As published in KRUNCH magazine, April 2016
By Pushkaraj S Shirke
India’s Leading Fitness Photographer, Ad Film Maker,
K11 Trained Fitness Consultant and Brand Developer.
Heavily filtered photos. Ugly bodybuilding pics. Cheap looking muscle poses. Videos of confused / vulgar / loud competitors on stage. People who are clearly not comfortable on the bodybuilding stage. Gaudily photoshopped fakes. Erotica being peddled as Fitness. There are a lot of things out there giving fitness and muscularity a bad name. Making sure you don’t end up as one of them, has almost become a science and an art today. From stage shows and competitions to magazine covers and ads for fitness brands, all of them vary from being classy to being outright crass. But the factors that make this difference are pretty much universal, starting with how the model/athlete presents himself/herself to the audience or to the camera.
Is it possible for an athlete or model or even a fitness newbie or social media fanatic to ensure that they look their best when they present themselves on images, stage, in person or on video? Ofcourse it is. But before we get to the details of how, understanding WHAT forms the very basis of being perceived as AESTHETIC, is of the utmost importance.
WHAT IS AESTHETIC?
AESTHETICS is a word widely abused in bodybuilding and fitness today, without genuine indepth understanding of the term. It is often a word used to cover flaws and lack of development (especially of the legs and true strength) by those who are in terms of facial looks, considered better than most hardcore bodybuilders.
The term Aesthetic, actually refers to ‘what is instinctively pleasing to the human eye’. By that definition, aesthetics will evolve with time and age even though it will have deep roots in evolutionary choices. For eg: Wide hips will almost always be perceived as aesthetic as they enabled better reproduction and marked fertility and child-bearing capabilities in a woman, apart from providing better support and positioning during intercourse. So for most men, large hips are instinctively aesthetic on a woman. Similarly, a tall structure on a man instinctively suggests leadership qualities even if he doesn’t really have them since in ancient times, being taller gave you an advantage top look above the rest and appear larger in a fight increasing the changes of your opponents backing down. This makes a perception of being tall, aesthetic. FITNESS, equaled a man or woman’s capacity to live life to the fullest – work, hunt, run, reproduce, fight, live. This a major reason why across time, ‘FIT’ will always be more ‘aesthetic’ than ‘RIPPED AND MUSCLED’ in real life. But with media painting the image of ‘ripped and muscled’ as ‘fit’, which is not true, people are fooled into believing that being ripped and muscled is the same as fit. The influence of mass media is what drives people to readily accept the unrealistic ideal of ripped and muscled as ‘FIT’ and therefore more pleasing to the eye.
The fact is that overly muscled or overly fat is not genuinely aesthetic. BUT in the competitive field of bodybuilding, like in any competition, you move towards the extremes to provide a measurable scale of difference. Which is why in the field of competitive bodybuilding, fitness and physique pageants, what is considered as aesthetic is more towards the extremes of the same ideal. And the bar is pushed higher and higher or varied from time to time depending on the scientific advances of the era that makes certain physiques readily possible or due to the perception of the masses in that time and age. Even within bodybuilding itself, there are divisions and sub divisions based on level of muscularity, ability and size.
So as an individual who intends to present oneself in this field, either as a competitive athlete or as a recreational one, he/she has to be clear about what segment does he/she want to compete in or appeal to. Research and know what is considered as aesthetic or ideal in that segment and aim to present that. Ofcourse the limitations of your genetics also need to be kept in mind – no matter how much you try, you can’t change the inherent shape of your muscle with any exercises or non-surgical scientific interventions. So be realistic in setting your goals and then focus on presenting your achievement in the best way possible.
TEN TIPS TO PRESENT YOUR PHYSIQUE ON STAGE:
While writing these tips, the one thing I am taking for granted is the fact that your coaching, training, nutrition and everything else is all set and in place to have you in your best shape by D-day. Coz if that’s not in place, all of these tips would be of no use at all. So keep that in Mind.
1. Practice posing routines 3 months out.
Most people make the mistake of thinking that posing on stage is impromptu, but it is not. Knowing which poses to strike, and transitioning between poses with grace and effortlessness are two entirely different things. In any presentation skill, grace is the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary. Apart from this, as many bodybuilders will tell you, it requires a lot of practice to be able to hold poses at full contraction without shivering and shaking or making a painful, grimacing face.
2. Research Posing Routines
Don’t re-invent the wheel. There are hundreds of posing routines out there and most of them are on youtube itself. Research various posing routines that are used in competition. Don’t pick a routine that’s so different that it gets you disqualified or don’t just walk and hit poses. There is a reason it’s called a ‘routine’ – that is because it has a set structure that enables objective judgement. See what routines are possible and choose and practice a few and then choose one you are most comfortable with. Again, depending on the category you are competing in, routines give you an idea od what poses are allowed and not allowed – for eg: Typical Bodybuilding Poses are generally a no-no in physique and fitness competitions, though there are exceptions to every rule.
