Shelley's Story, The Journey, Womens Bodybuilding
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Tomorrow’s muscle is today’s dream

Why women can lift weights

‘The road to bodybuilding success is paved with hard work, sacrifice, sweat and tears’

– Unknown

For years, in a secret place at the back of my mind I had a vision of the perfect physical ‘me’; glowing with health, super fit and beyond strong. In the meantime, I got fat, I got thin, slim and back to fat again; the gym memberships and exercise programs came and went.

‘I had the motivation but not the goal, I just didn’t get IT’

The problem was I had the pieces of the puzzle but I just didn’t get IT. After all, I liked being me regardless of what size I was and always felt attractive. Looking skinny has never been a motivation for me because I prefer shape and muscle definition over being thin; and diets, well, they sound like a good idea for someone else but not me. Then I started to hear in the media about women who were pushing the boundaries of female physical capabilities with Crossfit and other forms of hardcore exercise. They were how I wanted to be, ‘The secret me’; strong but still feminine. As silly as it sounds, until then I believed if a woman was seen lifting heavy weights she would be consider as being manly. After all, the only ‘strong’ women I had previously seen were testosterone-friendly female bodybuilders who’s  amazing strength and look came at an unwelcome price.

‘Women who were pushing the boundaries of female physical capabilities with Crossfit and other forms of hardcore exercise’

Then, I met my first male bodybuilder and struck up a conversation with him about bodybuilding. He showed me before and after pictures of his girlfriend, who was now a bikini bodybuilder, and all the lights went on in my head. She had the level of fitness and muscle definition I had dreamt about but didn’t know anyone who had made it possible, achieved it or wanted to achieve it apart from women in the media. It was possible, I was inspired. He told to his girlfriend competed in the bikini category of  bodybuilding competitions, ‘Bikini category – what was that?!’. He explained there were now five different catergories for female bodybuilding, in essence:

  • Bikini – Less emphasis on muscularity, competitor’s physique should display a softer beach-body level with flat stomach and looks great in a two-piece
  • Fitness – Increased muscular definition displaying chiseled abs plus each competitor will complete an athletic talent performance for the judges
  • Figure – More muscular, toned physique than bikini or fitness competitors  but without excessive mass. Reasonable level of body fat, separations between major muscle groups but without visible striations. Symmetry and proportion is required with equal development between all muscle group, athletic talent performance also required
  • Physique – Muscular hardness and definition, but stops before a competitor loses their figure or shape and the individual muscle groups lose their fullness or dimension. Shape and symmetry  is required between all muscle group
  • Bodybuilder The more traditional look of a female bodybuilder, strong muscularity and fuller muscle size. Judges assess a physique on consisting of nine major muscle groups: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Abdominals, Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Calves. Competitors will lose points for having too much fat on each muscle group, visible muscle striations essential

Full list of bodybuilding women’s catergories

UKBFF female bodybuilding catergories

British IFBB categories for female competitors showcased on the United Kingdom Bodybuilding & Fitnesss Federation

I spoke about my fear of developing ‘man-muscles’ and losing my lady shape through training with heavier weights. He went on to tell me it was impossible for females to develop oversized muscles because we do not produce enough testosterone; the primary muscle building hormone; to bulk up without a little or a lot of external help.

Eureka! The goal was set to turn my body from curvaceous into a super fit bikini/ fitness bodybuilder. Tomorrow’s dream, I would make today’s reality.


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