Over the last few years, the number of young women in the UK taking up bodybuilding has increased dramatically. With a similar growth in interest across other forms of strength training, and weights starting to replace the treadmill as the new fitness norm, Adele Roberts wants to know why strong is now better than skinny for so many young women.
Adele, a former competitive bodybuilder, has spent 30 days following a strict diet and fitness regime in a bid to discover what it takes to become a superwoman.
Is this an empowering method for young women to take control of their bodies, or merely another fitness fad, causing women to question their natural body image? With help from personal trainers, competitive bodybuilders, doctors and dietitians, and those closest to her, Adele pushes herself to the limits to discover what she gains and loses, mentally and physically, during her month-long bodybuilding challenge.
As programme synopses go, that for Why Women Want Muscles (first broadcast on BBC Radio 1 Xtra at the beginning of December, still available to listen to/watch on the BBC iPlayer), was definitely one of the most interesting I have ever come across.
Roberts (above), as the programme reveals, had competed briefly many years ago, but is much better-known now as a BBC Radio DJ and former Big Brother contestant.
During her 30-day challenge, she gains muscle and shape, but the transformation went more than skin deep. The most important part of this transformation to me is I how feel inside, she revealed on her Instagram. I should have done it a long time ago.
Along the way, Roberts meets, among others, NABBA Toned Figure athlete Clair Willie, and is trained by UKBFF Bikini athlete Phoebe Hagan. But without doubt the star of the show - especially, as the camera absolutely loves her, in the shorter, for-TV version of the programme (Get Muscly in a Month), is another NABBA Toned Figure athlete, the 2016 NABBA Miss Toned Figure UK, Brittany Rhodes.
The 24-year-old recruitment consultant from Yorkshire only started lifting a couple of years ago because she thought she was too skinny. I was a size zero, she says. I lacked confidence. I wanted to actually have that curvy figure and that's why I got into training. I caught the bug and much to my delight it seems to be one I can’t shake.
I LOVE it. It takes a special mindset, discipline, patience, and consistency to compete. Bodybuilders are a special breed. We have goals that we are determined to reach, no matter what. This sport has taught me more about myself than any teacher, friend or family member ever could. Finally I'm a woman happy in her own skin.
Brittany uses social media to spread the pro-lifting message as loudly as anyone, and she was a keen participant in Adele Roberts' documentary, which concluded that this trend for bodybuilding among young women in the UK is much more about self-confidence, self-reliance, and empowerment than it is about muscles. I feel really privileged to be able to express my views about why women choose to bodybuild in this way, Brittany told her Instagram followers. It's time to lift women up!
Her message has got her a lot of followers, the vast majority female - I wouldn't want to be a 20-something man and read Brittany's posts every day (eg. I think we say "oh man" to express disappointment because men are so disappointing; eg. call a man by the wrong name today to remind them how unimportant they are, etc. etc.). I reckon that would have made young Swell have some kind of crisis of confidence. In fact, I'm not entirely sure it isn't giving me my own mid-life crisis of confidence now!
After competing for the first time in in 2015, last year saw Brittany take 4th place at the NABBA England and 3rd at the NABBA Universe in October, and then came NABBA UK win at the beginning of November. Everything is slowly coming together, she says, and I'll be chasing trophies in 2017. This is truly the start of an amazing journey for me and I can’t wait to see how far I can take it... I'm beyond excited!
She's part of something that has, it seems, stopped being a trend, and transformed into a full-blown movement for young British women. Seriously, if she doesn't inspire young women in the UK, young women all over the world even, to transform their bodies and find self-confidence, self-love, and the kind of inner contentment that Adele Roberts found during her 30-day challenge, then I don't know who will.
Here's Brittany at the 2016 NABBA Universe.
So, chaps... who's "beyond excited" now?