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24 Feb

What exactly are the judges looking for in an NPC and IFBB bodybuilding competition?

If you have also found yourself wondering what judges are looking for, particularly from the new Wellness division, we’re here to help! Many competitors come to us and tell us that it is very hard to determine what the judges are looking for. One of the reasons is they see a competitor win a show who they feel is too hard. In other shows a competitor may win who seems softer. Still yet in other shows, a competitor may win with very little muscle so that her resulting physique just appears thin and less shapely. Are any of these just the results of “bad judges” or “politics” or “judging criteria or judges making it up as they go?” The answer is No. Someone has to win each show. See the first article in this series which explains in depth why the winner may not even meet the stated judging criteria.

Who is a great example of the Wellness standard when we only have 3 IFBB pros thus far?

We continue this series with what judges are seeing when looking at the ideal wellness competitor. Although we have had 3 ladies win IFBB Pro Cards for this division, I’m not going to focus on those physiques for this explanation. We’re a few shows into the season and of all those who have graced the stage in the US as Wellness competitors, Isabelle Nunes is by far the best representation of the desired look. The Muscle Contest Challenge show contained the most Wellness competitors, so viewing the photo gallery on NPC News Online and watching this video montage of the Muscle Contest Wellness Debut will give you a better idea of why it was that her physique came out on top.

The official description of the Wellness division sounds somewhat unbalanced. We want a more muscular lower half than upper half.  Her legs are very muscular but her entire look is cohesive. Her individual routine photos are the first photos shared above. She has a very athletic looking physique as a whole. Her shoulders, triceps and biceps are more prominent than a bikini competitor. But are not developed to the same extent as her legs. Her front pose, which is technically the quarter turn from the comparison round, creates a nice X shape.  If you drew a line from the shoulder of the arm that is down across the top of her opposite quad and you’ve got one side of the X. To complete the X draw a straight line from her shoulder to her opposite hip. This pose allows her to highlight her small waist, built upper body and impressive quads, glutes, and hamstrings. She appears very feminine, while still displaying a great deal of muscularity.

What judges are looking for from the front

From the front pose, we see that all 4 of these ladies have nice shoulders. Although Isabelle’s legs are significantly shorter than the competitor in the red and black suit to her side, if you look at their knees, you can tell that Isabelle has more density to her quads. Her hips are also less straight on, with more of a twist, resulting in the illusion of a smaller waist and wider upper body, creating balance. In the quads we do not see striations, but we clearly see all 3 heads of the quadriceps. Further down, even in this front pose we can see the width of her calves creating fully balanced and well built legs.

How about the quarter turns?

In Isabelle’s quarter turns you see her straight leg is flexed, showing the quad. Her bent leg gives us a glimpse of the calf, even from this side view. With quads, hamstrings and glutes this well developed, underdeveloped calves would be undesirable. Isabelle’s S curve and shoulder are enhanced by her lat being engaged on the side closest to the judges.  In the quarter turns, another thing we see that sets her apart from her competitors is that, from both sides, her shoulders are squared up to the judges. This gives the illusion that her waist is tiny.  If you notice some of her competitors were not able to fully square up in this pose from both sides, so their physiques don’t appear as balanced. Even though we do want a more developed lower half, it is the proper posing that really presents it in a balanced manner.

What judges are looking for from the rear

Because her hair is not too full we see her nice rounded shoulders. They are more developed than we want to see in the Bikini division. Her glutes are very well defined. Right where the top of her wrist meets the front of her legs, you can see the rounding from the upper and outer portion of her glutes. She has a somewhat sharper teardrop/point to the end of the glute, leading to the hamstring area. Her glutes are well rounded and full from top to bottom. We see a distinction between the glute and the quad sweep, which is our view from the rear of her quadriceps. We see well developed hamstrings and equally developed inner and outer thigh muscles from this view. She does not have visible striations. Moving down the leg, we see that her calves are as well developed as her glutes and hamstrings.

Digging deeper

The rear pose will have the same lower back arch and upright chest as in bikini. This comparison of the rear pose illustrates how important it is to choose the right stance. Isabelle positions her feet directly under her shoulders, resulting in a perfect X frame. Some of the competitors appear imbalanced with a much wider stance. This is something you will want to play around with because you have to take into consideration your overall shape, but you do want to choose the stance that gives your glutes the best shape. What was it that gave the win to Isabelle from the rear? Some competitors had pieces of the puzzle that we’re looking for, which is why they were class winners. Isabelle was the one whose physique had everything that we’re looking for, and in the proper proportions.  She had no strengths or weaknesses.

