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Motivation and the Female Bodybuilder



Staff Member
Aug 11, 2010

Why do we do it? What drives a woman to train rigorously, plan and prepare strict meals, take supplements religiously, and strive to “be the best”? To be so misunderstood by the general public – to be looked at with awe by some and disdain by others? To be unable to wear a simle tank top and shorts in public without being gawked at?

It is somewhat different for male bodybuilders, although they take more than their share of the stares and criticism. It is simply more acceptable for men to be muscular than women. Once a man reaches huge preportions however, the acceptability changes just as it does for a woman.

So what makes us do it? Each of us arrived at bodybuilding somehow. For me, I was always athletic; in high school and college, I played almost every sport a girl from Long Island could play including interstate field hockey. But it wasn’t until I had a baby and tried to “regain my figure” that I started exercising with weights. I joined a gym and was instructed to follow a Nautilus circuit, which I did and I liked it. But I didn’t know what else to do so I hired a trainer. He was a competitive bodybuilder and was very motivating and apparently recognized some potential in me. He trained me, and we “pretended” like I was going to compete one day. He and his wife took me to bodybuilding contests and kept comparing me to the women on stage, telling me how I could easily compete against them and win. Before I knew it, I was in my first show! I loved it and from then on the drive to present my best physique ever has never stopped.

Many women start bodybuilding just to get into better shape and find themselves liking the improvements. I was fortunate to be encouraged by my trainer and friends. Many women, when they start to gain some size, are discouraged to continue, even if they themselves are enjoying it. Why would anyone do this? First, women have been stereotyped for generations as having a certain look. Many men and many women feel that a woman should be soft and curvy and thin. Strangely enough, elite class athletes, like Olympians and other female athletes, are not thought to be “less feminine” because they are strong and competitive. But female bodybuilders are in a whole different class. I am very happy to have a supportive husband and family, in addition to a lot of fans who regularly encourage my efforts. But many women go through this without that support, and unfortunately, give up because they don’t fit in with society’s view of what they should look like. Men I know are not intimidated by me (at least I don’t think they are!) but let’s face it, some men could have a problem with a woman who has bigger biceps than they do! I am afraid this may be common. In my gym, the guys training near me are usually asking me advice or telling me I look good, not treating me like I am competing with them. But again, I believe many women are being treated this way, even in the gym where the playing field should be even. All of us are there to do the same thing, right?

I do not dress to draw attention to myself intentionally. However, most female bodybuilders, unless they wear baggy long sleeves and loose pants are going to be drawing attention no matter what they wear. I am 5’11” and weigh 200 lbs, and believe me when I tell you that I am not comfortable walking around the mall alone. I feel the stares and try not to pay attention to gawkers, but find it easier to do so when my 6’5” 270 lb husband is with me! So yes, I admit to wanting to be protected! What about the woman trying to go to the grocery store alone, or just go to her day job? We should be applauded for our dedication and our physiques being so muscular, not made to feel embarrassed about being in public!

Buying clothes for female bodybuilders is especially challenging. Isn’t it true when I say most of us live in Spandex? I can’t even find clothes in Sports Authority – no offense to the company but let’s face it – who is catering to us as a market? And by the way, where are all the supplement companies begging female bodybuilders to represent their products? And why is it that many NPC local shows often no longer even offer female bodybuilding in their bodybuilding contests? What is going on here?

I was recently asked how a woman should train to become a bodybuilder, and I had to quote Arnold who quite succintly noted that muscles are muscles and they respond to the same stimulus to grow whether you are male or female. You have to give the muscle a reason to grow, and that would be by lifting heavy weights. And you have to eat. You have to eat a lot. And you have to work hard, just like male bodybuilders do. We are no different in this regard.

What is a problem is the stigma associated with being a muscular woman. Many people as I have said are extremely supportive and love what we do. They are excited by it and can’t get enough of it. But there are a lot who dislike the look (I’ve noticed inparticular the distasteful looks from fat, out of shape males and females!). Female bodybuilders are often thought of as being mean and able to “kick someone’s ass”. While we may in fact be strong, what is it about musculature that makes someone think we are mean? And then there is the lesbian thing. This is not unique to bodybuilding; isn’t it true that almost all female athletes are thought to be gay? Whether we are or we aren’t doesn’t matter, it’s the prevailing thought that female athletes are that is disturbing. I don’t think this is as much an issue for our male counterparts, (I don’t think most male bodybuilders are automatically thought to be gay) but really, our sexuality should not be of such interest to the public. I think it is simply that they just don’t know what to make of us. So how should we deal with this?

