“HEY, HEY, HEY…”
The required poses in the posing rounds for each division of NPC competitions are each different, but similar. As confusing as that sounds, that’s how clear the judging criteria is for any and every NPC event. “You can, you can’t…you should, you shouldn’t”… all rules are malleable, all guidelines are blurred.
The Official required poses can be found here but are subject to change, even mid pose. With the addition of “True Novice” and all the iterations of categories to ensure crossover costs per division keep rising, keep checking the official entry blank of your area promoters; as if Novice, Local, Open and National Qualifier weren’t enough. But I’m trying to clarify rather than confound the issue more.
Sure size, shape, symmetry, muscularity, leanness, roundness, height, non-muscularity, smile, tan, teeth, suit, association to the judging panel, and sometimes even the actual physique, matter. But ultimately a competitor, through the perfect concoction of the above ingredients, and the grace of God Himself, must please the judges, must win the appeal, must ignite a connection between those on the table, to those on the stage. Sometimes, even the hands-down, most-obvious, walk-away winner in the competition, does not win. Yet sometimes, sometimes, when the applause-o-meter is working that day and all the judges go to lunch at the same diner, the real winners are chosen, undisputedly, across all divisions. It happens, really. I’ve seen it myself.
This inconsistency is the only consistent tract from the lowest, local levels of the competition, through the highest-almighty IFBB Pro ranks. Someone appealed to the right someone, all down the line, all the way to the top. The rest of the discrepancies determining that rise would take a book to document. Still, the poses required pale compared to the hoops ensued.
After 30 years of work in this field, and over 600 shows documented from behind the scenes, it’s time someone tells the truth about competitive physique events. This is not to bash any specific people, just to inform the competitors of what they are dealing with and in what’s become of this sport that means so much to so many, yet so little to a few. You can speculate all you want over that sentence; but to those involved over the years to build it to what it is, who supported, promoted, documented and spent countless hours coaching, training, nurturing and developing it into the monster it’s become, we all know where our personal responsibility falls.
The athletes themselves are often spectacular. Their hard work and dedication rival the greatest of any athlete in any other sport on their level. Amateur bodybuilders work harder than amateur baseball players. Olympia contenders work as hard as Olympic contenders. They are each measured subjectively right down to the direction their toes are pointing. They win by paying attention to every nuance of detail to ensure their appeal is as convincing as their performance. But often, even when everything is 110% correct, it doesn’t turn out right.
The distinctions for the new divisions of physique men, physique women, bikini and whatever else the ruling gods may conspire to produce, are no more definitive than those of an advertising campaign. Sales. That’s all. And the sad part is, the competitor never knows where the line will be drawn in any given event. So the competitor who wins in week one, must realize 6th place is possible in two weeks, or 60th in a National show even though you’re the best in the state. And this is the way it must be; unless the rules require a timer, a knockout, a pin, or a duel to the death.
This is the best advice on how to win a Physique competition. It’s a crapshoot, keep trying. Let your body be your trophy, walk your talk, lead with distinction, move on.
If you’re lucky, a judge was watching and can give you the necessary feedback to improve. By that time you know your own weaknesses and are simply looking for a confirmation from a knowledgeable eye. These are the only definitive guidelines:
- You must only bring your best.
- You must fully prepare every given detail.
- You must perform the mandatory and compulsory poses.
- You must expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
- You must take criticism constructively.
- You must smile and accept defeat as equally as victory.
- You must continue to be your best, do your best, share your best.
- You must realize that the path makes you a winner, not the trophy.
The sport of Physique competition has been growing steadily, giving many more athletes room to compete, despite their weaknesses, handicaps, age or affiliation. The sport has helped to raise public awareness to the beauty of an aesthetically pleasing physique, and the care, preparation and attention it takes to acquire one. By giving more competitors a chance to compete, it has left less winners in every category; but not necessarily defining what makes one the best and runners up, down the line. In short, it has become quantity over quality.
It is a cattle call. Your nine months of training are whittled down to four turns and a return trip to the warm up room; which used to be “pump up room” but that too has been disallowed. Bodybuilders used to be judged from their forearms to their calves, left to right, top to bottom. Now, an athlete is often chosen without yet making it to the comparison line-up.
It’s true when they say the victory is in the journey. It’s a gratifying sport, an enriching path that leads you to your best shape and opens new doors of opportunity and service. But the sport of Physique Competition has been dwindling as the number of athletes has risen, the number of promotions have dropped, and the integrity of the sport, diminished.