I would like to clarify something that I have noticed since entering the Men’s Physique division, first at the National level and which is even more relevant at the IFBB Pro level. Whether we all agree or not; the fact is that in the Men’s Physique division posing has become known as the key point to placing in the top. Everyone knows that just because you have the sickest, most ripped physique, if you can't present it, then you're not delivering the overall best package and your placing will reflect that.
First let’s look at the definitions of Aesthetics:
Relating to pure beauty rather than to other considerations.
Artistic or relating to good taste
A principle of taste, or style adopted by a particular person, group or culture
Pleasing to look at: beautiful. The make-up of a building, sculpture, photograph, etc. which makes it visually beautiful.
Within the Men’s Physique division one would believe that the focus should be on the presentation of the complete package. This means to me, clean lines, well defined and proportionate symmetry from all angles, and displayed with a graceful presentation.
For the majority of people who train hard, eat well and strive to rise to the top in the Men’s Physique division or bodybuilding they are handicapped, but can counter their handicap if they can master the forgotten art of posing.
Most people will never achieve a physique like the great Frank Zane, Lee Labrada, Serge Nubret or Shawn Ray because it takes more than just amazing bodybuilding genetics. Every one of these people also had an exceptional anthropometry, that is, bodily proportions. Two of the most influential factors, over which you (normally) have no control, that determine your physique's appearance are the relative length of your bones and the ratio of your muscle to tendon length.
The relative length of your bones, or your skeletal frame, limits the proportions you can attain. You can make tremendous differences in the ratio of your waist to shoulder circumference, but you will always be limited by the width of your hips and your shoulders.
So how does an athlete gain the upper hand? How can we better ourselves and raise the bar, putting genetics aside and knowing we can’t change the muscle, tendon or bone ratios? The answer, which can level the playing field and even provide you with the upper hand, is your posing. Posing is not a science, it is an art… The “Forgotten Art”.
If we travel back a few decades, and we take a look at many of the great bodybuilders or let’s call them pioneers of the Men’s Physique Division criteria you will see much of what I am referring to. Frank Zane, Serge Nubret, Steve Reeves, Bob Paris, Thierry Pastel, Francis Benfatto, Mohamed Makkawy, Barry Demey, all built magnificent, Greek God-like physiques that resembled Adonis, with stellar lines and great attention to detail.
I can directly relate all these legends and many more I am not naming to define aesthetics and what the “Men’s Physique” category should be. If you take these great physiques and watch them, they always delivered the complete package whether practicing in front of the mirror or moving across the competition stage in front of thousands. They moved with grace, ease and presented their overall package with flawless execution. To them it was an art, and the stage was their canvas.
Let’s now look at modern day legends of aesthetics. The likes of Chris Cormier, Shawn Ray, Lee Labrada, Kevin Lerone, Francis Benfatto along with many others that come to mind. They too had great aesthetics and became masters at the art of posing. Their overall delivery and presentation of the package they worked years constructing flowed as they transitioned from one pose to the next displaying the aesthetic physique they worked on bettering every day.
Learn to pose, learn to master the art of posing, and you will hold another Ace in your hand while coming to the stage and playing in the game of Men’s Physique. In this game it is harder to “bluff”….
“The Forgotten Art” of posing has the importance of many key factors in presenting your best physique. Some of those key areas are: understanding your body type, studying the art of posing, posing practice, transitioning between poses, stage presence, confidence, a little individual swag and working with a posing coach. These are all important aspects of perfecting your posing for the contest stage.
Being shredded and having great symmetry is definitely a major factor and in most cases very critical for your outcome in a physique competition but without having your presentation perfected you may find yourself on the lower end of the placings in your shows.
But how can your subpar presentation put you in a losing position if you are the best-conditioned athlete? I have seen first-hand a razor-sharp athlete lose a close decision due to their poor posing skills. For example, backstage at a show I attended in Houston one of the athletes in question was looking phenomenal just standing there. His physique looked unbeatable, with full muscle bellies and super shredded cuts; it appeared he had the show already won. However, as that athlete stepped on stage, all his hard work, ripped physique and dreams were lost due to a poor display of his posing.
All of a sudden the competitor next to him in the lineup – whose conditioning was a bit off but who had stellar posing skills – looked like the more prominent and polished athlete.
If you learn and work to perfect your craft, your well-executed posing can give you an advantage over an athlete with a physique that may be equal or slightly better than yours. In a highly competitive Men’s Physique lineup it becomes very clear who has the superior presentation and right away my eyes are drawn to that competitor. In my mind, points are being awarded and it is becoming cemented into the judges’ heads: “That guy is a good poser.” This will give you a huge advantage, as more times than not, the judges will be keeping their eyes focused on you. Therefore, you are indirectly judged for your posing and presentation skills and if you decide to approach your presentation half-heartedly, it can and will cost you in a tough lineup.
As you prepare for your upcoming competition, do not waste the dedication, the desire, and the discipline that led to your hard-fought journey to the Men’s Physique division stage. Ensure you have the right perspective when it comes to presentation. Make sure your posing skills are mastered and take the necessary steps to deliver a winning physique!
For me personally, I still have a lot of work to put in. Every single day after my morning cardio session, I practice, practice, practice and I am still learning how and what works for presenting my overall best package. Over the years, I've tweaked a few poses, angled my body differently as I've changed and added muscle. I try and practice posing a lot, especially in the weeks leading up to a show. When I'm on stage, I want to feel comfortable, relaxed, and confident. I don't want to have to worry about my posing; it should feel natural at that point.
For all you competitors, how often do you practice posing? Have you taken any posing workshops? In order to achieve success in the Men’s Physique division you should definitely consider both activities!