The duties and responsibilities of being a judge of a bodybuilding competition cannot be taken lightly. Competitors work extremely hard to prepare for contests, harder than athletes in most other sports, and deserve to be judged as thoroughly and equitably as possible. While a judge brings all of his worldly experiences and emotions to the table with him, these must be kept in check to ensure that his/her placements are the result of objective analysis as opposed to subjective opinions. The judging criteria must be rigidly followed while all attempts should be made to avoid the common tendencies, which can compromise accurate judging. In addition, judges must be accountable for their decisions and accessible to the athletes. Judges must also maintain a level of accuracy deemed appropriate by the NGA as well as conduct characterized by professionalism and dedication. The goal of the NGA is to crown the finest bodybuilding athlete, without respect to size or reputation. Careful attention must be made to muscle quality, muscle separation and striations, symmetry (correct proportion), vascularity, absence of visible body fat, posing ability, and overall presentation and stage presence. While “ripped” competitors are desirable, emaciated (anorexic-looking) competitors are not. Lean shape should be accompanied by quality muscularity. Furthermore, bodybuilders should also be judged on their ability to follow directions and act professionally (e.g: hitting poses when commanded to do so, etc.). Judges will be cognizant of the consistency of crossover placing.



Refers to the size of the muscles, their shape, definition and hardness. Muscularity is determined, in part, by the extent of the development in relation to the size of the skeletal structure. It also includes the shape/contour of the developed muscles and muscle groups, and separation (i.e: the lines of demarcation between adjacent muscles) and striations delineating sections or fibers within the same muscle group, and the degree of firmness and muscle tone (lack of fat or water under the skin).


Refers to the structural harmony of the physique – the relative size of the various body parts and their shape. There must be a balance and proportion between different components (upper body and lower body, upper and lower parts and front and back of extremities, etc.). Symmetry refers not only to balance in size of these elements, but also the degree of definition and detail. Symmetry is a measurement of evenness of development and how well all parts of the physique fit together.


The element of presentation covers everything not included in muscularity and symmetry. This includes the effectiveness of the display of the contestant’s assets, and includes posture, carriage, projection and posing ability. Skin quality, evenness of tone, choice of posing outfit and grooming are considered.


Certain markers are evident within the structure of physique judgment embraced by the NGA. These markers help to clarify the dimensions of judgment referred to above (muscularity, symmetry, and presentation), and have evolved over the history of bodybuilding as a sport. Judges are required to consider all aspects of each dimension of judgment, and to use these markers to compare and make placements within each NGA certified competition.


In comparing muscularity, judges should look for evidence that the competitor is a bodybuilder, with muscularity that is greater-than-average. An impressive development of muscle and not the definition of average muscularity achieved simply via dieting is the quality sought in this area. In gauging muscularity, the judge should examine the degree of muscularity over the entire body. The arms, judges should look for prominent bifurcated peaks in the biceps brachia, and for separate and distinct development of the brachialis and coracobrachialis. All three heads of the triceps should be separately visible and exhibit appropriate thickness and size. Muscle in the forearm should give the appearance of having 75% of the circumference of the upper arms when flexed, and have necessary detail.

The shoulders should exhibit all three heads of the deltoids in a balanced development, separated distinctly from the trapezius, chest and muscles of the upper arm. Also in this area, in the back region, the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid (neck) muscles should be developed and visible. The traps should extend down into the center back (rhomboid) muscles and the infraspinatus and teres minor groups should be visible. From these the latissimus sweep widely from the spinal insertions to beneath the arms, giving the back width. There should also be a deep furrow along the lower spine reflecting thickness of the erector spinae muscles.

From a frontal view, the chest should exhibit developed pectorals, which are thick and defined. Upper and lower portions should be distinguishable and of approximate equal thickness, with squared shape desirable along the outside, inside and lower edges for men. There should be no unsightly puffiness in male contestants, which is evidence of gynecomastia generally associated with prior steroid use. Beneath the chest, the abdominal area should be clearly visible, with at least three horizontal grooves (lineae transversa), the third being at the level of the navel or slightly below. A vertical groove (linea alba) should be visible along the midline, with the abdominals clearly separated from the external obliques by lines which arc around and extend downward and inward toward the pubis (linea semilunares). The serratus anterior should be visible above the obliques, and below, the internal obliques and tensor fasciae latae should be visible above the hips.

