T Nation

What Should Be Rewarded More?


Okay, after sitting and watching the recent New York Pro from the 5th row, as well as having been to many contests over the last decade or so, I've obviously developed my own thoughts on the judgings stage ready bodybuilders.

As a pro competitor myself, as well as being a judge, I can acknowledge that different people will have their own viewpoints when looking at the same line up of athletes. Now, lest this turn into the whole 'shredded vs puffy but big' dabate, I want to offer up the example from just a couple of weeks back. Victor Martinez vs big Ramy. Both were over 250 lbs (I'm guessing Vic's weight off hand), and both were well conditioned for such a high level contest.

At the end of the day though, Vic had better shape, 'lines', all the cool words that describe a 'pretty' physique. Ramy was undoubtedly the hugest thing on the entire stage. Now, BOTH guys were among the largest beasts up there, so you can't go with the simple size argument. Similarly, both guys were among the best conditioned athletes on that day (relatively speaking of course).

So,.. does the amount of 'prettiness' of a physique outweight the amount of sheer gargantuatude? I have my own personaly beliefs as a judge, but I figured that since this is the bodybuilding forum, let's get some thoughts here.
(This doesn't have to solely pertain to the New York Pro)



Elbows that aren't too pointy.


I agree with Zane's points regarding Judging.

For myself I would reward a more aesthetic physique over a mass monster and prefer physique shows over all, just because thats the kinda physique I personally admire and want to achieve.


Isn't bigger always better?

I mean, isn't the shape of of muscles, 'lines', muscle bellies and so on pretty much genetic? You can't really train for these things.

Saying Branch warren shouldn't be allowed on stage anywhere.

I think it need to be judged as the best off both, when the mass starts to affect aesthetics, this is where peoples opinions will differ.


Since it is a bodyBUILDING competition it make sense to value muscle mass above all else. I can understand that even though I don't like how these guys end up looking.


Muscle detail and overall leanness: 40%
Muscle mass 40%
Personal posing routine 10%
Mandatory posing 10%

This sums it up pretty much for me.


Personally I think proportion matters. I think the point made above about muscle mass being of first importance is true to an extent, but there's a point beyond which continuing to increase mass on certain "strong" muscle groups will not be the best course of action IMO.

Let's face it, bodybuilding (at least the actual competition aspect) is essentially a beauty contest, and while what constitutes beauty is subjective, I'd personally like to see some sort of universal judging criteria that competitors would be judged on (like shoulders to waist ratio, maybe the old "neck to forearms to calves" ratio that Reeves and the old timers used, upper body to lower body relative proportion, etc...) which would help us the fans understand why a certain competitor won or lost as well as probably helping to alleviate things like distended abdomens (though this was diminished as of late).

I realize that this probably won't happen any time soon though.


I'd like to see that too.

I was thinking about it. At first, thinking that if you actually grew everything as big as possible, you'll pretty much just end up looking like a blob because you're ultimately limited by your skeletal structure.

Then I was thinking that the body would regulate one's waist size, simply to support increased upper body mass, so you couldn't keep the waists too thin and still get upper body size. That kind of killed my shoulder-waist-ratio thought.

But the shoulder to waist ratio IS driven by shoulder size too, so you could grow the shoulders even if your waist got thin, and still maintain a good ratio.

Calves = arms = neck seems to be limited by neck size (i.e., head size), so I don't think that would work.

But I do think we could probably establish some basic ideals via a "calf to thigh" ratio, a "forearm to upper arm" ratio, a "shoulder to waist" ratio, some way to measure the "deltoids larger than upper arm". And then for somewhat subjective criteria, looking at how well the lines flow between those different regions.

That would support both the older V-shaped ideal, as well as the newer X-shaped ideal, without promoting the blob-ideal.


My thinking has always been that while it is bodyBUILDING, you can't simply reward the 'biggest' guy onstage because we've all seen 'big guys' who certainly don't look as great as they might think they do. Of course I've always been of of those folks who like to look at the sport as an outgrowth of art to some degree.

