Tony Daniele - NPC Judge

Author: Jonathan. L, Models Observer
June 2017

1. Thanks for joining me, Tony. Could you start by telling me a little bit about yourself, how long you have been involved in bodybuilding? When did you start judging?

I participated in sports from junior high school through college, playing football, wrestling, and track. Because of the sports I started lifting weights and that's when the iron bug bit me. I competed in powerlifting for over 10 years up into the early 80's and then by 85 I started competing in bodybuilding up to 2001. Because of severe knee injuries that I got playing football I had to get knee replacements, which ended my days of competing in bodybuilding. I had done fairly well in bodybuilding always placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in state and regional level shows. Although I had a good physique I did not compete in national level shows because my physique was not national level physique. When I couldn't compete anymore I still wanted to stay involved in bodybuilding and decided to get involved in judging. I started judging in Pennsylvania in 2005 up to the present. As a state and regional level NPC Judge I have judged in Pennsylvania, NJ, and Delaware and have seen a lot of changes watching with amazement the sport evolve. Especially the changes that have occurred in the last 5 to 7 years.

Tony Daniele

Tony Daniele

2. What is your vision of perfect presentation?

My vision of a perfect presentation is when a competitor meets and exceeds all of the judging criteria down to the smallest details for her category. This would include having the proper amount of muscle mass to perfectly shape and balance the physique along with the proper amount of conditioning. The next part of this would be displaying a perfect appearance, which includes having the proper hair style, makeup, suit, and skin tone that looks perfect for that individual competitor. The last part is to perfectly pose, walk, and stand with a confident, positive, pleasant, and upbeat attitude or personality. Out of these 3 areas, obviously achieving the perfect physique is the most difficult because genetics does not allow every competitor to achieve a perfect physique. However, presenting a perfect appearance, posing, and personality are all achievable with practice , acquiring knowledge, or seeking professional help.

3. In which division - Bikini, Figure or Women's Physique - do you find it more challenging to decide who the best competitor is? Why?

I find the Bikini division to be the most challenging when determining who the best competitor is. This is because the Bikini competitors are required to have the least amount of muscle mass and definition compared to the other divisions. This creates a line in the sand as to what is too much muscle and definition for a Bikini competitor. If the competitor crosses over this line then they will get bumped down in placing. This was the case in actually all of the divisions as every year competitors were getting more muscular, which caused Jim Manion to send out a letter requiring a 20 % reduction in muscle mass across the board in all divisions. I personally like a more muscular physique, but I have to keep in mind the line in the sand. However, where is the line in the sand supposed to be drawn. Every judge has their own personal preference as to what is too much muscle and definition and what is just enough for the Bikini division.

A competitor has to have enough muscle mass in order to make all of the muscle bellies in all the muscle groups look fully shaped, balanced, and symmetrical. Then they have to have the proper amount of conditioning or definition. I can tell you that the head judge sets the precedence for what is too much muscle and definition. I would always ask the head judge what his preferences are in order to get an idea of where to draw the line in the sand before I have to bump a competitor down in placing. Having too much muscle is a more important factor than having too much definition. That being said, what is too much definition. Having too much definition is easier to determine, which is stated in the judging guidelines for the Bikini division whereas the amount of muscle mass is not. The guidelines state that a Bikini competitor must have a tight firm look with no loose skin or body fat jiggling and mild definition being allowed. To me mild definition is having separation between the muscle groups, but not too deep and with no cross striations.

4. Let's talk about a prevalent decision: switching from Bikini to Figure. How does competing in Bikini contribute to success in Figure?

There are a lot of competitors that are competing in the wrong division, which has to do with the amount of muscle mass, which I see this at every show. A lot of competitors start out in the Bikini division because they don't have the proper amount of muscle mass for the Figure division even though they may have the overall structure for it. Some competitors think they do not have the proper amount of muscle mass for the Figure division when they actually do. Also, some Bikini competitors are pushing the limits of muscle mass and are walking a fine line between Bikini and Figure. They have to constantly monitor them themselves and put more effort into keeping the amount of muscle mass down in order to stay in the Bikini division. So by competing in the Bikini division competitors can find themselves and determine if they are better suited for the Figure division and be more successful.

Competitors that constantly struggle to stay in the Bikini division and walk that fine line between divisions will often find themselves being more successful in Figure and will no longer have to struggle to try and stay in Bikini. Those competitors don't have to hold themselves back anymore and are free to blossom in the Figure division and will find themselves being more successful than they were in the Bikini division. So the Bikini division is a good starting point and stepping stone for beginners to progress and blossom into the Figure division, which is where their physiques naturally belong.