The legs should feature balanced development of the quadriceps at the front, as well as that of the adductors along the inner thigh. From a rear view, the gluteal should be of a muscular nature, squared and trim rather than appearing soft and round. Separate and distinct development should be evident in the leg biceps when rear poses are done, featuring the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. Calf muscles should be developed and appear prominent from the front (tibialis) and rear (gastrocnemius and soleus). The gastrocnemius should be noticeably divided between the two muscle heads, with the medial head somewhat longer. Calves should have a 60% circumference ratio when compared to the upper legs.

In looking at these muscle groupings, judges should be aware of the shape, size, definition and hardness of each muscle. Muscles should have a pleasing contour (shape), with origins and insertions that give the appearance of appropriate placement within the anatomy. Average or long-bellied muscles are more desirable than short-bellied, in that they do not leave gaps in the physique (such as a gap near the inside elbow for a person with a short biceps muscle, or the long gap in the Achilles area for someone with short calf muscles). A full, well-positioned muscularity has a more favorable appearance and should be judged accordingly.

Size is not necessarily the key-determining factor, but evidence of thick muscularity is desirable in comparing qualities among bodybuilders. While genetic predispositions affect these qualities, successful bodybuilders have been able to overcome such “shortcomings” and make up for lack of muscle belly length or size in other areas.

The aspect of definition is equally important in judging muscularity. It must be possible to distinguish between muscles and muscle groups, as in demarcation of muscle outlines, as well as the visibility of markings (striations) between fibers within a separate muscle. Leanness is important, but an anorexic or overly dieted appearing is neither advantageous nor desirable. Definition within the confines of a well-muscled physique is what judges should be looking for. Definition and hardness are the signs of a “finished” physique, which is the result of hard training, the absence of body fat, and a limited retention of body water. Vascularity is a sign of a defined muscularity, but is not always an indication of a finished physique (i.e.: vascular forearms on a competitor with a bloated midsection). Judges should examine vascularity in context with the other factors named herein when ascertaining levels of muscularity among competitors.


In evaluating symmetry, the judge should be concerned with the harmony and proportion of the physique. This evaluation should begin with the skeletal structure itself. Although a competitor may be limited by his genetic structure, the judge has to honestly examine this characteristic to make necessary distinctions between bodybuilders. The ideal structure should include a near-equal ratio of torso to leg length, broad shoulders and narrow hips for a man, with similar proportions for a woman (albeit not so broad of shoulders). Furthermore, skeletal deformations (scoliosis, one leg too short, etc.) must be judged as imperfections despite the athlete’s inability to change them.

Symmetry also includes judgment of muscular development and the muscles themselves. The upper body and lower body development should be synergistic and fit together well. Likewise, the arms and legs should be in proportion to one another and also within each front to back. The physique should look balanced from the front, back and side, with no angle overshadowing the others. Within the muscles themselves, balance must be existent pertaining to quality of muscle peak, height, development, length, shape and proportion.

A final aspect involves definition and hardness. There should be evenness between hardness in the upper and lower body, between extremities and the torso and between corresponding sides of muscle groups or the entire body (between arms and between legs). Judging symmetry involves finding defects within the physique by careful evaluation, which are separate from defects found in the area of muscularity. Symmetry is a difficult marker of physique competition to be judged.


