, Czech Republic, the first time the competition had been held outside the United
At the 1998 EFBB British Championships, Joanna Thomas won the lightweight and overall title,
becoming the youngest woman in the world to ever to win an IFBB pro card at the age of 21.
1999 Ms. Olympia controversy
The 1999 Ms. Olympia was originally scheduled to be held on October 9 in Santa Monica,
California. However, one month before the scheduled date, the IFBB announced that the
contest had been cancelled. The main cause was the withdrawal of promoter Jarka
Kastnerova (who promoted the 1998 contest in Prague) for financial reasons, including a low
number of advance ticket sales for the 1999 event. The backlash following the announcement
led to a flurry of activity, with the contest being rescheduled as part of the Women's
Extravaganza (promoted by Kenny Kassel and Bob Bonham) in Secaucus, New Jersey on
October 2. Last minute sponsorship came from several sources, most significantly in the form
of $50,000 from Flex magazine. Amid all the turmoil, Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls won her fourth
consecutive title. Chizevsky-Nicholls decided to retire from bodybuilding after winning the 1999
Ms. Olympia. According to Bill Dobbins, she retired due gender discrimination guidelines set up
by the IFBB that advocated for more "femininity" and less "muscularity" in the sport.
2000 IFBB rule changes
The IFBB introduced several changes to Ms. Olympia in 2000. The first change was that Ms.
Olympia contest would no longer be held as a separate contest, instead became part of the
"Olympia Weekend" in Las Vegas and held the day before the mens show. The second
change was when heavyweight and lightweight classes where added. The third change was
the new judging guidelines for presentations were introduced. A letter to the competitors from
Jim Manion (chairman of the Professional Judges Committee) stated that women would be
judged on healthy appearance, face, makeup, and skin tone. The criteria given in Manion's
letter included the statement "symmetry, presentation, separations, and muscularity BUT NOT
TO THE EXTREME!"
Of the three pro contests held in 2000, only the Ms. International named an overall winner -
Vickie Gates, who had won the contest in 1999. The Jan Tana Classic and the Ms. Olympia
simply had weight class winners. With Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls retiring from bodybuilding to
pursue fitness competition, the Ms. Olympia title was shared by class winnersAndrulla
Blanchette and Valentina Chepiga.
Betty Pariso posing at the 2001 Extravaganza Strength Contest
The 2001 pro schedule opened routinely enough, with Vickie Gates winning the Ms.
International title for the third consecutive year. However, the Ms. Olympia featured a "surprise"
winner, as Juliette Bergmann returned to competition at age 42. Bergmann, the 1986 Pro
World champion, had not competed since 1989. Entering the Olympia as a lightweight, she
defeated heavyweight winner Iris Kylefor the overall title. In the five years that the Ms. Olympia
was contested in multiple weight classes, this was the only time that the lightweight winner took
the overall title.
Lenda Murray's reign continues
In 2002, six-time Olympia winner Lenda Murray returned after a five-year absence. Bergmann
(lightweight) and Murray (heavyweight) won the two weight classes in both 2002 and 2003.
Murray won the overall title both years, setting a new standard of eight Ms. Olympia titles.
Murray was unseated as Ms. Olympia for the second time in 2004. Iris Kyle, a top pro
competitor since 1999, defeated Murray in a close battle in the heavyweight class, and bested
lightweight winner Dayana Cadeau for the overall title. Kyle became only the second woman to
win both the Ms. International and Ms. Olympia titles in the same year, matching Kim
Chizevsky-Nicholls's feat of 1996.
2005 IFBB rule changes
In a memo dated December 6, 2004, IFBB Chairman Jim Manion introduced the so-called '20
percent rule', requesting to all IFBB Professional Female Athletes. It read, For aesthetics and
health reasons, the IFBB Professional Division requests that female athletes in Bodybuilding,
Fitness and Figure decrease the amount of muscularity by a factor of 20%. This request for a
20% decrease in the amount of muscularity applies to those female athletes whose physiques
require the decrease regardless of whether they compete in Bodybuilding, Fitness or Figure.
All professional judges have been advised of the proper criteria for assessing female
physiques. Needless to say the directive created quite a stir, and left many women wondering
if they were one of those female athletes whose physiques require the decrease. On April
20, 2005, the IFBB adopted, by a 9 for, 1 against, and 3 no votes for Resolution 2005-0001,
which announced that starting with the 2005 Ms. Olympia that the IFBB was abolishing the
weight class system adopted in 2000.
