Posted on 13 Sep 2013
5 min read
There is a storm brewing in the Gymtalk office.
Battle lines have been drawn and people are starting to misuse company files by building barricades.
This is all because of the new category being introduced at this year’s Olympia:
You can read the official IFBB rules for the Men’s Physique category by clicking here.
One side says that this new category is just for pretty boys who don’t want to train legs.
The other side believes Men’s Physique is taking bodybuilding back to a golden age of aesthetics and symmetry.
In this article I’ll try and give an unbiased outline of the category and shed some light on the subject so you can pick a side for yourselves.
Men’s Physique opens up the Olympia competition to a new type of athlete, calling for less massive and more athletic/aesthetic competitors to take the stage.
Think of past bodybuilding legends like Frank Zane, Bob Paris and Steve Reeves.
There are two categories (under and over 5’ 8”) and rather than budgie smugglers the competitors wear board shorts.
This is possibly the primary reason why so many people have been quick to turn their noses up at the category.
The shorts must be a certain distance from the knees, making it very difficult to show off the athletes’ legs.
More on that later.
However, although it was met with jokes and derision at first, Men’s Physique is becoming a respected division of the sport.
The first thing I thought when I first came across this category was that it almost felt ‘trendy’.
With the rise in people who want the ‘fitness model’ look and a big rise in the popularity of ‘leanness’ over ‘mass’ it felt like pandering from the competitive side of the industry.
But actually I’m coming round to the idea of Men’s Physique.
The big joke is that the category is an excuse not to train legs, mainly because of the shorts.
This gave the competition no credibility at first but it has gained a lot of that back.
After all, friends don’t let friends skip leg day.
There is a perception of the athletes – and the category in general – being filled with gym bros and beachcomber stereotypes.
That is, guys who do endless curls, bench presses and ab work rather than getting down and dirty with heavy squats and deadlifts.
More ego, staring in the mirror and posting on Instagram, less heavy lifting and sweaty iron.
However you’ll probably find that these guys train just as hard as the mass monsters despite the way they look or the perception you have of them.
Fans will say it’s taking bodybuilding back to a golden age where symmetry and definition were more important than being freakishly big.
When Franco Columbu and Frank Zane took over from Arnold’s long reign it was seen as a coup, but one that was warranted, and people certainly saw the merits of their physiques.
It certainly shows off a more achievable look than that of the heavily enhanced competitors in the main competition these days.
Perhaps this will bring even more fans to the sport when they would have previously been turned off by the incomprehensible size of the Cutlers and Heaths of previous competitions.
As Men’s Physique is a new(ish) category it is perhaps a teething trouble, but it is a little confusing for a new athlete.
Competitors must find a sweet spot between musculature and size and leanness and conditioning.
Do you come in very lean and sacrifice some size?
Do you pack on a few extra pound of muscle and carry that onto the stage?
What is the right balance?
It’s not even as simple as deciding on a type as extreme muscularity can be marked down in some federations!
He’ll be one of the biggest guys on the Men’s Physique stage coming in at a little over 200lbs.
My favourite to win the title, Cook is a man mountain.
This chap will step on stage at about 188lbs and will almost certainly come in shredded to the bone.
The comparison between him and Steve Cook, above, really shows how open to interpretation and how variable the Men’s Physique category will be.
Coming in at 190lbs, this guy has a killer physique no matter who you are, but when you consider he has Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, it really makes you start paying attention.
Regardless of where he places he should be a symbol of who you can achieve regardless of your situation.
A ripped up physique, boyish good looks, and he’s only 18 years old…
What a c*nt.
He gets a lot of hate on social media and is put down a lot but I suspect that’s from people who are just a little jealous (me included).
He probably won’t win as I think he lacks the experience of the other contenders, but expect big things in the future from this guy.
So, what’s my personal take on the new Men’s Physique category?
I’m a fan.
Perhaps as a huge Frank Zane (Zaniak?) fan that probably isn’t a huge shock but I do think it’s good for the sport.
I do know people find the main competition almost laughable at how alien some of the competitors are and this will certainly bring these guys back into the fold.
However, I do think it would help if the shorts could be shorter (no homo) so the ‘no legs’ myth could be busted and bring some more credibility to the category.
But the proof will be in the pudding.
We’ll have to see come competition time, who turns up and what they look like, then you can all judge for yourselves.
So there is an overview and my opinion – but what do you guys think?
Is the Men’s Physique category just a pretty boy beauty pageant?
Or is it a legitimate return to a great period of aesthetics in bodybuilding?
Let us know in the comments bellow and, as always, keep lifting.
Get huge if you want, get ripped if you want!