I’ve never been one to shy away from controversy, nor have I had trouble speaking my mind. So let me begin by stating this: I hope this article does for the discipline of men’s physique what the movie Zoolander did for the profession of male modeling. Zoolander was released in 2001 and starred Ben Stiller as male supermodel Derek Zoolander. The film so successfully mocked the ridiculousness of male modeling that many people felt it pretty much destroyed the credibility of the profession. Catch my drift?
If you don’t know what men’s physique is, I’ll first give you a bit of its history. In late 2010, the National Physique Committee (NPC), which is based in the United States, announced the discipline as an alternative to bodybuilding. So you could say that they invented it as a physique event. The gist of it was, and still is, that the men would wear board shorts and do none of the standard bodybuilding poses; instead, they’d only stand flexed and do quarter turns. The next year it was in their competition calendar. Not long after, most other organizations adopted it, including Physique Canada, where it was called men’s sport physique.
The creation of men’s physique wasn’t without controversy, criticism, and even laughter. Just the idea of men walking onto a stage in colorful board shorts and doing only quarter turns was, well, as ridiculous as it sounded the moment it was announced. Furthermore, no one could understand whose idea it was to have the competitors wear long shorts that would cover their legs. After all, wasn’t it supposed to be a physique competition? What would be next, shirts and jackets?
When the contests commenced, it confirmed what everyone knew – it was as if men’s bodybuilding had been crossed with male modeling for a surfboard calendar. What’s more, since the men weren’t allowed to pose formally, it wasn’t long until the competitors began using flamboyant arm and leg gestures in place of poses in order to get more notice onstage. They also started making foolish facial expressions, to make them more confident looking to the judges. Yes, facial expressions. If you haven’t seen Zoolander, then you might not know what Blue Steel means; but if you have seen it, then you can probably imagine how absurd a men’s physique competition quickly became.
Could it get any worse? In my opinion, the low point of men’s physique was when people started calling it men’s bikini. In fact, I vividly recall being at a fitness expo and talking with a woman whose boyfriend was right beside her. When I asked if she competed, she said that she did – in bikini. Before I could ask him, she blurted out, “And he competes too – in men’s bikini!” Then she laughed, while he turned red. Ouch!
That’s not to say men’s physique has been a complete failure. From the get-go, it did successfully attract many men to the stage who were either not competing in bodybuilding at all, or who weren’t doing well in it at that time. It gave the organizations that promoted it something to use to entice these men to compete. One could also argue that it seemed like a beginner step before getting onto a true bodybuilding stage.
Still, I don’t believe it was the best solution for male physique sports – or even necessary in order to entice men to get on the stage. Furthermore, it’s long been difficult to get acceptance for men’s bodybuilding as a true sport, and does anyone in their right mind think men’s physique could ever be acknowledged as a real sport? Can you imagine how it would be mocked in the Olympics?
It’s because men’s physique is more like male modeling than an actual sport that the people at Physique Canada have always had misgivings about including it in events. Furthermore, unlike in other organizations, where men’s physique outgrew men’s bodybuilding quite quickly, that never happened in Physique Canada, which I believe has a lot to do with the legitimacy of their drug-testing program. Here’s why: I’ve long had a theory that the main reason that men’s physique was created and got any traction is because in organizations where there is no drug testing, no man can be competitive unless he decides to risk his health by taking the enormous amounts of drugs necessary to compete – and fewer and fewer are willing to do that. Men’s physique gave them an alternative route to get on a stage, even if it wasn’t a true bodybuilding stage. But when an organization has legitimate drug testing, such as Physique Canada has, then it’s completely unnecessary to have this new discipline, particularly since I believe that most men would rather compete in bodybuilding anyway. That’s why I said I don’t think it was necessary to create it at all – at least in organizations that drug test.
With all that said, it probably won’t come as a surprise that, as of this year, men’s sport physique is officially dropped from the Physique Canada roster. That’s right – poof! – gone. In my opinion, another way the organization is leading the way.
When Physique Canada’s president, Brian Robitaille, made this announcement, everyone involved was pleased, if not ecstatic. Included among those was Denis Pedneault, Canada’s most successful male bodybuilder over the last 25 years. Denis is also the promoter of an annual Physique Canada event in the province of Québec. Denis agreed to include men’s sport physique in his event last year, but never really liked it. He’s happy that it won’t be included this year.
I also breathed a sigh of relief when Brian announced the demise of men’s sport physique, though that’s probably not surprising if you’ve read this far. If you haven’t guessed already, I’ve never been a fan of the men’s physique discipline – I believed it to be a foolish idea from the moment it was created, and still believe that just as strongly today.
More important, eliminating it from the Physique Canada roster will help men’s bodybuilding. As I said above, one of the problems that has plagued men’s bodybuilding is the extreme drug abuse. When Physique Canada was created, the organization successfully addressed the problem of drugs by adopting a world-class testing program. Now, with men’s bodybuilding to focus on more closely, the organization can work to make it bigger and better again – which has been one of its goals from the start. If you ask me, seeing the end of board shorts on the stage is a good thing.
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