The 2005 contest season saw another double winner, as Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia won her third
Ms. International title, then edged out defending champion Iris Kyle to win the Ms. Olympia.
Also notable in 2005 was the return of Jitka Harazimova, who had last competed in 1999.
Harazimova won the Charlotte Pro contest in her return to competition, qualifying her for the
Ms. Olympia where she finished fourth. Also in 2005 the documentary Supersize She was
released. The documentary focused on focused on Britishprofessional female
bodybuilder Joanna Thomas and her competing at the 2004 GNC Show of Strength and
the 2004 Ms. Olympia.
Iris Kyle's reign
Colette Nelson and Elena Seiple at the 2007 NPC Junior Nationals
Dayana Cadeau at the 2007 Ms. Olympia
In 2006, Iris Kyle won both the Ms. International and the Ms. Olympia, repeating her
accomplishment of 2004. Iris won the Ms. International and Ms. Olympia for a third time in
2007. Also in 2007 saw the brief revival of the Jan Tana Classic, which featured two weight
classes for the female competitors. The class titles were won by Stephanie
Kessler(heavyweight) and Sarah Dunlap (lightweight), with Dunlap named the overall winner.
There was a bit of a controversy in the 2008 Ms. International. Iris Kyle was placed 7th due to
"bumps" on her gluts, which according to head IFBB judge, Sandy Ranalli, was distortions in
her physique. Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia went on to win the 2008 Ms. Olympia. Iris made up for
this by winning the 2008 Ms. Olympia.
Iris Kyle continued her success by winning both the Ms International and the Ms. Olympia in
2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2012, Iris suffered an injury to her leg and thus couldn't attend the
2012 Ms. International. Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia won the 2012 Ms. International. Iris went on
to win the 2012 Ms. Olympia and winning her seventh consecutive Olympia win and surpassing
Lenda Murry's and She went on to retake the 2013 Ms. International after not being able to
attend the 2012 Ms. International due to leg injury. At the 2013 Ms. Olympia, Iris won her ninth
overall Olympia win, thus giving her more overall Olympia titles than any other bodybuilder,
male or female.
On June 7, 2013, event promoter of the Arnold Sports Festival, Jim Lorimer, announced that in
2014, the Arnold Classic 212 professional mens bodybuilding division would replace the Ms.
International womens bodybuilding competition at the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival. Lorimer, in
a statement, said The Arnold Sports Festival was proud to support womens bodybuilding
through the Ms. International for the past quarter century, but in keeping with demands of our
fans, the time has come to introduce the Arnold Classic 212 beginning in 2014. We are excited
to create a professional competitive platform for some of the IFBB Pro Leagues most popular
At the 2014 Ms. Olympia, Iris Kyle won her tenth overall Olympia win, beating her own previous
record of nine overall Olympia wins. She also won her ninth consecutive Olympia title in a row,
beating Lee Haney's and Ronnie Coleman's record eight consecutive Olympia titles in a row,
thus giving her more overall and consecutive Olympia wins than any other bodybuilder, male or
female, of all time. After winning she announced that she will be retiring from bodybuilding. The
2014 Ms. Olympia was the last Ms. Olympia competition held.
Post Ms. Olympia
IFBB Hall of Fame
The IFBB established a Hall of Fame in 1999. The following women have been inducted:
1999 Carla Dunlap, Cory Everson, and Rachel McLish
2000 Bev Francis, Lisa Lyon, and Abbye Stockton
2001 Kay Baxter, Diana Dennis, and Kike Elomaa
2002 Laura Combes
2003 Lynn Conkwright
2004 Ellen van Maris
2005 Stacey Bentley
2006 Claudia Wilbourn
2007 Laura Creavalle
2008 Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls
2009 Juliette Bergmann
2010 Lenda Murray and Vickie Gates
2011 Tonya Knight and Anja Langer
Competitions International Federation of BodyBuilding (IFBB)
Main article: International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness Female Bodybuilding
See also: List of professional bodybuilding competitions
See also: Professional bodybuilding
2015 IFBB pro schedule
Competition Place Date
IFBB Omaha Pro Women's Bodybuilding Omaha, Nebraska May 30, 2015
Toronto Pro Women's Bodybuilding Toronto, Ontario June 6, 2015
IFBB Wings of Strength Chicago Pro Chicago, Illinois July 24, 2015
IFBB Wings of Strength PBW Tampa Pro Tampa, Florida August 68,
IFBB Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix World
Championships San Antonio, Texas August 22, 2015
IFBB Pittsburgh Masters Professional
Qualifications for IFBB Pro Status
In order to become an "IFBB Pro" you must first earn your IFBB Pro Card. In order to win a
bodybuilder looking to do this must first win a regional contest weight class. When a
bodybuilder wins or places highly they earn an invite to compete at their country's National
Championships contest for that year. The winners of each weight class at the National
Championships will then go head to head in a separate contest to see who is the overall
Champion for the year. Depending on the federation, the overall Champion will be offered a pro
card. Some federations offer Pro Cards to winners of individual weight class champions. This
can mean that each year more than one bodybuilder may earn a Pro Card.
