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Why Women's Athletic Physique

  • Written by Steve Duperré

Steve DuperreWhen we launched Physique Canada and announced the new women’s athletic physique category, one of the very first questions we received was: Why does the fitness industry need another women’s division? After all, one of the biggest complaints that we’ve heard over the years is that women often don’t know what class they should compete in, since they don’t totally understand what it is the judges are looking for. Definitions vary from one organization to another and are often very vague in the women’s categories. So will the introduction of yet another category confuse matters even further?

Before I answer that question, let me first say that when we initially laid out our plans, we did not think in terms of number of divisions across the industry. Instead, we knew we wanted two women’s divisions and wanted to clearly define the judging criteria to ensure that there was absolutely no confusion whatsoever. We want women to know exactly where they fit in, and we also want to be able to give these female competitors tangible feedback based on those very definitions so they know exactly where they need improvement in order to present a better physique the next time they compete. At Physique Canada, these two women’s divisions are called women’s muscular physique and women’s athletic physique.

Women’s muscular physique is essentially what other organizations call figure. We basically renamed the division to something more meaningful, something that would truly make sense and clearly identify what the division is all about. The word figure really doesn’t mean much. Women’s muscular physique is about – wait for it – women’s muscular physiques. It can’t get any simpler than that – a name that reflects the goals of the discipline.

Women’s athletic physique basically came to light through the same thought process. We feel very strongly that muscle should be the foundation of all physique classes, but that not all athletic-looking women would do well or fit into the women’s muscular physique (aka figure) category. Perhaps they don’t aspire to be that muscular or simply don’t have the genetics to do so, since women’s muscular physique is basically the female version of men’s bodybuilding. This is where the athletic physique division comes in.

Women’s athletic physique focuses on healthy, athletic-looking, attractive, toned women who do not want to be perceived as bodybuilders. At the risk of being too blunt, it is definitely not about T & A, which is basically what the bikini division is in other organizations. This is something Physique Canada consciously decided not to promote.

That said, women’s athletic physique is certainly not meant to be easier than women’s muscular physique. The two divisions are for two different kinds of competitors, and in the case of women’s athletic physique, it’s about showcasing athletic physiques. If a competitor shows up at the competition well conditioned and with an athletic build, regardless of her body type (i.e., genetic shape), she will have a good chance of doing well. The final placing will ultimately depend on who else is on the stage.

There is something important to note here: Some might be inclined to equate women’s athletic physique to what’s called fitness modeling in other organizations. They are similar but certainly not the same. If you just say the names, you’ll realize that the term fitness model is vague, which is why there’s often so much confusion at these events. Women’s athletic physique and women’s muscular physique are more specific and each, just by their very name, refers to a different look.

So do we think that the fitness industry needs another women’s division? Absolutely. Do we think that women’s athletic physique will add to the confusion? Absolutely not. If anything, we strongly believe that we have made matters much simpler.

For more information about women’s athletic physique, women’s muscular physique, or about Physique Canada, please visit our website:

Steve Duperré, contributor and Physique Canada Chief Judge logo

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2016 Canadian Competitions

April 2 – SAF Spring Spectacular (women’s categories only)

June 10-11 - SAF Summer Spectacular (women's categories only)

June 11 - Physique Canada National Classic (men's and women's categories)

October 21-22 - SAF Fall Spectacular (women's categories only)

October 22 - Physique Canada Canadian Championships (men's and women's categories)

Note: Competitions and dates subject to change without notice

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Contributors: Denis Pedneault, Dave Paul, Steve Duperre, Francois Beauregard, Erik Alstrup, Al Kabia

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