Article written by Candice Perfect, NPC competitor
This is a question I get asked frequently by new competitors. This question does NOT have ONE correct answer. It’s hard to simplify the answer to this question and generalize it for all competitors. If we did that, the answer would not be of use to anybody. Just as every single body is different, the answer should be different for every competitor. In order to get the correct answer, we must first ask the correct question. The correct question we should be asking actually has two parts: what are the judges looking for, and what does this specific competitor’s body need in order to achieve that look?
The Bikini Division has been labeled as highly subjective,so how will you know what the judges are looking for? Without getting into the topics of stage presentation and other related factors that may affect placings, let’s focus solely on the criteria for a good bikini physique. Generally speaking, bikini is about proportions…developing the right body parts in order to create an elongated, curvy, and feminine shape. I say DEVELOP to eliminate any belief that one must be born with an hour-glass figure to be successful as a bikini competitor. Some of the best IFBB Bikini Pros began as amateurs with no curves or muscle maturity whatsoever, and now, after several years of consistent training and dieting they are ranked best in the world.
If we are to identify THREE essential body parts the judges look at first, they will be: glutes, waist, and quads.
Probably the most important body part on a bikini competitor is the glutes. Obviously. Not much explanation needed here. Generally when we are talking about Bikini Division, bigger is not better… UNLESS we are speaking in context of the glutes. This region must be well developed, demonstrate good separation and conditioning (especially between the upper hamstring/lower glute connector), and be extremely tight and perky. Some of my favorite IFBB Bikini Pro glutes are: Stacey Alexander, Justine Munro, and Amanda Latona.
Next comes the waist. To be competitive in this division, one must have (or appear to have) asmall waist. This is so important in the Bikini Division and perhaps the body part that has the most misconceived notions. First of all, when we are referring to the waist, we are not referring to the abdominal muscles. Yes, they are in the same vicinity but a bikini competitor should not have shredded abs… that’s for a different division. Bikini is not about abs. I promise you the judges are not looking to see who has the best shaped, blocky, cut up abs on stage. Of course, as you lean out your abs/obliques will show as this signifies a low body-fat percentage, but no bikini competitor ever won a show because she had the best abs. On the contrary, I have seen bikini competitors get docked points for being “too hard” in the abdominal/oblique area. Bikini is all about having the right proportions. And when we are talking about the waist, we are talking about proportions.
There are two things to take into consideration about the waist. The first being that the size of someone’s waist is primarily due to their genetics. A waist is one of those things that is more difficult to sculpt,although it can be done (which is another topic I will write in detail about later). The second, and perhaps most over looked factor about waist size, is that one’s training methods greatly affects the appearance of their waist. The way someone trains affects the overall appearance of the entire physique. The body is intelligent and adapts holistically. Even if you attempt to do isolation training, it STILL affects some other part of your body.
This brings me to our next topic of the quads. A bikini competitor’s quads can easily mean the difference between winning and/or not even placing Top 5 in their class. The most common critique I hear bikini competitors conversing about is “my quads are too big.” So what should the quads of a bikini competitor look like? The answer to this question is what will determine the kind of training each individual bikini competitor should be doing. Your goal as a bikini competitor should be to have the best proportions of any competitor on the stage next to you. What this means is that you do NOT want your quads to make you appear short, stocky, blocky, or otherwise disproportionate in any way.
Now that we have discussed the principle of proportions and the importance of this in the Bikini Division, I can now address the major disconnect that seems to occur between competing in bikini and training for bikini.
I see so many bikini competitors posting pictures and videos of themselves squatting or leg pressing with multiple plates and boasting about the weight they are putting on. This is great… if you’re planning on becoming a power-lifter. I’m not saying don’t lift heavy. I LOVE to train heavy. But I also know how my body responds. I build muscle extremely fast,especially in my lower body and core. Training your lower body with heavy weight (especially when doing exercises that are full-body movements such as squats) can cause your quads to grow disproportionately. These exercises also cause a higher level of engagement from your core which can cause your waist and midsection to appear blocky, square, and can even cause your stomach to protrude outwards. Definitely all contradictory terms to what the judges are looking for in Bikini Division.
So, it now appears that I am “anti-squats”… this is NOT the case. I still use squats in my leg training. However, I use a variety of modified form and movements that take the stress of the weight off of my quads and refocus it to the glute and hamstring regions. Squats are known to be the BEST exercise to build the lower body, including the glutes. That may be, but I perform MANY exercises that I have found to be far superior at isolating and building the glutes. This is key in the Bikini Division: performing exercises that can engage, isolate, and target the glute region while simultaneously keeping your quads disengaged. Your goal should be to find exercises that allow you to train glutes EVERYDAY while leaving your quads out of it.
(-----Obviously,I am now focusing this article towards competitors who have over-developed or “not-lean-enough”quads. The type of training previously mentioned may be necessary in some cases for competitors who are extremely petite, are bow-legged, or who do not gain muscle easily. There are some bikini competitors who DO need to consistently train heavy and work to build their quads due to the fact that they are just more petite than everybody else. But this is extremely rare.-----)
Now you’re probably asking, what are these exercises that build the glutes while disengaging the quads? There’s really no secret… it’s the same old exercises… but the trick is to perform them indifferent ways. Modified form has been my biggest tool in changing my physique and reducing the size of my quads. I will write more in detail later about modified form and different angles I use to take my quads out of it and isolate the glute/hamstring regions. For a bikini competitor, plyometrics and donkey kicks should be your best friend. I have heard competitors scoff and say that donkey kicks don’t work… I used to think the same thing. Well, have you ever tried doing 4-6 sets of100s of them???