Thursday, March 22, 2018

What’s It Like Being a Female Bodybuilder?

Kristy Hawkins


The Bold Italic - I’ve been photographing female bodybuilders and physique athletes since the 1990s. I always thought these women looked cool, like real-life superheroes (I collected comics as a kid), but it wasn’t until one of my friends at school asked me to shoot her at a bodybuilding show that I really started to pay attention to these strong women.

Carla Rossi
Since that first shoot, I’ve seen the female bodybuilding community grow from a small subgroup that participated in one big bodybuilding contest to a worldwide community of a variety of athletes who compete in different divisions and categories, including bikini, figure, fitness, and physique. Physique is the closest to bodybuilding, but athletes who compete in physique have less extreme levels of muscularity. In both types of competitions, judges look for muscularity, symmetry, and conditioning. Figure competitors are less muscular, as are fitness competitors — both reward shape, balance, conditioning, and poise. As the category name suggests, bikini contestants wear two-piece swimsuits and are judged by balance and shape. Figure, fitness, and bikini athletes usually don’t flex in competitions, but they do perform a series of poses.

Female bodybuilding and physique training is a pretty neat subculture and one that’s often misunderstood. Even liberal, open-minded folks in the Bay Area have preconceived notions of muscular women, and often, they are way off-base. Like anyone who pursues a passion, these women just choose something that many others will never understand but that also takes over their entire lives.

Here are seven Bay Area/Northern California women who compete as bodybuilders, physique, and fitness athletes whom I’ve met and photographed over the years.  >> Read More

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