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Muscletime Proposal for New Format of IFBB Pro Contests PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wolfgang Koellerer   
Friday, 05 December 2008 01:48
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Dennis Wolf, Jay Cutler, Phil Heath at 2008 Mr. Olympia Prejudging The objective of this article is to answer one fundamental question:

"How would an IFBB Pro show have to look like in order to attract more viewers?"

I certainly am not trying to find the one and only solution. Rather I am offering one example of what could be done should the leaders of Bodybuilding agree that changes are required to raise the profile of the sport to the next level. Increasing the audience for professional bodybuilding would logically involve television broadcasts.

Successful television coverage of bodybuilding would change the dynamics for everyone involved. The increase in revenue from larger audiences would have a significant impact on the sport.

The sport of bodybuilding has been around for a long time but has reached the point where growth has stagnated. Joe Weider and the late Ben Weider have created a viable professional sporting contest where none had previously existed. The prize money for the winner of the sport's most prestigious title now stands at $155,000. This is a remarkable success for the sport's two most significant visionaries in bodybuilding history.


The growth of the sport in 2008 has come to a standstill. Bodybuilding contests will have to undergo fundamental changes in order to attract larger audiences. The courage and vision to implement such changes must originate from the top of the IFBB. A collaboration between top IFBB players and sports marketing experts is required to reignite growth in bodybuilding.

Prior to proposing a possible alternative to the current contest format of pro bodybuilding competitions, I would like to briefly review why the sport never succeeded on television. Television is essentially entertainment for the masses. The failure of bodybuilding to capture the attention of television viewers was clearly directly related to the lack of excitement; bodybuilding contests were simply boring. There was insufficient sports action to engage viewers. The nature of bodybuilding competition was undefined for the viewer with no attempt to explain the judging criteria to viewers. Without an understanding of the judging criteria, only real bodybuilding experts would have had an idea of the events happening on the competitive stage between pro bodybuilders.  The layperson, as a viewer, would not likely be able to tell the difference between a 1st place finisher standing among 7th and 15th place.

Any successful Hollywood feature film must achieve one critical goal or it will fail at the box office; it must create emotion in the viewer. This is the number one objective of any moviemaker or screenwriter. The same principle rings true for successful sporting events. The viewers must have a connection to what is going on in the sport and on the television screen. The viewer's participation, or lack of participation, in the sport itself is irrelevant. It is the identification with the athletes and the drama of the sports competition that matters.

Following from this, my proposal for a new format in competitive bodybuilding has a single objective - to create emotion (e.g. passion, excitement, anxiety, etc) in a potential television audience (and of course in fans attending the bodybuilding contest as well).

The concept


I will use the 2008 Mr. Olympia weekend as an example to outline a proposal for how an IFBB pro contest could be run in the future!

Sequence of the contest weekend (Olympia or Arnold Classic or any other pro show really):

Thursday Evening:

Meet the champions! This event is vastly successful so it should stay just as it is.

Friday :


Prejudging also stays basically as it is run now. The judges have to determine the top 15 competitors! Only 15 athletes will make it into the main event!

At the 2008 Olympia this is how the judges have voted after prejudging:

1. Dexter, 2. Jay, 3. Phil, 4. Dennis Wolf, 5. Toney, 6. Melvin, 7. Dennis James, 8. Silvio, 9. Moe, 10. Gustavo, 11. Darrem, 12. Johnnie, 13. Ronny, 14. Craig and 15. David.

(The remaining athletes do not make it into Saturdays events.)

Based on this prejudging result „contest battle groups" are formed! In our 2008 Olympia example they would have looked like this:

1st group: David, Craig, Ronny and Johnnie

2nd group: Darrem, Gustavo, Moe

3rd group: Silvio, Dennis J. and Melvin Anthony

4th group: Toney, Dennis Wolf and Phil

5th group: Dexter and Jay

Forming the groups is the only reason for prejudging. All results are thrown out the window once the grouping is done.

(The acutal placings of judging are not announced or published until after the main event! Noone must know about them as they do not count for the main event anyway.)

The battle groups for the main event are published at the press conference on Saturday!

Saturday – noon

Press conference!

The 15 athletes meet backstage. The hosts will call the first 4 names to the front – to the audience – and announce the first official Olympia battle group!

(in our example: David, Craig, Ronny and Johnnie)

Again the placings are not said. Nobody knows who placed where. And the placings do not count anymore at all.

The main event starts absolutely fresh!

The first four athletes can go at it a bit for the audience – they have to show some muscle - then they leave the stage.

The next group is announced and brought forward to the stage. (in the 2008 Olympia example – Darrem, Gustavo and Moe) The athletes are interviewed and, for example, can vent their anger or frustration for not making it into a higher group. Or they can start intimidating their battle group competitors and they must show some muscle for the audience.

Then the next group with Silvio, Dennis J. and Melvin takes the stage.

Followed by the 4th group with Toney, Dennis W. and Phil.

The top two athletes of judging conclude the press conference. Nobody knows who was in the lead at judging. All we know is who that top two guys are now. They have to give a muscle preview of what is to come in the evening for the main event. The hosts ask them how they feel knowing that they would be fighting for the title later on today......

Saturday evening

Main event – the actual show – the TV broadcast (web broadcast)

Here is how the main event could be run:

The show starts with the first battle group – in our 2008 Olympia example David, Craig, Ronny and Johnnie.

Judging starts at ZERO! Only the four athletes count now! No score from prejudging counts. No other groups. Just these few minutes onstage!

