by Christian Duque
Once again there’s growing debate over whether or not the height and weight classes observed in the Classic Physique Division should be reexamined. There’s a camp that believes classic needs to grow. The athletes are constrained by the caps that keep each competitor in each division competing within a specified window. The danger with this division, as well as others, is what happens when competitors start getting close to the division markers. For example, if a Classic guy is on the light side of the division it may prompt judges’ feedback in the sense of considering moving down to Men’s Physique. Guys who are on the top end of the division may have to look at either 212 or Open Bodybuilding.
The alternative for either guy would be to get their weight in range and make whatever adjustments are necessary or leave. Some guys can do it and others can’t. Some guys have to literally starve to stay within the parameters provided; they’re unable to put on any kind of mass and this becomes an issue because they must do everything exactly as they have each and every day or they face having an issue. If these guys weigh more than the cut-off, they can’t compete. There’s no magical way to make weight. It’s very cut and dry when it comes to this part of the sport. There’s simply too much at stake. As a result the vast majority of guys don’t allow themselves to have an issue, but at what cost? Others end up leaving the division like 2x Mr. Olympia Breon Ansley. The few who can’t compete just intensify their preps for future shows – at whatever the cost.
There’s of course the fans to think of and most importantly, the athletes. What would make everyone happy?
The decision to bring on the classic division was always to have a classic type look of the golden era of bodybuilding. There’s a lot more to this statement that meets the eye. The fact they wanted a look lost upon the sport was reserved only from the waist up. Although many of us would like nothing more than to say that Classic Physique is code for Classic Bodybuilding – it’s not. And this article should put an end to that way of thinking. Not only isn’t Classic Physique a bodybuilding division on the down low, it was created to keep it away from bodybuilding as much as possible. Sure, there’s going to be an undoubted comparison based on shape – the size difference is something that would always ensure that the division stayed smaller. And this is also why unlike with bodybuilding, classic isn’t just limited in terms of weight caps, but height factors in as well.
The idea is to keep the athletes from getting too bulky and looking too massive. Well guess what, both things have already happened! I don’t think that those who created the division could have envisioned someone like Chris Bumstead. He’s as massive as his tall frame allows. This might explain why he was crying after winning his last Sandow. Those weren’t tears of joy, they were tears of anguish. After hearing how much he suffered and then that Breon officially left the division, it makes me think that a great many athletes must be pounding on the table for weight increases.
Although the athletes may want the weight caps increased, the federation needs to weigh its options. If it allows for even a 10lb increase the whole division can lose its way. If that happens it would only be a question of time until the athletes were asking for more weight increases. By adding another 10lbs now you’ll have 200+lb classic guys that look more and more like bodybuilders in. Physique division.
I suspect that even an added 10lbs wouldn’t change much for the taller bodybuilders, but I can see some of the shorter guys starting to look like 212 guys. This will undoubtedly include bigger wheels and bigger shoulders. Once that happens now you’re looking for a new type of athlete. The same can be said for guys who are already pushing the classic line. There’s guys who already look like they should be doing what Breon Ansley did.
The federation needs to take into account that although they stand by making the competitors a lot happier by increasing the caps, they run the risk of overstepping and ruining the whole look. It’s very similar to the idea of squeezing toothpaste out of the tube. A lot of these guys are like machines. As we all know it’s a lot harder to keep your body from gaining muscle than it is to gain it. Classic competitors are constantly in a tug of war with their metabolisms and muscle tissue. If allowed to grow, there’s no telling how freaky they can become. If the federation green lights another 10lbs I think a lot of these competitors won’t be able to stop. They’d grow like weeds and in my opinion they wouldn’t be able to stop. Many would simply keep going till they reached 212 or Open Bodybuilding.
So what would the problem be with that?
While many competitors may want the size increase and why many fans as well, we have the reign of Chris Bumstead. Have you ever seen a more classic looking physique than his? Sure, he must live in hell to achieve his degree of muscularity, vascularity, and symmetry. There’s nothing natural or simple about it. He’s found a way to make this vision a reality, no telling on how much emotional and/or metabolic harm it may have caused already. The point is that a case can be made that the division works. And even though some of the biggest names in the pro ranks have been unable to compete, they’re ok with that.
If you’re competing at the most elite levels of your sport, you can’t change the rules to make it more enjoyable. Some in the federation camp would say that keeping the caps in place is the way to go. And historians in our sport will also appreciate the fact that weight caps were already increased some years ago and to increase them again would continue to undermine the essence of the division. Even Arnold has said that bodybuilders should look more like C-Bum. If we add 10 more pounds now and maybe ten more in another few years, how perfect will he look then? That’s the danger with increasing the caps and then not knowing when to stop. We can talk and pontificate all day, but that’s ultimately what it comes down to.
What concerns me is what some of the top guys are doing to stay within the caps. As I alluded to earlier, their issues aren’t purely physical. Many are dealing with serious emotional issues and quite possibly psychological damage. We have seen many situations in our sport that deal with stress and anxiety. If a person knows how to deal with these issues in a productive manner then that’s great. Unfortunately, we know of far too many folks in our sport that more than likely are not taking their mental health seriously. This is, after all, a sport that’s focused on how people look on the exterior. It’s a scene that is all about physical strength, muscle size, good skin, good hair, and all the signs of material wealth. As long as a competitor is winning and receiving top honors, most wouldn’t care if he was falling apart inside. Often we don’t know about this until it’s too late. We’ve seen it happen all the time.
Despite the weight cap talk, classic has been a gold mine. It pays the bills at amateur shows and it’s one of the most popular pro divisions in the entire sport. In fact, most bodybuilding fans (Arnold included) would rather the sport be about Chris Bumstead’s look than Hadi Choopan’s every day of the week.
That said, the fans want this and the fans want that. Fans are never happy and this is why a move like this one wouldn’t come down to what fans wanted anyways. The federation will also likely listen to the athletes but not rule entirely on their word, either.
It’ll come down to money. That’s always what everything in the industry is decided upon. Can they make the same – or better yet – more money with increasing the weight caps? If the answer is yes, then it can happen. If they break even – hypothetically – then it’s a toss up between what the powers that be want. If it’s going to lose money, then it’s off the table, no matter what the athletes or the fans are clamoring about.
Make sense? What would you like to see happen? Sound off!