The World of Female Bodybuilding

The professional female bodybuilding world is split into five types of competitions: Bikini, Figure, Fitness, Physique and Bodybuilding. Female bodybuilding has only been a phenomenon since the late 1970s but has always put a heavy emphasis on traditional female standards of beauty. Not only do the women have to be physically fit, they have to have the common feminine attributes of a prominent chest, curvy buttocks and thighs, and well-done hair and makeup. While this is less important than physical fitness in the Bodybuilding category, it still plays a big part.

Why Are Breast Implants So Popular In Bodybuilding?

Femininity is highly valued in female bodybuilding, especially in the Bikini category, where these attributes are just as closely scrutinized as the muscles. Since women have to look a certain way to succeed in competition, 80 percent or more of the competitors end up getting a breast augmentation. So many competitors choose to have this procedure because of the effect that bodybuilding has on the breasts.

The Bikini Competition: History and Standards

The Bikini Category was added in 2010 by the IFBB as an official part of the lineup to allow for a wider range of women who wanted to train competitively. The first Bikini Olympia competition was quick to follow. This category focuses the least on muscles and is more scrutinizing of feminine proportions, bodily symmetry, shape, skin tone, pose technique, stage presence and overall style. Sloppy hair and makeup, a bad tan, or non-existent breasts can lower a competitor’s score in this category. And for those women who are naturally small-breasted or whose breasts have shrunk due to diet and exercise, don’t want to be dinged when they’re competing professionally. So the solution that many turn to is breast augmentation. But there is a lot to consider when making the choice to enhance the breasts surgically.

How Bodybuilding Affects Natural Breasts

The desire to get implants is compounded by the effects that bodybuilding has on natural breasts. Strict dieting and workout system are an integral part of bodybuilding for both men and women. Undertaking lean, protein-heavy diets while working out to retain muscle tissue, causes loss of body fat. And since breast tissue is made mostly of fat, for women loss of fat means smaller breasts.

Additionally, chest workouts build tissue in the pectoral muscles which lie under the breasts. As the pectoral muscle builds and grows, the skin and breast tissue is flattened a bit to stretch over the growing muscle. This gives the appearance of flatter, smaller breasts. For those women looking to compete in the bikini category especially, this could affect their overall score.

What To Know About Choosing a Surgeon

If you’re interested in getting breast implants, it is very important to choose a qualified and experienced surgeon who knows what they’re doing. A bad breast augmentation cannot only hurt a bikini competitor’s chances of winning, but it can cause pain, permanent damage and scarring.

Surgeons should have at lot of before and after photos of work they have done and not just their best 10, but a long portfolio. Try to see a surgeon who has worked on fitness competitors and knows how the implants will look for similar body types.

Also, ask for long-term after shots, as a fresh set of implants can look very different from ones that are a year old. Consultations are usually free so take advantage of this opportunity to find a good surgeon that makes clients feel listened-to and comfortable. However be prepared to spend anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars on the actual surgery. A cheaper surgeon may do poor work or cut corners on safety and sanitation to lower their price.

Under or Over the Pectoral Muscle

As a competitor, an important decision to make is whether to get breast implants under or over the pectoral muscle. Implants that go over the muscle are less painful and take less recovery time, but tend to look more unnatural. The “rippling” effect can happen during posing and competing where the skin crinkles up around the implant and makes it obvious to the world that an implant is present.

Bodybuilders tend to opt for implants that are either entirely or partially under the pectoral muscle. While these take longer to heal and are more painful, they look more natural and sometimes better onstage. This is especially true of women who have very little breast tissue or thin skin over their pectoral muscle. Be sure to give breasts at least six weeks to settle into their final position. Swelling can make implanted breasts look odd but that won’t last forever.

What To Know About Choosing a Size

Choosing the size of breast implants involves more than just what people think is going to look good; bigger is not always better. Women may want to get pictures of breasts they like ahead of time, kind of like bringing pictures of hairstyles into a salon. A qualified surgeon will discuss what size of breasts will work best on someone’s body size and shape.

Special Considerations for Competitors

Bodybuilders want their breasts to enhance their physique without being a big distraction or looking fake. Some surgeons may even refuse women who request impossibly large breast implants. There are also round or tear drop-shaped implants to choose from. Body composition will determine what kind of implant looks best. A good surgeon may test out different sizes and shapes of implants while someone is under the knife just to make sure they are choosing the best look.

Competitors should choose an implant size and shape that best compliments their body. Having all that hard work at the gym overshadowed by a giant chest won’t do anything for scores and could limit arm movement while performing chest and arm workouts. The key is to find a balance between femininity and utility.

