Judging a Physique Contest


This article first appeared in Bob Hoffman’s Strength and Health Magazine in 1957. It details the point scoring for the precusors for today’s modern bodybuilding shows. Of particular interest are the categories dealing with muscularity and athleticism.

Many of us forget that physique competitions used to include some form of strength component dealing with the 3 big lifts (the two hand press, the two hands snatch, the two hands clean and jerk).

How would bodybuilding be today if Kai Greene and Phil Heath had to compete in the clean and jerk for the Olympia crown?

Since judging a Mister Competition has become one of the touchiest subjects in the Iron World, a great deal of time was devoted to clarifying this issue at the official AAU Convention last Fall in Los Angeles. I am going to try to briefly sum up these points for the benefit of officials who handle such contests.

First, such contests in future will be confined to TWO AWARDS in each contest, one the regular Mr. So-and-so title, and the other The Most Muscular Man. Miscellaneous classifications, such as Best Arms, Back, Chest, Legs, etc., have been discontinued.

Secondly, instead of the 15 points formerly used to select a titlist, 20 points will be used in future, the extra 5 points being given for Athletic Ability. Four classifications will now be used, each of which count up to 5 points: Muscularity 5 points, Symmetry 5 points, General Appereance 5 points, Athletic Abiltiy 5 poitns.

Nearly every physique contest is a two-fold affair. In addition to Mr. So-and-so, there is a “Most Muscular Man” contest. The winner of this contest should be as the name implies.

The Most Muscular Man

The Most Muscular Man should be a combination of bulk and definition. It should not be just a question of the “mostest” but rather a combination of the most muscle and the best-shaped and best-defined muscles. Men who have been selected in the past as Most Mucular, Roy Hilligen in 1951, Jim Parks in 1952, George Payne in 1953 and ’54, DIck Schaeffer in 1955, Arthur Harris in 1956, were all worthy to bear the title, “America’s Most Muscular Man.” If this type of man is selected as most muscular in the future, the judges will have proven that they have done their work well.

In selecting the Most Muscular Man, judges have just one thing to consider – Muscles. The most muscular man is usually selected without a second judging by just adding the musularity ratings of the judges of each contestant, up to five points. A total of thes points, crossing off the high and the low, as is customary, will determine the selection of the MOST MUSCULAR MAN.

Selecting Mr. America

In selecting Mr. America, or any other Mr. Titlist, there should be an endeavor to select the best all-around man, a man who will be a credit to the title he bears, not just the most muscular, as too often has been done in some quarters. In selecting the title winner, whether Mr. America, Mr. Pennsylvania, Mr. New york City, or whatever the title being contested is called, the following system of scoring is employed:

5 Points for Symmetry of Proportions.
5 Points for Musular Developement.
5 Points for General Appearance, Skin, Hair, Posture, etc.
5 points for Athletic Ability.
20 points in all.

The customary number of judges is seven. These judges are selected by the National CHairman or his appointee for National contests, by the District Chairman or his appointee, for District contests. The judges are usually the Chairmen of Weight-lifting and bodybuilding in their respective districts, men who have won their positions through long experience, abiltiy and enthusiasm for the sport of weight-lifting and weight-training. For District contests, the judges should be members of the weight-lifting and body-building committee.

A rule of judging states that the high score and the lowest score for each contestant will be discared. This is done to eliminate human error in judging, an occasional judge who will rate his man too high, an opponent too low. With five scores counting, a maximum of 20 points for each man a perfect score would be five times 20 or 100. The man who wins will, of course, be the man with the highest total score.

5 Points for Symmetry of Proportions

Symmetry of proportions means the best balanced physique, a physique which is pleasing to the eye. Good proportions in the masculine physique are not hard to determine, the practiced eye can easily pick out a well balanced, symmetrical physique. Any disproportion ofr unbalanced physical attribute will detract from the score in this category. A neck which is too long, too large or too small, a trapezius which is too high, shoulders which are too narrow or dispropritionately broad, waists which are too long or too broad, legs which are too large or lumpy in the thighs, too small in the calves, calves whicha re too high, flat feet or other inharmonious physical features, cut down the score in this division of scoring.