In the United States, the NPC (National Physique Committee) is affiliated with the IFBB and
awards IFBB Pro Cards. The following competitions award IFBB Pro Cards:
NPC Women's National Championships has three weight classes: Lightweight,
middleweight, and heavyweight. All three class winners in the contest are eligible for
NPC USA Championships has three weight classes. The overall winner is eligible for
IFBB World Championships, each weight class winner is eligible for pro status.
IFBB North American Championships, the overall winners is eligible for professional status.
National Physique Committee (NPC) Competitions
Main article: National Physique Committee Female Bodybuilding
National level competitions
2015 NPC national schedule
Competition Place Date
2015 NPC JR USA's North Charleston, South
Carolina May 30, 2015
NPC JR National Bodybuilding, Fitness, Chicago, Illinois June 1314, 2015
Figure & Bikini
2015 NPC Masters Nationals Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania July 1618, 2015
2015 NPC USA Bodybuilding
Championships Las Vegas, Nevada July 2425, 2015
2015 IFBB North Americans Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania September 35,
2015 NPC National Bodybuilding
Championships Miami, Florida
Qualifications for national level competitions
In order to qualify for national level competitions a competitor must place in one of the
Rank in the top three in their weight class of the Womens open division in a contest that
has been sanctioned as a national qualifier.
First overall in an area championship of the open division.
Top two in a weight class from an area level national qualifier
Overall winner in a district level competition designated as a national qualifier.
Winner of the weight class in a regional competition designated as a national qualifier.
Weight class winners from the Armed Forces.
Qualifications for Junior USA, Teen and Masters Nationals
To qualify for Junior USA, Teen or Masters Nationals a competitor must place in one of the
Top five in a weight class from a national level competition
Top three in a weight class in the Teen or Masters Nationals
Class winner in the Armed Forces
Top three in a weight class from an Area national qualifier
Top two from a district level national qualifier
Qualifications for USA and Junior Nationals
In order to qualify for USA and Junior Nationals a competitor must place in one of the following:
Top five in a weight class from the Nationals, USA, Team Universe or Junior Nationals
Top three in a weight class from the Teen, Collegiate Masters Nationals
Class winner in the Armed Forces
First overall in an area level national qualifier
Top two in an area level national qualifier
Weight class winner from a district level competition designated as a national qualifier
Qualifications for Nationals and North American Championships
In order to qualify for Nationals or North American Championships a competitor must place in
one of the following:
Top five in a weight class from the Nationals, NPC USA or North American Championships
Top five in a weight class from the Team Universe, Junior Nationals or Junior USA
Top five in a weight class from Teen Collegiate Masters Nationals
Top two in a weight class in the Armed Forces
Top two in a weight class in an area level national qualifier
Overall winner in a district level competition designated as a national qualifier
Class winners at the USA and Nationals will be given five years of eligibility.
National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA)
Main article: National Amateur Bodybuilders Association
NABBA European Championships
Fitness and figure competition
Main article: Fitness and figure competition
A female competitor during a bodybuilding show in Asia
There are two other categories of competition that are closely related to bodybuilding, and are
frequently held as part of the same event. Fitness competition has a swimsuit round, and a
round that is judged on the performance of a routine including aerobics, dance, orgymnastics.
Figure competition is a newer format, which combines female bodybuilding and gymnastics
altogether, is judged solely on symmetry and muscle tone, with much less emphasis on muscle
size than in bodybuilding.
In a competition, each woman poses in a bikini. She must strike different poses, while facing
forward, to the side, and to the rear. During her poses, she must emphasize her arms,
shoulders, chest, stomach, buttocks, and legs by flexing them. The judges carefully observe,
evaluate, then numerically grade the firmness and shapeliness of the woman's physique.
