The 2023 Arnold Classic wrapped up a week ago with Samson Dauda emerging victorious over Nick Walker in Columbus, Ohio. In a recent episode of Voice of Bodybuilding, IFBB Pro League athletes representative Bob Cicherillo shared a detailed breakdown of how to judge a show in bodybuilding and explained why Walker did not win the event.
The 35th edition of the annual Arnold Classic kicked off the start of the bodybuilding season earlier this month. There was a lot of anticipation for fans to see some of their favorite contenders return for another battle on stage following one of the most exciting Mr. Olympia contests last December. The roster for the AC got stacked after legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other organizers decided to increase the prize money of the Men’s Open class to a record $300,000.
Coming off a third-place finish, former champion Nick Walker signed up for the competition as the highest-ranked Olympian and the betting favorite to reclaim the title. Former two-time Mr. Olympia Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay also joined the roster in hopes of redemption after a lackluster performance at the latest Olympia. Rising sensation Andrew Jacked was another notable name along with Samson Dauda, who many believed was the dark horse of the division.
During the prejudging, it became clear Walker, Dauda, and Jacked were the three men battling it out for the first place. Each displayed an improved package than their previous appearances. Eventually, Dauda came out on top of the contest and won the 2023 Arnold Classic. Walker took silver and won the Most Muscular award whereas Jacked placed third and won the Best Poser prize.
Following the outcome, Walker expressed his satisfaction with his performance and promised a strong return. Jacked was content with the judging as well. He believed the third-place finish was on par with the competition. However, not everyone was in agreement as many users bashed the judges online.
Coach Milos Sarcev attributed Walker’s defeat to a loss of size in the legs and argued Big Ramy did not have the right muscle detail to compete with the other participants. On the other hand, bodybuilding veteran Zack Khan made the case for Jacked to take second place ahead of Walker.
Former Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout voiced his disapproval of Dauda getting a perfect score from the judges despite a perceived lack of muscle quality when compared to ‘The Mutant.’
Bob Chick, who served as the commentator, came to the defense of the judges a few days after the event. He explained the reason behind Dauda’s victory and expressed a similar sentiment as Khan to have Jacked place ahead of Walker.
Things got so heated that Walker had to address the issue earlier this week. He called on his fans to not disrespect the judges or other competitors with hateful messages online.
Bob Cicherillo explains how to judge a bodybuilding show
In a recent YouTube video, Bob Chick shared a detailed guideline on how to properly judge a bodybuilding show to counter the criticism stemming from the 2023 Arnold Classic.
Bob’s How to Assess a Physique 101:
“First, you have to remove any and all bias,” Cicherillo said. “That’s what the judges are doing. They are assessing physiques. Everybody’s got bias to some degree but the judges have to just look at the physique. They can’t get caught up. They are fans of the sport but not of a particular person. You’re going to see what you want to see but you have to take a look objectively.”
“Number two, no one cares about your journey as a competitor. I’ve heard this many times throughout the years. I’ll talk to a wife of a guy who’s competing and she’ll say something along the lines of if they only knew what he had to go through, what the obstacles were, or what he overcame. The judges don’t care. They are there to assess the final product. All they know is what’s standing in front of them and that’s all they should know. Nobody cares about your journey in particular. It’s not about the journey. It’s only about the destination when it comes to pro-bodybuilding and what goes on on stage. It’s all about assessing a physique at that time, at that place, and on that stage.”
“One thing is for sure it gets tougher and tougher to see detail the further you get back. That’s why generally speaking you got to be about 15-20 feet away. Would that make for such a different call from that perspective and a guy sitting in row 200 or in the balcony? Absolutely, the bigger physiques are going to stand out. You start to lose perspective which is everything in bodybuilding. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”
“The symmetry round is number one. It’s there for a reason. We start the show with symmetry round. Why is it first? It’s first because the first fundamentals you have to judge is symmetry, proportion, and shape, balance. All those factors are taken into consideration in this round. You don’t need a separate score for it because from the moment you step on stage you are being judged. They are judging you from the moment you step on stage to the moment you get off; in transition, in between, standing in the back, all that stuff.”
“We’re looking for bodybuilding symmetrical. Wide shoulders, small waist, flaring thighs. Proportion, does the front and back of you match from top to bottom? Does your upper body overpower your legs?
”Now these three assessments are done in the same round for what reason? Because symmetry without proportion and shape is useless. Proportion without symmetry and shape is useless. Same for shape. They all have to be combined in one and assessed as one. That’s why they do quarter turns.”
“Round two, the free posing round. This is your opportunity to do what you want. Nobody’s calling you on it. You don’t get docked points. If you want to hit 15 most muscular in a row, go for it. This is your opportunity to show your physique the best you see fit.
“Next, we bring the guys out for comparisons. This is where the eight mandatory poses come in. This is the most critical part of the show because competitive bodybuilding is all about comparison. Everybody looks good on their own at that level. It’s all about what you look like next to the other guy. That’s why direct comparison’s everything.”
“For the mandatory biceps, is the front double bicep an arm pose? No, they are assessing your entire physique in that pose. Same for the other positions.”
“It’s all based on opinion at the end of the day but there is a criteria.”
Bob talks about why Nick Walker didn’t win at the 2023 Arnold Classic
Further, Cicherillo gave his take on why Dauda took the top prize home at the 2023 Arnold Classic instead of Walker.
“Why did Samson win the Arnold over Nick, Jacked, and everyone else? Because he had the best of all worlds; shape, symmetry, proportion, size, conditioning, and presentation. He had it all. Was he the best in every one of them? No, you can make the case for someone else.”
“Nick Walker was tremendous. If he looked like he did at the Olympia he probably would have won. But he lost a bit of the freak factor bringing it down a little bit. Probably a mistake on his part. You’re not going to streamline a physique that can’t be streamlined. Nick, go back to being a freak. Can’t be too freaky but the freak factor he displayed was tremendous.”
Hopefully, Cicherillo’s comprehensive breakdown of the judging criteria helps add more context for the fans and dissuade them from spreading negative feedback against the judges on social media.