The finishing touches

As you can see from her suit choice, you can choose a suit with connectors with bling or full fabric. Bikini crossover competitors don’t need to purchase a new suit for wellness unless they just want 2 different suits. The bright red suit is a great choice for her because it does not blend with her hair or hair color. It clearly lets us see where her suit ends and her physique begins. In fact the first three ladies have great suit color selections. The light pink or white color to the far right is less desirable from a judging standpoint.  It is closer to the tan shade and hair color under the harsh stage lights. I always recommend the deeper jewel tones for female competitors.  Makeup, heels and accessories are the same as bikini, which we covered in our last installment.

Now what?

We’ve broken down all aspects of the current best example of a wellness competitor’s physique and stage presentation. So what does this all mean?  Judges are looking for the entire package.  Not great glutes, huge quads, big hamstrings or a tiny waist.  We are looking for all of those and much more! We are also not looking for a bikini competitor who is having difficulty leaning out her lower half. The judging criteria doesn’t change from show to show, the competitors who show up change. Don’t base the physique you’re building off of the last winner of that show.  Build a well balanced physique and learn how to properly show it off.  Now you know exactly what the judges are looking for out of today’s wellness competitor!

*As we have more shows featuring wellness, we may have a new standout wellness physique emerge. I will update this post with my observations if and when that occurs.

Meet the author!

Natalie Nichols is an IFBB Pro, NPC Judge and Physique Coach and can be contacted at Natalie@teamusaphysique.com

*Images courtesy of www.npcnewsonline.com NPC Bikini Competition galleries.

17 Feb

What exactly are the judges looking for in an NPC and IFBB bodybuilding competition?

If you have also found yourself wondering what judges are looking for, we’ve got that covered for you! Many competitors come to us and tell us that it is very hard to determine what the judges are looking for. One of the reasons is they see a competitor win a show who they feel is too hard. In other shows a competitor may win who seems softer. Still yet in other shows, a competitor may win with very little muscle so that her resulting physique just appears thin and less shapely. Are any of these just the results of “bad judges” or “politics” or “judging criteria or judges making it up as they go?” The answer is No. Someone has to win each show.

Why did someone win who doesn’t fit the standard?

There will always be a first place competitor, even if only one competitor is competing. If that person is out of shape, you’re going to have an out of shape winner. It doesn’t means that person is what the judges are looking for. This person winning a show does not make them our new standard. Simply put, out of those who showed up on that day, this person was the closest to the standard. You cannot lose sight of the fact that regardless of how lean you can come in or how shredded you appear in your mirror, if you have a clear strength, that means you have a clear weakness. We will start this series off with what the judges are seeing when looking at the ideal bikini competitor.

Elisa Pecini is a shining example of what judges are looking for in a bikini competitor.Elisa Pecini is a shining example of what judges are looking for in a bikini competitor.Elisa Pecini is a shining example of what judges are looking for in a bikini competitor.Elisa Pecini is a shining example of what judges are looking for in a bikini competitor.

Elisa Pecini bringing her hand up to eye level bug keeping her elbows at about the same level the entire time.Elisa Pecini is a shining example of what judges are looking for in a bikini competitor.Elisa Pecini is a shining example of what judges are looking for in a bikini competitor.Elisa Pecini in transition, still maintaining the shape of her glutes.

Who is the best representative of The Standard for Bikini Division?

IFBB Bikini Pro Elisa Pecini is Ms. Bikini Olympia 2019. She is the current Gold Standard for the division in both the IFBB and NPC and is exactly what judges are looking for.  Notice that she has a very balanced frame. You do not look at her and see shoulders or glutes or quads or obliques or hamstrings. Elisa has built a very symmetrical physique. She has muscle mass but it is not overbearing.  No single body part is more developed or less developed than the rest. There are no striations and you don’t really see a lot of cut up definition. You can tell by looking at her in movement that if she flexed a particular body part, she would likely show that definition.  However that definition is not displayed in the bikini poses.

What judges are looking for from the front

In her front pose, you can see that the bulk of her upper body width almost mirrors her lower body width. You see a nice rounding of both shoulders in the pose due to the amount of torso twist she has. The arm that is down has the lat flared, lending to the fabulous tiny waist and accentuating the S curve that she gets with her lat out and her glutes lifted. Her glute is flexed enough to see a distinction between the glute and the quad muscle, which is different from actual muscle head separation, which would be detrimental to her look as a bikini competitor. She lifts her torso and stretches her abs upright, simultaneously holding them in. She has a nice oblique line and you can clearly see ab distinction, but not thick overbearing obliques or a protruding 6 pack.