First each athletes does his individual poses. Then the 4 guys go onstage together and are compared by the judges. AGAIN: THE JUDGES ONLY VOTE THIS ONE ROUND NOW! Nothing else matters. Placing them from one to four!

After comparisons we have the first posedown of the evening while the judges have time to prepare their votes.

The 4 athletes remain onstage and the judges publicly give their vote! Each judge placing the athletes one to four! Completly out in the open for everybody to see!

The votes for each athlete are collected on an electronic board for all to see. When each judge gave the vote we will have the first winner of the evening!

In our example the winner could have been Johnnie Jackson. (now this is a maybe only – because prejudging did not count anymore and anything could have happened in the first battle group).

In our example Johnnie now moves up into the 2nd battle group! And we therefore have 4 competitors again. In our example Darrem, Gustavo and Moe, who were set after prejudging for the 2nd group and the winner of the 1st group, who moved up the ranks, Johnnie Jackson.

Now Darrem, Gustavo and Moe do their individual compulsory posing while Johnnie gets to rest backstage a bit. Then all 4 athletes come back onstage to be compared. Once the judges are done with the comparison we have the 2nd posedown of the evening followed by the second official public vote of the judges. (Again each judge gives his placings one to four out in the open! The score is collected visible for the audience in the theater and on TV until all judges gave their vote)

We have the second winner of the show! In our example it could have been Moe. (But it would even be possible with this contest structure that Johnnie could have won his second round, because nothing else mattered than this one round with 4 athletes).

Up next is the 3rd battle group with Silvio, Dennis James and Melvin plus Moe – the winner of the previous group!

Again the athletes do their individuals with Moe resting backstage until all 4 go out for the comparison! Then posedown with public votes again and we have the 3rd winner of the evening.

In our example that might have been Melvin.

By now we have had 3 posedowns and crowned 3 winners already. Hopefully the audience appreciates that kind of man to man fighting.

Up next the 4th group, which leads all the way into the main showdown for the title. The winner of the previous group Melvin meets Toney, Dennis Wolf and Phil.

Same process again. Melvin rests while Toney, Dennis Wolf and Phil are judged in their individuals. Then comparisons with the four athletes! Melvin – as winner of previous group – now has the exact same chance of winning this group as the other three. ONLY the men onstage are judged at this moment! Everything previous does not count. Once the comparison is done we have the 4th posedown of the evening.

The winner of this group meets the top two from prejudging and challanges them for the title. In our example, after the judges vote, Phil might have moved up to the final group to fight Dexter and Jay for the title. But maybe Dennis Wolf would have won because he nailed his condition better at that specific moment?

The 5th and final battle group will determine the contest winner. Everything was leading up to this moment! The audience does not know who won the prejudging the day before and it does not matter for the outcome. Everything previous is not counting. It is 3 man against each other for the title! Phil fought his way up into this group and now gets his chance to win the title. He has the exact same chance of winning the whole thing than the other two athletes.

Dexter does his individual poses, then Jay. Once the two are done all three, Phil, Dexter and Jay, walk out onstage and we have the final showdown of the evening. The judges compare the athletes for as long as they need. Followed by the last posedown of the evening!

Then each judge gives his final vote out in the open! First judge - 3rd place goes to, 2nd place goes to and my 1st place goes to... Scores are counted on the board. Second judge – 3rd place goes to, 2nd place goes to and 1st goes to...... Third judge......

I believe this contest structure would create tremendous excitement for the audience. We would have a lot of man to man competitions, we would have 5 winners in the show with 5 separate posedowns where the guys can go crazy and really get the fans in the theater going. And we have votes out in the open where we and viewers in front of the TV or PC might be drawn into the whole process of choosing the winners. I see a lot of reason for emotion in this – what about you?


I would purposefully cancel the entire "posing routine" part of current IFBB pro shows. The athletes do not enjoy performing the posing routines for the most part with very few exceptions. The bodybuilders are not dancers nor do they have any formal training in dance or choreography accounting for the paucity of entertaining, artistic routines currently seen in the sport. The few competitors who choreograph artistic and entertaining routines seem to execute the exact same routine again and again in every contest; this is inconsistent with the concept of entertainment in continuing television coverage. I firmly believe there would be way more excitement with "sports action" in a bodybuilding show rather than awkward posing routines.

I like the underdog idea that allows someone to unexpectedly move up through the ranks. The possibility that anything could happen gives every athlete a chance if he just dials everything in 100% on this one day of competition!

This concept is not perfect or intended to be a final proposal. I hope it leads to other and better ideas. Everything can be changed, details added or switched, timetables turned and names improved. The whole thing is supposed to lead to finding the best possible concept to lift our sport onto the next level – the TV level.


The approach of the article is to answer the question of how to structure a pro bodybuilding event in order to achieve greater success (and a broader audience) for the sport. However, it does not intend to offer solutions to other problems within the sport that have marginalized it and made it unacceptable for broader, mainstream public consumption such as the rampant use of anabolic steroids and the abandonment of the classical physique.


I believe there is a solution for every problem or goal. If the right people would get together there is no doubt in my mind that bodybuilding could make tremendous progress reminiscent of the growth overseen by Joe and Ben Weider.

We here at Muscletime may try to offer possible solutions for these two other topics in future articles.

Who knows where this might lead?

Maybe there are some passionate bodybuilding fans out there with experience and a background in sports marketing? Maybe there are tons of ideas out there and we just haven`t heard about them yet?

Stay tuned and make sure to send comments and suggestions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .