Mark T. Suffolk


Female professional bodybuilders have received a substantial amount of scholarly and media attention. However, investigations have largely been conducted from a pathologizing perspective. This exploratory research investigated the female bodybuilding community from a positive development perspective. Thematic analysis was applied to twenty four publicly available online video interviews of female professional bodybuilders ranging in age from 29-49 years to understand the reasons as to why females take up the sport of bodybuilding, and to identify factors that contribute towards continued participation. Identified themes were framed within Self-Determination Theory. The findings indicate that pursuing bodybuilding can provide mechanisms that link the activity to psychological well-being by enhancing autonomy, competence, and relatedness. In light of these findings, it is a worthwhile endeavor for researchers to further examine the sport of female bodybuilding from a positive functioning perspective. Further research can provide a better understanding of how active engagement in bodybuilding can positively impact psychological health and subjective well-being.

Author Biography

Having completed a BSc and MRes in psychology at Loughborough University UK, Mark Suffolk is a Ph.D. student in the Developmental Science program at North Dakota State University. His research interests are the relationship between competitive sport and psychological well-being, competitive bodybuilding, and the study of male and female body image.