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Understanding Bodybuilding Competition Categories: A Detailed Guide

In this blog post, we will delve into the bodybuilding competition categories and explore how they are judged, discuss the four types of bodybuilding, and provide insights into how these categories operate.

Bodybuilding competitions symbolize discipline and dedication as they encompass categories that cater to specific requirements and standards.

Athletes from different backgrounds come together to proudly display their work and passion on the stage.

However, before stepping into the spotlight it is crucial to have an understanding of the categories and their specific requirements.

Quick Summary

Bodybuilding competitions are a testament to the commitment and dedication of athletes offering a range of categories to suit athletic goals and body types.

These categories include Men’s Bodybuilding, Women’s Bodybuilding, Men’s Physique, Women’s Physique, Bikini and Classic Physique.  Each category has judging criteria that focus on muscle size, symmetry, conditioning and overall presentation.

In this blog post we explore four types of bodybuilding; Professional, Amateur, Natural and Fitness. Each type has its characteristics and requirements.

Competitions start at levels and progress to national stages before reaching the prestigious professional level like Mr. Olympia. Key factors such as muscularity, symmetry, self assurance and posing techniques play a role in achieving success in these competitions.

The post also provides answers to frequently asked questions about selecting the category for oneself well as highlighting different divisions for men in Mr. Olympia competition. Understanding these categories and their specific requirements is crucial for aspiring bodybuilders who wish to showcase their work and unwavering passion, on stage.

Related: Bodybuilding

What Are the Different Bodybuilding Competition Categories?

The bodybuilding competition categories have been meticulously designed to highlight the physical attributes and individual goals of athletes offering a wide range of competition types.

  • Men’s Bodybuilding: This category aims to highlight athletes muscle size, symmetry, and overall conditioning. Contestants perform poses like double biceps, side chest pose, and back lat spread to exhibit their muscular development.
  • Women’s Bodybuilding: Women’s bodybuilding emphasizes muscle development, symmetry, and overall presentation. Female athletes demonstrate mandatory poses such, as the front lat spread pose, and side triceps. Rear double biceps pose to accentuate their physique.
  • Men’s Physique: Men’s physique focuses on a level of muscularity compared to traditional bodybuilding. This category places importance on aesthetics having veins and achieving a muscular look. Competitors wear board shorts and strike poses like models.
  • Women’s Physique: Women’s physique competitions aim to showcase well-toned bodies with an emphasis, on muscle definition and overall balance. Athletes wear athletic style swimsuits. Perform quarter turns to display their physique from all angles.
  • Bikini: The bikini category is designed for athletes who have a feminine physique. Competitors showcase a toned body with an emphasis on curves and symmetry. Bikini competitors perform quarter turns and an individual posing routine.
  • Classic Physique: Classic physique combines the principles of Men’s bodybuilding with the proportions seen during the era of bodybuilding. This category highlights muscle size, shape, and conditioning. Competitors wear posing trunks. Perform bodybuilding poses. [1]

Key Criteria in Bodybuilding Competition Categories

bodybuilding competition categories

Within bodybuilding competition categories the evaluation criteria differ according to aspects, like muscularity and symmetry aiming at presenting an impressive physique.

Judges evaluate athletes based on the criteria:

  • Muscularity: Judges seek developed muscles that are balanced in proportion, to the athletes physique.
  • Symmetry: Symmetry refers to having developed muscle groups creating an overall physique.

In order to showcase their muscles clearly athletes should strive for levels of body fat which allows for muscle definition and separation.

Confidence, poise, and grace are elements, in presenting oneself on stage. Athletes must exude these qualities during their posing routines.

The proper execution of poses and individual routines is essential for displaying the physique.

It’s important to keep in mind that the specific criteria may slightly vary between competition organizations. Therefore athletes should carefully review the guidelines provided by the organizing body.

Four Main Categories of Bodybuilding Competitions

  • Professional Bodybuilding: This category involves top-level athletes who compete in events like the Mr. Olympia competition. These athletes have earned status by winning events and get the chance to compete for significant cash prizes.
  • Amateur Bodybuilding: Athletes who haven’t yet reached status fall into this category. They participate in regional and national level competitions to gain experience and recognition.
  • Natural Bodybuilding: This subcategory comprises athletes who compete without using performance enhancing substances such as steroids. Competitors undergo testing, for banned substances to ensure play.
  • Fitness bodybuilding: Combines elements of bodybuilding with performances, including dance, acrobatics, and gymnastics. This category focuses on creativity, athleticism and overall fitness. [2]

Bodybuilding Competition

How do bodybuilding competitions function?

