Are you looking for a challenge? Do you want to compete but just don’t think bodybuilding is for you? Well you’re in luck; the Men’s Physique division may be what you’re looking for.
The Men’s Physique division has come a long way since its inception in the NPC. When this class first debuted; it was met with jokes and criticism, but one can’t ignore the obvious that this class has made huge waves in the NPC division and is here to stay.
The judging criterion has evolved over time. The first “pros” chosen for the class initially started off bigger with more musculature. From there competitors were smaller and “softer” than their predecessors. When a new class is developed it takes time for the class distinctions to take hold.
The first year was a rough year was rough for some athletes as they really didn’t know in what condition to come into a show. Be bigger, leaner, etc.? Some athletes changed their overall physiques multiple times, but were continually met with frustration when athletes that looked how they previously looked won their classes, or guys that didn’t have what most deemed a “male physique body”. Different parts of the country had different looks that they seemed to hold over others and so on. This still hold true today.
• Muscularity and Body Condition
Judges will be looking for fit contestants who display proper shape and symmetry combined with muscularity and overall condition. This is not a bodybuilding contest so extreme muscularity should be marked down.
This interpretation can be confusing. How lean? How big? Be sure to look at previous contests in your area and look at what the athletes looked like that did well. Also pay attention to other contests around the country and how the athletes look. This is a good guide to help you when coming in a certain way for a show. Also reach out to people that have experience in the division. Coaches, competitors, judges, etc. At one point they were right where you are and are usually glad to help answer your questions.
• Stage Presence and Personality
Contestants will be asked to walk in board shorts (shorts must be just above the knee in length and can be one inch below the belly button, no spandex and no logos are permitted on the board shorts however a manufacturer’s logo such as Nike symbol or Billabongs are acceptable.)
It is the opinion of many outside of the division, especially bodybuilders; the longer board shorts are there to cover up the lack of legs. Yes some of the physique athletes do have small legs or are very non proportional top to bottom, but that’s not always the case. Some of the best legs I have ever seen are on physique athletes. Does that mean they are the size of Jay Cutlers? No, but they are balanced with great definition and bring together a very symmetrical and aesthetic physique.
I personally believe as many of the physique athletes do that the shorts should be shorter. It is a physique contest and your legs are a part of your physique. I believe that this would make the division even more competitive and bring more support and credibility to the class.
Competitors will enter the stage without a shirt and barefoot. No lewd acts allowed for example the moon pose. Judges are looking for the contestant with the best stage presence and poise who can successfully convey his personality to the audience.
In the realm of posing most athletes would like the freedom to do more of an actual routine to show more of their personality and also have more mandatory poses included such as a double bicep pose. This is a physique contest and some of the best parts of the physique are never shown due to this lack of posing. However because these mandatory poses are regulated nationwide, everyone that competes is on an even playing field and presents the same assets on stage not giving one athlete at advantage over another.
• Competitors will walk to the center of the stage alone and perform quarter (1/4) turns with optional pose of hand on hip or hand in pocket, face the judges as directed then proceed to the side of the stage.
Comparison Round –
• The competitors will be brought back out in a group and directed to do quarter turns
• Judges will have the opportunity to compare competitors against each other in quarter turns.
Promoters can choose to have multiple height classes
For contests with two height classes
• Up to including 5’8”
• Over 5’8”
National level contests do not permit competitors to crossover into Bodybuilding. All other competitions are permitted to have crossovers at the discretion of the promoter with district chairperson’s approval.
Who Qualifies for National Level Men’s Physique Competitions:
From 2013, the top three (3) in a national qualifying Men’s Physique contest will be qualified for the NPC USA and NPC National Championships. The top five (5) will qualify for all other national contests including the NPC Junior USA, NPC Junior National, NPC Team Universe and IFBB North American Championships. At a non-qualifying contest, no athletes are qualified for a national contest.
One-year qualification for the top five (5) places in each class at national-level contests previously listed.
Each show is different and can be changed. Some national shows the winner of each height class will go pro, and others the top two will go pro. This then enables them to compete as an IFBB pro.
A Masters Men’s Physique class also exists at the local level and national level. This gives competitors the ability to compete with others their own age. At local shows it is customary to see a 35 years of age and up class (open to those 35 years of age and up). At national shows it is standard to see an open class (open to all competitors) 35 and up class (open to those35 years of age and up) 40 and up class (open to those 40 years of age and up).
“The advice I would give for anyone wanting to participate in the Men’s Physique division would be you should really research the division. What the other athletes look like, the trends at different shows for who is placing, down to what color of board short works best. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Use the resources you have and educate yourself. Make sure you are doing a routine that is right for you and you have a good diet plan in place too that will build the ideal physique for this class. PRACTICE POSING REGULARILY!! Nutrition is 80% of the equation so put extra emphasis on your nutrition plan. If all of your research and asking questions still leaves you with questions, consider hiring a trainer. I wouldn’t be where I am at today without the help of a coach. All the top athletes in the industry have worked with coaches at one time or another and most all of them still do.
Don’t try to be just like someone else – that’s a recipe for failure. It’s ok to look up to, learn from, and be inspired by others, but don’t put yourself below them and assume they are better than you, be you. Blaze your own trail! You can accomplish anything you want with a strong mind, strong goals, and hard work. So if you want something, go get it. If you try to copy whatever someone else is doing you lose sight of yourself and who you are and what you represent and that will show up on stage.
Surround yourself with positive people and people that help you along the way. Negative people will just bring you down and make it that much harder for you to achieve your goals. The people that bring you down are afraid of change, and feel that you’re positive attitude and hard work somehow makes them have to make those changes too, which scares people, so they will become your worst critics.
Lastly get rid of the Bodybuilding mentality. By all means bring a physique to the stage that you are proud of and you feel best represents you. Bigger however isn’t always better, if you want a bigger physique and more of the bodybuilder look, you may want to consider that class.
Written by: Brandan Fokken
Team Bodybuilding.com Athlete, NPC National Competitor, Beast Sports Nutrition Athlete, NPC Judge