Only having been around since the late 1970’s the female bodybuilding world has been an ever changing and extremely high competitive realm consisting of several types of competition. The newest addition to this genre is figure bodybuilding in which the contestants are judged based upon their muscular tone and symmetry rather than their muscle size. Figure bodybuilding is for women who want to compete in competitions without having extreme or excessive muscle mass and vascularity that bodybuilding can bring with it. Using in a form of a pageant style, competitors are judged from all sides within one or two rounds, depending upon the organization.
While women bodybuilding has been around for forty years, figure bodybuilding had its first national event in 2001 when the National physique Committee put on the Figure Nationals, and the first professional event in 2003 Natural Human Growth Hormone. The judging of figure bodybuilding consists of judging the contestants in categories of gracefulness, confidence and poise, among others, during the individual walk and posing segment of the competition and categories such as style, presentation, skin tone and symmetry during the group comparison segment. Contestants are very well toned and extremely well defined adult females of any age that are placed in different categories by their height. The Judges eyes will only look for firmly toned and well defined muscles without ripples, or striations. Contestants will wear a number to identify them and to aide in judging and will normally wear highly decorated and brightly coloured two piece swimsuits known as pose suits.
Present are several organizations that have begun sponsoring yearly events to bring the figure bodybuilding society all together for interacting and competition. The most notable of these organizations are Figure International and Figure Olympia which are both certified by the IFBB and are considered specialized level events. There are other organizations that hold figure bodybuilding competitions, but the rules and sanctioning of every event can differ from state to state. Popularity of the sport is well-known among those already in the bodybuilding sport circuits and persons with an interest in muscle physique, however, beyond that niche market there is not much mainstream coverage of the various competitions and events. One or two mainstream sports networks have carried coverage of figure bodybuilding competitions but constantly in conjunction with fitness and regular bodybuilding competitions.
For women looking to compete in the competitive world of figure bodybuilding, dealing with hardly to no prize money and sponsorship can make competing a difficult way to earn a living. Many contestants hold full time professional positions and broke into the world of figure competition only after taking a liking to working out in their daily life. A different difficult issue that many women bodybuilders have to deal with is the societal pressure of not conforming to the standard image of femininity. While figure bodybuilders often have much less muscle mass than regular bodybuilders they still possess a great deal more than the usual female would normally have, making them appear slightly more masculine than normal.