Bodybuilding competitions operate on a system that allows athletes to progress from competitions to national and international stages.

Understanding how bodybuilding competition categories function at levels from local, to stages is crucial for aspiring athletes:

  • Local Competitions: Athletes begin their journey by participating in events organized by city level bodybuilding associations. These competitions serve as a platform for newcomers to gain experience and showcase their progress.
  • Regional and National Competitions: Competitors from events advance to regional and national competitions. These events attract athletes from a broader geographical area.
  • Professional Competitions: The top athletes from competitions can earn status and qualify to compete in professional bodybuilding events like the Mr. Olympia competition. These prestigious events highlight the world’s bodybuilders. Offer substantial cash prizes.
  • Age and Weight Classes: Some competitions may also include age and weight classes to ensure competition for athletes with body types and levels of experience. [3]

In conclusion

In the realm of bodybuilding competition categories athletes find a platform to showcase their work, dedication and passion for the sport.

To succeed in the field of bodybuilding it is essential to understand the different categories and their specific requirements. Whether it’s men’s or women’s bodybuilding, bikini competitions, or classic physique events each category offers a platform to celebrate the accomplishments and physical attributes of athletes.

Keep in mind that bodybuilding goes beyond winning; it encompasses growth, determination, and embracing the transformative journey of sculpting your best version. So whether you’re new, to this world or an experienced competitor step onto that stage with confidence and pride.

Know that all your hard work has been dedicated to showcasing yourself in the realm of bodybuilding contests. In this post, we tried to explain all bodybuilding competition categories for bodybuilders. 

Read More: Bodybuilding Hub


What are the 4 types of bodybuilding?
There are four types of bodybuilding.
Classic Bodybuilding: This type focuses on achieving a classical and aesthetic physique, reminiscent of the bodybuilding style popular, in the 1970s and 1980s.
Men’s Physique: This category highlights an appearance than extreme muscularity emphasizing symmetry and proportions.
Women’s Bikini: For women this category aims for a balanced and feminine physique with less emphasis on having extremely developed muscles.
Women’s Figure: This category involves muscle mass and definition compared to Bikini. Still less than Women’s Bodybuilding.
How do I choose a bodybuilding category?
When choosing a bodybuilding category several factors should be considered.
Physique Goals: Match your desired physique goals (muscle mass, definition, symmetry) with the standards set by each category.
Body Type and Genetics: Some categories may naturally suit your body type better than others.
Personal Preference: Choose a category that aligns with your passion and interest in bodybuilding.
What are the divisions of bodybuilding for men?
Men have divisions within bodybuilding:
Classic Physique: This division aims to strike a balance, between muscle mass and aesthetics.
Men’s Physique: This category emphasizes a toned and fit body, than extreme muscularity.
212 Bodybuilding: This division is for competitors weighing up to 212 pounds. Puts emphasis on both muscle mass and definition.
Open Bodybuilding: In this category there are no weight restrictions. It often showcases the most muscular athletes.
What are the Mr Olympia categories?
The Mr. Olympia competition consists of categories:
Open Bodybuilding: This is the event with no weight limit.
212 Showdown: For bodybuilders weighing up to 212 pounds.
Classic Physique: This category combines mass with aesthetics.
Men’s Physique: Judges in this category primarily focus on conditioning and symmetry.
What category does Chris Bumstead compete in?
Chris Bumstead competes in the division known as the Classic Physique which prioritizes a classic style of bodybuilding.
What category was Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Arnold Schwarzenegger competed in what would be referred to as the Open Bodybuilding category characterized by its lack of weight restrictions and emphasis on muscle mass and definition.


  1. The IFBB, or the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, is an international professional sports governing body for bodybuilding and fitness.
  2. The World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) is an organization dedicated to promoting drug-free bodybuilding competitions.
  3. The North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (NANBF) is an organization that promotes natural, drug-free bodybuilding competitions in North America.