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What are Muscle Women?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Muscle women are women who engage in bodybuilding, an activity which is designed to increase muscle mass. Women have been active in the bodybuilding community since the 1960s, with female bodybuilding competitions really taking off in the 1980s. Women usually compete separately from men because it is believed that there would be a gender disadvantage since men are statistically larger and able to achieve more muscle mass than women. However, both muscle men and muscle women are often seen at the same events, with different areas of competition available.

Bodybuilding is distinct from fitness and figure competitions. While all three involve building up muscle, the goals are different, as are the judging criteria in competition. Muscle women are, as the name implies, extremely muscular. They may utilize a variety of means to build muscle, including weight lifting, using steroids, and utilizing supplements which are designed to promote muscle growth. Some confine themselves to “natural” competitions which restrict the use of certain substances, while others compete in open competitions which do not perform drug testing.

Muscle women usually enhance the appearance of their muscles with tanning and oils so that the muscle definition is highly visible when they are in competition. Makeup may be used in some competitions as well. They tend to wear small garments for modesty which allow their musculature to be clearly seen without exposing private areas of the anatomy, and may wear and style their hair in a variety of ways. In a typical competition for muscle women, the contestants strike several poses to allow the judges to see their muscle definition, and women may be separated by weight classes in the interests of fair competition.

Being a muscle woman requires a lot of work. Muscle women have demanding physical routines which they use to keep fit and build up their muscles, and professionals spend a lot of time traveling to competitions and arranging promotional appearances. Women who are no longer able to compete may be involved in judging, organizing events for muscle women, and other activities related to the bodybuilding community.

Some female bodybuilders prefer to focus on fitness and figure, in which muscle tone and overall conformation are more important than size. For these women, the goal is not to develop the biggest muscles possible, but to develop balanced, symmetrical, highly toned muscles. In these competitions, being too muscular can actually be a hindrance, with such competitions having appearance standards which bar heavily developed muscles.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By summing — On Aug 04, 2011

I am a woman who has been bodybuilding for about 10 years now and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My health is great, I have a hobby that I love, I've made steady progress and even won a few competitions. I get some funny looks from time to time but I can live with it. This is an important part of my life and I'm not going to give it up just because a few people find it strange.

Frankly, I think a lot of the criticism of female bodybuilding is sexist. Any time a woman makes a choice about her body or appearance that does not blatantly increase her sexiness it is seen as weird. Women are supposed to be sex objects who are always honing their sexual allure. Any woman that makes a choice outside of this paradigm is labeled as crazy, or a lesbian or desperate or something.

I body build for me. Its my body and I can do what I want with it. I like the feeling of power and the sense of achievement that comes from adding bulk and definition. I have made a choice not to just be an object of desire for men to ogle. I choose to look the way I wanted to look.

By whiteplane — On Aug 04, 2011

@chivebasil - I could not disagree with you more. I think the sight of a woman with a perfectly sculpted body is a beautiful sight and I honestly wish that more woman would give body building a try.

What I find so amazing about it is that it combines the natural sleekness of a woman's body with the power and definition that comes from bodybuilding. These women look like Amazon warriors, feminine yet very powerful. I think that s an amazing combination.

I know that not everyone is like me but that is OK. We are not all supposed to like the same things. I am inspired by these girls and support them in their choices. I understand that it is kind of an extreme thing to do, but people go an jump out of airplanes everyday. Female bodybuilders should get more credit for their achievements and stop being labeled as freaks

By chivebasil — On Aug 03, 2011

I just have to come right out an say it, I think female bodybuilding is one of the strangest and ugliest things a woman can do to herself. There is just something so unnatural about a woman with bulging veins and huge sculpted muscles. In a lot of cases they don't even look like women any more. If they didn't wear lipstick you would never know.

I guess I just can't understand why someone would want to do this with their body. It looks really weird, it can lead to health problems down the road and they will never be as big as male body builders. What is the point? In general I think live and let live but this one has always baffled me. Why would any woman choose this for herself?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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