top of page

IFBB - What are the judges looking for in Bikini?

What wins in IFBB Bikini?

As told by IFBB Head Coach Sandy Williamson at the 2018 Shawn Rhoden Classic Pro Qualifier.

“Bikini. Where the judges want you to have muscle. But not have muscle. And where the judges want you to be lean. But not be lean. ”

— A very funny NPC Bikini Girl

I came across this meme on Instagram last year. It made me chuckle.

We've all been there in our early days.

You rock up to your first show, hungry to place, hungry for a cupcake.. In fact it's your first show and you've never gone this long without a bacon sandwich so to be honest you're are JUST HUNGRY!

You've worked your butt off, late nights, early mornings – the gym manager is suspicious you might actually be sleeping in the lockers. You've lost your boyfriend, you've lost your boobs, you've lost your MIND, and you are convinced no-one can go through this much torture and not come out a victor.

You step on stage, in what can only be described as Ru-Pauls "casual shoes", boobs scaffolded up to your chin in rhinestone cladded padding, looking like someone left you in the oven too long, and then the results come in… "Nope". The girl with the velociraptor quads and Phil Heath conditioning takes the top place. Judges feedback? Bring a conditioning, bring rounder glutes, bring bigger legs.

So.. after diving head first into the Krispy Kreme box, you eventually come up for air, and with the fervour of a "Monday Motivation" meme, wipe that icing off your forehead with the back of your hand and proclaim.. "OK I got this".

1 year later, you're back on stage.

Your butt's now so big people accidently rest their drinks on it at the bar. You've hip-thrusted your way through the bulk life and embraced the Squat rack as your new boyf. Your quads got more separations goin on than Kerry Katona and you've taken your eyelash game to next level. If Optimus Prime and Beyonce had a secret love child YOU WOULD BE IT. You schmooze your way through your routine like the muscular, schmokin hot exotic bird you are, and when the results are in.. “Nope”. The pretty young flower with the soft curves take it. Judges feedback? Too conditioned, too separated, get bigger delts.

What.. the.. actual…. FFFFFFF?

Of all the sports in all the land, Bodybuilding must be the most subjective when it comes to winning a show. But of all the bodybuilding categories in all the land – Bikini has to be the most baffling. What the frick are the judges looking for?

Turns out it's what we're all looking for.


In December I was lucky enough to attend the Athlete's meeting at the Shawn Rhoden Classic in the Philippines, where IFBB Head Judge Sandy Williamson walked us through the criteria, with the help of glamorous assistants, and IFBB Pro's Laurelie Chapados and Isa Pecini.

So here it all is, broken down. And yes, it's still as subjective as it's always been, but it's also pretty simple. The best body on the day will win. That's it. Someone has got to. Shredded is not a criterion in bikini. Separation is not a criterion. But if you bring a perfectly balanced body and no-one else did on the day, even with too much conditioning you might just win it. The same as if you come in too soft but your proportions are outstanding – you could walk home with that trophy.

Focus on the overall shape and proportion above all.

About the judging itself

Firstly – the IFBB judges know what they are doing. They aren't just picked off the street. They are actually trained to do this. At the Shawn Rhoden Classic, Head Judge Sandy was there, but also a line-up of Novice judges, all being trained and brought up to speed under her watchful eye.

IFBB judges judge as a group. It's a democracy. They all have a say. No one judge holds more weight than the other. Whatever the outcome, you were not unfairly judged.

The Physique and the rationale behind some of those "surprise" decisions

The Bikini Physique needs to fit that category. That's it. However, remember, someone has got to win. If no-one fulfils the judges ideal physique on that day, the one who fits it best will win. It's that simple. Sometimes the judges go to a show and there's an athlete with a SUPER conditioned physique – but that's the best athlete up there. She might be a little too lean, and all the others have their conditioning fairly on point, but she might have brought an outstanding balance compositionally to her figure that the other athletes didn't achieve. It's a tough call, but that's what it comes down to in the end. Unfortunately it wasn't the ideal athlete – but it was the BEST athlete on the day.

What you also have to remember – when choosing a new Pro from a qualifier, that in the amateur there are height classes, which only pits you against girls with a "similar" stature as yourself. When you get to the Pro's they don't exist. It makes a big difference and the judges are taking this into consideration too. If you are the height and stature of Isa Pecini, with your current package, could you still hold your own against the likes of Frieda Paulsen? You need to be bringing that perfect blend of condition, muscle tone, shape and presence - that Pro Quality package. Or at the very least be bringing more than the other athletes on the day.

So what are they looking for?

If you go back and look at the Olympia that just happened (2018). It's curves. Some muscular foundation. No separation. Not super lean. If you put Winner Angelica Teixeira next to Cydney Gillon the Figure Olympian, there is a distinct progression from Angelica's physique to Sidney's physique and then from Sydney's to Shanique Grant's physique.

Are Glutes really the most important aspect?

A lot of Bikini competitors get carried away with Glutes. Now don't get me wrong, glutes are SUPER important. But too many competitors go on stage with huge glutes, but they've neglected their hams, or their quads – their glutes overpower their overall shape if you look at their photos.

Or they go on with Super delts but they have no arms to go with it

No ONE muscle is more important than the other. They should all be built in appropriate proportion to give the overall appearance of an X-shape.

Bikini is about overall composition. Overall shape. It's about having that good foundation it's about keeping it as balanced as you can.

Aaaand what about back?

You'll notice in IFBB, everyone wears their hair down. It's covering their back. So does back really matter? Yes and no. The judges are not looking for depth. You will not be judged on the depth of your back. The definition of your traps, etc etc. As said time and again above – you want that X shape; you want balance between glutes and shoulders, so you'll want LATS and you'll want to try and open them out a bit. You don't need the massive Physique competitor lats, nor the lat spread to go with it, but a little bit of width to your wings to give you that balance. Open them up a little in your back pose. That along with a good set of developed, capped delts is enough. Especially if you are a pear shape.

So you do not have to bring your hair to the side either. As said you are not judged on the depth of the back – however pulling your hair to the side, it's going to show that. If that is in any way your weakness, you've just shown it. Keep it under wraps, work on those lats baby!

What about posing?

- Front pose – you want to show that roundness to the glutes ("glute-pop". A little bit of roundness to the shoulders.

- Back pose – arch in the back, pushing back to show the glutes. But this is a slight arch. It should be a tight "C" curve. The minute you start to lean forward, you flatten the glutes, your shoulders and back move into the background and appear smaller (remember the judges are below the stage looking up) so you lose that "balance" and sense of perfect proportion (if you had it to begin with). Remember most women have wide hips – tilting forward widens the hips. You'll lose your shape. You'll lose your glute fullness. You'll probably lose your placing.

- Well the question came up – is it better to bend your knees in the back pose or not? A slight bend in the knee. SLIGHT. Almost enough that the judges don't see it. Just enough. Toughie right?!

In summary…


It's all important. In equal measure. You don't want to be known as "The shredded one" or "The one with the massive Glutes" or "The one with the big biceps". You want to be "The one with the Killer X"

Hope it helps

Muchos loves

126 views0 comments


bottom of page