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Choose a Federation

The first step in choosing a bodybuilding contest is choosing a federation. There are many bodybuilding federations. These are the organizations that determine the rules, standards, and judging practices for their sanctioned contests. Of all of the federations, Center Podium is associated with the National Physique Committee (NPC) and the IFBB Pro League.

The goal of most competitors is to one day achieve the title of “IFBB Pro” and compete at the Mr. Olympia contests and vie for the coveted title of Mr. or Ms. Olympia. The NPC is the only Federation in the United States that is associated with the IFBB Pro League and the Mr. Olympia contests. Overseas, competitors may compete in the “NPC Worldwide” or  an “IFBB Pro League” show to earn IFBB Pro Status. The NPC is the largest bodybuilding organization as such earning pro status is more highly regarded than pro status in other organizations.



IFBB Pro League

Prior to 2017, the IFBB Pro League and the IFBB International were associated. The IFBB International acted as the amateur federation for the IFBB Pro League for contests outside of the United States. In 2017 the organizations split and the IFBB Pro League and NPC Worldwide (they are the same organization) became the only international amateur federation associated with the Mr. Olympia contest. Additionally, the IFBB International could no longer award IFBB Pro status. As the names of the two federations are similar, it is important that you assure that you are competing in an NPC or IFBB Pro League event and not an IFBB International event.
Also note, that the IFBB International will ban athletes who compete outside of their organization. The IFBB Pro League and NPC welcome athletes from any organization.
Be cautious, as some overseas federation will claim an affiliation in an attempt to trick competitors to compete at their events. Center Podium owner, Chris Minnes and NPC News Online Chief photographer (and son of IFBB Pro League and NPC President, Jim Manion) explain in detail the differences between the federations. This video was produced due to a league in Russia intentionally causing confusion and claiming to be associated with the NPC.

Know Your Logos

ifbb pro league bodybuilding contest

IFBB Pro League Logo

IFBB International Logo

NPC bodybuilding contest logo

NPC Logo

Choosing a Show

Many factors go into choosing a show.

  • The most important factor is timing. As a rule, you should prep for a show for at least 12 weeks. This is assuming you are in decent shape and have achieved the muscular development required for your division. If you have significant body fat to lose, you may need more time. Many athletes find that if they stay on diet after 12 weeks they can continue to improve for several months becoming more and more conditioned, gain lean mass and better muscle shape.
  • National Qualifier. Not all NPC Shows are national qualifiers. If it is your goal to turn pro, it is very important that you chose a national qualifier because if it is not, you will not be able to move to the next level and compete for pro status.
  • Size of the show. There are few consistencies from show-to-show. Some may be small with just 100 competitors, some may be large with over 300. In a small show, you will have an easier chance to win a medal. But does that medal feel earned if there were only 2 people in your class? Earning a national qualification at a small show has very little value at a pro qualifier. Time and time again, if an athlete has become nationally qualified at a small show, they will do very poorly on at a pro qualifier. Remember, at a pro qualifier, you will compete against overall winners from the largest shows in the country. Small shows can often be much less organized. They are small because they are new or may not have a great reputation. Review previous shows from the same promoter, look at photos and ask former competitors if they had a good experience. A rule of thumb: if a show has a lot of bodybuilders it is a good show. Why? The bodybuilding division takes the most time and experience, therefore these athletes will know the most about the shows and support the shows that they feel are the best run. You should also review the show’s website. A quality show typically follows a quality site.
  • View Center Podium Contest Dates HERE

bodybuilding contest, ferrigno legacy

npc, bodybuilding contest

Shows can vary drastically.

Divisions and Classes

There is a total of 8 DIVISIONS; Bodybuilding, Classic Physique, Men’s Physique, Women’s Bodybuilding, Fitness, Women’s Physique, Figure, and Bikini. These divisions are then broken up into CLASSES. Classes are delineated by age, height, weight, novice and open.

Divisions and classes will vary from show-to-show. Most shows no longer include Women’s Bodybuilding due to lack of demand. Fitness is also on the decline because of the difficulty of the routine. Be sure to review a show’s division and classes to be sure your desired classes are available.

The main categories of classes are:

  • True Novice – Open to competitors who have never competed. Not offered at all shows.
  • Novice – Competitors who have not won any class including novice, open, masters, etc OR have placed top 10 at a pro qualifier
  • Master’s – Age classes excluding teens, typically 35 years old or older. This will vary and you may see 35+, 40+, 45+. 50+, 60+, etc.
  • Teen – Class for teenagers. Minimum age may vary from 13-16 years old and will also always include up to 19 years old.
  • Hero – Military, Police, Fire, Rescue. Not offered at all shows.
  • Open – An “open” class is open to all ages and levels. These are the main classes. Open classes will be divided by height or weight depending on the class.

The number of classes for each division and which classes will also vary from show-to-show.

The show may not have all the classes. For example, it may have only 4 height classes for Figure. Heights are then delineated differently based on the standards set forth by the NPC. The same is true for classes that are not considered “Open” These are known as “Cross-overs”.

To see the detailed breakdown of height and weight classes visit the rules pages of NPC News Online.

Example Figure with 6 Classes

  • Class A -Up to and including 5’1”
  • Class B -Over 5’1” and up to and including 5’ 2 1/2″
  • Class C -Over 5’2 1/2” and up to and including 5’4”
  • Class D -Over 5’4”and up to and including 5’5 1/2”
  • Class E -Over 5’5 1/2” and up to and including 5’7”
  • Class F -Over 5’7″

Example Figure with 4 Classes

  • Class A – Up to and including 5’2”
  • Class B – Over 5’2” & up to & including 5’4”
  • Class C – Over 5’4” & up to & including 5’6”
  • Class D – Over 5’6
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Bodybuilding Strategy