Q&A #1: Women’s Bodybuilding vs. Women’s Figure

Over the recent weeks, I have had several people email or post comments with questions regarding training, competition experience, guidance and more. It pleases me to help when I can and will begin posting Q&A when I feel the question and answer will benefit many. The following is from Stacy Schaedler, a female trainer out of Boston, MA who sought out Nick for training help with her first show. She has also contacted me for a little perspective from the female side. 

Q: I am CONFUSED! about which show to start with, my friend and I had picked a show and now people are telling us different things! Turns out, she is going to do a bodybuilding show instead. I am over 5’6 and love to lift heavy but I’m not so into that “look.” On the other hand I am not a girly girl either and people are telling me the show I want to do is like a beauty pageant. I just wanted to see what your thoughts were. I am going to do a show regardless, I just want to do it with like-minded people. If you could send me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it 🙂
A: First of all, I’m glad you wrote because I remember how helpful it was for me to turn to those who could give me some direction, advise and support –especially from a female perspective when appropriate. That said, I’m happy to start passing along the help!

Second, here is my disclaimer: What I will give you is my opinion, take from it what you like! 🙂 

Third, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing you are taking on this endeavor because: 

A. You want the challenge and focus
B. You want a different and new goal to achieve
C. You want a reason to drive you to extreme discipline
D. You want to change something about your physique
E. You want the experience and accomplishment
F. You want to train hard with a purpose and a finish line
G. All of the above! 

OK… so here is what I can tell you about my experience with Figure and what I gather about Women’s Bodybuilding. 

Training “Heavy” 
No matter what, you are going to train “hard.” Some days may be a little less hard on your strength and conditioning (because you can’t go ALL OUT everyday or you will over train and kill your nervous system). Make no mistake though, you can still lift plenty heavy on the regular for Figure training relative to your daily program. You will still challenge yourself on the intensity regardless of the set/rep range for that day because you’ll choose weights that are “heavy” for you relative to the set/rep range assigned for that day’s goal. That said, Figure is NOT a wimpy effort in the gym by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it less of a challenge relative to Bodybuilding. In fact, it’s a similar physique, yet how you train and the program you follow, will depend on your physique strengths, weaknesses and needs.


The “Look”

DIET is going to play a big role between Figure and Women’s Bodybuilding. It is going to be even more crucial when it comes to bodybuilding because they want UBER LEAN with bodybuilding. You would display more closely to an anatomy chart with a very dry look and a lot of muscle striations and separation.




Alli McKee, Figure Class, Yorton Cup

Figure is a cross between Women’s Bodybuilding and a Bikini model. You will probably aim for a lean (8-12 percent body fat depending on the way you look) yet muscular physique. You will also find it depends on the federation you choose to compete in, regarding the “look” they want. That is one of the challenges with Figure because it is subjective and the standards for first place my not be clear. In that instance however, you just take YOUR BEST to the stage and hope that is what appeals to the judges among your competition. 

The “Pageant”  
Show day is about PRESENTATION–how you can present your physique on stage. Presentation is all-encompassing–it all counts–the posing, your suit choice, even the shade of your tan. Unfortunately, on that day, it’s not about how STRONG you are in the gym, it’s about how you LOOK and present your physique on stage.
Ok. So some further perspective to think about regarding your question of “choice,” Women’s Figure vs. Bodybuilding. Despite what I told you about stage day, there are many weeks and months that you TRAIN for stage day. Those are the days of the process. Those are the days that you can be your sporty self. Personally, I was not a fan the stage. Some women see it as their glory day–a time to shine and show off all your hard work. Personally, I LOVE the training process, not the stage glamour. When I had anxiety about the stage, my mom even asked me “why do you sign up for this then?“ and I gave her all the reasons I listed above to you (see “A through G”). This time around however, I fortunately became a lot more comfortable with the stage and had a BLAST doing all the glitz and glamour. I’m very sporty myself but it was fun to get all dazzled up for a day. 


Choosing Women’s Figure vs. BodyBuilding. As far as choosing, I would work hard for the

Alli McKee, Figure Class, Yorton Cup

physique that YOU want and the “type” in this sport that you feel most comfortable identifying with! I personally prefer Figure because to me, it feels strong, lean, sexy and feminine. Stage day may feel a bit like a “pageant” with the skin prep, hair, makeup, suit, tan, heels but bodybuilding also has to do the tan and wear the suit. They also pose, it’s just a different routine and they get to skip on the high heels. 

Regarding “like-minded” people, I think you will be with like minded women regardless of what you choose because it takes an extreme amount of dedication and hard for either sport. Not to mention a passion for lifting and presenting the beauty of a lean, muscular physique. So! I think you will find like minded people with either category. Lastly, once you compete in one, you can always change gears and try another for the next show.





Stacey Schaedler is a Personal Trainer out of South Boston, MA. She is about to embark on her first physique show in 2010. She follows the best of the best in the training industry and has since sought out Nick for programming on her first show. You can catch her blog as well as encourage her here. 








2 responses to “Q&A #1: Women’s Bodybuilding vs. Women’s Figure

  1. Alli is GREAT at answering questions in a timely fashion, and by her response to me you can see that they are AWESOME responses as well. ASK AWAY 😉

  2. I think it are two different pair of shoes. Who likes each other for Mrs. Fitness with interest less women bodybuilding, it has turned back absolutely a little bit differently. Pure taste thing.

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