by Christian Duque
Who can forget when the Bikini Division hit the scene? Figure and Fitness were first and both received support, but much like Men’s Physique, Bikini wasn’t well-received by purists. They didn’t like the look, they didn’t think the division was necessary, and they didn’t think it would bring any real quality to the sport. There was never a question as to whether it would bring revenue, but I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the quality shift from the early physiques to where we are today. Over the course of just its first few years, the bar got higher and higher, and the level of physiques brought to the NY Pro, Arnold, and Olynpia, were enough to inspire thousands of women to buy NPC cards, suits, learn the posing and jump into competitions across America and throughout the world.
If you were to poll aspiring female competitors during the last decade with regards to what division they’d want to compete in, the vast majority would want to do bikini shows. It was seen as the fastest growing designation to earn pro status, get sponsorship deals, and have the most crossover appeal. While Figure and Fitness had their own followings, Bikini looked the most promising to have mainstream buzz. In fact, many bikini competitors landed modeling gigs with major companies, landed movie roles, and were sought out by fashion and womens’ publications. In many ways, we’re starting to see everything that happened with Bikini, happen all over again with the Wellness Division. That said, there are some stark similarities and contrasts, alike. In this article I’ll discuss why I think not only is Wellness the next Bikini, but why I think it’ll surpass its numbers over the course of another 1-3 years!! That level of growth, considering it has five other divisions to compete with, would make its rise to the top, all the more impactful!
One stark difference between Wellness and Bikini, is that the latter was completely new when it made its debut in The States. Back then, there was only WBB, Figure, and Fitness. The idea of the Bikini Division took some time getting used to and no one really knew how it would do. If you guys remember, the first bikini shows had ladies who looked like they had just finished a shift at the local gentlemen’s club. I get that sounds harsh, but these ladies weren’t in shape, their “posing” could be pretty trashy, and the judging was all over the place. Some shows rewarded hard looks, others soft ones, and some, who knew what they were looking for? This happens with any totally new division, right, but at the same time, it leaves much to be desired. A great many pundits believed that the new division had its days numbered.
Wellness, on the other hand, was already a massive success in Brazil and all throughout Europe, before finally being introduced in America. In fact, the rival IFBB was making a killing with it; meanwhile the IFBB Pro League seemed to drag its feet at the idea of introducing it within its ranks. Many big names, particularly Johnny Styles, used their vast social media resources to lobby the powers that be to reconsider their position. Over the course of time, it was decided to bring the Division in and see what all the fuss was about. And from the moment the announcement was made, we’ve seen a massive crossover from Bikini to Wellness, as well as huge numbers of new competitors signing up to compete in its ranks.
It’s truly noteworthy that there’s competitors crossing over to Wellness from other divisions, particularly Bikini. Never, in the history of the Bikini Division, have so many of its competitors left it for another division. That sort of thing just hasn’t ever happened and it seems like an ongoing phenomenon. We’ve seen bikini competitors try moving up to Figure, from time to time, and while that may work at small, local shows, it’s a hard sell when it comes to Wellness. There’s a growing number of bikini competitors who have tried to just switch looks and taken atrocious placings. This is because Wellness requires a look that most bikini competitors cannot obtain without substantial efforts. In fact, while a hard bikini competitor might do well at a small contest in Figure, Wellness requires leg development that even at the smallest of shows would bar bikini and even, many figure competitors from crossing over.
The difference between bikini and figure is a small amount of muscle and a slightly harder degree of condition; this is why crossing over provides some successes at the local and even regional level. With regards to Wellness, both bikini and figure competitors are equally at a disadvantage. Wellness is a muscular division, with big quads, small waist and good delts. Bikini competitors will look too small and figure competitors will fall short of having the hourglass look that’s preferred to move up the rankings. Some bikini competitors have, allegedly, gone the way of cosmetic enhancement in order to achieve sufficiently larger wheels, but that’s heavily disfavored. While this is an option, most instances where this has happened, haven’t resulted in successful look.
The last thing a competitor wants is to draw out the bad kind of attention from the judges that implants or SEO’s will bring. This is why many competitors have moved away from butt implants and fillers in order to fast-track their way into the Wellness Division. A great many other competitors are working with coaches who claim they can get them the desired look through various different types of training, nutrition plans, and PED protocols. Whether or not they can actually live up to their promises, remains to be seen; however, demand for their services is through the roof.
Similarly to Bikini, the demand for Wellness has given a number of different businesses sufficient reasons to jump head-first into putting out suits and services all centered on the new look. The fact the Division has already broken records and made headlines in other countries, gives investors enough reason to justify pouring tons of money and other resources in cornering the market in America. Although many ladies are still years away from being able to achieve the desired look, that’s not to say they won’t spend big bucks on looking the part. As the old saying goes, “gotta fake it till ya make it.”
Only time will tell if Wellness will outdo Bikini. From the looks of what’s happened over the course of the last couple years, plus the division’s first Olympia successfully in the books, there’s no telling how big it could get. In time, one of two things may happen. Either Wellness will completely dust Bikini – or – Wellness and Bikini will take the vast majority of female competitors (this is already happening). In either situation, I can see the Figure Division losing numbers and attention. On the other hand, Fitness is a unique division that’s about more than physique; however, that division has been languishing at the local and regional level for years. Women’s Physique and Women’s Bodybuilding are safe from Wellness, as the ladies that want to compete in those divisions represent a very small niche as compared to Figure, Bikini, and Wellness. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next 1-3 years. I say Wellness will be the most popular division, on or before that time runs. What say you?