What Are The Differences Between Male And Female Bodybuilding?

What are the differences between male and female bodybuilding? Get our forum members’ opinions right here on what they think are the differences between the men and women. Get answers about diet, training, similarities, and more right here!

TOPIC: What Are The Differences Between Male And Female Bodybuilding?

The Question:

Traditionally, bodybuilding is a sport mainly practiced by men. However, female bodybuilding came along and brought some equality in the sport among both genders.

What are the differences between male and female bodybuilding?

How do diet, training and supplementation differ?

What are some of the similarities between male and female bodybuilding?

Bonus Question: Male bodybuilding seems to be more mainstream than female bodybuilding, why do you think this is?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:


        1st place - 75 in store credit.
        2nd place - 50 in store credit.
      3rd place - 25 in store credit.

1st Place - johnnyfry
View This Author's BodySpace Here.


Since the dawn of time man has engaged in challenges of strength, dominance and competition. You can look at any period in human history and view this fact. From the samurai in Japan to the gladiators of the Roman Empire, to the jousting combatants in England, this had primarily been the sole domain of men and men alone, until most recent history.

In our more civilized society humans generally prefer to use non-violent and means to compete; this is done through sports and games among other means. Bodybuilding continues this legacy in a non-violent manner in which men and now women can compete.

Along with many any social changes that society has fought and won around the globe, is the right for women to engage in many activities in society that they had been barred from in the past, bodybuilding is one such activity.

There was a time when being a female bodybuilder was unheard of and certainly taboo. Although, it is a sport still dominated by males, there are a number of world class female bodybuilders in the world today and a much higher number of recreational female bodybuilders than there was in the past.

It is believed that the first legitimate bodybuilding competition for women took place in 1978 in Canton, Ohio. In 1980, the female bodybuilding competitions got their sanction. Named the National Physique Committee. 1980 was a breakthrough year as the Ms. Olympia was held for the first time.

By comparison, the male's premier title, Mr. Olympia had its inaugural year in 1963. Though the development of bodybuilding as a sport is generally attributed to Eugene Sandow; as far back as the late 1800's. He started his bodybuilding paradigm with the "strongman" competition, later evolving his ideology to include development of muscle and posing in his shows.

What Are The Differences Between Male And Female Bodybuilding?

The differences between male and female bodybuilding is evident at all levels of participation. It is important to make this distinction, as bodybuilding is enjoyed at all levels and encompasses the recreational, amateur and professional/competitive level bodybuilder. Certainly there are far more recreational bodybuilders than professional.

At the competitive level, females are at a disadvantage in a direct comparison physiologically for the purposes of bodybuilding as it currently judges its competitors. Bodybuilding at the competitive level is judged by primarily by the competitors mass, definition, proportion, symmetry, stage presence and posing routine among other things.

Females can compete through the same hard work to obtain all of the ingredients that a great bodybuilder is judged by except in the area of muscle mass. Testosterone levels and fat metabolism mechanism are the major difference in the physique differences.

Women do not have nearly the same amount of testosterone as males and this translates into the finished product that one sees onstage with far less mass. All things being equal, a female will have significantly less muscle mass than the male. Furthermore, the manner in which the female body metabolizes differs from the manner in which males do.

Females generally have higher fat percentages than males, and they store it in different areas of the body, (hips and thighs, rather then the abdomen as males do). The body can more easily metabolize fat in the abdomen area then it can the thigh and hips.

A further difference is that in many female bodybuilding competitions there are contests with titles that include words such as "fitness" in them. These contests seem to cater to the more accepted stereotype of the beauty and agility of the female body, rather than the muscular. These contests do not exist for male competitors.

Other differences include a lower number of participants at all levels, though this is particularly true at the competitive level. Part of this has to do with the difference in available money for male bodybuilders versus their female counterparts. This extends to bodybuilding magazines and endorsements (how often have you seen a female bodybuilding on the cover of a mainstream bodybuilding magazine?).

At the recreational level, in general, males engage in higher levels of bodybuilding supplement purchases, magazine purchases and bodybuilding equipment. Since the business is geared to males, it pays more to be a successful male bodybuilder, and in turn, males gravitate to the sport more than females.

Diet, Training & Supplementation
How Do Diet, Training And Supplementation Differ?

Diet, training and supplementation do vary slightly between the two sexes; however, there are many similarities in these three components of bodybuilding as well and this must be explained in order to understand the differences. I will outline both in my response.

-> Diet:

High doses of protein are required to build muscle fibers after they are damaged by workouts. High calories are also needed to feed the muscles, maintain and/or grow, depending on ones bodybuilding goals. This is a universal truth regardless of gender.

