Concerned friends and family members are always confused as to what I’m training for. Why do I go to the gym twice a day? Why do I cook 500 pounds of chicken in one sitting? What does 8 weeks out mean and what is a “cheat meal”? There’s no easy way to describe it, so normally I just smile and say, “I’m 8 weeks away from wearing a bikini and heels on stage with a bunch of other girls – this is what needs to be done!”
But it’s not that simple. Let me break it down as best (and easy!) as I can.
What is it called?
When I tell people about what I do, I refer to it as “Body building,” though to be technical I’m a figure competitor. If you think of a bodybuilding show as having 4 “levels” (I’m talking about your traditional NPC show here), I’m a “Level 2.” I’ll explain.
Level One- Bikini
Bikini athletes, like the beautiful Nikki Blackketter above from NikkiBNation, are the “level 1″ of body building. These girls are slim and athletic looking, but not overbearingly so. They have smooth lines and firm bodies. They don’t have a ton of muscle and they’re not terribly lean. Their bikini’s show off their glutes, their poses focus on their small waist and proportionate upper body. They are “level 1″ because, in the scheme of the shows, they’re the least muscular. They still lift weights and do cardio and count macros etc., but they’re expected to be lean without being “cut.”
Level Two – Figure
Figure athletes are what I consider a “level 2.” Above is Ava Cowen, who’s considered one of the top figure athletes in the game.These girls have more muscle than bikini, and that muscle is more prominent due to their lower body fat. They have strong, wide backs that are showcased in their poses. Additionally, they have to do a number of poses that show off these different muscles. Since they’re leaner than bikini they require more conditioning, and since they’re more muscular they have stricter diets to maintain this muscle. Judges like a strong back, good shoulders, and symmetry. Posing also focuses on the “X” shape – that is a wide upper body, small waist and proportionate lower body.
Level 3 – Physique
Physique is figure, but with more muscle and even leaner. Where figure athletes should have lines, physique athletes have striations. Their posing routine is more fluid and very similar to mens body building. The focus is their conditioning, size, and vascularity. They even have a 30 second routine to music much like mens bodybuilding does. Pictured above is Dana Linn Bailey, who’s considered the queen of physique. She’s won the Olympia (the Holy Grail of bodybuilding) in physique multiple times. These women are truly dedicated, their conditioning and diet is spotless. As you’ve probably guessed, the higher you go up in “levels” the harder the look is to achieve.
Level 4 – Bodybuilding
The final level of body building is body building itself. Often when I mention bodybuilding to the average person this is what they ultimately think of, mostly due to the greats like Arnold and Lou. Above is my coach Judy Gaillard, an IFBB pro women’s body builder. As you can see, they are even more muscular than physique and even more defined. The ideal is big, symmetrical muscles that are easily visualized from one muscle to the next. They, too, use similar poses as mens bodybuilding and have a 30 second pose to music routine that they do.
That’s a simple, quick and dirty break down of the 4 “levels” of body building!