The focus in presentation is on all aspects of the performance other than the actual physique itself. Elements of display such as posture; carriage, projection, posing ability, attire, skin tone and grooming are all concerned. Presentation judging begins with the semi-relaxed round, in examining how the contestant presents himself/herself. Contestants should face the position requested by the judges (side, front, etc.) without twisting, posing, moving, etc. They should stand erect and symmetrical, weight on both feet and arms at the sides. Any movement (posing) which impairs the judges’ ability to look at presentation should be reflected in a markdown in scoring, costing the athlete possible higher placement. Grooming is also examined during this time, with the emphasis on the athlete’s ability to present a well-prepared and attractive appearance. Included here are evaluations based on hairstyle and length, skin tone (free of blemishes not under his control), discoloring of skin, tan quality and evenness, stretch marks, sagging skin, etc. Jewelry other than rings and non- hanging earring are prohibited. Slouching or lack of attention by front stage competitors (called out for comparison) between requested poses should be viewed negatively by judges and reflected in scoring. Those athletes at stage rear not being compared should use this time for rest, but should still attempt to remain visibly erect and attentive.

Choice of posing attire should conform to NGA rules and compliment the physique. Posing suits must be one in color, well fitted, have no jewelry or other distractive materials attached and are in good taste. They must be of a color which compliments with the contestant’s skin color and not be visibly soiled or discolored. Men’s suits must fully cover the genitals and gluteal area (no “thongs”, etc.), and be cut thinly on the side so as to exhibit hip and abdominal muscularity. Women’s suits must fully cover the breasts, gluteal and genitalia (no “thongs”, etc.), be of a two-piece variety (they may be connected by draw strings) and allow sight access to the abdominals, full back and upper chest.


While most judges set out to perform their duties in as fair and objective manner as possible, there are certain subconscious emotional prejudices which can inhibit their ability to do so. Every effort should be made to be aware of and avoid these impediments to accurate judging. The following are some of the most common:


  1. Judging a competitor on reputation or previous placements instead of evaluating his/her condition on that given day. Even the top competitors sometimes miss their peak and should be judged and placed accordingly.
  2. Judging a competitor favorably because of a personal relationship with the athlete. While most judges make all attempts to avoid any conscious favoritism they might show to friends and acquaintances, subconsciously it is very difficult to not see such people in a somewhat favorable light. It is essential for a judge to be aware of this and work doubly hard in evaluating and placing such an individual.
  3. Prioritizing attributes of competitors that the judge is particularly concerned with. This is particularly applicable when the judge is also a competitor. Most competitors have favorite body parts; possibly areas that they are lacking or have worked hard to bring up to par and therefore they place high priority on such areas. If conscious attempts are not made to avoid this mistake, judges with these perceptions might place competitors with good development in these areas ahead of someone more symmetrical and deserving of the advantage.
  4. Allowing audience reactions to influence placements. Very often, the amount of audience response a competitor receives is more a result of how many people they bring with them as opposed to how good they actually look.


When the line-up is brought on stage, the judge should check to assure that the numbers on his score sheet match the competitors’ numbers. After deciding the placement order, the judge should write the competitor’s placement number beginning with one for the top competitor. There should be no ties. Double check to make sure that each competitor is placed and the highest placement number is equal to the number of competitors in the class. A sample score sheet is included in the rear of this manual.



This is recommended to facilitate judging. The process of judging can become very confusing, especially in the case of large, competitive classes. In such cases, a summary sheet to take notes on can aid in the evaluation process as well as handily providing information for inquisitive competitors. The back of this page is an example of how to use a summary sheet. A blank summary sheet is provided for copy in the rear of this section.


An NGA judge has certain responsibilities to the athletes. First and foremost is to attempt to judge and place the competitors as accurately as possible. But many times, this is not enough. Competitors are frequently unhappy with their placements and the tension is exasperated when a judge either cannot give them definitive reasons why they placed where they did or is not available after the show to do so. While the competitor usually disagrees with such explanations, they go a long way toward diffusing the tension and leaving the competitor with a favorable opinion of our organization. Other competitors accept their placements and look to the judges for constructive criticism on how they can improve. This can be an extremely important form of input for a bodybuilder to use. Of particular use is advice from judges who are competitive bodybuilders and/or NGA certified personal trainers. They not only can explain the competitor’s shortcomings, but can also offer training, nutrition, and contest preparation tips the athlete can use to remedy the problems.