5 points for Muscular Development

Here, there is just one thing to consider, MOST MUSCULAR. Symmetry, a blanced physique, a man’s face, even the presence of varicose veins can be disregarded. Rating for muscularity is the judge’s only problem. The rating is from 1 to 5 in each scoring division, and only half points will be counted. Thus a rating must be 1, 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2, or 5.

5 Points for General Appearance, Skin, Hair, Etc.

Judging in this class must include in addition to general appearance, skin and hair, also teeth, posture, carriage as the platform is approached and left, posing and many other features almost too numerous to mention. The winner must be a good looking man, handsome in a manly sort of way. Features such as big ears, buck teeth, small chin, lined face, skin irregularities, shortage of hair or bald spots, varicose veins, stretch marks, flat feet, are retarding factors in juding in this department. There are many intangibles which must be included in the selection of the man most worthy to bear the title Mr. America or any lesser title which is being contested. Morality must be given consideration, for ew must slect a wholesome type of man. Education is important, for Mr. America must be able to speak well as he will frequently appear on radio and television shows, and will speak before groups of people, at schools, Boys’ clubs, colleges, YMCAs, Service and SPorts groups. He must be patient, for he will have to answer innumerable questions, particularly from the young enthusiasts. He must sign autographs endlessly without becoming impatient. he must be a live, alert, friendly man, must possess a combination of human qualities, which will make us proud to call him Mr. America.

5 Points for Athletic Ability

The fairest, simplest and surest way to measure a man’s athletic ability is to ascertain his ability with the three lifts, practied the world over. The two hand press, the two hands snatch, the two hands clean and jerk. A man who is a good performer with the three Olympic lifts will have developed physical ability which will permit him to perform well in a wide variety of athletic contests. He will have built super-strength, superior health, a well-balanced physique, and the expectancy of a long, happy , successful and useful life.

According to lifting ability, physique contest entrants will be rated as follows: 2 points for those who can lift a total of three times bodyweight in the three Olympic lifts. This means that if the physique contest entant weights in as a featherweight (132 lbs.), he must lift a total of 396 bounds to qualify for these two points, if he is a middleweight (165 lbs.), he must lift 594 pounds. One who classes as a Expert Lifter, will receive 3 points, a qualifier as an International LIfter will receive 4 points, and a First Class Lifter will receive 5 points. Following is a scale to rate the athletic abiltiy of physique contest entrants who prefer to show their ability with a weight lifting total:

Lb. Class 3 times
2 points
3 points
4 points
5 points
123 369 570 595 615
132 396 600 625 645
148 432 650 675 700
165 495 700 730 755
181 543 740 770 800
198 594 775 810 840
225 675 810 845 875
250 750 840 875 905

You must be a fairly good lifter to equal the standard which permits the highest rating, Junior National Titles have been won with these First Class Lifter totals in the past. The ratings of a Master Lifter are 660, 695, 750, 810, 860, 900, 935, 970. American record totals are 755, 777, 825, 935, 986, 1074, 1175. You will notice that even the highest rating used in judging a physique contest is from 140 to 270 pounds back of the U.S. records.

Weight-lifting and weight-training builds a superoior physique, and probably there will be no contestants who are not weight-trained men, for long ago, those from other sports who entered, found themselves so badly outclassed by the weight-lifters, that they long since have vanished from the physique contest competitions. Neverthelese, we wish to give men who desire to demonstrate their athletic ability in some way other than weight-lifting (only the three international lifts, not body-building exercises) an opportunity to rate well up with the lifters. In scoring other athletes, no matter what their event may be: swimming, boxing, wrestling, track and field, or a member of an athletic team, rate them as follows.

A local champion in any sport, a member of a team which wins a local championship, or a good average performer in any sport, 2 points. District, individual champions or member of a district team champion, or those who finsihed among the first six in district championsihps, 3 points. Individuals or teams who finshed among the first six in state competitions, 4 points. Individuals or teams who finshed among the first six in national competition, 5 points. Or any man who can equal the performance of the 6th place winner in his sport, in the various categories. With this system of scoring properly put into execution, with competent and fair judges, the very best all-round man shoudl invariably be the winner of Mr. America, Mr. Unvierse, or any other phsique contest.

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