Muscle Sport Magazine

The Classic Physique It Is Not

Before anyone gets all pumped up that the new men’s classic physique division will be an answer to the big gut complaints heard on a regular basis about bodybuilding, take a step back and look at it objectively instead of with rose colored glasses. 2016 will include a new category, but it will be more of an offshoot of the men’s physique division than bodybuilding in every way.

When Jim Manion made the initial announcement, it seemed that this was going to be the answer to the litany of complaints – especially from none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself – about the wide waistlines on the mass monster-type bodybuilders that have become commonplace. People longed for that old school look, the type that Frank Zane and Schwarzenegger brought to the stage. And the introduction of what the NPC and IFBB will be calling men’s classic physique has been lauded throughout the industry.

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Excuse us if we appear to be throwing cold water on it, but MCP will be a major disappointment to the folks who believe it will bring back what is known throughout the bodybuilding circles as the ‘classic physique.’ From everything that has been released so far, this will have little to do with bodybuilding, per se, and just be an offshoot of the MPD.

Realistically, how many current bodybuilders are going to ‘move down’ to classic physique? The best chance of seeing one is going to be down the road when the smaller and lighter NPC competitors (the ones who have no shot at winning an overall) earn their pro cards. For the most part, though, this is going to be for MPD competitors who use more steroids and (finally) get rid of the board shorts.


Let’s take a look at the charts for the IFBB classic physique division, which will be judged as one open class. They range from ‘up to and including 5’4”/160 pounds’ to ‘over 6’7”/up to and including 275 pounds.’ While the weights listed are not considered that heavy, they are, nonetheless, fairly close to the size of bodybuilders during the beloved Golden Era.

So far, so good.


There are five compulsory poses instead of the usual seven, with front double biceps, side chest, back double biceps and abdominals and thighs being the same. Then there is a ‘favorite classic pose (no most muscular).’ But what jumps off the page is the absence of any lat spreads (front or back) from that list. In a category that would seem to want to focus on the V-taper of the competitors, either – or both – of these poses accentuate that. Of course, one can be done in that catch-all favorite classic pose.

There are individual posing routines and a pose down, as well. So all of these are vast improvements over the MPD stage presentation


Here is where the biggest difference – and disappointment – comes in to play. Speculation was that the 1970s style posing trunks were going to be used and Manion said in the video that they would be black in color and available later on the NPC website. So it appeared that not only would the bodies be more pleasing to look at, but also the attire by getting rid of the shiny almost-thongs that have become popular with the bodybuilders. MCP memo shorts

The official IFBB memo dated November 13, 2015 stated that the trunks would be a solid black matte finish, spandex, not longer than 11 inches and ‘no advertising or endorsement except that small manufacturer logos such as Nike, Under Armour, etc. are permitted.”

A few weeks later, the trunks appeared on and they were not the ones that the Schwarzeneggers, Zanes and Columbus of the industry made famous. No, the “official shorts of the NPC/IFBB classic physique division” are basically compression shorts at best and boxer brief underwear at worst. The conspicuous ‘NPC’ or ‘IFBB PRO’ lettering across the waistband make them appear more like the latter and seem to go directly against the ‘no advertising or endorsement’ mandate in the memo.

Since the memo also mentioned other small logos such as Nike would be permitted, that would lead one to believe that these shorts are not the only ones allowed. But to double-check that (and if these NPC and IFBB marked shorts would be available elsewhere), we inquired directly to NPC Wear website. MCP shorts

“Yes,” said Rico Barakat in an e-mail, confirming that these will be the only ones allowed on stage, “and they will be only online at”


Another critique of this new division – and one that we here at MSM have echoed – was that it was added to increase the revenue of the organizations, promoters, etc. The fact that the shorts are unique and only available on the NPC website (a total transformation from every other category) would lead one to make that conclusion. But let’s look at the total picture.

The NPC is not going to get rich on a $32 clothing, regardless of how many are sold. But take into consideration the additional competitors that this will attract. Yes, the vast majority of NPC competitors who will be in MCP would have been there, anyway, with MPD. But that opens the doors for a number of men that may not have tried their hand at competing before, but now they see an opening that wasn’t there before.

“I did one local show last year and didn’t place and figured that would be it since all of the other guys were much bigger than me,” said an NPC MPD competitor that requested to be called Rob (leaving his last name anonymous). “But after speaking to a few people at the gym, a lot of those guys are going to jump into classic physique. So I’m going to give it another shot this year.”

It makes sense that the spots vacated by MPD competitors moving up to MCP will be filled by a group of competitors that would not have been on stage at all. And that means the already-drawn out shows will go even later than before, watered down with competitors that are not stage-ready.

BODY (UN)BUILDING? Muscle Size memo

The purists were miffed with the amount of MPD and bikini competitors before. Just imagine what will be taking place in 2016 and beyond once these respective male and female ‘cardio bunnies’ are the majority?

Each and every one of them has to pay an annual NPC registration fee and then more for each show (and category) they enter. Add in the backstage passes and seats for friends and relatives and this will be an even deeper gold mine.

At the professional level, the ticket sales will increase with the additional competitors. And purists beware – the physiques in these categories will get even smaller due to the memo distributed by Jim Manion reminding “athletes and judges that muscle size is only one of the many factors” taken into consideration in MPD, WPD, figure and bikini.

The IFBB memo continues, “We would like to see les focus on muscle size and more focus on symmetry, balance, proportion, definition and overall condition.”

Last March when Schwarzenegger made his plea to bring back the aesthetic look, even he couldn’t have imagined that it would be taken this far…and not in a positive way, either.

Photo courtesy of Ric Drasin