Many bodybuilding aficionados have been bemoaning the fact that classical posing has become a thing of the past in most modern-day bodybuilding competitions. The posing round is no longer judged in professional events and, as a result, many competitors don’t put as much time or effort into constructing a posing routine as their predecessors did in the past.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger recently gave a lecture for charity in Leeds, England, he was asked his opinion of modern-day bodybuilding. One of the aspects of the sport that Arnold criticized was the lack of good posing by the competitors. The former King of Bodybuilding also mentioned that the posing should be judged in order to place more emphasis on this critical area of the sport.
As Charles Gaines so eloquently stated in his classic book “Pumping Iron” (1974), “Posing is the heart of the thing. Depending on how it is done, you can see in it either everything that is moving and beautiful and dignified about the display of a developed male body or everything that is ridiculous and embarrassing about it.”
When the layman makes fun of bodybuilding, they inevitably demonstrate some crude and moronic posing moves to emphasize how ridiculous the notion of bodybuilding is. These same people have obviously never seen legends such as Ed Corney or Mohamed Makkawy on stage.
One of the fondest memories of my years involved with this sport was the day I was able to witness Ed Corney posing before a sold out auditorium at the 1977 Mr. Olympia contest. As I watched from the balcony, I saw the magic that Corney displayed for the bodybuilding fans. With grand, majestic movements, the Master Poser captured the heart and soul of his audience and shared his personal passion with all in attendance. I was in awe of Corney’s posing as I witnessed a sea of flashbulbs below me lighting up the auditorium in an effort to capture the remarkable experience we were all sharing.
Posing is an expression of your physique. In the past, bodybuilders would work tirelessly on their posing routine for months in order to properly display the body they worked so hard to develop. All those years and months of training and dieting to build the perfect physique are useless if you can’t show what you’ve got. Bodybuilders looked at their posing routines as a badge of honor; if you couldn’t pose or you didn’t put together a flowing and creative routine, you were looked at with the same disdain as those who avoided the squat rack.
Posing was once considered so important that it could even decide who would win a contest. Yes, simply based on posing ability. Arnold Schwarzenegger spent hours perfecting his posing so he could hit three poses in rapid fire succession for every one pose that his opponents would display. The ultimate competitor, Arnold would even study films of his fellow competitors posing just as a boxer would study fight films of their next opponent. When Arnold beat the reigning Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva in 1970, many felt it was because Arnold knew how to present his physique better than his genetically gifted rival.
But posing is much more than just gaining an edge on the other competitors in a bodybuilding contest. This sport is an artistic and aesthetic endeavor as well as a physical one. When a physique athlete utilizes his or her creative resources to come up with a beautiful and emotionally moving display of the human body, the results can be awe inspiring.
Mohamed Makkawy demonstrated this art of posing when he competed in the early 1980s. Choosing classical music as his background, Makkawy used brilliant hand movements and softly flowing transitions to capture the beauty and magic of the muscular physique. Audiences and judges were caught up in the dramatic display and appreciated Makkawy’s creativity and artistic expression.
Years later, bodybuilders such as Lee Labrada and Bob Paris continued to carry the torch passed onto them by Corney and Makkawy. Labrada worked tirelessly on his posing to bring a new and improved routine to the stage each year when he was competing in the Mr. Olympia contest. Paris similarly worked extremely hard on his posing, even creating or adopting poses that would be forever linked to his name.Imagine how many thousands of bodybuilders from around the world became inspired to begin working out after seeing the posing routines of these classical bodybuilders?
But all hope is not lost. At the recent NPC Nationals held in Miami, Florida, I was extremely impressed with several competitors who had clearly put in the time and effort to come up with some killer posing routines. Women’s Physique Class A winner Dianne Brown presented a crisp and dramatic routine to Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” that had the crowd roaring their approval. Women’s Physique Overall Winner Marcie Simmons also delivered a sparkling and creative posing routine that highlighted her muscular and impressive physique.
In the Men’s Bodybuilding competition, Welterweight Winner Santiago Aragon was one of the best physiques onstage that weekend. Displaying incredible leg development and superb conditioning that was highlighted by striated glutes, cross-striated quads and a Christmas tree with all the lights on, Santiago really came alive during his posing routine on Saturday night. Smoothly moving from one pose to another, Santi brought to mind the aesthetics of Bob Paris, Lee Labrada and Mohamed Makkawy as he transitioned gracefully throughout his classic routine.
You could see the emotion in his face as he shared his passion and desire for the sport with the knowledgeable bodybuilding fans in attendance. In his brief 60 seconds on stage, Santiago Aragon brought back classical bodybuilding to the biggest amateur competition of the year. It was a dramatic gesture that was both noticed and appreciated and hopefully the impact will have a ripple effect that will last far into the future of the sport.