Women’s bodybuilding should be about beauty.

But some who are serious competitors are starting to look like a beast. How did we get here?

To be clear, I’m using the word “beauty” in a gender-neutral sense here.

We can all agree that sunken-in eyes, “horse-face,” and a body riddled with popping veins isn’t exactly attractive. On a man or woman. And when you lose touch with the basic affinity for beauty, you get the bizarre aesthetics we are accustomed to seeing.

These days, women can compete in bikini, figure, fitness, physique, and bodybuilding categories. The posing and related requirements are different for each, but the primary difference is muscular size.

I’ll get back to that point in a minute.

I’m writing this, in part, to respond to an article posted on T-Nation “The Death of Women’s Bodybuilding.”

T-Nation has solid articles on bodybuilding, and frankly, these guys know what they’re talking about. That said, they didn’t bring up how bodybuilding, especially bodybuilding for women, has a broader inclusion of demographic.

Traditionally, bodybuilding only referred to those who trained in the gym day and night in pursuit of huge muscles.

“The term ‘women’s bodybuilding’ is a little outdated perhaps. I think women would respond better to the term ‘women’s body sculpting.’ That basically covers all women in all the different competitive categories.” Debbie Baigrie, Owner, Natural Muscle Magazine

Guys like me who train hard (recreationally bodybuild), and don’t necessarily care to look like Arnold can justifiably call themselves bodybuilders.

Likewise, women who are going after it in the gym pursuing a toned physique can also justifiably call themselves bodybuilders. Technically, we are “building our bodies” by adding lean muscle, we are just not as extreme about it.


vegan bodybuilding program


So what’s going on here, and why is bodybuilding/fitness becoming so widespread (specifically with women)?

Simply stated, bodybuilding expressed in a healthy and balanced fashion is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Other reasons:

  • The new trimmed down physique look is simply a less extreme version of strictly mass-building bodybuilding. It tends not to promote the use of anabolics and drugs the same way the older version does. For obvious health and aesthetic reasons, this is more appealing to a larger number of women.
  • Camaraderie: many women who are in their 30s and 40s want to feel sexy again and reinvent themselves after having children or going through a divorce, for example, so they are entering bikini competitions with their friends.
  • Confidence in the ability to handle problems and life in general. Little things don’t seem to matter as much.
  • Added sex appeal.
  • Increased focus and discipline.
  • Besides meditation, working out is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress.

Since we are discussing women’s bodybuilding, I would like to bring your attention to two of the most misunderstood topics on the subject…

women-bodybuilding-growing1. Women Who Lift Heavy Do Not Get Bulky

I feel compelled to address the #1 myth in women’s bodybuilding, that weight training makes you bulky and masculine. This is generally a lazy-person’s excuse not to get in the gym and get in shape.

Every woman I’ve ever trained in gym, I trained like I would a man: intense sessions with heavy weight.

The result? A sexy-toned physique. Each and every time. Not once did they get bulky.

Women do not naturally produce as much testosterone as males do.

It is scientifically impossible for a woman to gain huge amounts of muscle mass by training hard in the gym.

Yes, it seems some of the female bodybuilders showcased in magazines suggest differently. The reality is they are naturally more built like a man (genetics) and/or they had a little help (anabolics) to achieve their results.

Regardless my hat goes off to their insane work ethic because you don’t look that jacked without spending countless hours in the gym. Again, extraordinarily spectacular genetics doesn’t hurt, either.

Don’t take my word for it. Go to your gym and find a handful of women who have the kind of physique you want and ask them how they got it. I’m willing to bet that nine out of 10 times they train hard with weights.

2. Women Who Don’t Lift Heavy Rarely Get Toned

Another pervasive myth in women’s fitness is that women should lift light weights and/or only do cardio to lose fat, and get lean and toned.

The bottom line here is if you only do cardio, both your muscle and fat would be burned for fuel. Genetically gifted women aside, those who only concentrate on cardio will have a very hard time achieving the sexy-toned look they want.

Lifting very light weights at high repetitions to burn fat and get toned? Not going to happen.

Muscle responds to progressively harder resistance, and if the resistance is too light, then it won’t activate the body’s inclination to change in any real way.


Why do you think women’s bodybuilding is becoming so popular?

Please contact us here so we can share your ideas with the rest of the tribe.

Reem from Canada writes:

I thought I’d respond to this because I had no choice but pursuing this path of body-toning, body-building to be able to make it through the day and the week (literally).

Each case is unique but here is mine:
– I’m 43, single parent, with mentally demanding job in high tech. I look after my elderly parents who live down the street and I drive an hour and half daily.
– I’m vegetarian who succumbed to eating beef for a year and now back to being vegetarian. I got too sick from meat after 15 years of being vegetarian.
– I had an awful accident three years ago. I could not take any pain killers or anti-inflammatories due to conflict with my HBP medication.
– I’ve always been a little chubby and tried all kind of natural diets.

My goals:  physical strength, energy, pain control, and stress relief.

My solution: Bodybuilding and strength training. My accident pain control relies completely on stretching, muscle building, and limited cardio. I go to my trainer sleepy, weak, and in pain – I come out energetic, strong, and pain free.

Ironically, all my life I tried trimming down by losing weight. I managed to drop a couple of sizes when I gained 15 lbs. of lean muscle, LOL.

Because of bodybuilding and strength training, I owe many smiles with my child and ability to have a relatively active life with her to my kinesiologist/bodybuilding trainer. I now also have the physical strength to help my dad get up when he needs it.

For many busy women, bodybuilding might save our lives.

Thank for the opportunity to comment on this. I’m sharing my story to help out others out there who are seeking answers to fatigue.