Sexism and discrimination
Since the sport of female bodybuilding was organized, gender discrimination has been an
issue. People recognize that part of the feminine identity is sculpting their physical
appearances and they usually associate the common feminine identity with slenderness and a
trim figure. In Studies in Popular Culture A.J. Randall and colleagues describes this as the
result of the patriarchal society which emphasizes that femininity is created by altering the body
for society's gendered expectations  When women venture away from the gender
expectations, society's view of their femininity begins to slip. Female bodybuilders experience
this criticism of their body, as they build bodies which are commonly associated with the
masculine identity. Despite this there is a very dedicated female bodybuilding fan base.
The International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness has made several rules changes on the
sport of female bodybuilding that relate to expected feminine identity. In 1992, the IFBB,
attempted to "feminize" the sport by making the judges deduct points from competitors who
were too big, meaning too muscular. The IFBB then made a rule change in 2000 that
emphasized a need for the women to decrease muscularity once again. Before Ms.
International in 2005 the IFBB created another rule that required the women competing to
decrease their own muscle mass by 20 percent to compete. Yet the men's bodybuilding rules
have not changed in the same time period. In Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise Chris
Shilling and Tanya Bunsell state that all of these rule changes reflect the IFBBs attempts to
make women more closely fit gender expectations, as they all emphasize the need for the
female bodybuilders to become less massive. Bunsell and Shilling further state that male
bodybuilding hasnt changed because their bodies are seen as masculine in identity, while
female bodybuilding rules inhibit females from reaching the same muscularity.
Female bodybuilders are rewarded far less prize money for their competitions than their male
counterparts. For example the 2012 Mr. Olympia winner will receive $250,000 in prize money
while Ms. Olympia winner will only win $28,000 in prize money.
Afghanistan - Women's bodybuilding is forbidden.
According to Dan Duchaine, author of the book Underground Steroid Handbook and worked
with countless world-class female bodybuilders, and Greg Zulak, listed the following
performance-enhancing drugs as ones female bodybuilders may use:
Deca-Durabolin (nandrolone decanoate)
Equipoise (boldenone undecyclenate)
Human growth hormone
Nolvadex (tamoxifen citrate)
All anabolic steroids have some amount of androgens that cause massive increase in muscle
size and muscularity. Most common side effects experienced by women using androgen
Acne and oily skin
Male pattern baldness
Lowering of voice tone
Disruption of menstrual cycle
Increased hair growth on face, legs and arms
Increased feeling of well being
Decreased recovery time from workouts
Heightened sex drive
Muscle and strength gain
Decreases in estrogenic fat (e.g. upper legs, abdomen, upper arms, buttocks)
Surveys and studies on side effects
A 1985 interview of ten weight-trained women athletes who consistently used anabolic
steroids were interviewed about their patterns of drug use and the perceived effects.
Anabolic steroids were used in a cyclical manner, often with several drugs taken
simultaneously. All participants believed that muscle size and strength were increased in
association with anabolic steroid use. Most also noted a deepening of the voice, increased
facial hair, increased aggressiveness, clitoral enlargement, and menstrual irregularities.
The participants were willing to tolerate these side effects but thought that such changes
might be unacceptable to many women.
A 1989 study of competitive female bodybuilders from Kansas and Missouri found that
10% use steroids on a regular basis. The female bodybuilders reported that they had used
an average of two different steroids including Deca Durabolin, Anavar, Testosterone,
Dianabol, Equipoise, and Winstrol.
A 1991 study of nine female weight-lifters using steroids and seven not using these agents
has found that it appears that the self-administration of testosterone and anabolic steroids
is increasingly practiced by women in sports where strength and endurance are important.
Of the nine anabolic steroid users, seven took multiple anabolic steroids simultaneously.
Thirty-fold elevations of serum testosterone were noted in the women injecting
testosterone. In three of these women serum testosterone levels exceeded the upper limits
for normal male testosterone concentrations. A significant compensatory decrease in sex
hormone-binding globulin and a decrease in thyroid-binding proteins were noted in the
women steroid users. Also, a 39% decrease in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was
noted in the steroid-using weight lifters. Most of the subjects in this study used anabolic
steroids continuously, which raises concern about premature atherosclerosis and other
disease processes developing in these women.
