Pumping Iron II was made as a follow-up to the groundbreaking 1977 film Pumping Iron. The Caesars World Cup was a contest created specifically for the film. The competitors were a mix of professional and amateur bodybuilders, which was actually a violation of IFBB rules. Charles Gaines, one of the writers of the film, was included on the contest's judging panel. He was interviewed for the movie but not identified, and had never previously seen a female bodybuilding contest.
Pumping Iron II has been criticized for not providing an honest look at the sport. The 1985 production focuses primarily on Bev Francis and Rachel McLish. Francis was actually a world champion powerlifter with no bodybuilding experience (though she later became one of the top competitors in the sport in the late 1980s). She arrived in the US and was trained during filming by 1972 AAU Mr. America, Steve Michalik, who also guest posed in the film. Francis was easily the most muscular woman in the contest, but lacked an aesthetic bodybuilder physique and finished only eighth. McLish, a two-time Ms. Olympia winner, was the most successful woman in the sport's history at that time. Though she had done more than any other woman to popularize the sport, the producers chose to portray her as the "villain".
Other bodybuilders featured in the film include Kris Alexander, Lori Bowen, Lydia Cheng, Gladys Portugues, and the contest winner, Carla Dunlap. The film was based on the book Pumping Iron II: The Unprecedented Woman.