So having done my men’s physique competition, it was fun to go and watch the NPC San Jose Men’s Physique competition today (June 27, 2015). I have to say, I am VERY glad I did my show but I was even happier to be in the audience this time. I feel I am in a somewhat unique position to comment on the relative new sport of “Men’s Physique” given my fitness experience and having competed myself now.
I have been lifting weights five days a week for over 30 years, have done numerous triathlons and double centuries, and love to play beach doubles volleyball. I figured that I had an OK physique for my age and men’s physique was a great way to compete. Partially right, partially wrong. At the Contra Costa show I met some really inspiring individuals who were very similar to me in their approach to the men’s physique contest, they were healthy athletes first and aesthetics were a happy by product. This is what I naively thought everyone’s approach to men’s physique was. The gentlemen who I found the most inspiring was very accomplished in the martial arts having done it several decades, and like me, wanted to branch out a bit and show that an aesthetic form does follow function. Anyway, I took last place and he took next to last if that tells you anything.
When mens physique started, I was really excited. I thought “wow, this is great – now a competition for those who don’t want to do steroids”. Finally a competition where athletes could compete with their natural physiques. That didn’t last long. As the sport grew, the lucrative sponsorships from supplement makers started rolling in, and guess what? When money gets involved, everything goes to hell. When their is financial incentive to be just a little bit bigger than the next guy, people look for an edge. Every year the winners seem to be a bit bigger. It now kind of seems like mens physique is the competition for those who want to do a few small cycles of steroids instead of being juiced to the gills like the IFBB bodybuilding pros are. “Sensible steroid cycles” seem to be the new natty. Am I glad I competed? Yes! I would definitely do it again – once I get my hernia fixed anyway. It was very uplifting and exciting to meet like minded folks, kind of like the rush I got when doing my Wildflower triathlons – a great community of people focused on sport and health. There is still room in the sport for everyone. If a few want a slight edge to win, let them, fine by me. Fortunately the judges still mark down those who are clearly WAY too muscular and clearly should be in bodybuilding.
The most disheartening thing of all to me was backstage at my contest when it was apparent that some of the people who were clearly using steroids appeared to have been lifting less than a few years. They could have easily obtained the same results given 5-10 years hard work in the gym – they just were not interested in doing it the old school way. YOLO :(
Of course, the really funny thing as one of the few openly gay competitors, is that in a sport that is so obviously homoerotic, how few openly gay men there are. My “gaydar” is pretty well tuned after about 30 years of practice and backstage at my NPC Contra Costa show, it didn’t go off once. I act the way I act, I don’t “nellie it up” nor tone it down based upon the group I am with – I am who I am and like most gays, I am not a flamer. Not that there is anything wrong with flamers, thats just not me. Anyway, thats beside the point. The thing that is odd is that in such a homo-erotic sport that not even the statistical 10% of gay men is present, far less. If there are gay men in the sport they are closeted for obvious reasons. If you want to win contests and get the six figure sponsorships from the big supplement companies, you have to play the macho straight-acting game. I mean seriously, can you see GNC or Optimum Nutrition sponsoring me and appear with my husband in tow? Its laughable. No, if you don’t have the requisite voluptuous “booth babe” in arm at all times then you are NOT going to sell product to their markets.
Why the shorts?
Many people have asked this, its because its in the rules for the men’s physique! There are VERY specific rules about the shorts. You must wear surf shorts that go to the knee cap, you cant show crotch, you cant be an advertising billboard with all kinds of logos. If you want to wear a speedo and show leg, that is the bodybuilding category, not the men’s physique. I think the whole idea initially behind mens physique was to draw in larger crowds of both spectators and contestants by having a “beach boy” category so to speak. Competitors who look like they are very fit beach lifeguards, hence the shorts.
To make this more complicated, each organization has its own “Men’s Physique” rules with different requirements for the shorts. NPC and IFBB are similar but I have seen other “smaller than bodybuilder” type competitions where they were wearing boxcut speeds, no idea which organization that was but there are a lot of them out there. Anyway, thats why the knee length shorts, its in the rules.
Why the DARK spray tans?
Great question. Its no secret that bodybuilders use steroids, lots of them. Steroids do nasty things to the skin, stretch marks and horrible scar causing acne to mention two. Funny that the 5′ tall 260 pound 2% bodyfat builders are still presented as being the epitome of health although they are probably closer to death than anyone in the audience. To help the audience pretend they are healthy requires hiding all those stretch marks and bad acne skin and thats where the spray tans (aka black paint) come in. Make the body paint dark enough and the stage lights bright enough and the audience cant see the skin flaws leaving the competitors with healthy looking skin despite the fact that its not.
I can also tell you that the tans they do at the event are not the greatest. The problem with spray tan products is that you need to put them on 24hours in advance otherwise when you sweat, it runs off. Most competitors opt for doing spray tans at the event which is a non-optimal so many people end up having bad chemical reactions and turn green, orange, or just drip like they are bleeding. Why people dont spray their faces too is beyond me.
For my competition I got my first round of tan 2 days before the event and my final “bronzer” the day before the event. Worked out great as you can see from all my photos. No drips, no patches, no funny colors.