Similarly, you can't simply reward conditioning above all else. I've heard people complain before especially about certain natural bodybuilding contests where you've got SOME competitors who may be shredded all to hell, but don't have what most would even consider the musculature of an average high school athlete.

I had answered a question a while back (I don't recall what thread) on judging shows. Fred Dimenna (retired pro, judge and author) had written somewhere that you have to weigh the levels of achievement in each different aspect against each other. ie- Does the level of size competitor A is bringing exceed the level of conditioning that competitor B has achieved?

Of course there's always the aspect of genetics. Try as we might, at a certain level of the sport, it's going to come into play, and may truly be the deciding factor between 1st and 2nd. Personally, and this if from having suffered through some grueling preps of my own over the years, I like to reward conditioning, as you know how much someone has suffered for it. Now I'm not saying it trumps size, because I'm also the last judge you would find awarding a shredded 'runner' over someone who looks like a bodybuilder but could be a "tad tighter". I guess I just feel that it's easier to "accidentally" put on size (with good genetics of course) than it is to accidentally get into contest shape (not "gym-ripped", but honest to goodness contest level crisp and dry).



Stu - so, in your judgement (literally, you as a judge), where, as previously mentioned, do proportions come in? If the guy comes in big AND shredded, but is 'blocky' compared to a guy who is smaller and well conditioned but has better proportions (however you define 'better')?


symmetry/conditioning first, then size


I fully agree with this

You can get bigger and leaner to the point of any ifbb pro and bring up weak points to fit in with the rest of the body as a whole but ultimately you are limited by genetics, bone structure etc.

I still think some physiques are 'prettier' than others without necessarily being as big and freaky as others though. Hmmm quite the quandary.

I suppose the only way to really make sense of it would be to split it into two categories;

Bodybuilding - the biggest, leanest, freakiest physique is rewarded

Advanced physique (???) - the biggest, leanest MOST AESTHETICALLY PLEASING physique is rewarded


I think conditioning, purely because it seems to be the part where the most fuck ups are made.

If it's the hardest thing to get right, then it should be the most heavily weighted aspect for judging.

Just my uninformed £0.02


Well first of all, like sento said, the most important thing is some actual objectivity to the sport so that the viewers can understand what's going on and who won. For example in the 500 different women classes you can look from show to show and there is almost no consistency as to who wins and the judging criteria, sometimes the lean ones win and sometimes the bigger leaner ones win. This even happens in physique, Mark Anthony had won or placed highly in most of his shows and he recently got 5th in one. For the sport to grow there has to be something the viewers can relate to and understand when it comes to who wins and who loses.

A few years back when Centopani won the NY pro against Ruhl and some one else who I don't remember right now I showed the picture of the three standing next to each other and to a few people and most said Ruhl had won when in fact Evan had won.

And to answer the question I don't think symmetry and proportions can or should be rewarded over overall mass and leanness because I think both are equally as important in the sport. If Branch clearly out muscles and out conditions someone else then he should win regardless of how "pretty" his physique is (this is why Cedric placed so low).

I think where proportions and flow and symmetry come in to play is when two competitors seem equally as muscular and conditioned, then the one with the better proportions will win


The prettiness matters more.


It's all genetics.
Branch is a great example. For over a decade Branch's training partner was Jay Moore. Jay is an accomplished bodybuilder on his own and had access to everything Branch did. Dobbins as a trainer, same equipment, programs, supplements, ASS, reputation for 'heart', etc., but he doesn't look like Branch.


Yeah i know what you mean. Genetics pretty much some it all up.

Like Stu used the Ramy vs Vic scenario. Ramy was the much bigger guy so he wins at 'bodybuilding' but his combination of size and aesthetics is pretty damn good.

The guy with 30lbs more muscle who doesn't look as 'pretty' should always win in my opinion, unless the mass makes them look displeasing. ie Branch and that German guy.


I think if the guy has a nice smile...


I just spat cottage cheese on myself

You're an intriguing character conservativedog


Yes I think so on the whole. Lee labrada, bob paris etc