by John Romano T-Nation
Here’s what you need to know…
- Some people just don’t belong on the bodybuilding stage. Sometimes it’s their genetics or they’re just not ready yet. Sometimes they’re delusional.
- A friend who encourages you to compete when you’re not ready is not your friend.
- There’s no excuse for not being shredded on stage. If you’re fat or if the diet didn’t go right, don’t waste anyone’s time.
- Genetics matter. Bone structure can’t be changed. If your silhouette doesn’t scream “bodybuilder” pick another division.
- No calves? Stay at home. Same with bad skin.
Competing is serious business. Do it “for fun” if you must, but realize that you’re annoying the audience, the judges, and the truly dedicated competitors.
The Cut-Off Line
Most of us have been to bodybuilding contests where we’ve seen “competitors” in various divisions who clearly don’t belong on stage. I’ve seen things I wish I hadn’t: fat, small, out of shape, no muscle, strange body parts, no tan (or some strange color), no posing skills… The poor guy looks totally out of place, if not downright ridiculous.
Why is that person up there? Is this for real? Why are they wasting our time? It’s like some of these guys enter shows to lock-up last place. And they nail it.
A little closer to the cut-off line – beyond which no one should compete – lie the unfortunate souls whose genetics just can’t support their ability nor their desire.
Now, there are people who will contend that bad genetics can be overcome. To some degree that’s true, but only to an extent. There are certain genetic attributes that are not favorable to bodybuilding. The extreme examples of which, sadly, must cause the athlete to concede that competition is just not in the cards for him. It should only take a couple of contests to realize this unfortunate truth.
The debasement of any physique – beleaguered by a constant flow of less than stellar contest placings – is no trivial thing. It’s heart wrenching really. While failure should never be looked at as failure but rather an opportunity to improve, that doesn’t always mean that you should keep competing.
Bodybuilding is one facet of our society that never had any standard that could be exactly duplicated. And the judging of its contests is rarely justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you impress exactly the right people and are also lucky, justice may show up in the final placing, but not always.
These days, with the magnitude of what’s expected from even regional competitors, the end rarely justifies the means. Even if you have the will and the desire and means, plus the requisite genetics to go the distance, there are still better odds that my next Ferrari will be lime green than you ever winning the Olympia.
Now, that shouldn’t stop a man with potential. It should, however, stop the man that doesn’t have a lick of potential. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Stop Being Selfish and Annoying
Before I go too much farther I must head off those who will no doubt besiege me, extolling the rights of those who want to compete for fun. “Not everyone wants to be Mr. Olympia you know!” Blah, blah, blah.
Okay, this I can concede. People enjoy competing in a sport they love even if they have no shot at making it to the big show. However, the same standards should still apply.
You may not have what it takes to be Mr. Olympia and that’s okay. But, if you don’t have what it takes to at least look like a bodybuilder that actually belongs on a stage, then what you’re doing is using a bodybuilding competition as a platform for something totally selfish and self serving.
Why is that a problem? It’s simple. If bodybuilding were a sport that didn’t have an audience attached to it then no one would care. But bodybuilding has an audience. And those fans have to sit through amateur shows that are littered with multiple classes and divisions – from teens to masters to wheelchairs and the endless classes of female competitors – routinely corralling 400-500 or more competitors on the regional level. And they all want their two minutes on stage. If they all got just that, prejudging alone would be over 16 hours long!
That being the case, wasting just one precious second on a competitor that has no business being up on stage is an affront to every single person on either side of the stage that day.
The only people who want to see your flabby, pasty-white ass on stage flexing your imaginary muscles are your so-called “friends” who blew enough sunshine up your butt to validate your decision to compete. A “friend” who encourages someone to compete when they clearly should not compete is not a friend. That “friend” is only an accomplice to the making of a fool.
The Haves and Have-Nots
We need to define the cut-off point that separates the legitimate competitor from the person who has no business up on a stage.
Yes, the body sports are indeed judged subjectively. There can always be conjecture when the competitor who took seventh should have been third, but not for the competitor who’s so bad that last place is too good. These people are defined by any or all five of the following.
1. You’re Not Ripped
This one is my pet peeve and I’ll tell you why. As anyone who’s ever dieted down into shredded, striated, veiny, contest condition knows, it’s a grueling work of intense suffering. There’s no way around it.
Some people do have an easier time of it, but to diet down to contest condition is to suffer incessantly. Usually, the most ripped guy is the guy who can suffer the most.
Some people can’t do it. Some can’t get close. And that’s okay. All it means is you don’t belong on stage. One of the requisites to bodybuilding is that the bodybuilder will not only have muscle, but he will also be ripped. Big + ripped = bodybuilder. It’s always been that way and it’s not going to change.
Take it for its literal meaning: you need to be big and ripped. If you can’t do either or both, then you can’t be a bodybuilder. It’s that simple.
Yet we still see guys on stage who are neither big nor ripped. Pacifying this mockery is usually along the lines of, “Give the guy a break; it was his first show.”
Tough! What does that have to do with anything? Muscularity and muscle maturity I will concede; those traits do come with experience. But you can be just as ripped for your first show as you can for your last. In fact, many will say that they were never able to nail their condition again like they did the first time. So, there’s no excuse for poor condition. None.
