Since drug-free competition is the foundation of Physique Canada’s core values, the physiques of women’s muscular physique competitors are very much similar to women’s bodybuilding physiques of the 80's. However, to retain their femininity women’s physiques are displayed via quarter turns rather than mandatory bodybuilding poses. So, since we are comparing women's muscular physique to bodybuilding, should the most muscular woman on stage win? What about the leanest? Should really skinny women do well? Are six-packs necessary to do well? What follows should eliminate any confusion there might be and help understand how judges assess women's muscular physique competitors.
The judging of physiques is very subjective in nature. As a result, it is important to have guidelines and definitions to follow to ensure consistency across the entire organization. Physique Canada judges assess women’s muscular physique competitors based on the following criteria:
Muscular development relates to both muscle size and muscle shape. Although judges are looking for a muscular physique, it is important that the competitors still look like women. Therefore, excessive muscularity should be avoided as it will take away from that feminine look.
Muscle definition relates to how lean a muscle is. Muscle definition, also known as conditioning, pertains to the absence of subcutaneous body fat and subcutaneous water. This plays a very important role in displaying the degree of muscularity and shape of the muscles, as well as showing separations between muscle groups.
Looking excessively lean and hard will take away from a woman’s femininity. Deep muscle separations, striations, and excessive vascularity should therefore be avoided.
Symmetry is about having both equal muscle development and equal muscle definition between all muscle groups. This means that there should be a proper balance between the left side and the right side of the body, the upper body compared to the lower body, and the front compared to the back.
Stage presence relates to the overall presentation of the athlete, including confidence, poise, skin tone, skin colour, make-up, suit selection, and execution of the quarter turns. Skin blemishes such as acne, scars, tattoos, blotchy application of skin colour, and stretch marks can negatively affect stage presence.
No physique is perfect. With competitors presenting different strengths and weaknesses and displaying various degrees of muscle definition and muscularity, judges need to decide which combination of muscular development, muscle definition, and symmetry looks best on stage at the time competitors are assessed. Stage presence can give figure competitors an edge when things get really close.
Competitors are compared against each other and ranked accordingly. If ranking is close between two competitors, judges start comparing the overall structure and balance between the two. At this point symmetry and overall shape become a key factor. If a competitor displays greater flaws (e.g. poor shoulder development, legs aren’t quite as lean as the rest of the body, wider mid-section, etc.), then the edge generally goes to the other competitor. If the overall balance and symmetry is comparable between the two physiques, then the judges might need to decide if one’s muscularity eclipses the other’s muscle definition. Sometimes it can boil down to minor differences in stage presence.
As simple as it sounds, it’s not always easy when it’s time to make decisions. The process can become quite complicated with large line-ups or when line-ups have several competitors with very similar physiques. It also needs to be done in a timely manner and the rankings need to be accurate.
Competitors are always encouraged to approach the judges immediately following the contest for feedback. This gives them an opportunity to learn about their strengths and flaws so they can figure out where they should focus their efforts for future competitions.