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Nationals Tradition and Fitness Changes

The ’10 NPC National Championships gets under way this afternoon in Atlanta. More than 500 athletes are expected to hit the stage in search of pro cards in men’s and women’s bodybuilding, figure and bikini at the final big national show of the NPC season. The Nationals is often a show of big surprises. Just when you’re predicting that the competitor who came in second at the USA (or the North Americans)—or the deserving veteran athlete—will get her card at the Nationals, someone new pops out of nowhere to win it all. As Erin Stern did in figure in 2008. As Cedric McMillan did in the men’s division last year. Mandy Blank at the ’98 Fitness Nationals, back in the days before figure and bikini, also comes to mind.

Not that there haven’t been plenty of seasoned athletes getting their due at this show, particularly in the women’s division, where Sheila Bleck in 2008 and Kris Murrell in ’09 flexed their way to overall titles after distinguished amateur careers. Sheila, by the way, did her fans proud in her debut appearance at the Ms. Olympia last month, nailing a fourth-place finish ahead of such names as Dayana Cadeau, Cathy LeFrancois and Heather Foster.

The Nationals has a special mystique for me, probably because I seldom get to go. This is not one of those years, so I’ll be glued to the computer, probably lurking in the forum at My colleagues Lonnie Teper and Roland Balik are on the scene (and in Lonnie’s case on the stage at the podium), and folks can find IRON MAN’s coverage here as the weekend goes on.

One thing that has already occurred, coming out of the organization’s meetings that are traditionally held at the Nationals: Changes coming for fitness in the next year. Isaac Hinds‘ Tweet at says it all: “The IFBB Pro Fitness will incorporate 4 mandatory Fitness moves in the routine, beginning with the Ft. Lauderdale Cup. The NPC fitness will include them in 2011. More emphasis on the routines for the coming year.” The mandatory moves will included “pushup of any kind, side split, high kick and straddle  hold,” Isaac reported.

That is way cool, I say. I was sorry when the organizations dropped the seven mandatory movements a couple of years ago because the mandatories gave the judges something more tangible to evaluate. So I’m happy to see these four—all staples of fitness routines—coming back because they’re all strength and flexibility moves that athletes can work to improve on. It’s also cool that the routines will be getting more emphasis, which I believe means in the scoring. The routines are what make fitness unique among the physique sports; it makes sense to emphasize them.

In the accompanying photo, Adela Garcia performs a straddle hold at the ’09 Olympia. No, the cat suits aren’t coming back, just the mandatories.

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