NPC Divisions: What is Women's Physique?

Photo by Liquid Spectrum

Photo by Liquid Spectrum

When you're new to the NPC and physique competitions in general, it can be hard to figure out which division is best for you and we want to help!In this blog series, we'll be exploring the different divisions that athletes can compete in within the National Physique Committee competitions.

Of the five NPC divisions for women (Women's Bodybuilding, Women's Physique, Figure, Fitness and Bikini), Women's Physique athletes have the most muscle second only to Women's Bodybuilding athletes. The NPC states that judges are looking for "symmetry, shape, proportion, muscle tone, poise and beauty flow." But what does that mean? And how do you know if Women's Physique is the right division for you? We're going to look at all of the elements of Women's Physique and break it down for you!

Let's start with the differences between Women's Bodybuilding and Women's Physique. Women's Physique was introduced into the NPC several years ago with the intention of creating a division that was more similar to the female bodybuilders of yesteryear than those that you see on stage today. In overall muscularity, Women's Physique athletes should be smaller than Women's Bodybuilding athletes. In Bodybuilding, athletes want to get striated, vascular and thick, but these terms shouldn't fit a Women's Physique athlete and would cause a judge to score down an athlete if she did. Women's Physique athletes should be more similar in aesthetics to a figure athlete, but with more overall muscularity, than a Women's Bodybuilding athlete.

Now that we've covered the physique, let's talk about what Women's Physique athletes do on stage. Even though physique wise, the judges are looking for athletes more similar to Figure athletes than Women's Bodybuilding athletes, the judging format and stage routines of Women's Physique hail from Women's Bodybuilding. 


At prejudging, athletes will line up with their classes and go out as a group for quarter turns. Then, all athletes except for the lowest number in the class will exit the stage so that they can each do their individuals. At competitions where only the top five athletes in each class will perform their 60 second routine at finals (more on this later), during prejudging all athletes will do an individual routine of 30 seconds to house music. At competitions where all athletes are allowed to perform their 60 second routine at finals, the promoter may choose to have athletes skip the 30 second routine in the morning and have them do just one front facing pose for the photographers instead. 

Then, the whole class will be brought out together for the comparison round. During this time, athletes will do their mandatory poses (listed below) with their class. Judges might ask athletes to move around so that they can better compare them to other athletes at which point the head judge will call out more poses. Once the judges have their placements, athletes will exit stage.

  • Front double biceps with open hands (no flat footed full front pose – some sort of front twisting pose)
  • Back double biceps with open hands
  • Side triceps with leg extended
  • Side chest with arms extended
  • Front abdominal showing the thigh


During finals, either only the top five athletes in each class will perform their 60 second routine or all athletes in a class will. Routines will only be performed once, if a competitor is crossing over in multiple classes (such as a masters class and an open class), the competitor will only perform her routine in whichever of the classes goes on stage first or whichever, if any, of the classes she has placed within the top five.

The individual routine is what draws a lot of athletes into the Women's Physique division, it's a fun chance to get to show off your physique and personality a little bit longer on stage. Athletes get to pick a song or create a mix of songs cut to 60 seconds and put together a routine where she flows between different poses, no props or gymnastic moves are allowed in the routine. If you search YouTube for Women's Physique posing routines, you'll find plenty of examples to get you inspired. You could even search for classic Women's Bodybuilding posing routines and you'll see the way that Women's Physique poses take from Women's Bodybuilding in the 80s and 90s. If you're looking for some posing tips in general, we have some clips from seminars, shows and posing practices on our YouTube channel that would be a great place to start!

What do Women's Physique athletes wear on stage? One thing they don't wear is heels, a huge plus for some athletes. NPC rules require a two piece suit for both prejudging and finals, the suit bottom must be v-shaped and thongs are not permitted. Unlike Women's Bodybuilding, athletes don't need to wear a plain suit at prejudging, the suit can be a decorative fabric or stoned. There are a lot of different levels of "bling" for suits - the more stones on a suit, the more expensive it will be. A super bling-ed out suit won't have an effect on your placing, it's up to you how much you want to spend. There are a ton of options online for suits, we recommend talking with local suit makers Perfect Fit Gear, they have years of experience fitting competitors with custom or rental suits for local and national competitions. Women's Physique athletes are also allowed to wear jewelry at both prejudging and finals.

Women's Physique classes are based on height, if the show offers masters classes, those are broken down by age. Promoters can choose to have between one and four height classes, based upon the number of athletes in the show. 



  • All athletes of all heights


  • A: Up to & including 5’6”
  • B: Over 5’6”




    • A: Up to & including 5’4”
    • B: Over 5’4” up to including 5’6”
    • C: Over 5’6”


    • Up to & including 5’2”
    • Over 5’2” up to including 5’4”
    • Over 5’4” up to including 5’6”
    • Over 5’6”

    So, there you have the NPC's Women's Physique Division! If you any lingering questions or if you're a current Women's Physique athlete with something to add, leave a comment! This is the first post in our series exploring the different NPC divisions, so stay tuned as we cover the rest over the coming months. Another great source for learning about the different divisions is our Athlete Connection Group on Facebook, this is a place for local competitors to get to know each other, draw on seasoned competitors wisdom, form a squad to ride to the competition with - it's moderated by us, but you all control the conversation.