Digging deeper

Her bent leg is up on the toe, displaying a nice complementary calf muscle that is not overly built, as well as her inner thigh with distinction in the quad muscles, but not actual separation. If you took a straight line from the top left of the pic at her shoulder, across to her opposite hip, and then another beginning at the opposite shoulder, to her knee, you would have a nice X. This is what we mean when we say that the ideal shape is an X frame. Standing straight on, as you see in the walking photos, she does not naturally look like an X, but her posing is strategically creating that illusion for the judges.

What judges are looking for from the rear

From the rear, we see nice rounded delts with a nice amount of distinction.  There is no individual deltoid head separation and no striations. She holds her head upright, and her upper back flat. This allows judges to see the width created from nice lats and softly rounded shoulders. This tapers down to a small, narrow waist.  Her glutes are nice and high due to a low back arch. There is no flex to the glutes, no striations, and they still look soft and feminine without any visible hardness. The glutes are nice and rounded up top. The shape and placement of her suit bottoms mimics the curve of the bottom of the glutes.  The suit bottoms reinforce the illusion of a rounded peach shaped bottom that the judges are looking for.

Digging Deeper

You can see where the eye meets her forearm and her glute that there is outer perimeter rounding on her glutes, rather than just a slant. This is the area judges are referring to if they tell you that you need to build your upper glutes. Arm placement in the front can impact the way that this looks to judges as well. Ideal arm/hand placement on you may be different than on another physique. So play up the shape of your glutes and use the placement that helps visually round the top of the glutes. The bottom portion of the glute is finished off in a teardrop shape leading the eye toward the upper portion of a visible but not overly prominent hamstring. This area seems to be a popular area of confusion among competitors. The aim here is not to have flexed prominent hamstrings. We don’t want you to sacrifice the shape of your glutes by trying to force your hamstrings to show. The level of muscularity of her hamstrings, quad sweep seen at this angle, and her calves are well balanced and match that of her upper body. There is no squaring of her glutes and her quad sweep has a soft roundness as opposed to a more angular look that is seen in Wellness and Figure competitions.

The finishing touches

As she walks, moves, and transitions, she shows off her narrow waist. When she walks, she crosses one foot in front of the other, keeping her glutes nice and high. She always keeps her elbows at about the same level in her arm movements.  Her hand never raises higher than eye level at any point. She is always posed and poised. Each movement is purposeful and intended to showcase her physique in its best light, without regard to what may work better for another competitor. Makeup is quite a bit darker on the outer edges, leading into a brighter center.  This gives her depth and contrast under the harsh lighting. Her hair is soft and styled nicely, complimenting the very feminine look overall. It is not so full as to cover her delts from the rear.

Bodybuilding posing, in all divisions, is about showing off all your hard work and strategically minimizing any weak points. Her suit color is a jewel tone (Aquamarine).  This contrasts nicely with her hair color and is far from the undertones in her tan. This allows judges to quickly see where the suit ends and the physique begins. The suit connectors are very high on the hip, elongating her leg and reinforcing the V taper of her waist.  The back of the suit bottoms dips down in the center, to complement the rounded glutes.

A complete package

She is wearing bling jewelry, but doesn’t have a large ring on every finger. Bling is great, but don’t feel the need to overdo it. Let your physique do the shining for you! She wears her competitor number in a location where it is clearly visible in all but the rear pose. You can read the number in her front pose, but also during her transitions as well as her walk. The judges will not be left trying to determine which number the competitor was who impressed them so much! Her smile is confident and proud, as is that of her posture the entire time she is on the stage. Elisa is the perfect example of a judge’s dream bikini competitor!

Now what?

We’ve broken down all aspects of the IFBB’s top bikini competitor’s physique and stage presentation, but what does this all mean?  Judges are looking for the entire package.  We are not looking for great glutes or a tiny waist or nice shoulders and triceps.  We are looking for all of those and much more! The judging criteria doesn’t change from show to show, the competitors who show up change. Don’t base the physique you’re building off of the last winner of that show.  Build a well balanced physique and learn how to properly show it off.  Now you know exactly what the judges are looking for out of today’s bikini competitor!

Meet the author!

Natalie Nichols is an IFBB Pro, NPC Judge and Physique Coach and can be contacted at Natalie@teamusaphysique.com

*Images courtesy of www.npcnewsonline.com NPC Bikini Competition galleries.