A 2000 survey found that one-third of the female bodybuilders reported past or current
steroid use and almost half of those who were non-steroid users admitted use of
performance-enhancing drugs such as ephedrine. The study investigators found that
women who used steroids were more muscular than their non-steroid-using counterparts
and were also more likely to use other performance-enhancing substances. Despite its
popularity among female bodybuilding, usage of steroids among female bodybuilders,
unlike male bodybuilding, is a taboo subject and rarely admitted use among female
bodybuilders. Although the IFBB officially bans the usage of performance-enhancing
drugs, it does not test athletes rigorously.
A 2009 survey of both men and women found that while men overall use anabolic
androgenic steroids, more women than men who use anabolicandrogenic steroids where
competitive bodybuilders or weightlifters, with only 33.3% describing themselves as
"recreational lifters" with no interest in competition. The survey found that 75% of the
women experienced clitoral enlargement, half had irregular periods and showed changes
in their voices. Despite this 90% said they would continue to use steroids.
Bodybuilding causes increased lean body mass and decreased body fat, which causes breast
tissue reduction in female athletes whereas the current trend regarding the judges' search for
"feminine" physique at competitions makes compensative breast augmentation with breast
implants an increasingly popular procedure among female bodybuilders. It is estimated that
80% of professional female bodybuilders get breast implants so they can show some cleavage
The 1985 documentary film Pumping Iron II: The Women focuses on female bodybuilding
and is one of the first female bodybuilder documentaries around.
The Tiny Toon Adventures episode That's Incredibly Stupid Plucky is the judge of a group
of female bodybuilders who are competing for the title of Ms. Teenage Iron-pumping Kick-
boxer Wrestler USA.
In a 1995 Geraldo episode, he featured notable female bodybuilders on his show Lenda
Murray, Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls, Sha-Ri Pendleton, Nikk Fuller, and also featured female
bodybuilding photographer Bill Dobbins.
Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends in the episode Body Building focused heavily on female
bodybuilding, included female muscle fantasy, fbb sessions, and the 2000 IFBB Jan Tana
The 2000 documentary Bodybuilders deals with female bodybuilding and specifically
concentrates on Ms. Olympia and the rapid changes that happen to the sport from 1980 to
2000. Female bodybuilders interviews in the documentary include IFBB Jan Tana Classic
champion Lesa Lewis, former Ms. Olympia champion Cory Everson, and former Ms.
Olympia champion Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls.
Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls starred in the 2000 movie The Cell.
The 2001 TLC documentary The Greatest Bodies talks about the evolution of female
bodybuilding and the 2000 Ms. International. It also features female bodybuilding proGayle
The Simpsons episode Strong Arms of the Ma focused entirely on female bodybuilding.
Marge takes up bodybuilding after getting mugged. She competes in a female bodybuilding
competition where she places 2nd.
The Taboo episode Gender Benders focuses on the gender role of female bodybuilding.
IFBB pro Betty Pariso, Rosemary Jennings, and the 2003 Ms. Olympia is featured in the
The Totally Spies! It's How You Play The Game Clover is given three micro-organisms that
contain performing enhancing hormones by the Zanzibar coach. She has to take the place
of Maria for Zanzibar in the figure skating at the Olympics and she obtains a bodybuilding
physic due to the micro-organisms. She loses her muscle mass after sneezing those
micro-organisms out. The Totally Spies! episode The Incredible Bulk Alex consumes a
number of 'Bulky Bars' which allows her to grow a bodybuilding physic and defeat Ulrich
The 2005 documentary film Supersize She focuses on professional female
bodybuilder Joanna Thomas participating in the 2004 IFBB Ms. Olympia.
Iris Kyle appeared in the 2008 episode of Wipeout.
The 2008 documentary film Bigger, Stronger, Faster* focused on anabolic steroids and
featured a few female bodybuilders in it.
The 2008 documentary film Hooked: Muscle Women focuses on professional female
bodybuilder Colette Nelson and Kristy Hawkins participating in the 2008 IFBB Ms.
The TV3 documentary Modern Ireland: Supersized Shes explores female bodybuilding in
Ireland. This documentary follows the stories of two female bodybuilders, Inga Beinara and
Sophia McNamara, over the course of one day, as they prepare to take to the stage of the
Millennium Theatre in Limerick, for the Republic of Ireland Bodybuilding Federation
The 2010 documentary film Twisted Sisters focuses on professional female
bodybuilder Kim Buck, along with amateur bodybuilders Brenda Smith and Lauren Powers.
A Super Bowl XLVIII GoDaddy commercial featured Danica Patrick as a female
Iris Kyle will appear as the character "Dina" in the film We Are Sisyphos, which will be
released in 2014.