One of the big stories in women's bodybuilding in recent years has been the influx of competitors who have prevailed against the big girls – and have been spectacularly successful.
Andrea Shaw, the winner of Ms. Olympia 2020, switched from physique to bodybuilding in 2019. MayLa Ash, Asha Hadley and Reshanna Boswell followed in Shaw's footsteps last year, all placing themselves in the top 10 Woman Olympics, who returned for the first time since 2014.
When these athletes talk about the transition from female physique to female bodybuilding, they all describe it in the same way: a liberating experience.
"The transition to female bodybuilding has been a journey of empowering, accepting, and liberating me," wrote Ash on Instagram at the end of an amazing year that ended with fourth place in Ms. Olympia in December.
A big part of the reason it feels so liberating is that once the contestants have decided to switch from women's physique to women's bodybuilding, they no longer feel like they have to hold back and allow their bodies able to grow, improve and satisfy their bodies
Potential. As athletes, you inevitably come to a point where you struggle not to get too tight or muscular for a woman's physique. Switching to bodybuilding for women removes these limitations. "It was like lifting a load," says Shaw.
who also won the Rising Phoenix in 2020. "If my body wants to grow now, I can let it grow!"
Like Shaw, Ash had gotten to a point where she was too muscular for the physique of women. After switching to bodybuilding for women, she was able to train harder and exert more effort. It wasn't until she saw her body react that she became
realized how much she had held back as a competitor. w she says she is "incredibly excited" to see her body develop.
Hadley had a slightly different experience. She had competed in the 2016 Olympics as a competitor for women – at 5-foot-7, she weighed 160 pounds on stage – and then took a few years off. But she had always admired female bodybuilders, and when she decided to make a comeback last year, it should always be in women's bodybuilding. She won the Savannah Pro on her bodybuilding debut last August, describing it as "the best choice I've ever made".
Courtesy Wings of Strength
Many competitors who choose to transition to bodybuilding for women will have to train harder, more intensely, and work to develop parts of the body that would normally be "less developed" in a woman's physique. This often means applying more size
their legs to stand next to the best female bodybuilders. Shaw and Ash also both say they have never trained guns as competitors. w they do – and they say they love it.
t only in the gym, but on stage too, participants feel free as they move up to bodybuilding for women. “In women's physique, I never really showed my height when posing,” says Ash. "But as a bodybuilder, I don't have to
hold back no longer. “She remembers how exhilarating it was when she won the New York Pro on her female bodybuilding debut. “I have fully extended my lats, fully flexed my biceps, and fully shown the conditioning of my legs and glutes. I didn't hold back because I didn't have to. It was so liberating and liberating! "
Shaw had a similar experience. But she says she needs to adjust mentally and learn how to pretend to be a bodybuilder. She recalls how Margie Martin put on her second show as a bodybuilder behind the scenes after Rising Phoenix in 2019
she: "Be great!" That meant, explains Andrea, "a mindfulness to press harder, to show those biceps, to show these legs because they are big and have to be big!"
The word Hadley uses to describe what it feels like to pose as a bodybuilder is "empowering." "You don't have to worry about how to hide your muscle," she says. "It's just about expressing it as best you can." they
says she really felt it during poseown at the Olympics. "We all did our best up there, had fun and really bent over and showed what we wanted to show."
There are probably more competitors considering moving up to bodybuilding for women now – especially after Shaw won the Rising Phoenix and Olympics last year. Her advice is, “If you are a competitor for women and
you have a lot of dense muscle, do the pull! "
MayLa emphasizes that the key is knowing if you are ready. She recommends getting feedback from judges or experts on how she did before embarking on women's bodybuilding last year.
Asha says the most important thing is not to be put off by stereotypes about female bodybuilders. "Don't get caught up in the label or the stigma," she says. "When you see that you look taller than the others and you want to lift, you get that feedback
According to the judges, if you are quite muscular, women's bodybuilding is probably where you belong. "
Courtesy Wings of Strength
Almost all of the competitors who have switched to bodybuilding for women speak of the feeling of having found a place that they belong to. "I'm a bodybuilder," says Andrea. "I fit in here." MayLa says almost exactly the same thing, "I know I'm a bodybuilder. I know I'm supposed to be here."
Perhaps the prettiest picture that shows how competitors feel about transitioning to bodybuilding for women comes from a comment by MayLa. "It might sound strange, but I can only describe what it feels like to be part of women's bodybuilding when I'm at home," she says. "I feel like I finally made it home in this department."