Muscling through the Competition

With six IFBB pro cards up for grabs, find out who’s got the guts to win

Flex your muscles and strike your best pose because on Saturday, August 18th Jon Lindsay’s Muscle Contest International comes to Ho Chi Minh City ( with a shot at an International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) pro card on the line, allowing competitors to move from smaller regional contests to larger national or international contests, like a national championship or the Mr. Olympia contest. If you need a reference to what this contest is going to be like, find a copy of the film that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, Pumping Iron.

Oi sat down with one of the judges and organizers of the muscle contest, Ben Dell, who was Mr. Canada 1993, to discuss some of the particulars of this year’s contest. Ben is a long-time Ho Chi Minh City resident and owner of Ben Style health food restaurant in District 1.

Oi VietNam - Muscle Contest - July 2018 - IMG_3684

What was the impetus for bringing a muscle contest to Vietnam?

This is something that most bodybuilders, especially in Asia, at the moment don’t have. So, it is something very big because this muscle contest is recognized by one of the bodybuilding federations, IFBB. Last year we had the same competition here, just to try it without the pro card, and we wanted to see how it works and if the athletes would be interested in it. But this year is legit, just like the way we do it in the US. This year we are giving an IFBB pro card, so with that pro card they will be able to compete in any international competition.

How would someone qualify to get into a contest like this?

Here, there is no qualification at this moment because this is the first year. Normally, like for next year, they should show that they have competed before. Let’s say in North America, there are certain levels that you pass before you get into a contest like this, let’s say at a regional, and then you go to NPC (national championships), then you go up to get the pro card, and then you want to make it to the end, which is the Mr. Olympia contest. But obviously we have weight classes and judging criteria that they should follow, like certain poses that the athletes should know.

What are some of the criteria?

Some of the basic ones, like men’s physique, they’re based on height and weight, so if your height is 175cm, then you should not be more than 75kg. You should be wearing shorts, one inch below the belly button and no lower than 1 inch above the knees. They get called to the stage by number, they walk in and do certain poses, and the criteria says they should have a lean, symmetrical figure, muscle definition, and then present yourself, like with a smile, to the judges, and then they get a score. The presentation is very important. No matter how much hard work you put into having the body you have, posing is everything. We have 71 different categories for six divisions. We will give 6 pro cards to the overall division winners.


What kind of a turnout do you expect?

As far as the audience, well over a thousand people will show up. We have guest posers coming from other countries for a pro show that many people want to see. At this moment there are around 100 competitors, but this is a time now in Vietnam when we have local competitions, we have a Vietnam national bodybuilding competition, and then the coming Southeast Asian championship in Siem Reap. We have many competitions, that’s why some haven’t had the chance to register, but 150 to 200 more could register.

Is this the same as a bodybuilding contest you would see anywhere else?

Everything that we do is based on what we would do in the US, but there are certain changes that have to be made because of cultural things, such as the bikini competition. You cannot call it bikini here, so we have to call it beach body, and the glutes (the bottom) must be covered at least 50 percent. Another change is that some athletes when they do a back pose like to bend over backwards to show the judges their glutes and hamstrings, so here that’s too far because it could be considered as disrespectful.

What prizes can competitors win?

We are working on financial rewards, but the first thing for athletes is getting that pro card, because that opens the door to being able to compete in IFBB contests in Singapore, the Philippines, Brazil, even America. If they get that card they can simply walk in and compete. And here, the person who gets that will be the first person in Vietnam to get a pro card, so that will bring sponsors and money, magazines, products, a different level of income for them.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s a very, very tough journey. People see the person standing on the stage and that shape, that physique; they don’t realize what they go through. 16 weeks before the contest they start dieting, cardio, exercise, dos and don’ts—it’s a lot that they have to do to get on the stage. It’s all about the journey. Standing in front of a lot of people, posing, flexing your muscles, it’s not easy at all. We encourage everyone because a lot of guys are scared to step on the stage; they may get a panic attack. They should have the mentality that if you believe it, you can achieve it.

Image by Vy Lam

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