NPC Men’s Physique – Tips, Thoughts, Photos and More

One of the first big shows of 2011 featured the new division of the NPC, Men’s Physique. Promoter Jon Lindsay wisely chose to add the new division to his popular event, the Muscle Contest. The contest drew 47 physique competitors to the stage, which ended up out numbering the men’s bodybuilding entrants. Now before you die hard bodybuilding fans freak out, don’t worry bodybuilding is not being phased out. Bodybuilding is the backbone of the industry and will continue to survive. Female bodybuilding is going through it’s own changes and we’ll see how things play out with that side of things at the NPC JR USA in May, where the first women’s physique pro cards will be awarded.

One thing to clarify, despite the names being similar the divisions are distinctly different. The Men’s Physique division does not have a routine or mandatory poses, aside from the front and back poses. It’s much like bikini in terms of what it consists of on stage. Yes, some peeps amuse themselves by calling it men’s bikini. Hardy-har-har. Those making fun of the division clearly don’t see the big picture. This division opens up opportunities to men who either don’t have the genetics to become a pro bodybuilder or aspirations to look like one. Either way, this division is and will continue to thrive. Don’t be surprised if you see close to 200 men’s physique competitors at NPC Nationals or NPC USAs.

Will things evolve in the division? Absolutely. Right now the judges and competitors are finding their groove and “the look”. Just like in the bikini division, some things will work and others may not but have patience it will all work out.

I’ve spoken with a number of NPC judges and the one common response is, “we’re not looking for a bodybuilder look”. I share their sentiments having photographed the NPC UTAH which had the division as well. So, what does that mean? It means a Men’s Physique competitor obviously needs to be in shape but they shouldn’t be dry, grainy and shredded. The grainy, hard, striated look will NOT be rewarded in this new division. If competitors show up looking dry and shredded they will (or at least should be )marked down. Props to the judges for marking competitors down for that look already.  The judges are out to make a clear distinction between bodybuilding and Men’s Physique. Remember, they still can only judge what is presented to them on stage.

Tips & Observations:
These are just MY opinions but they seem to be shared by judges and others who have seen a show in person.

• DON’T have too much oil on.
It will wash you out and make you look like a basted Thanksgiving turkey.

• DO have some oil on.
No oil makes you look flat and your physique won’t “pop” on stage.

• DO have six pack abs.
If you don’t have abs, you won’t stand a chance of placing very high.

• Present with confidence.
If you’re looking down or unsure of yourself it shows. Walk with some swagga and show off your hard work. The crowd will react, as will the judges, to someone who carries themselves with confidence. That doesn’t mean cheese it up. Find the balance with out looking like a toolbag.

• Smile
I forgot this one initially but this is one of the most important ones on stage. Smiling conveys positive energy and people are drawn to it. If you’re frowning or scowling it won’t help you. Think about it, you’re draw to people who are smilingly and having fun more than bitter bodies. The stage is no different.

• Practice your posing/presentation.
Yes, I know as cheesy as it sounds competitors should practice. Yes, it’s only a front and back pose but if you don’t know how to present your physique it will be obvious on stage. It’s kind of like a photo shoot. You want to show your lines to flatter you physique, not detract from it.

• Shorts selection.
Some people feel the “board shorts” aren’t the way to go but like it or not, it’s one of the rules. They obviously allow the competitors to feature their upper body and not have to showcase their leg development but that’s beside the point. Choose flattering shorts and colors that work for YOUR physique. What worked for a guy who won another show, may or may not work for you. Colors are ranging the gamut and it goes back to what works for you.  Brighter colors will stand out more but they may also detract from your physique. Patterns can either accent your look or detract from it. Make sure you’re comfortable in the shorts and they fit. If they are too big and baggy, it doesn’t look good. They also shouldn’t be too tight. They shouldn’t go below your knee. They should be at the knee or two inches above it.

• Tanning
You should have a tan on stage. If you go too light you’ll look pale and washed out under the bright lights. You don’t want to go super dark or as dark as most bodybuilders.  Know what works for you. I say go a shade darker than a photo shoot but if you’re a pale dude that might mean you need 2-3 more shades. Every body is going to be different but you do need a tan.

• Diet
Do what works for you to be in your best shape. Some people will need to diet for weeks to get ready. I did. I got fat and out of shape and needed to diet 14 weeks to get into the shape I’m in now. It’s only because I made excuses, didn’t work out or eat as healthy as I should so I followed a bodybuilder type diet. I know some competitors who cleaned up their diet for a couple weeks and were ready. That’s the smarter way about it and one which should happen more often than not. Every competitor is different so don’t get caught up in what others are doing, focus on what you need to do.

• Day of the show
Some people have asked if you should deplete, carb up, pump up, etc. Again, it all depends on your physique. You may need to treat the contest like a bodybuilder would with depletion and carbing up in order to look your best. Some people may not need to. If you know your body, you’ll know what is needed to look your best. If that means eating rice cakes and peanut butter then do it, if it means woofing down a pizza then go for it.

• The Ladies
The overwhelming majority of women who have seen the competitors in the Men’s Physique division are drawn to it. So dudes, if you need a reason to compete let impressing the ladies be your motivation. I’ve had more than a dozen women tell me they’d love to judge it. Which isn’t a bad idea. It would get more women into the industry and on the judges panel. What do you think… Ladies would you judge it? I’m sure the guys wouldn’t mind.



When it comes to the higher level of competition, like the NPC JR USA in May, the little details will decide who is awarded a pro card or not. If you have a kick ass physique but can’t present it, you won’t win. Let’s be honest, you need to be a good looking cat to be in contention. If you think your zoo-lander look or your “myspace face” makes you attractive, think again. Also your genetics will play a role in splitting hairs at the higher level. If you have jacked up abs or under/over developed shoulders it could make a difference. We won’t know the exact look for the future pro division until pro cards are awarded but look for the division to grow and get more and more defined in the months ahead.

Check out Mens’s Physique photos from the Muscle Contest event on


Disclaimer: Reader discretion advised, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.