Presenting yourself in the best possible way is important to all people, not just bodybuilders and the like when they step for posing on stage. Posture, hair, makeup, facial expression, speed of foot steps and deliberate movements with gender specific body language is critical to epitomizing your image as an ethereal being and not a mere mortal.
Do You Have What It Takes?
I remember savagely ridiculing myself after a show and my friend Scott Ferguson said “ You get on stage almost naked in front of thousands of people and are judged on your body, almost no one could do that.” I think his point is no matter how bad you think you presented, or your conditioning was, people are paying to see you with your clothes off so you can’t suck that bad.
The most important thing about stepping on stage that people forget until they are ON STAGE is the AUDIENCE! You’re virtually naked in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people and they have cameras with instagram. Your emotional state is reflected off the crowd. If you’re comfortable they are comfortable, if you’re nervous it makes them uncomfortable.
Their emotional reaction determines the feedback they give you, and that positive feedback can be channeled into more confidence in your performance and thus you give a better performance which again is reflected. So there is a positive or negative spiral to your performance based on your anxiety or lack thereof when you step on stage. For this reason some people have a glass of red wine, or take a xanax and/or smoke some weed before they pump up.
In 2011 at the NPC Nationals, I could see the judges faces. I was the most conditioned I have ever been and looked surreal but I was so thrown off by the disinterest and disappointment on the judges faces after my first few failed poses I ended up panicking and I forgot half the mandatory poses. That’s like forgetting how to chew. I was severely marked down for that 1st round.
I say this because I want to highlight how this often overlooked element of the sport is one of the most profound and breaks people all the time. This and this alone is why I don’t consider someone a bodybuilder unless they have AT LEAST been on stage once. This whole “I’m a bodybuilder because I say so” movement is nonsense.
You’re not a mother because you got pregnant, you’re a mother because you gave birth, getting pregnant is the fun part. Likewise, Lifting weights doesn’t make you a bodybuilder; dieting, posing, AND presenting your masterpiece makes you a bodybuilder. Lifting weights is the fun part.
Your Stage Identity and How To Sell It
The suits on the right look appropriate but the same color on the two guys on the left looks silly. Weird, but true.
Most people can’t take themselves seriously when they pose. Posing isn’t just hitting the appropriate poses, at the appropriate time; its Displaying your masterpiece to a piece of music. The theme and mood of the music piece has to fit the Identity you present. And it has to be the appropriate time, not have foul language, not be to heavy, and not be so fast you can’t pose to it. I suppose first have an Idea of the character you’re going to play when you step onstage.
Typically Bikini competitors are either sultry and sexy, or bubbly and cute, whereas most figure women are either like regal queens or battle hardened warriors. Bodybuilders tend to either be fluid and graceful posing to R&B, or stocky, rugged, and aggressive posing to hard rock. Suit selection goes with the skin complexion and hair and eye color but still has to be appropriate for the music. A graceful ectomorph with purple rhinestone posing trunks posing to Prince would be a good combination. You couldn’t be a tattooed biker dude posing to Biohazard with the same purple rhinestone trunks though, black or a red would be a better choice.
The blond with the royal blue suit is a classic combination that works great.
Likewise Women have to match their makeup and suit to their eyes and hair. The platinum blond in a silver suit or the beach bunny blond in the royal blue suit are common themes. Despite both women being blond, those colors wouldn’t look as good on each other.
A Word on Timing
The audience is there to see you, you’re not there to perform for them. So take your time. Your in control so act like it, they have to hang on your every action, so the slower you move the more they anticipate your next move and the more ensorceled you have them with your presentation. Make sure your actions are in association with the beat, this is called rhythm. Many people lack rhythm and as such should pick slower stuff so they can get closer to the mark.
For women this is especially important. If you move too fast your fat will jiggle and it looks bad on stage, it’s attractive to men but will get you graded down in a competition.
Bikini and Men’s Physique: hold all poses for 2 seconds.
For Bodybuilding and WP: hold each pose for 3 seconds.
Eye Contact And Facial Expression
Attitude and presentation are 50% or more of Bikini and Men’s Physique
Ideally you should make eye contact with the judges and look into the cameras. You should be smiling and confident and look like you’re having fun. DO NOT look tired, scared, angry, or hungry. You may have to start hiding your emotions now so that you will be better at it by show day. No matter how awful you feel, make yourself feel amazing, and it will be communicated to your audience. I do this by having a candy bar before I step on stage.
