The National Stage: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Nationals, the USA’s, the North Americans, and the Team Universe; these are the shows that are the competitors goal, but when is the right time, and when is the wrong?  As the national stage opens, we should see the best of the best go toe to toe with each other, battling it out in hopes of earning that illustrious pro card, from amateur to professional. However, this isn’t always the case.  Many have commented on the culture of lower expectations and how this has effected the quality at the big shows.

Looking at the quality of the competitors over the decades, it appears that the depth and quality of the competition has greatly diminished since the 1990s and the early 2000s.  John Meadows has been competing on that national stage for over 20 years and gave AMJ his honest, “no bullshit” take on it. “Structure lacks in today’s competition, but the conditioning makes up for it” Meadows said. When comparing structure from the 90s to today’s athletes, the competitor’s placing as lower as 14th and 15th still had crazy structure. Today, it’s not uncommon to see competitors fade after 5th and 6th. Conditioning, however, on the national level is very impressive, to say the least. Some would agree that amateurs bring a more impressive level of conditioning than a lot of the pros. Turner Riddle, an experienced national competitor conquers with Meadow’s claims. He added that the lighter weight classes come in more shredded than the heavier weight classes. “Thisis due to these smaller competitors not being able to carry as much tissue to play the size game. Instead, they bring ‘the heat’ with the conditioning. They have that bone dry grainy look that isn’t seen much with the heavier guys.” Riddle goes on to say that as the weight classes go up into the heavies and super heavies, condition fades and the size ego seems to take its place. This might be because most national level competitors are ‘hungry’ for that pro card and size is the name of the game when it comes to overalls.

So, now we have these individuals who do get their pro cards.  Some go on to do great things, but many just away and become “no name” pros. John Meadows has a theory on these individuals who waste their talent only to fade. He feels that their efforts to be the best at the national level takes too much out of them that it calls on everything in them. In turn, once they achieve their card, they are once again back on the bottom only having to climb to the top again. Meadows states they probably lack the mental state and do not have it within them to continue to grow and punish their bodies to keep up with the pro ranks.

As we know, the conditioning at the national level is very impressive, as it is expected to be, but at times we see people on stage who have no business stepping up there.  Usually, they lack structure, size, and conditioning. In a sense, they are the ‘black sheep’ on stage. After winning a regional show or not even winning but placing top 3, they decide that they can compete with top guys for a pro card.

Social media seems to have a huge influence in this. “Fans” of competitors tell themhow great they look, but this is from a layman’s point of view without understanding what goes into being a national level competitor.  These people are not qualified to give an opinion and have no idea of what is waiting these poor fools come show day. “Surrounding yourself with the right kinds of people is a must” states Riddle. You can’t take seriously the word of an individual who doesn’t have the knowhow or experience to provide you with constructive feedback. The smart ones and realistic competitors would be better off working their way through the regional level then working their way up to the junior national level before hitting the national level.“

As competitors, we have control over conditioning and our structure, to an extent. However, judging on the other hand, we cannot control. Some say that this topic seems to be questionable. We hear it all too often, people saying how they got robbed or that they should have placed ahead of another competitor. We hear that judges sometimes may favor competitors from their camps or people they are familiar with.  Although with politics being prevalent in the sport, Meadows says they are not as bad as people make it out to be, but yes, they do exist.  He continued by saying, that it is probably more common to see judges rushing through competitors than judging with favoritism. Every year, so many people qualify for nationals and the competitors stack up in numbers. Competitors can add up to 500 plus at these shows, but the time is limited for every category.  It only makes sense, in theory, that the judges need to get these athletes pushed through to move onto the next.  We all know what it is like waiting backstage: hungry, tired and pissed off. So knowing this, does the best physique on that day truly win or does favoritism rule the day? Some say yes, and others disagree. That is why this sport or art is so subjective. What one judge thinks is a great physique, the other may not.

The bottom line is that If you want to compete on the national level, you need to have a complete physique, and most importantly, be real with yourself. Surround yourself with the right people with the proper mindset. All and all, the national stage still stands as possibly the most competitive stages in all of bodybuilding.

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