What is different is the general requirements due to the size differences in competitors. A 260 pound professional male bodybuilder requires consumption of greater calories and protein than a 160 pound female bodybuilder to maintain and gain further muscle mass.

Of course, this same concept applies to any two competitors of the same gender if there is a large discrepancy between weight; however, females in general compete at a much lower weight. Therefore the main difference between men and women exists in the quantities used.

With women requiring more work than men in burning fat, many women use low carbohydrate diets and seek out foods that help increase metabolism to overcome some of the physiological disadvantages that females have.

The diet for both men and women still requires the necessary calories and macro/micronutrients to achieve anabolic growth, and getting proper amount rest to grow, except, the body masses involved differ, although males do have a significant advantage in making progress due to testosterone advantages.

-> Training:

Training at the competitive level between the two sexes is more similar than different. The theories and practices that are required to develop muscle and/or decrease fat exist between both males and females.

Both females and males need to increase their weight poundages, intensity and/or reps to break down muscle. This is because muscles in both sexes adapt to the work done in the past so a progressive workload is needed to force the body to grow and compensate for the increase in demands.

Of course, due to males having a higher level of testosterone in the body, their bodies generally respond more dramatically to the increase in the workload, especially in the upper body where men enjoy an advantage in shoulder strength, though this same advantage does not exist proportionally in the lower body region.

In regards to losing weight by training methods, both sexes follow the same approach. The theory of being calorie deficient suggests that one exerts, burns or puts out more energy (in calories) than one takes in. In contrast, having a calorie surplus; or taking in more calories than one burns, is needed to increase mass and size.

This training approach goes hand in hand with ones diet as it will determine the amount of work done in the gym depending on one's goals. Women bodybuilders at the competitive level tend to include more cardio and high rep training to aid them in tightening up certain areas of the body, this is more easily achieved by their male counterparts who burn the excess fat more efficiently.

Among recreational bodybuilders, there is a tendency for females to focus more on "toning" and shaping their bodies. This generally includes a lot more cardio with their bodybuilding to decrease their body fat composition.

Whereas male recreational bodybuilders tend to take an approach similar to professional bodybuilders in that they increase their weights and resistance but without the genetic advantages and dietary discipline that competitive bodybuilders enjoy and adhere to.

-> Supplementation:

Supplementation between both males and females differs depending on their bodybuilding goals. Women do tend to use more fat burning products due to their disadvantage in fat metabolizing, and along with diet, they adjust their requirements to meet their goals.

Both men and women will gain the same benefits with increased protein, ATP replenishing effects in creatine, the same calories in mass gain formulas and such. There are numerous supplements marketed exclusively to females to try and overcome the physical differences, but these products are only marginally different.

Steroids is a different issue to address, there are differences in the anabolic and androgenic effects on males versus females. In males, they generally suffer from a various degree of side effects as: breast development, shrinking of the testicles and many others. In females, the more common side effects include: enlargement of the clitoris, excessive growth of body hair and several others.

What Are Some Of The Similarities Between Male And Female Bodybuilding?

At the professional and competitive level, the similarities are astounding. All competitors are judged by the same standards in both gender competitions. As I have alluded to already, there exists the same requirements for bodybuilders of both genders to develop mass and "cut-up" in preparation for a contest.

Of course, the exceptional dedication, demands and commitment to the development of the physique is required by both males and females and regardless of whether a bodybuilder is male or female; they handle and work through the same physical challenges.

In the recreational bodybuilder, there is a desire by both men and female to increase their health and muscular attractiveness. This includes losing weight, muscle toning, increasing their cardio efficiency and using bodybuilding as a positive hobby and challenge. It is generally used an extension of a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and even to increase ones sexual attractiveness.

The Mainstream
Male Bodybuilding Seems To Be More Mainstream Than Female Bodybuilding, Why Do You Think This Is?

Male bodybuilding is more mainstream than female bodybuilding due to the double standard applied by society. Female bodies are viewed more appealing when they are curvy, somewhat soft and shapely. Men have more positively accepted and are viewed as appealing when they are muscular.

A female is generally perceived as "abnormal" if she has the same muscular physique and hardness. Unfortunately, it is still viewed as going against society norms and "unfeminine" if a female bodybuilder has a great deal of muscle.

Although much as the professional bodybuilding community accepts female bodybuilders, general society still views the female body through stereotypical models. For these reasons alone, many females who may want to become bodybuilders and who may in fact have the genetics and dedication to become great bodybuilders, shun away from even trying.

