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The 6 Different Types of Bodybuilding: A Comprehensive Guide

Bodybuilding is more than just lifting weights; it's an art form that comes in various styles and categories. Whether you're a beginner looking to explore this fascinating world or an advanced competitor seeking to diversify your training, understanding the different types of bodybuilding can significantly enhance your fitness journey and wardrobe choices.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the six main types of bodybuilding, discuss the rise of natural bodybuilding, and even touch on how the right clothing—like that offered by Oxcloth—can make all the difference.

What Are the Different Types of Bodybuilding?

Classic Physique

Classic Physique Bodybuilding is a division in the sport of bodybuilding that aims to bring the aesthetic and balanced physiques reminiscent of legends like Frank Zane, Steve Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Unlike the Open Bodybuilding category, which often prioritises size and mass, Classic Physique focuses on overall harmony, proportion and muscle symmetry. Competitors are assessed based on their muscle definition, symmetry and stage presence with attention given to a narrow waistline, broad shoulders and V-taper.

The specific regulations for Classic Physique may vary depending on the organisation involved. Generally adhering to specific weight and height limits to maintain a more "classic" appearance. For instance in the IFBB Pro League, a competitor standing at 5'7" cannot exceed 177 pounds in weight.

Posing attire is also more modest in Classic Physique competitions compared to the posing briefs commonly seen in Open Bodybuilding; instead resembling swim shorts. 

Posing routines within Classic Physique often include poses such as the vacuum pose and mantis pose which highlight the competitors ability to present a well balanced and artistically pleasing physique. This category has gained popularity as it promotes an ideal that's both achievable and visually appealing. Attracting competitors as well as fans who hold appreciation for bodybuildings golden era.


Men’s Physique

Mens Physique is a division of bodybuilding that focuses on achieving a well proportioned and aesthetic physique. Of the extreme muscle size and definition seen in traditional bodybuilding categories Mens Physique aims for a more attainable "beach body" look that appeals to a wider audience.

In terms of rules and regulations competitors in Men's Physique wear board shorts instead of the usual posing trunks. The emphasis is mainly on the body, particularly the abs, chest, shoulders and arms.

Unlike bodybuilding categories leg development is not as emphasised in Men's Physique competitions. Additionally competitors do not perform the range of poses as in traditional bodybuilding; there are no mandatory poses like "Most Muscular'' or "Side Chest."

The 6 Different Types of Bodybuilding. two athletic bodybuilders in smart outfits and fashionable clothes

Judging criteria for Mens Physique include muscle tone, symmetry and overall stage presence. Competitors are expected to have a fit appearance with good posture and confidence. Unlike Classic Physique or Open Bodybuilding divisions where weight classes or height to weight ratios may apply to competitors eligibility requirements Mens Physique competitions generally do not have restrictions—although certain organizations may have height classes.

The Mens Physique category provides a route for individuals interested in bodybuilding but may not be aiming for the same level of significant muscle mass or definition required in other divisions.

It offers an inclusive opportunity to enter the sport appealing to a wide range of participants and enthusiasts.

Women's Physique

The Women's Physique category in bodybuilding serves as a link between the muscular look of Women's Bodybuilding and the softer more feminine appearance of Figure and Bikini divisions. Like the WBFF.

It provides a platform for women who are striving for an aesthetically pleasing physique making it a popular choice among female bodybuilders.

Competitors in Women's Physique are evaluated on factors such as muscle symmetry, size and overall presentation including stage presence and posing. However unlike Women's Bodybuilding the focus is not on extreme muscle size but rather on achieving a well proportioned and balanced physique. Posing routines play a role in this competition with athletes showcasing their muscle definition and symmetry through mandatory poses.

In terms of attire Women's Physique competitors typically wear a two piece posing suit without heels during the competition. This differs from the Figure and Bikini divisions where heels are part of the outfit.

Women's Physique offers athletes an opportunity to achieve an appearance, without going for an overly bulky look striking a balance that appeals to many competitors.

It gives women the chance to participate in a category that values both muscle definition and size while also prioritising aesthetics and overall balance. This sets it apart from divisions in female bodybuilding.


