Up until last Saturday, the only bodybuilding shows I’d seen had been on telly. `Pumping Iron’ obviously (which is now on Netflix) and those on YouTube. The decision to train for and compete in a natural competition, one that catered for old farts like me and novices in general, led me to the USN Classic; run by the United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association (UKDFBA).
I wanted to gain an insight into a number of factors such as the standard of competitor, how the competition worked, the judging and mandatory poses, crowd reaction and posing. The main aim was to get a feel for the whole thing and take as many pointers as possible.
We arrived a few minutes late for the show which started at 1pm. The teenage category was underway and hey presto, I was watching my first show. Pretty much instantly, I felt relaxed. Surrounding us were the family and friends of those competing, competitors quietly watching the categories before it was their turn, and then a variety of people of different ages – some of who looked like they trained, some of who did not.
The compere’ was great. He thanked every competitor before the results were announced, commended them for their efforts and praised the standard whenever he could. We also learnt back stories to some of the people on stage; be it a battle through illness or coming to the show transformed from the massively overweight person of two years ago. He also talked about the charity work the UKDFBA were involved with – and of course encouraged the crowd to get behind the competitors with cheers and applause.
All gyms have there peacocks and complete tools; and in most sports there’s a range from really nice to the not so nice. Often those that say but can’t do that are the most difficult to be around. At a bodybuilding competition you’re surrounded by people who are actually doing it – and those supporting them. The novice nature of this competition also brings home the feeling of `fair play mate’ because you know that everyone has put so much into getting ready for this one afternoon. In short – it was nice, I enjoyed it and it was 100% peacock free.
I’d read various articles and again, watched a few videos on it, but I wanted to see what the competitor had to do from start to finish on the stage. It basically goes like this;
Line up next to each other.
First round = Symmetry Round
- Stand Relaxed (facing Judges)
- quarter turn right (90 degrees so now side facing judges)
- quarter turn right (no back facing judges)
- quarter turn right (now other side facing judges)
- quarter turn right (now facing judges again with relaxed pose)
* The relaxed pose is anything but relaxed, just means the hands are down by sides – or at least should be.
Once that is done, the second round is the Mandatory Round – i.e. 7 poses
- Front Double Biceps
- Front Lat Spread
- Side Chest
- Side Triceps
- Back Double Biceps
- Back Lat Spread*
- Abdominal and Thighs
That was then followed by comparisons. All competitors went to the side of the stage and the judges called up 2, 3 or sometimes 4 competitors up at a time and asked them to hit particular mandatory poses. That occasionally meant swopping the position of the competitors around within the line.
The first two rounds lasted collectively for about 10 minutes. The competitors were then told to leave the stage ready for the final round which was the Free Posing round = their 90 second individual posing routine.
Once all of the competitors had done their thing, they were called back for the pose-down. That was simply music on and go freestyle, with each competitor hitting a load of poses in and around the other guys doing the same thing.
With that pose down completed, the competitors lined back up by the side of the stage and wait for the top 3 to be called out and the winner announced. So from start to finish, about 45 mins – 1 hour of hard work.
The Masters Category
There were two competitors in the masters category; Mark Newton (who won it) and Kiran Dip Singh. Kiran had a great physique, but it was Mark’s conditioning that was so noticeably better. I was lucky enough to bump into Mark in the high Street later that afternoon – he was waiting for his Dominoes 🙂 He showed me the photos of where he was at physically last September, and the transformation was really quite incredible.
Caveat – what the bloody hell do I know!? The rest of this post is about my impressions of the physiques seen on the day. Having never been to a show before, or competed – it is not up to me to judge where people went right or went wrong as I’ve never done it myself. So 100% In My Opinion (which may well be wrong).
I though Kiran had the fuller more rounded physique, and he was bigger. However, in terms of body fat levels the contrast was really noticeable. Mark was really vascular and detailed and he did a much better job of presenting himself in the posing both whilst being judged and his own posing routine.
The question is, do I think I can compete and do well in the masters category at the 2019 show? The answer is yes.