With societies prejudices and opinions of what is "normal," comes mainstream acceptance. Men go out to the gyms and buy the supplements and try to develop great strength and muscle size. In turn, businesses cater to the males in order to survive as an industry.

Therefore, you will see in movies the muscular superhero; you will see on the cover of magazines the muscular male etc. It is not any different then the baking industry focusing on females as their main consumer. Society norms have dictated who is "invited to the club" and being a female bodybuilder is still viewed as being on the fringe of the community.

Finally, since bodybuilding is about size, mass and quality, and males have the obvious advantage, the common perception is that male bodybuilding is superior to female bodybuilding. Both require the same dedication and hard work, but due to the physical nature of the sport, females as a whole will never achieve what a male will.

The same theory can be applied to most sports. The mainstream acceptance, although changing, still favors the male athletes and male sporting events. The number of male sporting leagues and attendance levels at the professional level far outweighs that of females.

Therefore, where the money goes, business will follow, the visuals of muscular men will be far more evident than those of females and the perception that male bodybuilding as "the big leagues" will persist.


    1. www.bodybuilding.com
    2. www.drugabuse.gov
    3. www.body-building-resource.com
    4. ezinearticles.com
    5. http://sportsvl.com/rest/bodybuild.htm
    6. muscle-pro.com

2nd Place - mawt
View This Author's BodySpace Here.

Bodybuilding was started as a solely male sport and the trend has not really changed even though female competitions have emerged. Female bodybuilding started in the 1970's and this did some justice to both genders.

Women have never been known for strength and it has always been men who have been a symbol of power and muscularity which is the main reason female bodybuilding has not grown. Most argue that bodybuilding is less feminine and makes women lose their natural beauty.

Early female physique contests were nothing more than bikini contests; the first U.S Women's National Physique Championship in Canton, Ohio is regarded as the first true female bodybuilding competition.

What Are The Differences Between Male And Female Bodybuilding?

-> Natural Differences:

While understanding the differences between male and female bodybuilding it is quite necessary to understand the difference in hormones that are naturally produced in the bodies of both males and females.

The main differences being the natural production of testosterone in men while a very low production of the same hormone in the opposite gender. Testosterone being androgenic is the hormone that leads to natural muscle growth in men at puberty while estrogens in the female body lead to what we call a feminine body. So it is quite natural that women cannot naturally build a huge amount of muscle.

The ratios of gains that come in naturally are at the ratio of about 1:10 with females not being able to gain anything close to what men can. With lower amounts of muscle and gains it becomes even harder to be a female bodybuilder.

-> Competition:

When coming to competition even the prize money differs with female bodybuilders being paid a lot lesser than their male counterparts which is discouraging and also means lesser appreciation for women in the sport. This is at times due to lesser sponsors for competitive female bodybuilding and at other times just because men are the ones who organize the shows.

For example, at the 2005 Olympia, the men competed for a total prize fund of $550,000, while the women competed for only $71,000 (with an additional $55,000 available for the fitness contest, and $35,000 for the figure competition).

So women have 2 extra fitness and figure competitions that are not held for men and are more popular at times. Figure competitions leading to fitness modeling, a career which has a lot of money involved.

-> Side Effects And The Use Of Steroids:

Moreover when it comes to male bodybuilding affects such as hair loss, body hair and deepening of the voice even come naturally but when it comes to women these affects of steroids can cause serious problems. Women at times even lose their monthly cycle and get stretch marks on their skin so the sport becomes a bit more complex for them.

Even when it comes to natural (dope tested) competitions, women aren't able to do much as men with their natural hormones - men can build quite a lot of muscle while women, without the use of testosterone based steroids, are only able to build a very small amount of muscle.

So men still can build a noticeable amount of muscle without the use of steroids while women cannot. These steroids also have to be restricted as they harm estrogens which are in a large amount in the female body and this leads to complications.

-> Body Fat Levels:

Women have an extra water retention and fat problem due to natural estrogens in the body and body fat levels are not as low as in male competitive bodybuilding and so it becomes more difficult for women to lose fat and come more muscular on stage.

Women tend to gain fat a lot more quickly and it is a lot more difficult for them to lose this fat due to low testosterone levels. Though this fat is a real nuisance when it comes to bodybuilding it does help in child birth.

Diet, Training & Supplementation
How Do Diet, Training And Supplementation Differ?

-> Diet:

Talking about diet, it almost remains the same. Female bodybuilders have to be even stricter because of their higher levels of fat and it is an equally strict and tough routine as for male bodybuilders.

It is the same for female bodybuilders when it comes to calorie consumption and muscle growth and when close to competition it is the same kind of hardcore dieting with as minimal cheating as possible.