The use of a summary sheet or note pad (see III.5) facilitates the process of providing such information to competitors. NGA judges must remain for at least fifteen minutes after the completion of the contest to be available to provide this service to the competitors.


One of the most rewarding benefits of being an NGA judge is to know that athlete’s efforts are helping to provide competitors with ample opportunities to pursue their competitive aspirations without using drugs thus helping to prevent the use and abuse of dangerous substances. Any involvement with organizations or media entities that are not completely devoted to drug free training therefore represents a conflict of interest for an NGA judge. NGA judges are strongly advised not to participate as competitors, promoters, judges, or officials of any organization that does not drug test all of its shows nor should they be involved in any media entity not one hundred percent committed to natural bodybuilding. Even the simple act of reading a “non-natural” bodybuilding magazine in front of our competitors can indirectly promote drug use and should be avoided. All NGA judges should be perfect role models for drug free training.

NGA judges will include experienced bodybuilding, physique, fitness, figure, and beauty and performance professionals. A panel of five to seven impartial men and women will be scoring judges. High and low scores will be dropped and a placing system will be used. The head judge may be a scoring official. Ethical concerns are at the discretion of the NGA, the promoter and its’ officials.


Certain standards must be met in order to become an NGA judge and evaluation will continue to assure adequate judging performance once a judge has been named.


There are two phases to the evaluation of an individual before they can be named a judge. The first is an interview with an NGA official where the prospective judge’s experiences, feelings about bodybuilding, etc. will be explored. The second requirement is for the individual to test judge a show and achieve an accuracy rating of at least 85 percent.


  1. To remain on the judging roster, individuals must maintain accuracy ratings of at least 85 percent. If such standards are not met, attempts at retesting will occur followed by a test judging trial. Accuracy ratings of all NGA judges will be recorded and available for inspection upon request.
  2. Maintain a professional dress/attire. Pre-Judging may not include shorts or t- shirts. Evening attire may not include shorts, sweatpants or t-shirts or jeans.
  3. Maintain a professional disposition at all times. No excessive talking, no texting, no phone conversations, no picture taking.
  4. Be present during the entire pre-judging and evening show.



NGA Head Judges shall be responsible for performing the following duties throughout the year:

  1. Maintaining a judging roster with a sufficient amount of judges to schedule for shows;
  2. Interviewing and arranging test judging for prospective judges and evaluating their performance before adding them to the roster;
  3. Compiling, recording, and evaluating accuracy ratings of all judges to make sure standards are being met;
  4. Retraining and evaluating repeat test judging of judges not maintaining minimum required accuracy ratings;
  5. Discontinuing use of a judge whose competence is still below the standard after retraining; and
  6. Scheduling and contacting judges to arrange judging panels for shows. Attempts should be made to rotate judges so that no two shows have the exact same panel.



NGA Head Judges shall be responsible for performing the following duties during the contest:

  • Delivering the pre-contest address to the competitors, explaining the proceedings, and answering all questions. Particular attention should be given to assure that first time competitors are aware of what the contest will consist of;
  • Making sure all judges are present and have their score cards set-up properly;
  • During the judging, the Head Judge will perform the following duties:

1. Calling for the poses (if competitors are routinely not posing in unison, cues should be given) 

2. Warning competitors regarding rules and violations 

3. Communicating with the judging panel regarding comparisons and when a class has been sufficiently judged 

4. Rearranging the line-up for comparison purposes. Care should be taken to perform this function taking into account the input of all of the judges. If a Head Judge is too autonomous in altering the line-up, he can inadvertently influence the other judges and possibly compromise the placements

5. Splitting large classes into top and bottom halves to allow adequate space for the competitors. This should also be done utilizing the input of the other judges. To assure accurate judging, the low finishers in the top half should also be compared to the high finishers in the bottom half.

  • Double check all score sheets before the final placings are printed.
  • Entering all of the placements on the master score sheet, totaling the points, determining the placements, presenting the results to the announcer, and keeping track to make sure all announced placings are correct.