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Competition Physique: What Judges Look for in Physique Competitions

Have you ever watched a bodybuilding competition and wondered, “What makes a great body?” Not to be confused with the mass monsters – think Phil Health, Kai Greene, and Shawn Rhoden – a physique competition focuses on symmetry, shape, and definition more than overall size.

Whether you’re thinking about entering a physique competition, or you’re simply curious about what competitors must go through, here’s what the judges look for in a competition-ready physique.

Muscle Quality, Symmetry, and Shape

Let’s start off with the obvious: muscle size. As mentioned above, judges aren’t looking for the insane size that you see during the final competition of a Mr. Olympia where each contestant is easily over 250 pounds of solid mass.

During a physique competition, judges want to see the following characteristics as they relate to how much lean muscle mass you have:

Leanness: This is the extent to which you’ve taken the time to lean out. This can be represented by body fat percentage, which should usually hover around five percent.

Separation: Each muscle group has a distinct shape and judges will be looking to see if you’ve worked hard enough to see the actual separation between muscle groups. For example, the quadriceps muscle (front of the thigh) has four heads or sections, and the judges need to see each one.

Symmetry: Balance is essential for a physique competition. Judges are looking to see how opposing muscle groups complement one another. For example, you don’t want to have a giant chest, small forearms, and tiny calves. Each workout is important for building symmetry so you definitely don’t want to skip leg day.

Appearance: Complexion and Fashion

Ever notice that in a physique competition, all of the people on stage have gone out of their way to look their best? From spray tans to hair gel, muscle building isn’t the only thing that the judges watch.

Skin Complexion: Judges are looking for an even complexion, healthy-looking or glowing skin, and a natural overall look.

Fashion: Judges will want to see that you have some sense of style. Physique competitions require men to wear board shorts and women to wear bikinis (no thongs or overly revealing bikinis). Putting some thought into what to wear is like the icing on the cake.

Attitude and Personality

You might be surprised to learn that the quality of your muscle building is only one part of a physique competition. Judges will also be looking at you as an individual (as much as they can from the stage) and the attitude and personality that you show.

Judges will have their eyes on how you carry yourself. They will note if you’re graceful, peacocking or being overly confident to a point of fakeness, and whether you are being yourself. Arnold Schwarzenegger mastered this. If you want to see incredible stage presence that is genuine and shows true passion, watch his old Mr. Olympia pose-downs.

Have Fun, Be Yourself

As stressful as it can be to build and present a competition physique, the important thing is to have fun. Judges can sense whether this is a passion or a chore for you. Let them see that this is something you love to do.

Please Note: Before following exercise routines or changing your fitness regime, please consult a certified fitness professional. Always talk with a medical practitioner before following dietary advice or taking supplements.

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