Rule #1: Do not listen to anything the NPC judges tell you.
And any competitor who has competed a few times can tell you that the judges will say one thing but score another way.
Case in point, they told us at the 2007 NPC Figure Nationals to relax because they, specifically the head expeditor backstage on "orders" from Sandy Ranalli, told us not to overly arch our backs or flex hard as they do not want a hard look. Steve Weinberger, the promoter, even checked all our poses prior to us going out on stage to make sure we did it right, in his opinion, and didn't flex too hard. But when it came down to it the leannest and hardest won each class, except in the overall (which is another story). The overwhelming trend was leanness to the point of showing hamstring separation. Basically, each hamstring is so obvious that the inner hamstrings even make a heart shape under the ass. Top 5 placements were sporting between a 7% and 8% bodyfat range as well as water depletion which shows more separation.
After the show it was really difficult to get feedback and the score sheets. But finally a month later I got a response from Sandy Ranalli, head of the women competitors in the NPC. She said I looked like a bodybuilder. But she neglected to recall that the judges' scoring had 3 competitors in the top 5 who were larger in muscularity than me. She said that not every competitor can be in the elite levels of competition; that you have to have a "special something" that sets you apart. What I want to know is what "special something" the gorillas in the third call-out had over me! They were fatter, less symmetrical, and overall 3 of them were larger than me!
Another case in point, is the recent NPC Florida State show a couple weeks ago, a national qualifier. Peter Potter, the central Florida disctrict chairman and head judge of this show, specifically told the figure competitors prior to the show that he didn't want bodybuilders, he didn't want the competitors to flex, and that if they wanted to be muscular and flex that he would switch them to the bodybuilding class right then and there. HOWEVER, guess who he called out in the first callouts, and how the judges scored? You guessed it, very lean, very muscular, and very hard looking. Also note, they were all flexing traditionally with flared lats and flexed legs. Peter Potter did not consult any of the other judges for the first callouts, he just called them out as he saw them. There was no discussion until the very end of the callouts where it can be assumed he only asked the other judges whether they were done scoring. Therefore, the callouts were all his own choices and preferences. Additionally, in the middle height class of about 13 very high caliber competitors, he called out the top two girls in the class at the very end for additional comparison. They were the largest in muscularity, and in the top 3 of leanness in the class. They were probably 8% bodyfat. They ended up placing 2nd and 3rd and the first place competitors was still comparable in size and leanness. It was overall a typically traditional NPC physique that we expected all along, not the softer physique they speak of backstage.
So.....based on the placements at the national level shows, and the larger national qualifiers, do you honestly believe the NPC is rewarding "softer" physiques? Do you think you should listen to what the judges are saying? Hell no! Study the photos and watch the trends. That is the only way to succeed in the NPC....along with prescription diuretics and clenbuterol which are freely talked about backstage by some of the top competitors. (And if they don't talk about it you sure as hell can hear it in their voice or see the side effects in their face, teeth, and skin) Figure competitors are not drug-tested even at the NPC "natural" shows, including Figure Nationals (Team Universe).
I can not speak on politics as that is the elephant in the living room no one honestly speaks about.
-The judges are truly drawn to familiar faces and the expectation that a good placement at one show will place well at the next, even moreso if you make improvements.
-Having one of the big name trainers is NOT necessary as crap comes out of all the camps too. Yes, even Mike Davies and Kim Oddo have girls who don't place at all...but they sweep those names under the carpet and don't publish their names/pics. They will only speak of the success stories taking credit for all the COMPETITOR'S hard work. There are plenty of top placers who train themselves or work with very successful trainers who aren't necessarily known at the national level. So if you are already 75% there, just keep going, you'll get there. Don't give them the glory of the years of work already behind you that YOU DID on your own.
-Girls known in the natural circles can expect an uphill battle. If you do not have a website or make yourself known you can usually fly under the radar without being black-balled. Enforcement of remaining an "NPC" competitor from the time of qualification to the time of national competition is hardly enforced. Just don't shout it from the rooftops and you'll be fine. Don't worry, you aren't the first one to break any rules! LOL! And if you are a high caliber competitor then you shouldn't have any problem re-qualifying at another NPC qualifier prior to your selected national show. Generally you only have to make top 5 to qualify.
-And if moving up the NPC stream is your choice in life, then definitely don't talk shit like I do. LOL!!! As you will notice you will never hear an IFBB pro or top national level competitor speak ill of the NPC/IFBB.