Bodybuilding vs Physique – Criteria for competition

Bodybuilding vs Physique

There is a great rivalry between bodybuilders and physique athletes, with some umbrage on both sides of the fence.

In the world of bodybuilding sometimes ‘change’ does take some time to become embedded and once the testosterone/egos began to calm down across the board – a common sense approach started to prevail! Yes – there is room for us both on the competition stage, just not at the same time!

Bodybuilding definitely began the movement and over time has developed into a muscle size game.

Fundamentally bodybuilding is the most muscular of all of the categories and competitors on the stage are judged on size, symmetry, definition, development, vascularity and proportion.

However due to this judged criteria many people struggled to make it in the world of bodybuilding and/or wanted a more functional, aesthetic and athletic/normal looking body (envisage a male model on the front cover of a fitness magazine).

This is one of the main reasons why the physique category sprung up and before 2010 there was a very limited choice of what events to compete in.


The physique category was initially met with jokes and criticisms about the men wearing the board shorts and some of the poses that they were performing.

Many of the online classic bodybuilding forums were packed with comments, venting that it was actually a disgrace to bodybuilding. Some of the hard core, dead hard bodybuilders believed that the physique categories would never survive or become popular and would so die out.

Physique modelHowever this is not the case and although it does lack in history or legacy it is the fastest growing competition division that is taking the bodybuilding mainstream by storm.

What is Men’s Physique?

There are no off seasons for the physique competitors and many remain lean all year round with a % body fat of around 4-8% and the luxury of being slightly out of shape is not really an option.

During competitions the contestants preform quarter turns in board shorts and they are judged on muscularity, body conditioning, symmetry and stage presence.

On stage the contestant should look athletic, fit with a proper shape, combined with muscularity, overall conditioning and symmetry. However extreme muscularity such in the bodybuilding categories is marked down by the judges.

The Judging Criteria

The judging criteria has evolved over time and the first physique competitors were far too muscular and bulky. Many of the initial competitors had to change their physique numerous times so that it had the ‘softer’ look and even now the different competitions have unique standards of the winners.

The following is some show day standards to think about and practice:

  • Practice performing quarter turns and posing in a confident manner. The judges will be assessing your physique from all angles so make sure that your display is polished
  • Although stage presence is subjective, judges will be assessing your personality, charisma and charm
  • No lewd acts are allowed e.g. the moon pose
  • Use a tanning specialist, as getting this part of the process right will ensure that your physique looks amazing under the lighting
  • If you do decide to do some DIY tanning ensure that is a quality product and practice applying it, so that there are no nasty surprises on competition day
  • Buy some proper fitting board shorts that are waist high and 1 inch above the knee. Spandex or logos are not usually allowed but check with the competitions guidelines if companies like Nike, Billabong are acceptable
  • Ensure that you look well groomed and remove all body hair and your hair/facial hair should not detract from your physique

A small criticism of the physique division

Many people out of the division think that the board short are worn to hide the contestant’s lack of leg development. The judges don’t assess the competitor’s glutes, hamstrings or quads.

Admittedly some of the physique athletes may have smaller legs that are not in proportion but many others do have well defined, symmetrical and muscular legs.

Due to the fact that it is a physique competition and your legs are a major part of your body; the board shorts worn should be shorter. Allowing shorter board shorts would enable the judges to assess some of the quad muscle and this strategy may boost the credibility of the physique division.

Some good advice to consider before entering a physique competition

The first piece of key advice is to research the competition and find out what the past winner’s physique looks like.

There will trends at various shows in terms of the colour of your board shorts and what judges look for when assessing stage presence. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and use this knowledge to help you to educate yourself and formulate a plan.

Lastly a key point to consider is that ‘bigger is not better’ in this division and you have a training and nutrition plan to match the objectives of the competition.



Article Name
Bodybuilding vs Physique - Criteria for competition
Bodybuilding vs Physique, what does it take to compete in either discipline? Discover why the physique category has become so popular.
Publisher Name
Hi, my name is Jonathan, a fitness blogger and bodybuilding enthusiast and I am the founder of Skinny2Fit. I want to provide you with easy access to good advice that is both simple and to the point. Helping you gain muscle mass and strength!


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