IFBB Pro Figure competitors received a letter from Chairman Jim Manion last week, suggesting that there is a need for competitors to tone down what he described as "excessive hardness and muscular separation."
IFBB Chairman Jim Manion sent out a directive letter to IFBB pro figure athletes and most received those letters this week. Reading directly: "After the first figure event for 2008, the Figure International, the IFBB Professional League wants to see less muscularity and hardness in the figure competitors. The Deltoids are too big and cut and the thigh cuts are too deep. The next IFBB professional figure event is the 2008 IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Figure to be held on May 3rd, 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Beginning with this event the judges will be marking down competitors with excessive hardness and muscular separation."
It is unusual to see that athletes have even been asked to tone down one of the most defining characteristics of figure competitions, big and defined deltoids that create the coveted X-shape and Y-shape physiques.
Reached for comment, a national level IFBB judge indicated that he expects that most judges will be towing the line - in the short term. "These things always come and go in cycles. The figure physiques on stage at the Arnold were not particularly big or hard by historical standards, so this is an unusual time to be sending out this letter. In the long run everyone gravitates toward rewarding the best competitors on stage - big or small, hard or soft - and I am of the belief that these things should not matter, it should always be about who is the best package on stage at that particular time."
"Right now the figure competitors are nowhere near the size or hardness of the female bodybuilders, there is a huge gap and there are a lot of people caught in the middle. There needs to be something out there for athletes who want to be the best and present excellence, but do not wish to be bodybuilders or to flex openly on stage. Softening competitors up definitely also does not add to the mainstream popularity of the sport, in fact the opposite is the case in my experience. People want to see the best bodies, not the fitness models they can see all over television or in the magazine swimsuit issues. It's the best bodies that sell tickets."
"But there is the prevailing attitude out there that getting figure competitors bigger and harder requires certain types of supplementation, which is simply not true and is just a little bit sexist (but not intentionally) if you think about it. These incredible women can accomplish muscularity and hardness like we sometimes see on the pro stage with hard work, training, dieting, and over the counter supplements."
Stay tuned to Bodybuilding Weekly for extensive coverage of the IFBB Pittsburgh Figure Pro on May 3rd, where the physique directives will see their first test. The event is run by Jim Manion himself so it is likely that we will see some markdowns and that the judging will abide by the directives.