This past weekend, the best of the best came out in droves to Las Vegas, NV for the 2015 Mr. Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend. It’s a tidal wave of all things athletic, including but not limited to powerlifting, crossfit, wrestling, strongman, tae kwon do, and so on. The main events are the bodybuilding competitions, both Men’s and Women’s. For those newer, Men’s bodybuilding includes the 212 showdown and Men’s physique. For women its Fitness, Figure, and Bikini.
While Phil Heath’s (controversial) 5th win wasn’t a complete surprise, especially given that Kai Greene wasn’t in the lineup this year, the women’s side saw a shocker, as Latorya Watts dethroned Nicole Wilkins who was after her 5th Olympia victory. The results aren’t necessarily what we are here to discuss, since I found something else to be more shocking; the actual size of the female competitors. If you ask around, people would probably say the size of the competitors as whole, but while the men’s side is certainly increasing, the women’s side is broaching the line of whether the competitors are sticking to what the judging should be about.
Let’s start with the judging requirements for NPC Women’s Figure:
- Small degree of muscularity with separation, no visible striations
- Overall muscle tone with shapely lines, overall firmness and not excessively lean
- Full general assessment
- Healthy appearance
- Skin tone
It only takes one look at the Top 3 from the weekend to know that they are well above “small degree of muscularity”. Across the stage, you saw women with sizable thighs with strong quad separation, large rounded shoulders, and a look that makes their midsections look nearly impossible. Took a look at the pictures and don’t think they look that big? Remember that these women are dry, leaned out, and at their stage weight. And their legs still look large, as do their shoulders. That only means that they are larger than you think. Take a look at Nicole Wilkins post comp and check her striations:
Or maybe this one of Candice Lewis on stage, who came in 3rd:
Now, let me be clear: I think these women look massively impressive. Their size, muscularity, and separation are downright amazing and impressionable. But the topic isn’t about how good they look, its about if they are taking the Figure class beyond what its supposed to be. The issue when you have a top 3 that look like these ladies is that the next round of competitors need to come in bigger, leaner, more rounded, more separated…more of everything. If there is a line of women who have the standard requirements, the judges start looking at who has a bit more muscularity or separation. Imagine being a judge at the Olympia where every woman has that. How do you decipher who gets 1st versus 2nd? The only saving grace for the judges going with Latorya is that her waist is so tiny that you could say they are maintaining the “shapely lines” part of judging. Maybe.
If you’re curious, here is Erin Stern on the Olympia stage in 2010, when she came in first. Then look at the pictures above. If she competed now, she’d probably be in the Bikini division. 5 years makes a difference…
You can even see some of this with the Women’s Bikini, whose requirements are less…but vague:
- Balance and Shape
- Overall physical appearance including complexion, skin tone, poise and overall presentation.
While Bikini Olympia Champ Ashley Kaltwasser is incredibly beautiful and has an undeniable physique, you could even say she has gone beyond the bikini requirements with her perfectly etched 6 pack. The women in this division are doing a decent job of maintaining the “femininity” that is bestowed upon the gloriously peppy and beach perfect Bikini group, but there are examples of women becoming more defined to set themselves a part from the rest.
It will take the IFBB judges stepping back and figuring out how they can possibly slow things down on their stages. Of course judging changes from show to show, but with the exceptional growth of bodybuilding and the NPC, they will be hard pressed to find a way to keep women from trying to find ways to make themselves stand out just a bit more than the other make-up caked, chiseled beauty next to them. With this though, natural associations are finding growth as well, as more and more women find that they aren’t capable or wanting to reach the level of size the pros have mastered. Questions arise about what the pros take to assist in their muscularity, and whether someone who has been on the stage a year or less wants to even venture into that realm. The IFBB is going full steam ahead in a direction that many women may not be able to or want to go in, which may end up leaving many people behind or scrambling to their local natural org.
What is it they say? “Get Big or Die Tryin’!”