When the NPC introduced the Men’s Physique division in 2012, many of us jumped on board and thought, “What an awesome idea!” We used it as a chance to get onstage and showcase everything that we’ve worked for but without having to make some of the tremendous sacrifices that come along with traditional bodybuilding.
In effect, the introduction of Men’s Physique and Women’s Bikini invigorated an industry and put the entire spirit of bodybuilding and fitness back into a position of positivity and attainability. It allowed many of us to believe that it was again possible to achieve a body that was worthy to step onto a stage and show to an audience.
But what happened as time rolled on and the new division began to evolve? It wasn’t long before we noticed that the competitors in the Men’s Physique division were getting larger and more shredded every single year. I can only imagine what a nightmare it must have been for the judges to have to keep a standard when the competitors were driving the division in different directions. Heck, I remember one scenario where I was told that I was too big and too shredded for a local show. I received ninth place despite some seriously good conditioning (see picture).
At that time, a lack of clarification in the judging standards of Men’s Physique made it so that many great athletes couldn’t get past the local level. This is what drove me to stop competing. I came from a bodybuilding background and found it infuriating that I was penalized for superior size and conditioning. But that was just it: Men’s Physique wasn’t supposed to be about the traditional bodybuilding ideals of conditioning and size. It was supposed to be the ideal male athletic body.
So where did this leave guys like myself, guys who were caught somewhere in the middle between mass-centric bodybuilders and a beach-body Men’s Physique competitors? It really left us with nowhere to go, all the while watching IFBB Pro Men’s Physique athletes looking more and more like mini bodybuilders. It felt like a strange time for anyone in the industry. As for me, I realized that my efforts weren’t appreciated in competition, but were better spent getting into magazines and reaching the masses with my training and diet philosophies. In the end, it worked out well for me, but that certainly wasn’t the case with everyone. There are lots of tremendous athletes out there with discouraged hearts who don’t know where they can take their careers or have a place to showcase their talents. But that just changed.
Last week, the fitness world was hit with a relatively shocking announcement that the NPC would be introducing a new class in 2016 that is geared precisely toward the demographic that I just mentioned. A smaller, more aesthetic version of bodybuilding called Classic Physique. I’ll tell you, even being quite a bit removed from the world of competing, I still see this as an opportunity to get back onstage and truly prove what I’m good at. And I think there are many others who share that same feeling.
It seems as though the NPC, and the fitness industry in general, has taken what the spectators have been telling them and put a solid plan into effect. Bravo, NPC, bravo. After all, are people really interested in watching (or becoming, for that matter) a heavyweight bodybuilder? I think there’s a certain component that attracts an audience since there is a sideshow aspect to some bodybuilders (definitely not all, many of them have beautiful physiques). By and large, though, the sport was beginning to lose its aesthetic appeal. So will the advent of the Classic Physique division change the game and bring back the beauty and the flowing lines? Will contests reward the body with the best shape and symmetry much like the original era of bodybuilding? I hope so.
One thing that I noticed immediately when it came to this new division is that there are weight limits within the height classes. This is, in my humble opinion, a great innovation. It sets a standard and gives the athletes the ability to do the most within their respective height and weight class without worrying about having to put on more size or going up against a shorter competitor within the same weight class like in traditional bodybuilding. This truly puts the focus on building an aesthetic physique rather than just adding as much muscle to a frame as possible. The weight classes that have so far been established seem to be perfectly set at the threshold that allows the athlete who wants to compete naturally to have a chance of being at the top of their weight class. This could decrease some of the drastic measures that are now, unfortunately, present in the sport. Maybe I’m crazy for hoping that this new division is going to change the game, but I truly think that Classic Physique is a step in the right direction.
At the end of the day, when we get into this sport, hobby, obsession, or whatever you want to call it, we just like to have a clearly defined reason for what we are doing. And until now, it’s been very tough for many of us to determine our end goal. This new division gives us a precise direction for where to go. It is ultimately making it so that the biggest, most shredded guy within a respective size and weight wins. That is all we have ever wanted. Finally, there will be less blame placed on subjective judging. Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to the idea that a lot of guys now don’t have an excuse to skip leg day. IM