“Just stand there and look hot.” No, there’s much more to it than that. A competitor explains.
The sport of bodybuilding has been around for decades and built a great fan base all over the world. But it has been a fading sport among women, not only as competitors but also as fans. Most women would not describe their ideal body type as that of a female bodybuilder. Most women want to be lean, not bulky, and definitely not manly. They want to look amazing, especially in bikinis and other revealing clothes.
When women’s bodybuilding began falling out of favor, physique competition categories like Figure and Fitness were created to fill the gap. Figure is a few steps down in muscularity levels from bodybuilding, but many women still find that it requires more muscle building than they’re inclined to do. And Fitness has a performance component that appeals to former gymnasts and other athletes, but is out of the comfort zone of many aspiring competitors.
To accommodate even more women into the world of physique competitions, promoters created a new category designed to appeal to a wider audience. Thus “Bikini” competitions were formed. Bikini quickly became extremely popular, both with women seeking to compete and audiences. The International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) recognized Bikini as a new competitive category on November 7, 2010.
Since Bikini is relatively new, it’s not surprising that many people are confused by its scoring system. Sometimes being a part of the audience and witnessing the competition can cause you to ask if there is really any criteria at all. You may wonder why certain athletes do better than others and what sets some apart in the judges’ minds, but just as with other types of physique competitions, Bikini has specific criteria that determines what the athletes need to do to win.
Bikini competitors are well conditioned and trained, have supertight bodies and impeccable diet regimens, but there is more to the scoring than symmetry, posing and presentation. Judges need to see more from these athletes than just their physiques.
So what are they looking for exactly? Bikini is scored not just on physique, stage presence and presentation, but on overall marketability as well. Here’s what’s involved.
Fit, Not Ripped
Let’s start off by discussing the physique criteria. What are the judges looking for in a bikini model’s body? According to the IFBB, Bikini competitors are scored on proportion, symmetry, balance, shape and skin tone. It is important for the competitor to embody the “total package.” She must be lean and firm, but not overly muscular. The muscles should be well defined with visibly distinctive muscle groups, but not overly separated with striations. If the model is too lean, muscular or hard, she will be deducted points
Ideally, a Bikini competitor wants to achieve an hourglass shape, with developed glutes and shoulders. This achieves the illusion of having a tiny waist and a long, lean torso. All in all, she should exhibit a statuesque figure with firm muscle tone and a curvy silhouette. Bikini competitors often compete onstage with 8.5–14% body fat.
Owning The Stage
Another important criteria is posing and presentation. Here is where the game changes for Bikini competitors. In most physique competitions, the best body wins, but in Bikini there is so much variability and subjectivity, meaning that best overall stage presentation is more important in this competitive category than any other.
A Bikini competitor should command attention as soon as she walks onstage. She should continue to draw the eyes of the judges toward her throughout the assessment rounds. It is important for competitors to be aware that the judges are always observing them until they leave the stage. While lining up in comparison to waiting down-stage, the judges are continually scanning each athlete to assess their favorite.
Like other physique athletes, Bikini competitors have mandatory poses that each woman must perform. In the comparison rounds, the judges want to see her stand in a flattering stance that showcases her physique. In the mandatory front pose, she will have a wide stance with her weight shifted onto one leg, a hand on one hip, and the other hand placed to her side. A competitor also wants to stand in a way that makes her waist seem very tiny.
In her back pose, she will create the same position while accentuating the back and glutes. Even in the back pose, a competitor wants to find clever ways to draw the judges’ attention toward her. She can do this by looking back and shifting her hips as well as tossing her hair. What the judges are attracted to are the particular poses she chooses, her smile, her gaze, her suit, her accessories, her hair and makeup, as well as her tan.
Don’t overdo it, though. Be careful not to overembellish poses and facial expressions. Keep it classy, with just a touch of sex appeal. The judges allow accessories, but make sure they are not too distracting, as this takes away from the presentation of your physique.
Presentation includes hair, makeup, skin tone and quality of tan. If the judges score a model low in these areas, it will affect her overall placing. Her makeup must be flattering, and her hair needs to be voluminous but not too pageantlike, which is why many Bikini competitors choose more of a “Victoria’s Secret” model look. It is important that these elements complement the competitor’s natural qualities and add to the total package. Another criteria that judges score is skin quality, which must be smooth with a healthy glow, as well as tight and toned with no signs of cellulite.
Make One Impression
Another important aspect of presentation is the bikini itself. The choice of a suit affects the total package you present. If the color, shape and cut of your bikini is not flattering, your score will suffer.
You can’t just slap on any old bikini, or think you can walk onstage in a thong. The back of the bottoms must cover at least one-third of the gluteal muscles. But they can be fun and colorful: You can sport vibrant, appealing colors that have crystal embellishments or other eye-catching elements. The right bikini for your personality and body can create a more glamorous and flattering look, and make a significant difference in your score.
Lastly, for a competitor to score high with the judges, she needs to have an overall look that is marketable. From the judges’ perspective, the questions they ask themselves as they look at each model are: Could she potentially help build a brand or product? Could she help increase sales of a magazine if she were on its cover? Does she have the “star” potential to become a big name in the professional Bikini world? Try to exude the confidence and personality of a woman who knows she’s going places!
Training for a show takes more than hard work and dedication; it takes lifestyle changes and commitment to the sport, as well as proper education and coaching. Make sure you set a reasonable timeline for a show, have a strong support system and a knowledgeable coach or trainer in your corner. If you approach this challenge as a lifestyle, you won’t be disappointed. And always remember, no matter what the outcome in a competition, your hard work will be worth it!
Creating A Bikini Body: A Guide To Training And Diet
Creating a perfectly sculpted Bikini physique requires a dedicated and smart training routine, along with a healthy, clean diet. Here’s an example week of training and dieting that I do to prepare for a Bikini competition.
► 30–45 minutes every morning
► All exercises are 4 supersets of 12–15 reps
Day 1: Back and Abs
• Lat pulldowns/plank rows
Day 2: Legs and Shoulders
• Front to back lunges/rear-delt flyes
Day 3: Arms and Chest
• Chest presses (flat bench)/pushups
Day 4: Abs and Quads
• Seated Russian twists (weighted)/mountain climbers with gliders on toes (1 minute)
Day 5: Glutes and Back
• Stiff-legged deadlifts/back hyperextensions
Days 6 and 7
• Practice posing; hot yoga and/or cardio
Daily Meal And Nutrition Program
• Morning: 500–1,000 mg fish oil and a multivitamin/mineral taken with 500 ml room-temp water
• Take 500–1,000 mg of fish oil and multi-vitamin/mineral 12 hours after first dose
To contact Amanda Kotel, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography by Liana Saadi