Bikini Wellness and Fitness Categories: New Competitive Bodybuilding Divisions

bikini wellness and fitness

If your head is already spinning trying to sort out all of the women’s bodybuilding divisions, you can throw bikini wellness and bikini fitness into the mix as well. In 2019, we presented an article on the various competitive bodybuilding options open to those women who possess a strong desire to sculpt their bodies into athletic excellence as well as nutrition for those approaching the stage competition.

Since that time, the industry has shifted towards admitting a more “feminine” perspective of the body, and now offers more options for those who wish to compete on a more level playing field. Helping a personal training client who wishes to compete on stage choose a fitting division requires not only an in-depth study of what judges seek in each category, but also an honest assessment of her current body type and matching it appropriately to the category that offers the best chance of success.

Defining The Basics

As personal trainers, our field of interest seeks to blend fitness and wellness into a perfectly harmonious balance. Before we can accomplish this with any degree of success, we must possess a clear understanding of both the similarities and differences between these two endeavors.

The concept of physical activity encompasses flexibility, strength, coordination, and agility. Fitness refers to incorporating these activities with an end goal of promoting better health.

Wellness, while also health-oriented, takes into account an emotional aspect, using, movement to strike a perfect meeting of body and mind. In seeking personal fulfillment and serenity in a chaotic world, wellness incorporates yoga, meditation, and active stretching as part of a physical health regimen.

Recognizing the importance of both fitness and wellness, especially for females, the professional bodybuilding organizations IFBB and NPC have created two competition categories to encourage more balanced lifestyles while still placing importance on extreme stage-ready excellence:  Bikini Wellness and Bikini Fitness.

Bikini Wellness Division

The NPC offers this description of the Bikini Wellness Division:

“The Wellness Division is put in place for women who are looking to build a physique slightly bigger and more muscular than Bikini Division athletes, without muscle striations. This division is for women carrying more muscle mass, especially around the glutes, thighs, and hips, without super-low levels of body fat. They will also need to be carrying mass on the upper body, but not to the same degrees as the lower body.”

This new Wellness division attracts many formerly reluctant competitors, as it creates a category that rewards the natural tendencies of most female bodies.

The Bikini Wellness division favors a muscular, athletic body, with slightly more muscle than typically found on women entering the Bikini division, particularly in the lower body. Wellness competitors will have a slightly higher body fat percentage, yet still present clearly defined abdominals.

Lower body musculature focuses on separation rather than striations. Judges look for fully rounded glutes, separated slightly from the hamstrings, more so than the Bikini Diva competitors yet not quite as lean as seen in the Figure and Physique divisions.

These seemingly subtle variances lend themselves to muscularity combined with femininity, something long absent in the world of traditional Women’s Bodybuilding.

The new Bikini Wellness division, introduced in 2020, aims to embody the typical female body type seen on the beaches of Brazil and Latin America. The torso of this athlete resembles that of the familiar Bikini Diva division requirements, with a lower half more akin to a Physique athlete, sporting greater definition and size in the thighs, glutes, and hips.

According to the IFBB Spain, “Bikini Wellness is a category created by the need to find a competitive panorama for those competitors whose muscularity does not fit in modalities such as Body Fitness and Women Physique; however, the limit of muscular development that is being demanded in the Bikini category is a little bit short, mainly in the lower body.”

 Bikini Wellness judges place a high value on the following attributes ~

  • Feminine body’s proportion and symmetry, toned by exercise.
  • Moderate muscle tone.
  • Healthy appearance.
  • Properly aesthetic and well-cared facial appearance.
  • Uniform tanning, beauty and skin tone.

Bikini Fitness Division

Currently, the Bikini Fitness category attracts the largest number of female athletes.  Aimed at women who work towards a shapely body through prudent exercise and a clean diet, Bikini Fitness encompasses the general lines of the female body, natural and proportionate with a healthy, toned appearance.

Judges seek all of the aforementioned tributes along with bodies that do not appear overly muscular. An added dimension comes into play as “overall presentation on stage”: feminine affect, charisma, posing suit (complete with accessories, nail polish, shiny healthy hair, tan, etc.) and personality.

Angel Division

Purely in the name of fun, bodybuilding federations such as the INBA/ PNBA have recently begun offering an Angel division. Presentation on stage plays a much larger role in this category than any other. While a traditional “bikini body” fits perfectly within this division, competitors have the opportunity to play to the audience with what judges call “sassy, fun, and sexy personality”. More so than simply a posing suit, women can get as creative as possible in terms of angel costuming. 

Sports Model Division

Since not every aspiring female bodybuilder seeks to put in hours of extra cardio and adhere to an often unreasonably restricted meal plan, the INBA/PNBA offers the division known as Sports Models. Comfortably clad in less provocative posing suits, these athletes don colorful and figure-flattering gym clothing, and coordinating sneakers instead of 4” heels. Sports Model contestants have aesthetically fit bodies that fall somewhere between a Bikini Diva body and a Figure competitor.

The Perfect End Result

Personal trainers and their female clients must recognize that while each of these choices requires following a path of rigorous dedication, training, dieting, and cardio, the stage-ready result for each will appear vastly different. We should not try to fight Mother Nature’s physical gifts and attributes; rather, we can play to their strengths and cultivate the most stunningly possible version of female athletic strength and beauty.


If you find yourself somewhat confused by all of these categories, we are, too! First and foremost, ensure that you possess a thorough understanding of the organization offering the competition (natural athletes only, amateur versus professional, sanctions that allow steroid use, etc.).

Much of the ambiguity lies in the fact that every promoter creates their own rules/parameters, and tries to offer as many sub-divisions as possible in order to generate more income by including more competitors. As a result, competitions that previously limited themselves to the typical categories of Bodybuilding, Physique, and Fitness seem to now offer an endless array of categories with extremely subtle variations. Undoubtedly, this makes judging increasingly difficult, as well as suggesting a division to our clients.

Err on the side of cautionary experience. If a client shows an inclination to compete a bikini wellness or fitness category but isn’t sure where she fits, begin with the basic original categories and trust your gut and expertise when guiding her.

Fitness Nutrition Coach


Difference between physique divisions

Women’s Bodybuilding Categories: Choosing the Best Competitive Division

Why a Wellness Division Makes Sense for Bodybuilding

Divisions Explained – Women’s Bikini, Wellness, Figure, Physique & Bodybuilding


Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at [email protected] She welcomes your feedback and your comments!