Those who choose to have implants above the muscle may find tear-drop implants a better option because they are more anatomically correct. Round-shaped implants can look obvious in this case. Those who get their implants under the pectoral muscle usually go with round-shaped implants which work very well.

Also, genetics plays a large role in determining how far apart the breasts are positioned or where the nipple points; no surgery can change these factors. So consider these traits too before choosing a size and shape. An interesting technique that some surgeons use is to wrap the implant in cadaver skin so it will naturally graft to the rest of the body and make implants more natural-looking. Again this is something that needs to be discussed with the surgeon before any work takes place.

What To Know About Recovery

Having breast augmentation surgery is not without risk or pain. There is always a risk that the body may reject an implant, that an infection could set in, or other serious damage may result from surgery. And there is always pain from the procedure, more or less depending on what kind of implants a woman gets. Implants above the pectoral muscle are generally less painful and take less time to heal than those implanted below the muscle.

Recovery time is usually not extensive; a woman can be on her feet and back to work in as little as four or five days. However, those who want to heal fully and reduce the chances of damage should be slow to reintroduce old routines and habits, particularly workout routines. And finally, listen to pre and post-operation instructions and follow them to the letter. A great surgery can be ruined by poor post-op habits or getting back to old routines too soon.

Special Considerations for Bodybuilders

Those who received implants under the muscle should be prepared to put off their normal training routines for up to six weeks. The first four weeks should really only consist of light cardio and light leg training. After four weeks leg training is permitted and light strength training that doesn’t directly target the chest area. After about six weeks, competitors can ease back into their normal routine. While in recovery, since not as many calories are being burned at the gym, it is advisable to cut some calories out of the diet so all the hard work isn’t lost. But don’t eat so little that it slows the healing process; the key is balance.

Those who get implants on top of the muscle can expect to return to training within two to three weeks. It is a common myth that implants under the muscle a higher chance of rupturing when doing an arm or chest workout. Modern implants are built a lot like gummy bears, which will stretch with your muscles and not rupture.

The risk of rupture, implant migration, hematoma and other implant issues are a risk for any woman who gets implants but these occurrences are relatively rare. Working out does not increase these chances. What can happen during a chest workout is that the muscles flex and cause the implant to flatten out or move to the side during a rep but this is not a worrisome thing, it just happens.

Making a Personal Choice About Implants

Competitors and non-competitors alike should really examine all the facts before making this big decision. If a competitor is making this decision based on getting a pro card or furthering their career in the industry, they must also consider their life after competing because the implants will still be there.

If anyone is forcing or pressuring a woman to get implants, whether it’s a significant other, judges in a competition or societal pressures, that woman should seriously consider not getting implants just to avoid deep regret later on. A woman should only get implants if she herself wants them and is comfortable with the idea that they may be permanent. There is also the risks and maintenance to think about. Surgery always comes with a risk of something going wrong and causing damage which may be permanent. And some varieties of breast implants don’t last forever, they need to be replaced after so many years which means another surgery. The bottom line is that breast implants are an extremely personal decision to be made by one person and one person only.

Natural Movement in Bodybuilding

Recently more competitors have been rejecting surgery for many reasons. Some competitors and ex-competitors have come out on social media and talked about how women should only get implants if they truly desire them and not for the sole purpose of earning a pro card or edging out competitors on stage. And there have been plenty of professionals who have done well in the industry without breast augmentation. Both of these factors have led to a growing self-acceptance attitude among bodybuilders to accept their natural breasts and what they look like after training for competition.

Also many women are turning away from the high cost, the risk and recovery time that surgery entails. Six weeks is a lot of time to lose when training for the stage and some women would rather spend that time in the gym than in recovery. And of course there is the reality that many competitors will still have breast augmentation after their careers and some have decided that ultimately this choice is just not for them.

Currently, without breast augmentation, competitors do lessen their chances of winning onstage; this is the reality. However, women without augmentation have won and continue to win despite not having implants so it is possible. It is just a little bit harder to do. That being said, doing well in competitions is not enough justification to go under the knife. If a woman chooses to it should be because they want to and are prepared to live with the decision for the rest of their lives.

Not getting augmentation will mean that the body will retain less breast tissue because of low body fat content and big muscle tissue. These women will still be shapely and curvy but with less breast tissue. But that does not make them any less feminine or beautiful.

Competitors are powerful and feminine in their unique ways and that should not be changed because of the whim of a judge.