How Is Bodybuilding Judged?

A Physical Going-Over

Bodybuilders have evolved enormously since they first stood on stage, and this moving of goalposts has meant the criteria upon which they are judged has developed accordingly. Gone are the days where these giants were assessed on athletic ability or their public speaking skills and character. Today’s contests are a pure physical trial, where each athlete is scrutinized on the overall excellence of their muscular development. But how are these highly competitive events judged? And what qualities do bodybuilders need to impress with on stage?


Ticking All the Boxes

A row of eagle-eyed judges with pen and paper in hand can be daunting. Even under thick layers of muscle, bodybuilders can have that empty feeling at the pit of their stomach. Knowing what judges are looking for and preparing meticulously will lift your confidence. Here’s what every bodybuilder needs to master:

Mass: Overall muscle size has always been—and will always be—vital to placing well in contests. There must be an obvious visual spectacle from the go if you’re to make a lasting impression. But mass alone is not enough.

Definition: Judges will be observing the defined muscularity of each competitor. Meaning how visible muscles are due to a lack of body fat. This allows a judge to glance at the complete development of a figure.

Symmetry: When evaluating the general quality of a physique, judges will be looking for a fine balance between both sides of the body. A contestant will want to eradicate any difference in the size of arms or legs, for example.

Proportion: Bodybuilders will need to show that all muscle groups are progressing evenly, and there is no area which either excels above the rest or is lacking in growth.

Stage Presence: It takes skill to command the stage and show off your figure in a way that brings out its best. As well as superb posing, bodybuilders will need top-notch preparation in matters such as oiling and shaving.

How Is Bodybuilding Judged

Judging an IFBB Contest

The judging protocols for big IFBB events are highly organised. The competition involves two rounds of prejudging, before a final round for competitors to try and emphasise their advantage. A judging panel typically consists of five to nine judges, who use a number system to score—with the lowest scores being the best.

Round one sees the bodybuilders in a ‘standing relaxed’ position, meaning their stance is natural with no flexing. They will be examined head-on, from the rear and both sides. Judges will catch a true glance at participants without them being able to cover up weaknesses by favourable posing. This early stage provides a terrific chance for judges to see the overall physiques, proportions and symmetry.

The second round of prejudging sees the iron men performing compulsory flexing and posing routines. This can have an effect of bringing to life competitors that did not impress the first time—a genuine chance to jump out and grab the judges’ attention. Having varying rounds allows a judge to fish out all possible knowledge on each bodybuilder, both good and bad.

Round three (or the finals) is where contestants have an opening to shine. Each bodybuilder can show off their physique in the most desirable way—hiding flaws and bringing to light strengths. Although the judges will, by now, know each muscle man entirely, a standout performance here may sway the mind in a tight contest.

How Is Bodybuilding Judged

The Priceless Role of a Judge

Getting to know how a bodybuilding judge operates is a must if you’re looking to compete. Learning the different rounds of a contest and the judging criteria will leave you in a position of strength. You’ll have a vision of what makes a winner and can prepare accordingly. It will take heaps of mastery to place well in a competition, so absorb as much about these events as possible.


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