3. Pick Poses That Compliment Your Physique.
The reason you strike poses is to hold the judges and audience’s attention and point it to your most spectacular best. So make sure you use these poses to demonstrate and flaunt your best developed muscles. For eg: Don’t waste your routine with a Back Double Bicep pose when you have an underdeveloped back. If you are lean and tall, use poses that make you look large yet aesthetic rather than using poses that shrivel up your physique by making you bring your arms too close to your body.
4. Choose your Tan or Oil or Body Makeup Wisely
Tanning came into bodybuilding to allow the fairer people to demonstrate their muscle definition better. Dark people also started using tanning creams because unlike oil, tanning creams provided a more defined look than just oil which is too reflective of light. The whole objective of using a tanning cream or base is to highlight the natural muscular definition of your body. So don’t just use any tanning lotion or oil that another bodybuilder uses – find one that compliments your skin color. Heavy tanbning is a strict no-no in physique and fitness pageants. Bodymakeup is allowed in photoshoots and guest posing, but is disqualified in competition.
5. Don’t Ignore Grooming
It’s not only your body that is presented on stage, but also your face and personality. You are a package on stage. So don’t ignore your grooming. Wax or shave your body, get your hair done by a good hairstylist – a hairstyle that adds character to your look, use contact lenses or glasses if they add to your look, shave your facial hair or keep a beard – but groom it in a way that adds a characteristic element to you. In short, look your best onstage.
6. Pick Your Costumes to Add Character
Everybody will be on stage in the same clothing/trunks/shorts. That does not mean you cannot be unique even in that. For eg: Phil Heath poses in Green Trunks to compliment his Green Eyes. Choose colors, flags, stitches, innovations that make you memorable or have a REASON to be there on your body. Don’t just pick a pretty trunk and run with it. Put some thought into it. If there is a sports-wear round or performance round, pick something that makes you stand out and demonstrates your uniqueness – swords and traditional wear, boxing trunks and boxing gloves, a muay thai fighters gear, a street fighter comicon costume, a vampire/undead athlete, a graphic novel tribute – anything that suits you, you love playing out and makes you memorable to the judges and audience, is your bag!
7. Respect the Judges, but Play to the Audience
Remember, your first job is to impress the judges and make sure you present them your best. So do that. But at the same time, remember that you owe the audience a performance that makes them want to cheer for you! So play it out to them. Show them that you are performing for them. Be reactive to the audience and visually interact with them. Be courteous, be fun, be respectful. A genuine smile, an excited wave to the audience, a simple flying kiss or a humble bow while walking out says volumes about your character – making the audience and the judges see you in a better light as a person and not just a competitor.
8. Advertise Your Uniqueness
You’ve worked hard. You’ve built a good body. And you’re on stage to compete. But that can be said about all the 150 or so competitiors who are sharing the stage with you. What would make you memorable? What would make you stand out? It is very important to carve out your own niche even if genetically and muscularly you are so well built that you outshine everybody anyways. Because competition appearances are more than about just winning – they are about building a fan base, supporters, wowing people and winning hearts, all while being the best you that you can be. So if you have something, a skill set, a feature, an atiitude, or any and all of what that sets you apart from everybody else, get on that boat and rock it up! But as a warning note, try to focus on delivering a memorable presence that’s focused on establishing you uniquely and not a biryani of everything that you think is unique that ends up as a mess of a performance.
9. Use Video Feedback
People generally see themselves as something, and others see them as something else all together. It is when this gap is bridged, that the best performances are delivered. This is something often practiced by voice coaches – since people think they sound one way, and when they hear themselves recorded, they are often shocked at how they sound.
In olden days, this kind of feedback via video or sound was very difficult to do. Today, its possible via technology so easily that even kids can do it. Video record your own practice sessions and posing sessions. Video feedback is the best way to see the difference between how you think you perform and how your performance looks like to others – and this allows you to make corrections and bridge that gap and improve yourself.
10. Perform to Enjoy
Last but not the least – Enjoy your performance! If you don’t enjoy what you do, how can you expect others to respond to it? Stage presence is all about energy – people catch on to your vibes and react to those vibes. Maintain that positive energy cycle and you will always be amazing on stage. Never go on stage under pressure of performance – and you can only achieve that if you have practiced hard, given your best and are confident that you have put in your 110%. Beyond that, the stage is just a playground for you then. Go ahead and have fun and you’ll have an audience full of people having fun along with you.
These same rules apply for photoshoots and videos – but with slight changes and a few additions. Those I will write about in the article in the next edition of the magazine.
Do write back to Krunch on firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me questions on facebook if you have any queries – www.fb.com/psfnp . I generally respond to every question whenever I find time, especially when it comes to competing athletes and sports professionals.
Article: Look Your Aesthetic Best
Published April 2016 in edition of Krunch Today.