The recommended intake is almost the same with 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to promote muscle growth and stay in an anabolic state. The same proportion also goes for the carbohydrate and fat intake but some female bodybuilders keep a lower fat intake depending on how they are able to control their body fat.

-> Metabolism:

Male and female bodies do not react in the same way to training and nutrition and the female body produces a lower amount of energy surge. Metabolism of the female body is a lot slower than the male body which means nutrients will not convert as fast into muscle.

The diet also needs to be a lot lower as women weigh a lot less than men. And with their weight being lower, women need less calories than men in the sport.

-> Training:

With a lower amount of muscle mass women in the sport are unable to lift as heavy as men and so their training is a little different from men. Women need more time in recovery and need more cardio in order to maintain their specific desirable fat levels. More rest is required as the metabolism is slower and so women are unable to be as frequent with their workouts. The monthly cycle is another hindrance to the training program and disrupts the process.

Women have to workout with a lot of intensity to make up their inability to lift very heavy and this makes workouts almost as difficult as men.

The main reason still being the hormones, with men having more testosterone, which helps in burning fat and building muscle while women having estrogen, does almost the opposite. So for women circuit training which can burn more calories is better and some extra cardio has to be incorporated in the routine to help in keeping the fat down.

Again it is important to understand that women have a different hormonal composition and carry more fat and have a lower metabolism so training regimes should be constructed accordingly.

Testosterone is what makes men aggressive so another drawback for women due to lower testosterone is the lack of aggression when it comes to workouts so this makes it a lot more difficult for female bodybuilders to keep their concentration on what they are doing.

Women are naturally more flexible than men and so can perform some movements with much more ease than men without putting much pressure on the joints.

-> Supplementation:

The main difference is again hormonal. Natural testosterone boosters are not made for the female body and so are not taken by female athletes. Creatine requirements are lower and the same goes for protein shakes which makes the cost a little lower for women but they still have to and do train as hard as men.

There are even separate vitamins and whey supplements for women such as Women's Whey and Optimum's Opti-Women, etc., and these are specially formulated according to the requirements of female bodybuilders. Female fat burners are even different at times as women carry more fat than men.

What Are Some Of The Similarities Between Male And Female Bodybuilding?

-> Competition Similarities:

Almost all the poses with the exception of the most muscular pose are the same when both male and female bodybuilders step on stage. The kind of callouts and posing routines are the same for both men and women and judging is almost of the same standard. The judges look at muscle size, symmetry and fullness in competitions of both genders.

Almost all competitions for men and women are held one after another.

-> Lifestyle Similarities:

Bodybuilders both male and female have to observe a very strict routine in order to reach their physique goals which mostly lead to a competition. Dieting, training and rest are all equally important for both genders to make the body react properly.

-> Training Similarities:

Training angles for all exercises are the same for both genders and both need the same amount of muscle contraction to stimulate muscle growth. Except for the cardio part which takes a larger proportion of the time that women workout; the rest is almost the same. Both use advanced methods like forced repetitions and supersets to increase workout intensity and stretching to maintain flexibility.

The rest: the tanning process, the diet and preparation, and the off-season routine are almost the same for both genders and so there are not many differences in the approach of female bodybuilders towards the sport.

The Mainstream
Male Bodybuilding Seems To Be More Mainstream Than Female Bodybuilding, Why Do You Think This Is?

Female bodybuilding has never been promoted the way its male counter part has been and has never even been funded in the same way for some amoral reason. Men have been known for their strength and aggressiveness and for their power to protect while women have always needed to be protected since ancient times and that is mainly due to strength differences given by nature and the way humans have evolved.

Women have been known for their feminine characteristics of being delicate, weak and have been referred to beauty... and muscle is said to take away these characteristics - taking away a balance provided by nature. Moreover females are naturally unable to build almost any amount of muscle when compared to men and most argue that when their hormones do not support such growth then why should they force it.

These thoughts are unconsciously in the minds of every individual who is related to the sport of competitive bodybuilding but not much is said about it. The lesser funds and prize give a clarion call that there is discrimination even in sports. Even after all the fuss about equal rights for women even sports haven't been free from discrimination.

Plus female bodybuilding isn't very old; the first female bodybuilding competitions were not very ancient.

Figure competitions are more appreciated as they do not take away the feminine characteristics of a woman and the competitors are later hired for photo shoots and contracts with magazines.

To conclude it can be said that female bodybuilding, even though it is progressing, hasn't been as successful as its male version.


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    2. wikipedia.org
    3. bodybuilding.com
    4. www.femalebodybuildingsite.com