Pre-2011, any guy wanting to show off his physique on the NPC stage had one option: bodybuilding. With the rise of the men’s physique division, however, hardgainers, very tall guys, and gym goers just looking for that extra challenge have entered the arena to compete in the NPC.
Although men’s physique lacks the history, legacy, and reputation of traditional bodybuilding, it’s no less of a legitimate division for guys interested in taking things to the next level. If you’re new to the sport and not yet familiar with the ins and outs, we’re going to break it all down for you.
What is Men’s Physique?
As a division, men’s physique emphasizes a more attainable (and sustainable) look. The optimal men’s physique competitor will be generally very fit, with proper shape and symmetry along with strong muscularity and overall conditioning. Because this isn’t bodybuilding, the judges aren’t interested in seeing crazy striations, extreme size, or veins crisscrossing the competitor’s body. To determine how lean or large you should be, do your research! Look at the athletes who participated in the contests in your area last year. Pay close attention to who won and how they looked – this will help you determine how best to come in for that particular show.
Rules of the Men’s Physique Road
As with any other division, men’s physique has some unique rules and regulations that competitors must follow if they hope to place. Apart from overall proportionality, symmetry, and conditioning, there are any number of factors that play a role in which competitor takes first place. Here’s a general overview of what to expect and how to prep for hitting the men’s phy stage:
- Posing – Each competitor’s routine will feature a mandatory posing sequence, holding each position for approximately 4-5 seconds. Unlike bodybuilding, men’s physique athletes are not given the freedom to choose routines that showcase their personalities but rather must complete a series of basic poses. This is designed to keep all competitors on a level playing field, although sometimes the best parts of a competitor’s physique are never showcased due to this rigid structure.
- Stage Presence – Holding your stage presence and remaining confident at all times is key. Even after your routine is done, you’re still being judged. This means you need to hold those abs tight and be cognizant of your posture for your entire time on stage. Also, remember to smile and keep your chin up – these are key factors in exuding confidence.
- Tanning – Stage lighting accentuates your rips, curves, and conditioning. Nothing pairs with proper posing like the right tan to shine under the spotlight. No matter what show you’re doing (assuming it’s NPC), you need to contact the venue and set up an appointment with the show-sponsored tanning company. Most of the time these vendors have direct contact with the judges and know exactly what shade will look best in the lighting.
- Attire – Men’s physique competitors are expected to enter the stage shirtless and barefoot, wearing board shorts that cut off just above the knee. The shorts should not bear any logo apart from a manufacturer’s logo (e.g., Nike symbol). Choose a color that compliments your physique and bring more than one pair to the show. If your main suit gets too much tanning color on it, you’ll want to have a backup prepared.
- Grooming – Be a gentleman and go sans beard for the occasion. Inside knowledge from a judge is that beards drop points fast, so save the lumberjack look for at home.
Ultimately, the key to success in men’s physique – however obvious it may sound – is to come in looking the best you can. Your placing depends on the opinions of the judges at that particular show, at that particular moment, in relation to all the other competitors onstage. The overall winner may not be the most shredded, hard, or aesthetic physique in the room, but rather the athlete who possesses the most complete package when things such as skin color, suit selection, attitude, and poise are factored in. Preparation is challenging and the judging process can be confusing, but if you remain true to yourself and focus on bringing your best possible package every time you’ll always emerge a winner.