Traditionally, bodybuilding is portrayed as a highly individualistic, male-dominated sport but one group of women has decided to challenge that notion and form a female-dominated bodybuilding team.
Kelly Worthey, Haley Allen-Bradbury, Amber Holmes, Kristi Webb and her husband Richard make up the bodybuilding team at Lake Hamilton Health and Fitness.
“All of us were already competing. We clearly all had the same interest and just decided that we wanted to represent something more than just ourselves,” said Allen-Bradbury.
They began developing meal plans, workout routines and offering support to one another during peak week as a unit in the spring after gym owner Jack Bailey opted to sponsor the team. From then on, each of them has competed in competitions as representatives of Hot Springs and a few even bringing home medals.
According to Worthey, competing in the sport comes with a hefty price tag. Travel expenses, registration fees, gym memberships and the like quickly add up. Luckily, the
team’s sponsor covers the bulk of the team’s expenses, allowing the athletes to focus on sculpting their bodies and perfect their physique.
The women all come from different lifestyles and backgrounds. One team member is a mother to three while another works as a cosmetologist. Despite their differences, they are united by the thrill of being on stage and the burn felt after an intense workout.
“(Bodybuilding) kind of broke me out of my shell, really. It’s addictive. Once you get started, you immediately want to begin training for another,” said Webb.
Weeks before each show, they will amp up their diet and workouts to begin preparations for the stage. The length of time spent preparing varies from person to person and can last anywhere between 12 and 25 weeks.
During this time they spend anywhere between 15 and 20 hours working on fitness each week. Their days begin early, with a run before breakfast, and ends with them preparing for the next day’s meals. On average, they are supposed to eat between six to eight meals a day and drink a gallon of water, Holmes said.
The strict, low-fat diet paired with high levels of cardiovascular and strength training allows these women to sculpt their bodies into chiseled figures of femininity. However, the preparation for a show-ready appearance is not very pleasant, Allen-Bradbury said.
“I personally don’t agree with doing more than a couple of shows a year because it’s not good for your body because the last four weeks of your prep in your body is in a deficient for so long. It’s very unhealthy,” she said.
However, the strain put on the body is not enough to keep these women off the stage and out of the gym. The format of the sport allows them to choose how many times they compete each year, but the summer months remain highly popular among many bodybuilders.
Although the process can put a strain on the body, the women work hard to supplement their diets and workouts naturally with vitamins and recovery tactics. Holmes noted that muscle recovery is vital to their progress, otherwise, the results would not be as prominent.
The majority of the team began competing within the last two years and some team members are already bringing home medals from competitions. Each woman competes in the bikini portion of the competition and a few of the team members also compete in their height categories and women’s physique.
“Competing is something else. It’s almost indescribable. You know you work hard for months for just a few moments on stage. Really, it’s just about enjoying it and being around others you know have done what you’re doing,” said Worthey.
One thing they all agree on is how empowering the sport makes them feel. Despite the fact that each woman already had a solid workout regimen and remained very health-conscience, the sport made them realize they could dive further into fitness and reach goals they once thought unobtainable, Holmes said.
“It gave me the biggest drive and my motivation was through the roof. I felt like when I walked in the gym I had a job and a purpose. I had to get it done.”
“Everything that I’ve been doing all these years finally has a purpose because now I’m going to have a goal. I’m going to step on stage,” said Allen-Bradbury.
The team’s goal for the next season varies from team member to team member, but encouraging people to take an active role in their fitness journeys, disproving the myths that surround the sport and bringing home more medals appears as a consistent desire throughout the team.
“Bikini competing is very, very feminine. People want to say your muscles are ugly or your muscles are this or that, but it simply is not true.
“Bodybuilding can still be feminine. It doesn’t have to be a manly sport,” said Worthey.