In the context of competition, the term "bodybuilding" usually refers to the Open Bodybuilding category, which is the most traditional and perhaps the most iconic form of the sport. Unlike other divisions like Men's Physique, Classic Physique, or Women's Physique, Open Bodybuilding places the greatest emphasis on muscle mass, size, and extreme conditioning. The goal is to develop a physique that showcases not just symmetry and proportion, but also sheer muscularity and definition. Think peak Arnie!

Regulations in Open Bodybuilding are generally less restrictive compared to other categories. There are no height-to-weight ratio limits, allowing competitors to pack on as much muscle as possible. Competitors wear posing trunks and are judged in a series of mandatory poses that include the front double biceps, back double biceps, side chest, and most muscular, among others. These poses are designed to display the athlete's muscle mass, definition, symmetry, and stage presence to the fullest extent.

What sets Open Bodybuilding apart from other divisions is the unbridled pursuit of muscle mass combined with extreme leanness. While other categories focus on aesthetics, balance, and a more 'natural' look, Open Bodybuilding is about pushing the human physique to its absolute limits in terms of size and conditioning. This division often attracts athletes who are willing to dedicate themselves entirely to the pursuit of a hyper-muscular physique, making it the epitome of the bodybuilding sport for many fans and competitors alike.


The Fitness category in bodybuilding competitions is quite unique as it combines athleticism, performance and physique. Unlike bodybuilding or other divisions like Mens Physique and Women's Physique the Fitness division demands competitors to showcase their skills in dance, gymnastics and strength moves. It's not about their looks but also about their agility, flexibility and overall athleticism.

Regulations for the Fitness category may vary among organizations. Usually involve two rounds of judging; a physique round and a performance round. In the physique round competitors are evaluated based on muscle tone, symmetry and overall appearance – to other bodybuilding categories. However what truly sets this category apart is the performance round. Here competitors perform a routine that typically lasts around two minutes with music of their choice. These routines are often well choreographed. May include impressive flips, splits and other acrobatic moves.

In terms of attire for the Fitness division competitors typically wear a two piece suit for the physique round. Don themed costumes for the performance round. Unlike bodybuilding categories where size or extreme leanness take center stage this division focuses more on achieving a balanced athletic physique combined with excellent performance skills.

The Fitness division presents an approach to competitive sports attracting athletes who are dedicated not only to attaining a visually appealing physique but also possess talents in performing arts and athletics. It offers a combination of artistic expression and physical prowess setting it apart from other categories, within bodybuilding.


The Figure division in bodybuilding competitions is tailored specifically for women. It aims to showcase an symmetrical physique highlighting broad shoulders, a slim waist and well defined legs. Unlike Women's Bodybuilding that seeks muscularity or the Fitness category that focuses on performance, Figure pursues a more streamlined yet still muscular appearance.

When it comes to the rules judges evaluate competitors from all angles through quarter turns. They assess symmetry, presentation and muscle tone. Athletes wear a two piece suit and heels as part of their attire setting Figure apart from bodybuilding categories where heels are not worn. Unlike bodybuilding there are no mandatory poses or performance routines like in the Fitness category.

The judging criteria consider balance and shape muscle tone and stage presence. While muscle size is taken into account it is not heavily emphasized as in Women's Bodybuilding. The main focus lies in how the muscles flow together to create an aesthetically pleasing and proportionate physique.

The Figure category provides a ground for female athletes who strive for a highly conditioned body without the extreme muscle size associated with traditional bodybuilding.

Competitors are drawn to it because it allows them to demonstrate their dedication and effort in a way that highlights not physical strength but also grace, attractiveness and harmony. This sets it apart from categories, in bodybuilding and physique competitions.

Open vs Classic Bodybuilding

There are two divisions in the sport of bodybuilding; Open Bodybuilding and Classic Physique. Each division has its criteria and goals when it comes to aesthetics. Open Bodybuilding focuses on maximizing muscle mass, extreme conditioning and leanness. On the other hand Classic Physique aims to revive the aesthetic and well proportioned physiques reminiscent of legendary bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In both categories competitors need defined muscles. However Open Bodybuilding doesn't have any restrictions on weight or height allowing athletes to build as much muscle as they can. In contrast Classic Physique has weight to height ratios to maintain a more "classic" appearance. Another notable difference is posing style; Classic Physique includes poses like the vacuum and mantis while Open Bodybuilding incorporates a wider range of mandatory poses that highlight extreme muscle mass and definition. 

