A Closer Look at Competing in the Figure Division

I remember as a kid growing up, and well into my teens, being completely OBSESSED with the competitors I saw on bodybuilding stages across the US. Not to mention the ones I saw on the pages of the magazines I read religiously! Back in the day, ESPN used to feature shows and competitions day and night! And I wouldn’t miss a beat. Back then it was all mostly bodybuilding and fitness… Well, until the figure division came out in the early to mid 2000’s. That changed the game for me, and competing in figure became a more realistic venture than the other two divisions for me.

Since that time, the industry has changed SOO much. Not only is competing in figure an option, but you now have 5 women’s divisions to choose from. And with so much choice, it can be hard to know where you fall into the spectrum. Let’s take a closer look at the division.

Competing in Figure – Some Things to Consider

For women who love to carry size, who love muscularity, but still want to maintain a socially acceptable degree of “femininity”, then figure is the perfect starting point.

If you’ve ever been an athlete your whole life, or maybe just a gym rat who’s been working out for a LONG TIME, you probably have a good base to start with. One of the things I like to remind my clients of is the fact that ALL of the women’s divisions started in bodybuilding. So for you to truly understand what the judges are looking for in this division, you HAVE TO understand what the sport is about at its core.

Spend time studying other divisions. Particularly women’s physique and bodybuilding. Understand the root of the division, this way you can have a better idea of how it all translates to figure.

Each season the judging criteria shifts, and so degrees of muscularity, and conditioning will always change. But there are a few things that will always hold steady, and win shows. No matter what the current trend.

The X Frame – Your Golden Ticket to Hardware

As you decide to embark into this division, take a look at your physique. The foundation of bodybuilding is rooted in the X frame.

  • Broad shoulders, set wide apart, and rounded capped delts.
  • Lats that flare out and can be seen in both your front and back poses.
  • A tiny waist that completes the top portion of the X, and flows into the bottom portion.
  • Quads that flare out and are rounded and full.
  • Calves that neither overpower the physique, nor underwhelm your frame.

A few current examples of women who are prime examples of this are IFBB Pro Candice Lewis, and two time Ms. Figure Olympia, IFBB Pro Latorya Watts.

IFBB Pro Latorya Watts

IFBB Pro Candice Lewis-Carter

Now, one thing you need to understand is that a lot of how your shape is is determined by genetics. HOWEVER, you can work on these things, and improve them over time. No one is born perfectly ready to shoot to the top. And with proper training and coaching, you will be able to bring out YOUR best shape, and move closer to the winning criteria for the division.

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It Cost Money to Compete – A Lot of Money

Let’s get one thing straight, competing in figure is a hobby. For some of us, we’ve been savvy enough to foray this adventure into a viable income. But that comes from things done OFF of the stage. From training, to coaching, to starting full on information product businesses – none of that however comes by way from stepping on a stage.

Whether you are an amateur or a pro, you have to shell out money to get up on that stage. Now, the problem really becomes when folks start trying to skim corners, and do this with a limited budget. They hire so-called “coaches” who don’t know what they’re doing, they buy cheap suits that don’t fit them well, and they skip out on some of the most important aspects of presentation and preparation in order to save a few bucks.

At some point, you realize that wasting your money, and going with the cheap options always costs MORE in the end – but this time, you’re also paying with your health and sanity. You have to ask yourself if that’s worth it.

Invest in a GOOD Coach

My advice is for competitors to save up. The ONE thing you should spend money on is a good coach. And good coaches aren’t going to be $25 a month. So put your hard earned cash towards the most important aspect of your entire program – and find a coach that works well for you.

Don’t Buy a Suit – Rent One

The next thing that you should consider, instead of buying a suit – RENT ONE! I have only actually PURCHASED a suit myself ONCE. Every suit since then has been a rental. You can end up donning a suit worth THOUSANDS of dollars, and only have to pay a small fraction – maybe a few hundred dollars – to enjoy for one or more shows.

Many competitors do this nowadays, and I personally think it’s one of the SMARTEST things you can do. Imagine, you buy this expensive bejeweled bathing suit, and can only wear it a few times on stage?

After you decide to hang up your lucite heels, you now have this investment you barely never use. So it’s a much smarter choice to see if your favorite suit designer has some for rent, and can thus save you money in the process.

Consider Entry Fees and Dues

The next thing that competitors don’t think too much about are the costs of the game itself. You need to make sure to pay your yearly dues to your federation just to be eligible to compete. And then, you have to pay the promoter of your show an entry free for each division you wish to partake in.

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This can really add up over the course of a season. And if you want to step onto the national level, the entry fees can be DOUBLE what you pay for your local shows, and then there are the travel expenses as well.

It can all add up, and impact what you can/can’t do in the face of finances.

So before you decide to step out there, think about saving up a bit, and anticipate what extras you have to sacrifice financially to get up on that stage.

You Can’t Control the Outcome

The last thing I want to leave you with today is all about the things in which you have NO control.

There are no guarantees in this game. And I say this because I see so many competitors under the assumption that just because they’ve worked hard, they should be rewarded. Often you hear these same folks cry politics when things don’t go their way.

Preparedness Over Politics

In this sport, if competing in figure is your “thing” and you want to dominate, the first thing to remember is that you cannot control the outcome. You cannot control who shows up, who you stand next to, nor what the panel of judges in THAT MOMENT feel is the winning look.

You’ve got to keep in mind that this is a subjective sport. It isn’t like track or basketball with a scoring system (that makes sense), or a clear cut winner. The only thing you can do is show up, do your best, and accept the outcome that you’ve been given – then try to improve.

And that’s really why having a GREAT coach is also essential. Because you really get to work with someone who understands the game, and will tell you right away what the REAL deal is behind the judging. Who can honestly tell you what you need to continue to work on to get to that win.

Remember, this sport takes WORK, and most of all, it takes longevity.

Bodybuilding takes work - and most of all longevity to be successful. Share on X

Having a realistic approach to this game will help you to do A LOT better. And keeping a healthy perspective about where you fit into the sport, and how far you wish to go, can have you enjoying it for years to come.

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