December 22, 2023

Veteran Steve Johnson provides valuable insight into how the judging process works

LOOK on social media after a show and you will always find a disappointed competitor, along with their friends, saying they were robbed by bodybuilding judges.

In reality, however, there will be specific reasons why they were beaten by someone.

So I would like to share a few things with you about bodybuilding judges, the judging and the process. Federations may differ slightly but, in general, all of them follow similar guidelines.

At top amateur shows there can be many ‘acting judges’ for a category running into double figures. The idea is to get the best possible average score from a number of judges. And to make sure no judge can influence the final placings if their judgment is out of alignment with others.

So you should rest assured that, if there is a judge you don’t like and they judge out of line with others, their score will be discounted. This is because the numerators – those adding up the scoresheets – knock one highest score and one lowest off each competitor. This prevents any favouritism, or opposite, having any effect on the outcome.


When you first come out on stage in front of the judges, they decide who they are going to call out for the comparisons. This is where the quarter turns are crucial, so please make sure you practice and nail these.

When called out in the comparisons, the head judge will take you through your compulsory poses. The other judges will then be deciding their scoring by comparing you to your fellow athletes.


It is important you stand out in these compulsories, as it is here where shows are won and lost. Check on the federation you are competing with for specific compulsory poses as they can differ from time to time.

Judges may request many call outs to compare certain athletes to ensure they are happy with their decisions. Don’t be caught out – you need to execute your final comparison just as good as your first.

When on stage, try and listen to the direction given by the head bodybuilding judge as they call the poses. If they need you to pose in a particular manner and are requested to change, do this before a warning.

Once judges have decided their placings scorecards are folded over and handed to the numerator to add up the scores.

As a point of information, judges do not see their fellow judges’ scorecards.

Remember, the judge’s job is to decide the fair and correct placing – without bias – according to criteria. Judges generally are very experienced and know a lot more about bodybuilding than your friends. So request and listen to their feedback for constructive criticism to become a better bodybuilder in future.

If you don’t agree with anything I have said, my advice would be to become a judge and go through the qualification process. Then see how many athletes still think your opinion is correct.

Bodybuilding is a sport based on opinions, so you have to accept the rough with the smooth and come back better each time.

Some days you will get a placing your opponents disagree with, so try and accept and move on for the love of the sport.

https://frontdouble.com/judge-johnson-dont-ruin-your-chances-of-success-by-not-nailing-these-simple-areas/: BODYBUILDING JUDGE: "JUDGES ALWAYS KNOW BEST"

Steve Johnson is also a renowned bodybuilding and fitness coach. You can enquire about his services here.

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