For beginners contemplating which category to choose, several factors should be considered. Classic Physique might be more accessible since it doesn't require the level of extreme muscle mass and conditioning as Open Bodybuilding. It's also often seen as an option with long term sustainability in mind. However if you aspire to reach the peak of muscle development of size Open Bodybuilding is the way to go.

In the end, deciding between Open and Classic Bodybuilding comes down to your own bodybuilding objectives, genetic capabilities and personal inclinations regarding appearance and lifestyle.

Just note that both options demand unwavering commitment from you. They come with their own distinct benefits and difficulties. For newcomers it is crucial to evaluate which path aligns most harmoniously with their ambitions. 

What Are the Different Types of Natural Bodybuilding Competitions?

Natural bodybuilding competitions are organized to maintain fairness among athletes and prevent the use of performance enhancing drugs. These competitions follow a format, to traditional bodybuilding contests including various categories and events:

  • Open Natural Bodybuilding: Similar to Open Bodybuilding but with drug testing.
  • Classic Physique Natural: Focuses on aesthetics and symmetry, also with drug testing.
  • Men's Physique Natural: Emphasizes a lean, beach-body look.
  • Women's Physique Natural: A toned yet muscular female category.
  • Figure Natural: For women, focusing on symmetry and muscle tone without extreme bulk.
  • Bikini Natural: For women, emphasizing a fit but not overly muscular physique.

What makes these competitions "natural" is the stringent drug testing protocols, often involving urine tests and sometimes polygraph testing. These tests screen for anabolic steroids, certain diuretics, and other banned substances.

For someone considering entering a natural competition, the primary consideration is, of course, to train without the use of banned substances. Beginners should also consider the time commitment required for natural muscle development, which can be slower than in non-tested events.

Natural bodybuilding competitions offer a platform for athletes to compete fairly and showcase the results of drug-free training, making it an appealing option for those committed to clean sport.

Bodybuilding Categories Female

Women’s Physique, Fitness, Figure, Bikini

Women have various categories to choose from, each with its own set of criteria for muscle mass, presentation, and posing. Whether you're aiming for the muscularity of Women’s Physique or the toned elegance of Figure, there's a category for you.

How to Choose the Right Category for You

  • Assess Your Goals: Are you aiming for maximum muscle mass or a more balanced physique? Do you want to earn money?
  • Consider Your Strengths: Are you good at performance routines, or do you excel in traditional posing?
  • Consult a Coach: A professional and experienced coach can provide insights into which category may suit you best.

    Importance of Appropriate Clothing

    Understanding the different types of bodybuilding can help you make informed decisions about your training, competition category, and even your wardrobe. Whether you're a man or a woman, a beginner or a seasoned pro, there's a category that's just right for you.

    Whether you're training for a Classic Physique competition or preparing for a Fitness routine, Oxcloth has revolutionised clothing for bodybuilders for the times you need to dress up outside of your competition!

    Oxcloth: The Ultimate Solution for Bodybuilders

    When you've achieved a sculpted physique, conventional clothing often falls short. They either constrain or don’t complement your hard-earned body. This is where Oxcloth steps in. We’re not just another clothing brand; they’re crafted keeping in mind the unique requirements of bodybuilders and fitness aficionados.

    We wanted to create a clothing brand that is for bodybuilders, made by bodybuilders. Oxcloth clothing is fashioned by designers and created with and around people who like to build and shape their bodies.

    The patterns for all our products are conducted through the sampling of hundreds of different athletically built men to ensure the absolute best muscle fit clothing on the market. We’ve done extensive research and no-one creates muscle fitting clothing like us.

    Forged from the everyday gripes of the athletic male, we struggled to find smart attire that fits our bodies the way we wanted them to. We wanted to create a catalogue of fashionable clothing that's main function is to fit around your muscular body shape.

    Never again will you have to order an unnecessarily large shirt in order to fit your chest and arms, leaving your midriff baggy and ill-fitted.

    Never again will you fear buying chinos online as they might not fit your quads; Oxcloth provides clothing for athletes and bodybuilders with an exclusive collection including muscle fit shirts, athletic fit chinos, athletic fit jeans and athletic fit shorts.


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