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Bodybuilding is a sport that aims to develop and improve the musculature of the human body through physical exercise, diet and supplementation.

Practitioners aim to achieve an aesthetic standard of beauty, health and strength, which is judged by judges in official competitions.

In this article, we’ll explain what bodybuilding is, what its disciplines are and how the segment’s main tournaments work.

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What is bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is a sport aimed at muscle development and body definition. Practitioners therefore train intensely and follow a strict diet to achieve their goals.

In addition to its competitive nature, bodybuilding is also a form of art, as athletes seek to harmonise the proportions and symmetry of their muscles.

Finally, the sport can bring health benefits, such as increased strength, endurance, self-esteem and disease prevention.

There are several types of bodybuilding that exist today. Each has its own rules and evaluation criteria.

To win a tournament, the athlete needs to show off a perfect physique within what is expected of their category, through performances and judges’ scores.

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Bodybuilding history

História do fisiculturismo
Bodybuilding history

The history of bodybuilding is multi-faceted and has its roots in ancient times, but it only consolidated as a practice in the 19th century.

At that time, physical exercise began to gain popularity in Europe and India, signalling the start of the sport’s formal development.

During this historical period, the german Eugen Sandow became recognised as the “Father of Bodybuilding”. In the late 1800s, he showed off his body at shows, theatres and fairs, becoming a notable figure in his country.

As early as 1920, Charles Atlas, an Italian-American athlete, helped popularise the idea that training could “shape” the body.

The real rise of bodybuilding, however, took place in the 1940s to 1970s, known as the “Golden Age” of the sport.

During this period, figures such as Steve Reeves, Reg Park and, most prominently, Arnold Schwarzenegger, took the practice to new heights, attracting global attention.

Schwarzenegger, in particular, played a crucial role in bringing bodybuilding to the general public, thanks to his charisma.

From the 1980s and 1990s onwards, bodybuilding continued to expand its international presence. This came to the fore through renowned competitions such as Mr Olympia, which is currently the biggest event in the segment.

There has also been a notable influx of women into the sport, resulting in the creation of specific categories for them.

Today, there are many bodybuilding practitioners, as well as regular fans who, even if they don’t compete, follow the scene.

Bodybuilding divisions

  • Open
  • 212
  • Classic Physique
  • Men’s Physique
  • Fitness
  • Figure
  • Wellness
  • Wheelchair


The Open is one of the oldest bodybuilding categories in history, characterised by having no weight restrictions. This means that bodybuilders can compete with any body mass they want.

The emphasis in Open is on muscle size and quantity, symmetry, proper proportion and definition. In other words: it’s a category without limits, which forces the bodybuilder to the extreme.

Some of the sport’s most iconic figures, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates and Jay Cutler, have stood out in the Open.

It’s worth remembering that in the Mr Olympia tournament, the Open category is called Mr Olympia (for men) and Ms Olympia (for women).


In short, the 212 category is the same as Open, but with a weight restriction. The limit even gives the sport its name: 212 pounds (or 96kg).

This category was created to cater for bodybuilders with shorter statures, in order to provide greater balance to the competitions.

Brazilian Eduardo Corrêa and American Flex Lewis are some of the big names in the sport. The pair have met in several editions of Mr Olympia, with the American winning seven times in a row.

Classic Physique

If you watched the grand final between Chris Bumstead and Brazilian Ramon Dino at Mr Olympia 2023, then you’ll understand the Classic Physique category.

Introduced to evoke the golden age of bodybuilding, this discipline seeks to balance size, symmetry, definition and proportion.

Competitors have to hit a maximum weight that depends on their height. The taller they are, the higher the ceiling. However, they are judged on classic aesthetics and not just muscle size.

In this category, bodybuilders have to do elaborate poses to show volume and full physiques, but without the need to maintain the symmetry and proportion of the muscles, as is the case in the Open.

In women’s competitions, this category is called Bikini, following the same premises and assessment criteria as Classic Physique.

Men’s Physique

Men's Physique
Men’s Physique

Men’s Physique is also on the list of bodybuilding categories. In this segment, the emphasis is on a leaner, more natural physique.

