If you're new to the world of figure and bikini competitions and you're just mapping out your training plan, you may be unsure of which one you'll be better suited for. Don't worry. That's quite common for a lot of women when they first dip their feet into the industry. At the amateur level, the competing women may look like they could try their luck in either field, but as the competition becomes more advanced, the discrepancies are very clear. The biggest difference is that figure competitors have very defined muscles, while the ideal bikini competitor has toned muscles without a lot of noticeable separation between them. If you're over 30 years old, it's much more likely that your body will better lend itself to figure competitions. As women age, their bodies become less fatty, so long as they maintain a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Bikini competitors actually need a little body fat to make their physique appear smoother and softer, while figure competitors aim to have as little fat as possible. With that in mind, women who are naturally lean and have a hard time gaining weight should aim for figure posing, and women who are trying to lose weight to get competition ready are more likely to succeed in bikini competitions. Once you've decided the type of competition you're going to take on, you need to formulate a training and diet plan specific to that contest. In both cases, one of the most important characteristics the judges will be looking for is symmetry in your physique. Make sure that your entire body is proportionate, and that no muscles or individual parts of your body are significantly larger or smaller than the rest. Beyond drinking a gallon a water every day, the training and dietary needs for each is quite unique. Training for a figure competition Perhaps the biggest difference compared to training for bikini competitions is the focus on working out. For instance, you'll definitely need to make sure you have strong, toned lats and cap shoulders, which are rounded with a very clear line separating them from the triceps. If you're used to doing cardio and plyometrics when you hit the gym, you'll need to dramatically alter your workout regimens. In order to stand out in a figure competition, all of your muscles will need to be toned, which includes a ton of little ones you may have not even known that you have. Big lifts like cleans and presses will definitely be key parts of your workout, but there will be a lot of light free weight exercises that will be much more difficult and important than they seem. Women with big appetites are in for a treat, as the typical figure competition diet requires five to seven meals per day, each of which must be packed with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Don't get too excited though - sweets and complex sugars are a big no-no. You'll need to cook from scratch whenever possible to avoid using unhealthy preservatives and the like. There a lot of figure competition supplements out there, but there are some certain things women should be taking, such as a multi-vitamin, calcium, glucosamine complex, glutamine and echinacea. Training for bikini competitions Working out almost everyday is very important for these contests as well, but the focus on lifting weights is certainly less. Flexibility and a natural, sexy physique are much more likely to catch the judges' eyes in bikini competitions. Protein shakes, lots of vegetables, some fruits in the morning, and whole grains and other healthy carbs will make up the majority of your diet. For competitors, taking supplements such as calcium, creatine, fatty acids, leucine, glutamine and antioxidants are crucial.