Fitness and figure competition
Fitness and Figure competition is a class of physique-exhibition events for women. While bearing a close resemblance to female bodybuilding, its emphasis is on muscle definition, not size. In other words, fitness competition is a sport which fuses female bodybuilding and gymnastics into one. The class was originally introduced when female bodybuilding's popularity began to noticeably decline, in terms of both fanbase and number of participants.
Fitness and Figure are two distinct forms of competition, not just one. In a Fitness contest (the older of the two disciplines), female competitors showcase their physiques (which are noticeably less massive than bodybuilders') while performing a demanding, time-limited, aerobic/dance routine. In a Figure contest, the most important attributes are a curvaceous-yet-trim body, and facial beauty; however, the physique guidelines are similar to a Fitness pageant's, and many contestants move back and forth between the two disciplines. The Figure division emerged on the bodybuilding scene when the numbers for Fitness pageant competitions started to dwindle. Typically, fitness & figure competitions are held as part of the larger-drawing bodybuilding contests.
The first women's Fitness competition was produced by Wally Boyko in 1985 at the National Fitness trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada; it included a swimsuit round, an athletic routine, and an evening gown segment. Louis Zwick, then the producer of American Muscle Magazine (a magazine-format, bodybuilding TV show on ESPN), produced and aired a segment on the pageant. The number of contests was proliferating, and Zwick himself launched Fitness America (now Fitness Universe) in 1989 to capitalize on the trend. The International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness soon followed suit, holding its own, sanctioned fitness pageant -- Fitness Olympia -- in 1995.
The first women's Figure competition was the NPC (National Physique Committee -- the major sanctioning body for would-be professional bodybuilders and organized amateur bodybuilding) Figure Nationals held in 2001 at Borough of Manhattan Community College's Performing Arts Center, in New York City's Tribeca section. It was a qualifier and precursor to the 2003 IFBB Figure Olympia, held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Fitness Universe organization launched their own Figure division in 2005.
A typical Fitness competition consists of a swimsuit round and a routine round. In the swimsuit round, the competitors wear two-piece swimsuits and high-heeled shoes, presenting their physiques with a series of quarter- or half-turns toward the judges and audience. Physique guidelines for fitness competitions typically suggest a small amount of muscular mass; clear separations between muscle groups (but, no visible striations); and, leanness. The swimsuit must cover at least fifty percent of the gluteus maximus muscle; no thongs or G-strings are allowed. The routine round requires a physically active stage performance; most competitors attempt aerobic, dance, and/or gymnastic routines.
Fitness contests sanctioned by the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB) are the Fitness Olympia and the Fitness International. Fitness contests sanctioned by Wally Boyko Productions are the National Fitness Sanctioning Body (NFSB) Ms. Fitness USA and the International Fitness Sanctioning Body (IFSB) Ms. Fitness World. Fitness contests sanctioned by the Fitness Universe organization are the Fitness America Pageant and the Fitness Universe Pageant.
Figure competition is a newer sub-category of Fitness contests. Figure shows exclude the routine round common to Fitness shows. The competitors are judged solely on muscular symmetry and definition; as in Fitness shows, muscle size is downplayed. Figure competitions appeal most to women who want to compete in a body competition, but wish to avoid Fitness shows' additional athletic and creative demands (the routine round), or bodybuilding's demands for heavy muscle mass.
A typical figure competition includes two rounds, though this varies by organization. In the symmetry round, the competitors appear on stage in high-heeled shoes and a one-piece swimsuit in a side-by-side line that faces the judges. They execute a series of quarter-turns to the right, allowing the judges to view and compare them from all sides for symmetry, presentation, and other aesthetic qualities such as skin tone, hair, make-up, and stylishness of clothing. In the next round (the group comparisons), competitors return in high heels and a two-piece bathing suit, executing a series of quarter-turns. At this stage, they are judged more critically against the others for conditioning, leanness, and how "feminine" and "athletic" (as opposed to brawny) their muscularity is. Included in either of these rounds, or perhaps just the evening show, the competitors come out individually on stage for a model walk where they are judged on presentation, gracefulness, confidence, poise, and professionalism. 
Figure contests sanctioned by the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB) are the Figure Olympia and the Figure International. Figure contests sanctioned by the Fitness Universe organization is the Figure Universe Pageant.
Bikini competition was created as a category with much less emphasis on muscularity to accommodate even more women into the world of physique competitions and IFBB recognised bikini competition as an independent competition category on 7 November 2010. Rapidly growing, bikini category looks for lean and firm physique and "competitors are scored on proportion, symmetry, balance, shape and skin tone". The first Bikini Olympia was introduced in 2010.
- Kotel, Amanda (1 October 2012). "What’s the Deal with Bikini Contests?". Muscle & Body. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Stein, Jeanine (11 Jun 2006). "Figure contests focus on form Women prefer feminine appearance". Gazette (Los Angeles Times): 5D. ProQuest Document ID: 1057898431.
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- "Competitor History of the Fitness Olympia". IFBB Professional League. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- "2001 NPC Nationals Figure". NPC News Magazine (npcnewsonline.com). 16, number 2 (85). March–April 2002. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- "Competitor History of the Figure Olympia". IFBB Professional League. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- "Figure Introduction, Figure Universe". Fitness Universe, Inc. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- NPC Figure Competition Rules
- IFBB Competition Rules