If you look any more than zero weeks out the day of the show then you shouldn’t step on stage. If you’re fat by bodybuilding standards, don’t compete. If your fat friend asks you to check him out and asks you how he looks, tell him he’s fat and not to compete. If you can’t get into contest shape, forget about competing.
Lift away, get huge and enjoy being big and strong, but leave competing for the guys who can get shredded. Don’t waste anyone’s time if you can’t.
2. You Just Don’t Have Enough Muscle
A 6′ 3″ middle weight isn’t ever going to win anything unless he’s the only guy in the class, and even that’s a travesty. Why or how a stick figure can walk up to the registration table and register as a bodybuilder is beyond comprehension. But it happens, a lot.
I saw a kid at a local show once that had less muscle than the figure girls! Why is he up on stage? The bodybuilding federations have done a good job in opening up a great many divisions to offer opportunity to as many physique athletes as possible. But the bodybuilding division is for competitors with muscle. – enough muscle for them to strike the unmistakable silhouette of the classic bodybuilder.
If you don’t exhibit such lines because you have no muscle then you don’t belong on a bodybuilding stage.
3. Your Calves Suck
The requisite muscularity that goes into the making of a bodybuilder must not stop at the knee. The notion is laughable. And laughable is exactly how it looks on stage.
Calves are part of what defines the silhouette of a man and one of the measures of all that is masculine. Look at the ancient statues of the Greeks and Romans – they all had calves. Small biceps, a weak chest, or a shallow back can all be overlooked in view of the whole, but not having calves turns an otherwise good bodybuilder into a lawn dart.
A bodybuilder has to have calves. End of story. If you look like a light wind will blow you over (because your awesome back is so wide, brah…) and you can’t do anything about it, then you really need to rethink your competitive career. No one wants to see you wobble on stage and fall over.
4. You Have A Bad Structure
Much like the way tribal medicine men roll the bones to see the future, the way the bones lay out on a bodybuilder does the same thing.
If your skeleton is composed of a short torso, narrow clavicles, wide hips and a very long upper arm and thigh, you might not want to renew your Sam’s card – you’re not going to need all those chicken breasts. Because no matter how much muscle you put on, you’re never going to be able to change the framework upon which it is deposited. Bodybuilding competition is not for you.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t train and lift heavy and go to the gym and enjoy being a bodybuilder. However, competing in bodybuilding is probably not for you. If God didn’t deal you an aesthetic framework, you’re never going to be able to fashion upon it an aesthetic physique. You might make top 10 in a local show held in a high school, but much beyond that and you quickly become a nuisance.
5. Your Skin is Ugly
Apart from your muscles, the thing the judges and the rest of the world sees the most of is your skin – about 95% of it is showing.
Now that tattoos have become almost a requisite for any dude with muscles, they have pretty much proliferated the sport. In acquiescence of this evolving social trend, the current version of the IFBB/NPC rules does not contain the text from the original version prohibiting tattoos.
I’m not in the camp that believes that tattoos take away from a physique. If you’re huge and ripped, it really doesn’t matter what you’re covered in so long as it isn’t zits.
If you are covered in zits, we have a problem. A big problem. I don’t mean a couple of pimples here and there. I mean if your back, shoulders and chest look like you grouse hunt regularly with Dick Cheney and you never heard of the drug Accutane, then please spare us the Elephant Man exhibit.
Showcasing such an error in your “supplementation” shows grave irresponsibility and a direct indication that you haven’t the slightest clue about what you’re doing.
Save competing until after you get your skin under control.
Unfortunately for some, the resulting scarring from years of unchecked weeping and oozing acne leave their skin looking like the surface of the moon. And if said landscape is bathed in a tan the color of wood preservative, it really begins to take on its own gruesome personality.
Your skin becomes like a separate body part and one that is generally reviled. You have to pay for your mistakes, not us. Don’t compete with bad skin. If you can’t fix your skin then forget about competing.
Competitive Bodybuilding Is Not For Everyone
I may come off sounding a little harsh here, but the reality is that bodybuilding really isn’t for everyone, in spite of the fact that some people like to think it is. Competing in a contest on any level is serious business, not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, this is how a few competitors out of every bunch take it.
Not everyone can mentally or physically manage what it takes to be ready to compete. In and of itself, that is a huge genetic factor, one of the many genetic factors that limit bodybuilding potential along with traits such as size, shape, symmetry, structure, vascularity, striations, the roundness of the muscle bellies, etc.
While no one really wants to admit just how much of a limiting effect (career-preventing actually) genetics has on bodybuilding, there is certainly enough evidence these days to support the claim.
Even with the genetics of Flex Wheeler crossed with Big Ramy, bodybuilding at a very high level is very hard, grueling, uncomfortable, serious work that consumes your entire life. All together it is a pursuit exponentially more difficult the greater you aspire. But for however great or small that may be, it at least needs to be what it’s supposed to be.
Just like you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, you don’t bring anything less than a “bodybuilder” to the stage.
Do it for fun, sure. But, to be fair, it’s got to be fun for everyone, including those of us who have to look at you on stage.