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"Bodybuilding is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle."

It takes more than just grueling workouts and posing on stage. It requires a master of skill, discipline, physical, and mental toughness. The best bodybuilders are not just physically gifted, but rather they practice and perfect the science of body, how it works, and how responds to their diet and training.

A Bodybuilder must push their physical limits to attain the physique they showcase.

Their physique is a testament of hard work, dedication, discipline, intelligence, and sacrifice. Not many people who exercise can call themselves "bodybuilders," fewer go as far as to compete, and only ONE man can walk away with the trophy.

Bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger


The International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation (IFBB) is the largest and most popular professional bodybuilding organization. Amateurs move up the ranks competing in the National Physique Committee (NPC) in local and national shows. Winners of NPC Nationals earn their Pro-card to compete in the IFBB. Most IFBB and NPC contests are generally not drug-tested, but they do offer Natural Shows which are tested.

Men's Bodybuilding consists of 3 major divisions: Open Bodybuilding, Classic Physique, and Men's Physique. Each division is judged on unique criteria beginning with size, shape, and conditioning. They are judged by group comparisons and individual routines. Winners of each group are brought into a final comparison to decide the overall winner of each division.

Athletes are scored by judges twice. Most contests will have a prejudging round in the morning and finals in the evening. The combined scores are tallied to determine final placings.

2003 Mr. Olympia Finalists
2003 Mr. Olympia Finalists

Open Bodybuilding

Classic Physique

Men's Physique

Emphasis on Size and Conditioning

Emphasis on Shape and Conditioning

Emphasis on Upper Body and Conditioning

No Weight Restrictions

Weight Restricted by Height

No Weight Restrictions

Grouped in Weight Classes

Grouped in Height

Grouped by Height

X Frame with V Taper

V Taper with X Frame

V Taper, Tight Midsection

Hulk-Like, Mass Monsters

Aesthetic, Statuesque

Aesthetic, Beach Body

"Freaky" Body Parts

Balance and Symmetry

Shoulders, Chest, and Abs

Bigger is Better, Size Matters Most

Honors Golden Age of Bodybuilding

Charismatic, In Vogue, Attainable Physiques

Posing Style is Aggressive and Mechanical

Posing Style Flows with Smooth Transitions

Posing Style Relaxed with Mixed Transitions

8 Mandatory Poses

4 Mandatory Poses

2 Mandatory Poses

2009 Mr. Olympia : Jay Cutler Quad Stomp
2009 Mr. Olympia : Jay Cutler Quad Stomp

Getting on stage can be a daunting task. In an effort to encourage more people to compete, the IFBB and NPC offer multiple classes to give athletes the chance to compete against others with similar backgrounds and experience levels. The availability of classes is determined by the contest promoters based upon the number of competitors participating. This information is normally available upon registration, but you will not know the number of competitors entering the contest prior to the day of the show.

Teen - This class is for those younger than 20 years old. Recently the NPC has changed the minimum age of entry to 18 years old. This rule change was made to promote health and encourage young bodybuilders to keep developing and avoid potential health risks associated with stress of dieting and becoming stage-ready. Top placings are qualified to compete in Teen Nationals.

Collegiate - This class is for those between the ages of 19-22. It gives young adults the chance to compete against athletes their own age. It may be combined with the Teen division. This division is not offered at every show and qualifications to compete in Collegiate Nationals are awarded only if there are enough Collegiate competitors in the contest.

True Novice - This class is for those who are competing in their very first show, regardless on age. You are compared against others who have no previous on stage experience in the NPC. You can compete in this class only once and there is no additional advancing qualification.

Novice - This class is for those who may or may not have competed previously, but have not placed top 2 in there groups at previous contests. Age is not factored into this class, but some contests may offer a Teen Novice, Open Novice, and Masters Novice based on the number of competitors entering the Novice Class. There is no national qualification awarded upon wining the Novice Class.

Masters - This class is for older bodybuilders. Actual groupings may vary but many shows will have 35+, 40+, 45+, and 50+ groupings to allow bodybuilders to compete against athletes who are relatively the same age. Winning the Masters class will qualify you to compete in Masters Nationals for your age group.

Open - This class is open to all athletes. Those who win in Open are considered as the Overall Winner for their division. ONLY winning the open class will qualify you to compete in OPEN Nationals, where you are given the chance to compete for a Pro-card.

A brotherhood of competitive bodybuilders
Jay Cutler and Daniel Ripa

Although Bodybuilding is an individual sport where you are judged against the other competitors, it is also about self-improvement and mastery. A brotherhood and community is formed by those who go through all the hard work and sacrifice it takes to get on stage. It's a community that promotes positivity, personal development, and moving up the ranks.

If you are interested in competing in a bodybuilding contest, you don't have to go it alone. I would advise finding a coach or mentor who will share their experience and guide you to make the right decisions not only for your progress, but also your health. You can save a lot of time, effort, and avoid health risks by seeking knowledge and insight from those who have gone through the process of training and preparation for a show.

As a Classic Physique competitor I have won multiple shows. As a personal trainer for over a decade, I have helped hundreds of people improve their health and physiques. One of my passions is coaching athletes to compete at their highest level, leading them to bring their very best on stage.

Find the information and tools you need to achieve your full potential at


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