For so many years, women were considered to be the “weaker sex” by men. Today that has all changed. The introduction of women’s’ sports has changed the image of today’s women. No longer considered the weaker sex, women are proving that it is possible to be strong and sexy at the same time. The business of female bodybuilding started in the 1970s with the first female competition, The Miss Americana. Little more than a bikini contest, it opened the doors for women’s competitive sports and spawned a very lucrative business that once existed only for men.
Women’s bodybuilding and fitness competitions pay out thousands of dollars each year to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. Female bodybuilding contests judge the contestants on muscular development, size and definition while fitness competitions judge the applicant on their overall physical fitness and physical appearance. Fitness competitors train their bodies to be toned and strong but not overly muscular.
Female Bodybuilding Contests
The National Physique Committee (NPC) began holding fitness competitions in 1980. The same year the first women’s bodybuilding contest, The Ms. Olympia, had its first winner in Rachel McLish. The first competition looked for a female spokesperson to be the model of the average woman in the fitness industry. Over the next several years the Ms. Olympia competition would see female bodybuilding legends take the stage such as Cory Everson, Lenda Murray, Carla Dunlap, Sue Gafner, Laura Creavalle and a host of others.
The Image of the Female Bodybuilder
The first competitions basically judged a contestant on their tone and overall physique, but there were some concerns with women looking “too muscular”. In the 1990s the International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB) founded by Joe and Ben Weider, set down a list of rules and requirements for competitors. Some of these requirements dealt with size and weight class, femininity and muscle definition. The federation wanted competitions to retain a woman’s feminity while displaying muscular development. Too many people considered female bodybuilders “too manly” in appearance. The concept was and still is that any woman can be both strong and sexy without losing her feminine charm. Competitions are open to all women regardless of size, height, weight, race or nationality. Women’s sports have come a long way.
Why Do Women Compete in These Contests?
The first competitions offered a trophy and a place in bodybuilding history for some competitors. Today, the monetary gain from participating in these competitions is considerably more. Not only is women’s bodybuilding an official sport with amateur and pro class, it is also considered a career by many and the prize money is quite competitive. Many bodybuilders, male and female, start out in amateur competitions for small prizes and work their way up in the industry to full time pro bodybuilders making the big bucks of the larger competitions.
Prizes and Awards Won at These Competitions:
Mr. Olympia prize money
1st place $155,000
2nd place $90.000
3rd place $60,000
Ms. Olympia Prize Money
1st place $30,000
2nd place $18.000
3rd place $10,000
Figure Olympia prize money
1st place $20,000
2nd place $10,000
3rd place $8,000
With all the problems young teen girls and boys face, having a positive body image is very important. Young girls starve themselves to the point of death to fit in with their peers. Fat and overweight are dirty words by today’s society. Women are made to feel inadequate if they do not fit the standard mold of what the average girl or woman their age should look like. Women go to great lengths to look like the people they admire such as Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox and Jennifer Aniston. Some even resort to cosmetic surgery in search of perfection. Children learn from their environment, is this what we should be teaching our daughters?
About the IFBB
IFBB Fitness Rules 2002
NPC News Online