With 2 new options at the sub-national level in NPC contests in 2012, there are now 7 divisions to compete in at most bodybuilding shows – 5 for women and 2 for men.  Let’s break them down individually from a bird’s eye view and we’ll take a closer look at specific divisions in later posts.

The Men

  • Bodybuilding – the classic, gold standard division.  Come big, hard, and lean or go home.  Stage time consists of quarter turns and 8 mandatory poses.
  • Physique – new for 2012 at the sub-national level.  Rewards a less muscular look but still requires size that is not necessarily easy to attain naturally.  Stage time consists of more of a ‘model walk’ with no flexing, and the competitor wears knee-length board shorts.

The Women

  • Bodybuilding – rewards extreme size and conditioning more than other divisions, though there is considerable controversy surrounding this.  Changes are expected, not the least of which is the disappearance of this division from many shows.  Stage time consists of quarter turns with 7-8 mandatory poses, barefoot.
  • Physique – new for 2012 at the sub-national level.  Rewards a less muscular look than bodybuilding.  Judging criteria calls for a look somewhere between bodybuilding and figure, it’s yet to be determined what that will actually look like at the local level.  Stage time consists of quarter turns and 4 mandatory poses, barefoot.
  • Figure – Less muscular than bodybuilders, a figure competitor is still what most eyes would consider ‘very buff’.  Excessive size, cuts, and definition are not rewarded, making it hard for competitors to figure out exactly what target they should be aiming for.  Stage time consists of quarter-turns only in heels.
  • Fitness – Just like figure, but with an additional round that consists of a high-energy gymnastics-influenced routine.  Competitors typically get away with more muscle and a harder look in fitness.  Stage time consists of quarter-turns only in heels for the comparison round, and a costumed, choreographed routine (without heels, obviously)
  • Bikini – rewards less muscle and more curves.  Described by many as a beauty pageant with a bit of muscle, bikini competitors nonetheless train very hard, though in many cases not excessively heavy as additional muscle is not rewarded.  Stage time consists of a ‘strut’ in heels that includes a front pose, rear pose, with turns and walking thrown in.

And that’s it!  Part of my job is figuring out (no pun intended) what division is best for each individual, and judging when it might be time to switch divisions based on the individual’s goals and genetics.  The addition of the new divisions this year blurs the lines a bit further, but provides more options which in turn only benefits the sport.

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