That and the Xanax gives me such a sugar high that I pose so hard my muscles feel like they will snap off the bone, but the sugar makes you feel like a superhero and pain free. Also remember to angle your poses vertically as well as horizontally for the head judge. If you want first callout you should be making eye contact with the head judge, and you should have your nipples pointed at your target, that gives that person the best angle.
Try to go for the X or the square in the center of the stage. This will give the judges the best view as the lights are positioned for that point to be the best point. This is especially true for a pose down. Do not rush the judges as once you get too close you lose your light.
For Bikini they have the model walk instead of a posedown, its critical you can walk like a sexy woman and not stomp your heels and swing your shoulders like a linebacker. Seriously, it sounds sexist, but its a BIKINI COMPETITION!!! You have to walk in a feminine manner, like a model on a runway. If you dont want to behave in a feminine manner then don’t do bikini.
If for whatever reason the head judge calls you to the line, but not in numerical order then bolt gracefully for the box or X, you want to be center stage.
Everybody hates a sore loser, but not as much as a sore winner! No matter what stay presentable while on stage. Never breath through your abdomen or let your gut hang out. When you don’t get what you want keep that smile in place, never show anger or disappointment. After the show don’t blame the judges, blame yourself. You’re the one who lost not them. if you win then be nice to all who you have beaten. Don’t be a sore winner and lord over them.
What You’re Judged On!
Aside from grace, posing and presentation and the appropriate gender specific body language the Judges are looking for some distinct things for each class. I will go over some of what I look for but this is cursory at best and does not necessarily reflect the criteria of other judges. The NPC website has the judging rules and I follow those quite closely, but here are the big points.
Glutes come first. In both genders, in all classes the glute/ham tie-in is the place to truly assess an athlete’s conditioning. If the butt jiggles on a woman because she’s moving too fast or putting weight on her heels when she steps that’s going to cost her dearly. The widest part of the hips should be across the greater trochanter of the femur, not below it.
On men one of the last places for fat to disappear is right below the belly button. If you can get an outy from an inny then your good.
The biggest difference between Men’s Physique and Bodybuilding is the priority of the attributes.
In Bodybuilding its Conditioning > Mass > Symmetry> Aesthetics.
While in Men’s Physique its Aesthetics > Symmetry > Conditioning > Mass.
So an athlete with ratings of 8 Mass, 8 Conditioning, 6 Symmetry, and 6 Aesthetics would do better in Bodybuilding then Physique.
Mens Physique athletes should not dance, and both MP and Bikini should limit their time in the box to 10 seconds.
Men’s Physique and Bikini are graded on glutes, calves, V-taper or hour glass, delts, and suit and hair presentation. Faces are graded, thus this is about how attractive you are, its not athleticism being evaluated. These are model classes in other organizations. As such these are the most subjective and hardest to judge. My opinion is these classes should be called men’s and women’s swimsuit modeling division.
Female bodybuilding is the old name for Women’s Physique and will be phased out in the next 5 years.
On the other end of the spectrum is Bodybuilding and Women’s Physique. These are the athletes and Iron warriors. Barefoot and never judged on their faces they get to pose to their own personal music, they are the stars. The only relevant detail of the suit is that it covers as little as possible, for the true bodybuilder has nothing to hide. Every muscle was hand crafted for perfection. From head to toe, front to back the whole body is graded, not just from the waist up and the knees down.
Anyone who has posed knows that it is the hardest part, and the work that goes into the posing and the routine adds another huge dimension to the work needed to be a champion. These athletes are graded on every angle and every muscle, its senseless to list it all.
Figure is the middle of the road between bikini and women’s physique. A remnant from fitness’ 2 piece portion of the competition. An hourglass with shredded quads and huge delts and dramatic V taper. Conditioning and presentation are key, not mass. There are only the 4 quarter turns of the bodybuilding symmetry round for figure posing, I hope this division is phased out eventually as its like a proto bikini, and just slows shows down. The current figure women could choose between bikini and physique, and the shows would move faster.
Fitness routines aren’t typically graded and the grading is the same as figure. Fitness is actually really cool and I’m sad to see it dwindle to nothing over the past 6 years. Nothing in this article or on this site should be considered medical advice or as an endorsement to violate any law of the country in which you reside. The information given is for fun and entertainment purposes only. All claims are 100% dependent upon proper diet and exercise. Please consult a medical practitioner prior to any diet and exercise program.
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