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Setting The Stage: Staging A War
It begins as No Man's Land, unoccupied territory that will eventually play host to a Clash of Titans. In time, a podium is erected; sponsors' banners are hung; spotlights are installed; a sound system is fine-tuned; and a trophy table is stationed in view. Suddenly, the lifeless landscape is transformed into bodybuilding's battleground - the grand "Muscle Stage."
Backstage, opponents prep for a melee, clanging iron, flexing guns, psyching up. The countdown begins... pump up... adrenaline up... lights up... curtain up... it's show time... time for battle. Dressed only in an armor of skin, sweat and strength, warrior-athletes take the stage to meet their brawny adversaries.
Their bodies are their weapons in this art of war - a fight that is set to music and won with the most sculpted muscles adorning human bones.
From far and wide, warriors descend upon the Muscle Stage to stake claim to that coveted territory, to fight with the merits of their awe-inspiring physiques and, ultimately, have their hands risen in victory. But only one can claim the title of champion of the night. A ferocious flexing match determines who that is.
After the dust settles, the battleground is covered in blood, bronzer and body oil. The mightiest presenter to grace the stage leaves in his wake a pile of some of the best-built carcasses the world has seen - unfortunate musclemen who knew not how to attack with the artillery of their art.
To the victor go the spoils: a glistening trophy, monetary prize, prestigious title, bragging rights, or simply the well-earned respect as a consummate commander of the Muscle Stage.
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Their Bodies Are Their
Weapons In This Art Of War.
Photo By Alex Ardenti.
The War: Rules Of The Gun Show
In the war that is competitive bodybuilding, the contest stage is the field of fire where warriors battle with their bodies. Missiles are mighty muscles. Pistols are pumped pecs. Quasi-nuclears are quality quads. Cannons are cut calves. Grenades are granite glutes. Bombs are bulbous biceps - attached to detonating delts that explode with the pull of a trigger finger.
During the preliminary comparison rounds, athletes compete on an "even playing field," built upon the foundational mandatory poses that highlight the components of a developed physique: Front Double Biceps, Rear Double Biceps, Front Lat Spread, Rear Lat Spread, Side Triceps, Side Chest, and Abdominal-and-Thigh.
These poses are separated by precise Quarter Turns and punctuated by the always exciting Most Muscular, while a judging panel assesses competitors' physiques according to the following criteria:
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The Contest Stage Is The Field Of Fire
Where Warriors Battle With Their Bodies.
Physique Competition Judging Criteria
Balance, Proportion And Symmetry
Proportional development of muscle groups for a harmonious composition of all parts and a symmetrical balance between both halves of the body.
Mass, Size And Shape
Muscular development and contours in relation to skeletal structure. Pleasing muscle size and shape, flowing aesthetically from origin to belly to insertion.
Separation And Definition
Muscular separation "defined" by the absence of subcutaneous body fat and the visible presence of striations, "cuts" and "tie-ins."
Presentation And Stage Presence
Overall aesthetic presentation and appearance, including grooming, skin tone, poise, charisma and ability to display the physique to its optimum potential.
The Art: Creative Plan Of Attack
In the art of physique competition, the performance stage is the graceful gladiator's gallery - a spotlight-drenched platform where creativity separates visual virtuosos from mere mortal musclemen.
True performance artists launch full-scale assaults with theatrical posing routines set to carefully selected music - the hardcore soundtrack to the struggle of the warrior's journey; lilting lyrics that conjure emotions of the stage's special moment; a powerful beat that slams into internal organs and slays human inhibitions; or a classic tune that soars like the sweeping lines of a classic physique.
It is during the individual free-posing round that the advantage shifts to the buff battlers who move with style and finesse - the most daring, able-bodied warriors who dare to enter the killing field and attack with the artistic ability to effectively display the beautiful power of their killer bodies.
The most evolved bodybuilders not only possess strength but also imagination, not only brawn but also dimension. They distinguish themselves from the muscle-bound, mechanical drones devoid of passion or emotion. They are highly regarded performers full of agility and personality.
They are the Muscle Nation's main attractions that audiences readily support, cheer and admire. They are headliners whose presence at bodybuilding events carries with it a promise of drama and excitement. These are the Great Showmen in the Art of War.
Art (Show) Or War (Contest)?
For those on hand to witness the artistic war of a physique competition, the question lingers: Is it a bodybuilding "contest" or a bodybuilding "show?" It depends who is asked.
To the average athlete, it's a contest - Toe-to-toe, muscle-for-muscle; best physique wins. To the ticket-buying spectator, it's a show - I paid for a show; put on a show. To the judging panel, it's both - Show us a winning physique; we'll show you victory.
To artistically savvy competitors, it's all of the above, so they come prepared to meet the demands of all parties involved. Their captivating exhibitions supply an entertainment value that elevates the sport. Subsequently, contest promoters benefit from employing judging panels that honor the warriors of the art with "Best Poser" or "Best Presentation" awards and cash prizes. Such incentives encourage bodybuilders to compete with the kinds of physiques and deliver the kinds of performances that attract and delight fans.
