IFBB Pro League & NPC Divisions
Understand the IFBB Pro League & NPC Divisions and Classes.
Learn about the details and posing for each division.
The one that started it all.
You cant be too big. You cant be too ripped. You want a small waste and huge V-taper. Focus on full round muscles. Never give up conditioning for size. You will lose to the smaller guy!
The entire physique must be balanced. Every muscle group should be proportional to the others. Muscles will be deeply separated, and the separation should be run the entire length of every muscle. Avoid a bloated midsection. Striations, feathers, and muscle fibers are indications of the required conditioning for bodybuilding.
In addition to the front, side, and rear quarter turns, mandatory poses include a front double bicep, front lat spread, side chest, side tricep, rear double bicep, rear lat spread, abdominals with one thigh, and the favorite most muscular.
Bodybuilders will also perform a posing routine to music at finals. Not that if your music contains profanity, you may be disqualified.
Bodybuilders will wear Speedo-type trunks. Thongs are not permitted. They may be any color but should not include any wording or fringe.
We highly recommend that you watch the 2021 IFBB Pro Legion on Center Podium TV where head judge Tyler Manion calls out the poses for IFBB Pro Bodybuilding. We suggest that you practice with the pre-judging video to understand timing and mandatory poses.
The old school look.
In this NPC Division, the goal is to look like Arnold. You should have a small waist, full round muscles. Ripped. Less mass than bodybuilding and a posing style reminiscent of the golden era of bodybuilding. The waist to shoulder ratio is key. Every muscle should pop.
The Judging consists of comparisons of the quarter turns and the following five mandatory poses. Mandatories include front double biceps, side chest, back double biceps, abdominal and thighs, and your favorite classic pose (Not Most Muscular). Unlike bodybuilding, the read lat spread, read double biceps, and most muscular are not used in Classic Physique judging.
Classic Physique includes height and weight requirements. So a classic physique athlete will have his height and weight measured to assure he conforms with the rules. You can see a breakdown of the NPC Classic Physique height and weight requirements here.
Classic Physique competitors will run through their mandatory poses as athletes are compared for the judges at Pre-Judging. At final, athletes will perform a routine to the music of their choice. Music with profanity may result in disqualification.
Athletes are required to wear posing shorts. Board shorts or bodybuilding posing trunks are not permitted. Competitors are required to wear the same type of cut and all shorts as pictured above. Shorts are black and should have no graphics except on the waistband, where white text is optional.
You can learn more about Classic Physique posing in our Classic Physique Posing seminar with Classic Physique Mr. Olympia Danny Hester on Center Podium TV.
The GQ look.
One of the most popular NPC Divisions. The athletes wear board shorts, so the focus is on the aesthetics of the upper body—particularly the waist to shoulder ratio. Arms can be too big. You do not want the mass of other divisions.
Ultimately you want your waist to be as small as possible while your lats and shoulders are very wide. Good chest depth and deep back separation are key. You do not want to be so shredded that you display muscle fibers.
Judges will be looking for fit athletes who display proper shape and symmetry combined with muscularity and overall condition. This division is different from bodybuilding, so extreme muscularity will be marked down.
Athletes will be asked to walk in board shorts. Shorts must be just above the knee in length and can be one inch below the belly button; no spandex and no logos are permitted on the board shorts however a manufacturer’s logo such as Nike symbol is acceptable. Competitors will enter the stage without a shirt and barefoot.
Posing includes a front and a back pose. At finals you will have a short presentation where you walk to the middle of the stage and perform 2-3 poses and then exit the stage.
You can learn more about men’s physique posing from IFBB Pro and Olympia Bo Worely on Center Podium TV.
The big girls!
Women’s Bodybuilding is the dying division. It was even once removed from the Olympia. Women’s bodybuilding is almost never an option among NPC divisions at amateur events.
The focus is on full round muscles. Never give up conditioning for size. You will lose to the smaller girl!
The entire physique must be balanced. Every muscle group should be proportional to the others. Muscles will be deeply separated, and the separation should be run the entire length of every muscle. Striations, feathers, and muscle fibers are indications of the required conditioning for bodybuilding.
In addition to the front, side, and rear quarter turns, mandatory poses include a front double bicep, front lat spread, side chest, side tricep, rear double bicep, rear lat spread, and abdominals with one thigh. Women do not perform the most muscular pose.
Bodybuilders will also perform a posing routine to music at finals. Note that if your music contains profanity, you may be disqualified.
Bodybuilders will wear figure-type bottoms. Thongs are not permitted. Suits may include a printed design with fringes, lace, sparkle, or fluorescents that are in good taste.
Still pretty big.
This division was created as an alternative to women’s bodybuilding. It retains all of the guidelines but in a smaller, more aesthetic package. It is similar to the look of women’s bodybuilding in the 1990s.
Competitors should display a toned, athletic physique showcasing femininity, muscle tone, beauty/flow of physique. The thick, dense muscle should be avoided, as seen in Women’s bodybuilding. Additionally, a women’s physique athlete should not be overly striated in a way that displays muscle fibers.