Competitors show off their shoulders, chest, back and abdomen, but without the extreme muscle definition required in traditional bodybuilding. Overall presentation and confidence are also important factors in tournaments.

Here, participants need to have rigid muscular symmetry, showing balance between the limbs, and above all, a slim waist.

Another special feature of Men’s Physique is that competitors wear shorts in order to make the competition more natural.

There is also the Woman’s Physique category, which follows the same bodybuilding standards, but is aimed at women.


In addition to the physical component, the Fitness category evaluates choreographed performances that combine elements of dance, gymnastics, wrestling, theatre and other forms of artistic expression.

Competitors are judged on the quality of their routines, as well as the condition of their bodies in general, but without the exaggerated muscles.

For the performances, participants can wear a wider variety of clothes, such as shorts, tights, tops, tank tops, T-shirts and even costumes.


The Figure category is aimed at female competitors. Unlike other disciplines, such as Open and Classic Physique, this one emphasises a softer, more athletic aesthetic, with less emphasis on overall muscle mass.

The aim is to achieve a more balanced and less bulky appearance, while still maintaining a notable physical presence.

In the tests, the women have to perform a series of compulsory poses. In this way, they are judged on numerous criteria such as symmetry, muscle definition, proportion, elegance, grace and overall performance.


The Wellness category is a relatively new women’s division. In this discipline, the emphasis is on a fitter body rather than a muscular one.

One of the main characteristics of this segment is the importance given to the development of the thighs and buttocks. Competitors therefore need to show well-developed muscles in these two areas.

Wellness distances itself from the premises assessed in more traditional categories such as Bikini and Women’s Physique. However, it reflects the ongoing evolution of bodybuilding to recognise and celebrate a wider variety of female body shapes and sizes.



We finalise the list of bodybuilding categories with Wheelchair. This is a division dedicated exclusively to athletes who use wheelchairs, in order to promote greater inclusion in competitions.

It highlights bodybuilders who have overcome significant mobility challenges. During tournaments, standards are adapted to accommodate the specific needs of these bodybuilders, ensuring a fair and equitable competition.

As with other categories, Wheelchair’s emphasis is on muscle aesthetics, symmetry and definition. Competitors are judged not only on the quality of their muscles, but performances too.

Bodybuilding rules

Each category has its own rules, which define how participants should behave in competitions. In some of them, there are even weight limits, like in martial arts fights. There are, however, aspects that are common to all disciplines:

Body | Competitors are judged on the overall appearance of their body, including symmetry, proportion and muscular harmony;

Presentation | Competitors’ posture and the way they present their bodies in performances are also considered. Mandatory poses are usually required to show off specific muscles;

Costumes | Competitors wear specific costumes during the competitions, such as sungas for men and bikinis for women. But this can vary according to each category. In Men’s Physique, for example, athletes must wear shorts;

Scoring criteria | The judges assign scores based on the overall quality of the presentation, taking into account criteria that are unique to each discipline. In Classic Physique, for example, the athlete is expected to have size, symmetry, definition and proportion;

Ethics | Competitors are expected to maintain ethical standards and conduct during competitions, including respect for judges, organisers and other competitors.

What are the top bodybuilding tournaments?

as categorias do fisiculturismo
Bodybuilding tournaments

Mr Olympia is the most important bodybuilding tournament of the competitive season and is held once a year. The competition is recognised as the “World Cup” of bodybuilding.

However, there are other renowned championships on the international circuit, such as the Arnold Classic, IFBB World Championships, NPC Nationals and Sheru Classic.

Greatest bodybuilders of all time

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
  2. Lee Haney
  3. Ronnie Coleman
  4. Jay Cutler
  5. Dorian Yates
  6. Frank Zane
  7. Phil Heath
  8. Flex Wheeler
  9. Franco Columbu
  10. Chris Bumstead

Now you know all about bodybuilding! Do you plan to watch the competitions? Tell us in the comments! And don’t forget to visit us every day, eh? We publish content about games and sports every day 👊

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