IFBB Pro and NPC Judge Richard "Tricky" Jackson is a contest promoter and a 20-year veteran competitor that has seen war politics from both sides of the contest stage.
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Tricky Jackson At The 2007 Colorado Pro.
View More Pics Of Tricky Jackson At The 2007 Colorado Pro.
Jackson is the only athlete to win every NPC national title, including ten first-place honors in ten years. A sought-after guest poser full of tricky moves, Jackson received the Best Poser Award at the 1996 Jr. Nationals and says, "I like to think I was a close second for the Best Poser award behind Kai Green at the 2007 Colorado Pro Show."
Watching the Muscle Stage action unfold from all angles, Jackson feels greater payoffs for great presentation at more contests would yield greater drama for spectators - full of good guys versus better guys; nail-biting anticipation and heart-pumping emotion; victory's thrill and agony's defeat.
"On top of fan feedback, there's no real reward [at certain contests] to strive for excellence in posing presentation or force athletes to be more creative, enhancing the entertainment aspect of the sport for the average fan.
Figure skating and gymnastics are sports of an artistic nature and bodybuilding is no different." Jackson insists, "All amateur events should present a Best Poser award and all pro events should offer cash awards."
Yet, bodybuilding contest judges are capable of effectively analyzing, and subsequently rewarding, only well displayed physiques. "As a judge," notes Jackson, "too often I see athletes with great physiques distort their symmetry by doing the compulsory poses incorrectly. For me, that causes your score to go down."
Thus, presentation-challenged competitors with inferior posing skills that distort, disguise or detract from their musculature risk being disregarded, in favor of the "dazzlers" who demonstrate a consciousness of the fundamentals ABC's: angles, body language and carriage.
Occasionally, the ability to compose a standout routine can make the difference between winning and losing a closely fought contest. Consequently, an athlete with a great physique and an inability to show it to his full advantage essentially squanders his potential to become a well-rounded champion; instead, he suffers the fate of casualties in the art of war.
Soldiers Of Fortune: The Rewards Of Glory
To join the ranks of the Great Showmen's army, each athlete is obligated to earn the attention of judges and the adoration of fans by conveying his soul via his body.
An effective posing routine is a wordless storytelling session relayed through physical self-expression and choreographed movement, colored by the storyteller's personal experience. The personalized nature of posing technique is reflected in the various interpretations of bodybuilding as art - from the regal to the smooth to the percussive to the seductive to the athletic.
True physique artists take full advantage of their few minutes of stage time to tell a story, communicate a message and celebrate their achievements.
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True Physique Artists Take Full Advantage
Of Their Few Minutes Of Stage Time.
A strong, thoughtful presentation allows spectators to appreciate the pain, sweat and sacrifice that produced the human artwork exhibited on the Muscle Stage, proclaiming, "You were not there for the daily struggle of my journey to this arena, so allow me to show in the most powerful manner the stunning product of my labor. Behold, physical idealism - symmetry, separation, detail, mass, definition, vascularity, and muscular harmony!"
In essence, spectators with the privilege to witness a memorable posing routine are treated to the end result of a dedicated athlete's training.
The reward for the artist is appreciation evidenced by a resounding response from the crowd in attendance. Props go to the bodybuilder who actually invests time and attention to his presentation - distinguishing himself from the lifeless lug lumbering back and forth, grunting, scowling and gasping for breath; from those who arrogantly believe that simply showing up is enough.
True performers bask in the warmth of the applause and adoration. The reception is in direct correlation to the quality of the performance. It is that magical moment when athlete and audience reach a mutual understanding of why they have gave gathered together for the experience.
In the annals of bodybuilding history, the masters of posing stand head and deltoids above the rest. The kings of showmanship are celebrated for harnessing a grasp of military science and performance art. They recognize that Physiquedom's showdowns can be both brutal and breathtaking, both and technical and entertaining. And they flex with a purpose: to conquer their lackluster opponents, outshining the uninspired with a creative slaying of muscular exposition.
So, rally the troops to clear the stage, strike up the army band to summon the villagers to the gladiators' arena, and sharpen those well-developed weapons for the battle of the best bodies - it's going to get ugly... beautifully ugly.
Bodybuilding.com & Planet Muscle Magazine:
Bodybuilding.com, in conjunction with Jeff Everson's Planet Muscle Magazine, presents Andrew Oye's "The Art of War," a physique performance art and presentation series. Everson introduces the series with a poetic tribute to history's best bodybuilding posers titled "The Flesh of The Gods," complete with photo retrospective, in the June 2008 issue of Planet Muscle.
About The Author:
Andrew Oyé is a certified trainer, screenwriter and the author of The ONE-Minute Workout: REAL DEAL Fitness & Nutrition. He has consulted with amateur natural bodybuilders on presentation preparation for competition, and he provides editorial consultation to firms like Gerstner & Associates and Andrich Functional Fitness & Nutrition. Creator of "The Oye Body Survey" physique profile series, Andrew earned a Master's in Journalism from Stanford University and is the former Creative & Editorial Director for BUILT Magazine.
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