The women’s physique posing round is similar to bodybuilding except that the hands are open, and there tends to be more twisting. In addition to the front, side, and rear quarter turns, mandatory poses include a back double biceps, side triceps with leg extended, side chest with arms extended, and front ab/thigh. At finals, women’s physique competitors will perform a routine.
The suit will be similar to the figure suit is a 2-piece that connects in the back. Heels are not worn in Women’s physique. You can see fantastic examples of women’s physique competitors at the IFBB Pro Legion on Center Podium TV.
Figure requires an extreme V-taper. This is achieved by having a naturally tiny waist, broad shoulders, and a very wide back. Figure athletes are very lean with deep separation in the quads, hamstrings, and back.
While figure athletes are lean, they should not be so lean that their muscles are “feathered” which means that you can see the muscle fibers. The figure athlete should also not be overly vascular or veiny.
Maintain a feminine look with good make-up, jewelry, hair, and clear heals. The suit will be a figure-specific suit that connects in the back. But don’t get overly caught up in the girly stuff; still, a girl with a shaved head, no make-up, and the best physique will always win.
Figure has three poses, a front, side, and back pose. Definalty do not do any bodybuilding style posing. At finals you will have a short presentation where you walk to the middle of the stage and perform 2-3 poses and then exit the stage. You can learn more about figure posing from 7 time Olympia Bojana Vasiljevic in this video on Center Podium TV.
Fitness is one of the most entertaining npc divisions to watch but is less popular due to the complication of having to have a gymnastics or dance-based routine. The Fitness routines may be a maximum of 2 minutes to music of the competitor’s choice and must include a Push Up of any kind, high kick, straddle hold, and side split.
The physique is much like figure, and you should follow these guidelines.
In fitness, the routine and physique are judged. A third of the score comes from the physique round, and the routine makes up two-thirds of the judges’ score. So you can have a first-place routine and a second-place physique but still, win the contest.
Due to its difficulty, fitness has become less popular, making it easier to place and get a pro card.
The suit and heels used for the physique round will be the same as figure. It must be v-shaped. No thongs are permitted. All swimsuits must be in good taste. For the routine, figure athletes may wear a costume and theatrical style make-up. One prop is also permitted if the athlete can carry it on and off the stage without assistance. You can learn more about fitness from Ms Olympia’s Missy Truscott and Whitney Jones from their presentations at the NPC National Women’s Workshop video on Center Podium TV.
Glutes, glutes, glutes
Wellness is the newest of the npc divisions. The overall package will be less conditioned than figure and less muscle in the upper body. There should be an obvious imbalance between the upper body and lower body, with the lower body’s muscular development being much greater than the shoulders, back, and arms. This division is perfect for women who are bottom-heavy, gaining muscle in the legs and glutes very easily. But understand that does not mean fat in the bottom; it means very muscular!.
Posing will be more like the bikini division, except that there are three poses. In the front pose, Competitors will face front with one hand on the hip, one arm straight down, and one leg slightly extended. Do not place the arm off to the side with the elbow bent and the wrist bent upwards as is common in other European federations.
In the side pose, Competitors will turn slightly, facing the judges with right hand on hip and left arm straight down, and right leg bent at the knee. More like a twisting side pose that Bikini competitors perform.
In the read pose, wellness competitors will face the rear with lower back arched with glutes pushed back.
At finals, you will have a short presentation where you walk to the middle of the stage and perform 2-3 poses, and then exit the stage.
As wellness evolves as a new division, so does the posing and presentation. We highly recommend viewing the recent shows on Center Podium TV to see the latest in the evolution of wellness.
The swimsuit model
Bikini is the most popular of the women’s npc divisions; the look is easier to obtain and more mainstream. But easier to obtain does not mean an easy win as there are usually many competitors in this popular division. You must have a small midsection and full round glutes with good hamstring/glute separation. Too much muscle, thick legs, muscular shoulders, or being too lean will get athletes marked down in this division.
Maintain a feminine look with good make-up, jewelry, hair, and clear heals. Competitors will compete in a two-piece suit. The bottom of the suit must be v-shaped. No Thongs are permitted. You don’t have to buy an expensive suit, you can compete in a off-the-rack bikini. But take careful note of how a suit frames and shapes your physique.
Posing is a big part of the overall presentation. You’ll develop posing that helps to accentuate your hourglass figure. At finals, you will have a short presentation where you walk to the middle of the stage and perform 2-3 poses and then exit the stage.
You can learn more about posing by watching our video on Center Podium TV presented by 3x Ms. Olympia Ashley Kaltwasser, and top Olympia judge and IFBB Pro, Etila Santiago.
Divisions and Classes
There are a total of 9 DIVISIONS:
NPC 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.
You can compete in all the classes where you meet the requirements. We recommend that you do as many as you can to maximize your stage time. Very often, athletes will make mistakes in their first class. If they are competing in multiple classes and divisions, they have the opportunity to correct these mistakes during the show and place higher in subsequent classes!
These npc divisions are then broken up into classes which are delineated by age, height, weight, novice, and open.
The main categories of classes are:
- True Novice – Open to competitors who have never competed in an NPC contest. Not offered at all shows.
- Novice – Competitors who have not won their class in novice, open, masters.
- 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 is 18 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. Open is the only class that will qualify you for nationals
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