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What are Judges looking for in a Wellness Competitor?

February 24, 2020 / Coaching, Contest Prep, Judging
What are Judges looking for in a Wellness Competitor?


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

*Images courtesy of NPC Bikini Competition galleries.