Saturday, 30 November 2013

BIG Is Back @NPC Nationals 2013

The annual pre-Christmas treat of the best amateur female muscle beef in the USA that is the NPC Nationals took place last weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

I don't know about you, dear reader, but I always look forward to the Nationals. How could you not when past winners have included Sarah Dunlap (2002), Gina Davis (2004), Sheila Bleck (2008), and last year the juanderful Juanita Blaino?

And there are weight classes! It's one of the last places where you can see lightweight against lightweight, heavyweight against heavyweight (and middleweights and light-heavies in between), which is how I think it should be. And to cap it all off, the class winners (who all get pro cards) have a big ole posedown for the overall title.

What's not to like?
Class winners in the midst of their 'big ole posedown'.

Well, this year, what's not to like is the alarming fall in the number of female bodybuilders who took to the stage. Like the value of your investment, the number of competitors at the Nationals can go down as well as up, and has done so over the past ten years (which is the period FMS has got round to researching). And the trend has been most definitely downwards in the last few years, from 60 in 2009 to 42 last year. But this year's figure, a mere 30, means, as I'm sure you don't need me to tell you, there's been a 50% drop in the last five years. Worrying stuff.

But wait. It may not all be doom and gloom. Of those 30, 17, yes, SEVENTEEN, were heavyweights. A stunning 57% of all the competitors were 'big girls'. This is, in the last decade anyway, completely unprecedented. The proportion of heavyweights to the total number of competitors has varied little over the last ten years. 2010 (24%) and 2007 (25%) were the lowest, and, until this year, 2011 (35%) was the highest, with all other years falling inside this range.

Why the sudden (relative) increase in the number of heavyweights? Well, it is without doubt partly because the numbers in the other weight classes have dwindled, with 2013 a new low. As recently as 2009, there were 22 light-heavyweights, 16 middleweights, and 14 lightweights. Last weekend the numbers were 5, 3, and 5 respectively. So there were more competitors in any of the classes in 2009 than there were in the light-heavies, middleweights and lightweights combined this year.
The light-heavyweights. All of 'em.

Seems to me, and I'm just theorising now, that the ever-growing popularity of the physique division - a quite understandable popularity given that in 2014 there will be five IFBB pro shows for female bodybuilders but twenty pro physique contests - is undoubtedly hurting female bodybuilding. But at the same time, if you're a heavyweight, physique is not really an option. Shannon Courtney, for example, a light-heavyweight, was so frustrated by the loss of size the switch to physique would entail that she decided to stick with bodybuilding, and so, it seems have the heavyweights.

The conclusion? The future of female bodybuilding at both amateur and pro level has been uncertain for some time, and continues to be so. But at least we can say that while it's still around, it's going to be populated by properly BIG competitors.
Top 5 heavyweights, left to right: Jennifer Kennedy (4th); Keli Watkins (2nd); Victoria Dominguez (Winner); Kristine Mele (3rd); Alyssa Stroud (5th)

To celebrate, this week on FMS, we'll be bringing you some of the biggest and best from the (heavyweight class) of 2013 at the NPC Nationals, kicking off tomorrow with look at the overall champion and new IFBB pro, Victoria Dominguez.



  1. Who's that woman all the way to the left in the light heavyweight pic?