The Other Categories
Here is the chap who won the lightweight category and went onto win the whole competition; James Elsom. You can follow him on insta @jameselsompt
You can see from the report and the photos that he had the complete package; he was ripped, symmetrical and had fullness from top to bottom. His legs were big, I mean big! I had to keep reminding myself that this man was 11 stone, but more on that later.
His posing routine was great. Flume remix of You & Me if I am not mistaken! Where as a lot of guys just sort of hit all the usual poses in general time to the music, James actually moved! the transition between poses was as a big part of his 90 seconds.
The middleweight category was the most competitive, not least because it had to be split into two sections as a result of there being 16 (?) competitors. It was in this category that I had my first difference of opinion with the result, and therefore a dose of the subjective nature of the sport.
No issue at all with the winner and placing of the first category A, but I thought another chap should have won category B. There were two black guys in the B middleweight group – the guy that won it and an other competitor who I think is a man called Anthony Bevas. I’ve tried but failed to find a photo of him to put my opinion into context.
He had the biggest, thickest and most rounded physique of all the competitors – and could of won the whole show to my minds eye. That is not for one second taking anything away from James Elsom who was in better condition in terms of being totally shredded. But this is a body building comp -and I felt whilst his conditioning was not as strong as the overall winners, Anthony Bevas overall muscularity was stronger.
General Impressions of physiques
Such a range, which is totally understandable given the novice nature of the competition. I had to ask about the definition of novice, as the compere’ often made a point of telling us if this was the competitors first show. Happy to be corrected, but I believe a novice is someone who has either not competed before or has competed but has not placed high enough to be invited to a further show by the federation running that series of events. That explains an `open’ show where anyone can rock up (which explains some of the physiques ,catty meow) and a closed show where the competitors have qualified and therefore been invited.
There were some really inspiring ” wow, they look amazing” physiques. The other side of that coin was also true. You could tell the guys who had got their diet right and I’ll try to explain that as best I can. Taking from what little I know about this whole thing, some competitors displayed a `prisoner of war’ look that came as a result of dieting too hard too quickly – possibly. Yes, very lean but at the expense of muscle size and roundness. I’ve never dieted down to contest shape, so can only imagine how difficult it must be to get that balance right. However, I do think that taking a much slower preparation time is going to be vital in removing fat whilst maintaining muscle.
One aspect that does concern me is just being able to get to that show condition and what body weight that will actually be. The guy who won it was 11 stone and he looked incredible. The guy who won the heavyweight was 14.5 stone and looked amazing. I’m currently 15.5 stone and way, way off contest shape.
Posing, tan and oil.
Fair to say that there was a direct correlation between those that placed top three and the standard of posing. It is hard to articulate, but the posing routines I enjoyed the most were when there was a good degree of actual (off the spot) movement between the poses – the transitions were as much of the routine as the actual poses themselves. The competitors with the best bodies tended to be the ones who could also display them effectively.
I thought some guys sold themselves short in that they didn’t show off their best body parts as much as the could. Whilst I appreciate that you need to show every angle and muscles group, some of the competitors had really strong areas yet only hit one pose to show that strong area with. If you have really good legs, why not have more poses with your legs involved? If your back is really strong, what harm is there in doing three back poses instead of two?
I had no appreciation for just how important it is to get the tan and oil right. The stage makes you look a lot lighter; I’d see people walking about that looked mahogany – only to see them on stage looking a lot lighter. Good tan and oil went unnoticed, whilst one only really noticed the finish to competitors who had got it slightly off or completely wrong. The main flaw was the tan being uneven and therefore dirty looking. In terms of oil, again it was a case of using too much and therefore a slippery appearance, or that the lights shined off over oiled parts so brightly that you couldn’t actually see the detail of the muscle. How on earth do you practice this bit? 🙂
Thoroughly enjoyed my first show. There is a shed load of hard work to do, but I do feel that it’s attainable and I’d be able to compete in the Masters category. Yes, it still remains daunting but I have a good idea of what the day holds and what will be asked of me. In terms of preparation then, got loads from it. The people factor was real bonus point – things might have felt very different if the atmosphere had not of been so cordial and inclusive. Onward.