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Muscles and Female Body Builders

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Body building for women came into its own in the late 1960's and early 1970's with such important early figures as Bev Francis, Rachel McLish, Lisa Lyon, Carla Dunlap, and Diana The Valkyrie (for more details on these figures, follow this link: http://keywen.com/en/FEMALE_BODYBUILDING).

The Ms. Olympia competition was first held in 1980 and was originally made up of contestants hand picked by the promoter of the contest, George Snyder. However, after 1984, contestants were no longer hand picked and instead had to qualify by placing in lesser contests throughout the year.

Female body building has gone through multiple transformations over the years, with the aesthetic changing from slightly muscular to extremely muscular to the 20% rule implemented in 2004 in which Jim Manion, the president of the National Physique Committee asked that the women decrease their muscularity by 20%. For more on his organization, see this website: http://www.getbig.com/articles/npc-hist.htm.

It seems that women in the early days of the sport were less bulky and smaller than subsequent female bodybuilders. Although after the call for the 20% decrease in muscularity in 2004, it seems that size slowly crept back up again so that today's female body builders are often bulkier and heavier than their early 1980's counterparts such as Rachel McLish and Lisa Lyon.

There have been some controversies regarding female bodybuilders and Playboy magazine. Historically there has been somewhat of a double standard among the public in terms of the perception of female body builders and their own sense of their femininity. While many women have felt it appropriate to translate their bodybuilding careers into careers with Playboy and other magazines, some feel this is an affront to the purity of the sport and the sense of empowerment that many women gain from watching and supporting the competitors.

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Hi Susan,
Thanks as usual for your fantastic comments and insights... I know that steroid use is common and am amazed at the reduction of differences between male and female with the addition of steroids. Some of the women look and sound like men in drag. I try not to be judgemental because I think, like any art or sport, it's almost like a calling for the person who immerses themselves in it and that level of devotion, obsession and preoccupation comes with a fanaticism necessary to go "all the way" with the sport.

October 23, 2009 - 3:42pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Aimee

I saw a documentary on female body builders. Some were "natural" competitors, some were not. Obviously, the difference means steroid use.

The regular bodybuilders were enormous but also very disciplined. They work out constantly and have a very strict diet. Some don't discuss steroid use, others are pretty open about it. They stress that they work just as hard as natural body builders. It seems they do, too, although the results are vastly different, as are their voices which are as deep as any man's.

The natural bodybuilders use no steroids at all and are tested rigorously (taking polygraphs as well as medical testing!) and are far smaller than the women who take steroids, although work just as hard.

I have to say I think the natural body builders look amazing. The women who take steroids are just too enormous for my liking and their tenor voices are a bit disconcerting. However, it's not just a 'female' thing for me. Huge muscles aren't aesthetically pleasing to me, although I did have a crush on Sly Stallone during his Rambo/Rocky days! A male swimmer's body does it for me :)

Either way, both sets of athletes are incredibly disciplined. However, they are also very self-focused and during competition time, they are almost obsessive. Self-obsessive, to the exclusion of nearly anything (and anyone) else.

But all body builders (male and female) are very self-absorbed. I don't mean this in an insulting way. They have to be self-absorbed - since their chosen sport ensures that their focus is pretty much on themselves all the time. It's a 24/7 lifestyle, especially in the run up to competitions. I'm sure they have lives (and friends/families) outside the sport, but if the documentaries are to be believed, many don't.

October 23, 2009 - 1:14pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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