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Symmetry Posing

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Bodybuilding Posing

There are three posing rounds required in pre-judging or preliminary judging in bodybuilding competitions: the Symmetry or Relaxed Round, the Mandatory or Compulsory Round, and the Individual Routine. The first two rounds carry the most weight in judging. This article will be written in three parts. This part will cover the Symmetry Round.

The Symmetry Round

The Symmetry Round consists of four quarter turns. It is essential you first learn that at no time should you ever completely relax on stage. When the term "relax" is used you are expected to remain with all muscles hardened and tensed. However you should not be flexing, striking a pose, or accentuating any body part. Too often competitors have tried to impress the judges by remaining in poses which are too exagerated for this round. This is bad for two reasons:

First, it is not appropriate to flex in this round. In many pre-judging of amateur competitions head judges repeatedly tell athletes during this round to "Relax," "Put your hands at your sides," and "Place both feet flat on the floor." This is because the competitor is trying to hit a semi-pose. Examples of such mistakes are:

  • Twisting toward the judges to show the full chest and delt spread;
  • Bending one knee to allow the quad and calf to become full; and
  • Spreading the lats and arms to look wide.

This may be a well-intended effort to accommodate the judges' vantage point, but this is not what the judges are looking for in this round. The judges are trying to evaluate your physique in a natural semi-relaxed state. They are looking for overall fullness, symmetry, and balance in your physique. For example, in a one-quarter turn the judges are trying to compare the thickness and shape of the pecs to the thickness and shape of the glutes. The physique must be balanced and symmetrical from front to back. The judges cannot see this balance if the competitor is twisting. Not only do the judges find the athletes' attempts to hit poses in this round annoying and frustrating, but it marks the competitor as being inexperienced. The competitor will lose out on a small window of opportunity to impress the judges with the specific qualities they are looking for, which in this round is balance and symmetry.

The second reason you should refrain from hitting poses in this round is to conserve your energy. Hitting poses on stage is exhausting. Some athletes try so hard to impress the judges in this round that they completely deplete themselves and spent the last half of this round noticeably exhausted, weak, and fading. This is not the picture you want the judges to see. You should present a picture of effortless confidence and capability, and not appear slouched in exhaustion attempting to catch your breath.

The Relaxed Front Pose

It is important to create a relaxed "pose" which you can refer to as your primary, base, or home pose to which you will always return. This is the Relaxed Front Pose. Get comfortable in this pose. This is what you will assume as soon as you walk on stage for this round and the Mandatory Round. You will move into your quarter turn and your mandatory poses from this pose. You will also return to this pose after this round and after your mandatory poses as well as whenever the judges ask you to face front or to relax. This pose is the pose you will maintain with some adjustments for each quarter-turn, for this entire round. You will always be in this pose when you are awaiting instructions or when someone else is posing.

In this pose be certain your feet are flat on the ground with your heels together. Your knees should have a slight bend to allow some tension and fullness to show in your quads. Your abs should be hard and flat. Do not flex them so hard as to cause you to contract your torso. Your chest and delts should be high. Your back should have a slight arch. Do not overly arch your back or pinch the shoulders back. Keep the lats full with a slight flex. Your delts must be tense, full, and show good width. This is of particular importance in this pose as the judges are comparing shoulder width to your waist. Your arms should be loose at your sides, not outstretched with a flare. Do not attempt to draw the judges' attention to any particular muscle or muscle group.

Exude calm confidence. Attempt to impress the judges with how effortless this round is for you. Remember, you are trying to present an image of overall balance, symmetry, fullness, and shape in your physique. You will have ample opportunity later to present peaked hardness, density and definition. Your head should be up. Keep the face blank. Avoid any interaction with the audience in this round.

The Quarter Turns

Do not keep yourself so focused on your pose that you lose contact with what the judges are saying to you. You will begin to receive instructions from the judges. Pay attention to what is being said. Know what number you are. Know which is left and right.

From this pose you will be asked to make one-quarter turns to your right. At this point maintain your pose. Be aware of the muscle groups which are about to rotate to the judges' view. Focus on those muscles by giving them some tension and fullness. After you have made adjustments, make a one-quarter turn. Keep your mind on your posture.

A frequent mistake made is when a competitor relaxes after each pose, looks down, turns, and then hits the next pose. This allows the judges to see you in a totally relaxed state which you want to avoid. You should never be in a totally relaxed state on stage. In a totally relaxed state you are not presenting your best fullness, balance, symmetry, and shape. Accordingly, you can only lose points. You should take advantage of this short period to show these qualities. They are the only qualities for which points are being given at this time.


When you have completed your quarter turns you will be in your Relaxed Front Pose. The head judge will thank you, ask you to turn and exit. Remain in your Relaxed Front Pose, turn, and exit. Do not relax, wave, or respond to your friends in the audience. The judges are evaluating you as soon as they see you walk on stage until you are out of sight. Do not make the mistake of thinking the judges are not paying attention to you before your first pose and after your last pose. They are always eager to find weaknesses and strengths. This is the reason you should never, in any round, be completely relaxed on stage.

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