Since the very first bodybuilding contest in 1901, men have had only one division in which to compete. This stood for 110 years! Even women, who have competed in the sport of bodybuilding since the 1980s have had five divisions to choose from. The Men’s Bodybuilding Division began as a competition to showcase the world’s greatest physique. 

However, bodybuilders began to develop outside of what mainstream media viewed as the perfect physique, and the result opened the doors to new divisions...

In the fall of 2010 the National Physique Committee announced the new Men’s Physique Division. The new division would spark an explosion of debate in the bodybuilding community. Hardcore bodybuilders across the globe were appalled at the idea of sharing the same stage as guys posing like male models on a fashion runway wearing board shorts that covered their legs who didn’t even have to flex. The underground bodybuilding community was embarrassed, but a movement in the sport had begun. It wasn’t long before the Men’s Physique Division had two to three times the number of competitors at any given show than its Bodybuilding Division counterpart.

The new division was attractive to guys who weren’t looking to get freaky huge, but wanted to achieve an aesthetic, lean, muscular body.

AnatomiQ Classic Physique Competitor Lance Watson IFBB Pro

Many do not know this, but I started out my competition life competing as a bodybuilder in 2010, just before the creation of the Men’s Physique Division the following year. It’s actually the only 1st place finish I have in my competition career where I won 1st in the Novice Heavyweight Division at the 2010 NPC Contra Costa. After that show I gave up competing. I knew I would never make a career out of bodybuilding. I loved the sport and envied the athletes, but I didn’t want to look like them and knew I never could.

Four years later Men’s Physique had erupted and I was paying attention. The Men’s Physique athletes were taking over gracing the covers of muscle magazines, sponsored by major supplement companies, and began to gain as much popularity as their massive muscled bodybuilding counterparts. Guys no longer wanted to look like Jay Cutler or Ronnie Coleman. Now they wanted to look like Jeremy Buendia and Steve Cook. I loved the looked of the physique athletes and thought to myself, “I can do that!” In May of 2015 I competed in my very first Men’s Physique competition in the 2015 NorCal placing 2nd in Novice and 3rd in open for my class. In November I earned my IFBB pro card placing 2nd in my class at the Miami National competition. Interesting fact, I never won an overall or placed 1st in Men’s Physique. The judges’ feedback every time:

“You’re too big.”

AnatomiQ Lance Watson Classic Physique IFBB Pro

Two months later, in January of 2016, the National Physique Committee holds the very first Men’s Classic Physique Division competition. The new Classic Physique Division was created as a middle ground between Men’s Bodybuilding and Men’s Physique. In Men’s Bodybuilding contestants are separated by weight class. In Men’s Physique contestants are divided into classes based only on height. Men’s Classic Physique competitors however, are divide up by both a height and weight making it so each competitor has a weight cap given a specified height range. Unlike the announcement of the Men’s Physique Division, the Classic Physique Division was welcomed with high expectations and much enthusiasm marketed as the return of the “Golden Era” of bodybuilding. Classic Physique contestants sport the old school posing trunks to showcase their legs, hit actual bodybuilding poses, and even have a posing routine. This new division created a place for guys who were too muscular for Men’s Physique, but not freakishly colossal to be hitting the stage in Men’s Bodybuilding.

The announcement of the new division was exciting for me. Having always been told I was too big for Men’s Physique, I feel I have finally found my place in bodybuilding with the new Classic Physique Division. I have been training hard this offseason filling out my frame to achieve the muscle mass, density, and aesthetic lines needed to compete with the current pros. Building hard, lean, quality muscle takes lots of time and dedication to diet and training and my journey is just beginning.

Look for my next blog where I discuss the challenges and struggles transitioning from Men’s Physique to Men’s Classic Physique!


- Lance Watson is an IFBB Pro competitor in Classic Physique, and a NASM Certified Personal Trainer.

Visit his website or find him on Instagram @vigilance_watson