Number one – do not give in to negativity surrounding our sport! Do what you do and be the best you can be! Encourage other women to get bigger and stronger and support their efforts. Go to local bodybuilding shows and be loudly supportive of all the athletes on stage, especially the women, who you already know need more encouragement . If you hear of a local show planning to exclude female bodybuilding, do whatever you can to keep it alive! There is as many know a move to make female bodybuilders smaller. The IFBB 20% size reduction is the most glaring of all such measures. Do not fall into any traps of trying to look like anything but a bodybuilder! If you want to be a figure, fitness or bikini competitor, then do what makes you happy. But if you are a bodybuilder, get big, be proud, work hard and grow and be what you are best at. Your actions will encourage others to do the same. Keep this sport alive and surround yourself with men and women who believe in you and are supportive of your goals.

At the end of the day, be true to yourself and listen to your own voice. Let it be the loudest of all you hear. Exude the confidence you possess and it will positively affect the thinking of those around you. Muscular women are sexy and feminine, and be proud of what you do and who you are.



TID Lady Member
Mar 20, 2011
Great article. Says so many of the things I spend time trying to explain to those that actually ask (rather than just stare!). I read with excitement your comment about clothing, at 6'1, I find it impossible to find things that fit, and I was HOPING you were going to post some resources for shopping!
It is a shame that even the NPC/IFBB won't appreciate or validate the female bodybuilders. Until the women take an active role in running (or starting a new) organization, I'm afraid we will become extinct. Whether I ever compete again or not, I will keep doing this because I enjoy it and I like the way I look!
Keep lifiting ladies, strong is sexy AND empowering!


New Member
May 4, 2013
I would love to get into bodybuilding but do not know that steps I should take as far as taking supplements and the workout plan. Can anyone offer me some good sound advice? Thanks


Friends Remembered
Oct 11, 2010
I would love to get into bodybuilding but do not know that steps I should take as far as taking supplements and the workout plan. Can anyone offer me some good sound advice? Thanks
Many here to help, thanks for joining TID! :) Our mod sassy69 is very successful body-builder *now figure*

Start a thread in the ladies section and list your, stats, goals , etc.


VIP Member
Aug 16, 2011
Many here to help, thanks for joining TID! :) Our mod sassy69 is very successful body-builder *now figure*

Start a thread in the ladies section and list your, stats, goals , etc.
Bite your tongue Shine! PHYSIQUE.. not Figure. I will shoot myself before I do Figure (no offense to the Figure girls - it does nothing for me & I"m having enough trouble downsizing enough for Physique - I'd have to get my jaw wired shut for 6 months to even get near a Figure size...). HYUGE difference in look and posing requirements.

That said - to Motions - yes - post a new thread so your questions don't get lost in this thread. And please include some specifics so we get a feel for where you are starting. Do you mean "bodybuilding" as a competition goal? If you have any desire to compete, I would suggest you go see a show. There are currently 5 categories available for women to compete in - Bikini / Figure / Physique / Bodybuilding / Fitness. "When" you want to get on stage will start a base goal for the appropriate category for you to shoot for. That said, I will always say that it is a journey and not a destination. A contest prep is a 16 week commitment. Off-season is when you grow. If you have little muscle base now, you should spend a year or two getting yourself comfortable in the gym and just getting consistent w/ things.

Or are you just looking for a place to start weight training? Do you have ANY gym background? What are your current stats?

Some good starting points are your local crossfit gym (this is a bit different than standard "bodybuilding style weight lifting".) I also like to recommend Bill Phillips' BODY FOR LIFE book. Great intro to diet & training programs that don't require you to follow a strict eating plan but rather gives guidelines and some structure. The training is also a great intro to weight training splits. It starts w/ a 3 day (MWF) upper body / lower body / upper body split, with interval cardio (like short periods of sprints, w/ recovery periods between - e.g. 30 sec sprint, 2 min walk recovery, repeat x number of times for 20-30 min.) on T,Th. From there you can start modifying to per-muscle groups - e.g. back & biceps on Mon, Chest & Tri on Tues, Legs on Wed, Thurs off (or cardio),Shoulders & abs on Fri, etc.
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Mar 15, 2014
That's the best article I've read in a long time! I was thinking the same thing, they don't make shirts or clothes for womrn with a little or a lot of muscle , my shirts are tight in the lats and arms and back! And of course jeans are tight in the booty area, I'm not a competitor but I lift and know all about the stigma of a women wanting muscles , the more the better! I can t imagine what you must go thru, people are so mean , but God forbid if u insult a gay person, but its ok to say a female BB looks like a man etc. DLB is one of the chics I love watching, and Arnold is so full of good advice! men grt judged too once they get a little too big for the "norn"'s a beautiful thing to have such passion and drive ,so much better than being obese and lazy and sick..thank you,for this post