Tony Daniele

Tony Daniele

5. How does setting goals help to predict one's competitive success? Is "dominating the Olympia stage" a realistic target for a beginning athlete?

Dominating the Olympia stage is not a realist goal for a beginner even though it is normal to have thoughts or wish that one day you might be able to compete in the Olympia. Setting realist goals is extremely important in order for competitors to be successful in competitions. I see a lot of beginner competitors that have won their class at a local national qualifying show and immediately say I am going to compete in a national level show. Then they compete in the national show and they do terrible. A lot of beginners that are successful at a local show do not have the refined development yet to compete in regional or national show. It takes time, hard work, and knowledge for a competitor to develop and refine their physique. As they develop and improve their physique they should compete in the shows that correspond to their development and in turn will be more successful.

When I give feedback to competitors I always tell them what stage their development is at and what level of show they should be competing in. The competitors that listen seem to do better. At the competitors meeting the judges tell the competitors to talk to one of the judges if they are considering competing in a national show in order to get a professional opinion to determine if they are ready for a national level show. A lot of beginners do not do their homework and have no idea what the competition looks like at regional or national level shows. They end up biting off more than they can chew and don't do well and in turn get depressed and do not get back on track. There are also those competitors who are delusional and no one can talk any sense to them and they end up competing in shows they are not suited for and don't do well. The competitors that are successful have a realistic view of their physique and know where they fit in. They set the proper goals and compete in the shows they are best suited for and are the most successful competitors.

6. Please tell me about a recent contest in which your scorings were significantly different from other judges' scoring. Example: you ranked an athlete 1st, but eventually the final results were much different.

I have not judged any recent shows in which my scores were significantly different from the other judges. This usually happens when there is inconsistency on the judging panel in the way the judges evaluate the competitors. It doesn't mean they are bad judges, but they are not on the same page with how they look at competitors. This can also occur if there are judges on the panel who are not good judges, which I have seen with other panels. The reason I have never seen this occur is because our judges are all on the same page and have consistency. I am an NPC Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Todd Howe is the NPC Eastern District Chairman of Pennsylvania. Todd is also an IFBB Pro Judge and my boss and Gary Udit also an IFBB Pro Judge is the NPC Western District Chairman of Pennsylvania and in charge of the NPC Mid-Atlantic Region.

That being said my superiors are very good and only allow quality judges to be on the judging panel. Two of the judges on my judging panel Andy Landis and Marty Varanicar are national level judges and are also IFBB pro competitors. We also have two women judges Lois Sprouse and Bren Lauver who are also IFBB Pro competitors. We have a very good panel of judges that have been carefully screened by Todd Howe and Gary Udit to ensure quality and consistency in our scoring. We are like a well oiled machine and are all on the same page with how we look at and judge competitors. So we never have judges scores significantly being different from one another. Our judging scores are consistently similar to one another and are never off by more than 1 placing. Consistency among the judges scores is the most important component of having a good judging panel with quality results.

7. When preparing female athletes for competitions, which diet methods do you prefer to use? Why?

The diet method I prefer to use to prepare female competitors is the standard method of quantitatively figuring out how much protein, carbs, and fat each individual requires. Then make any necessary adjustments throughout and up to the show. I will always have the individual take in more protein that they need because it is better to take in than too much protein than not enough. I like to have the individual take in a variety of proteins from food only in order to get all of the amino acids. In some cases I have to do something different because the individual has reached a sticking point. In which case I will do carb cycling or substitute MCT Oil for a percentage of the carb intake because some individuals are carb sensitive. In addition to the food a proper vitamin regiment is needed, which is just as important as the food. With respect to the last week of preparation I do like using the standard method of slowly decarbing and then slowing carbing up to the show. Along with this I have the individual dehydrate by starting out taking in an excess amount of water and gradually decrease it to sips at the show. I quantitatively figure out how much water and carbs an individual requires for the process of dehydrating, decarbing, and carbing up. You can't just guess at this or you will screw it up. I was a biology and chemistry major in college so I have a good understanding of how the body works and why you can do certain things and can't do other things.

8. What is the #1 mistake you see competitors doing during the last week of prep before a show?

The # 1 mistake I see competitors make is not carbing up and dehydrating properly. They end up spilling over and not getting rid of all their water. Also, competitors don't carb up enough and end up looking flat and don't have a full look.

9. If you had to pick one memorable story in the years you've been competing, what would it be?

Back in 2001 Jay Cutler guess posed at the Lehigh Valley Show I competed in and he hung out with the competitors in the back giving us encouragement. He was very nice and humble and I can't say enough good things about him. He was answering our questions and giving us advice. It was just a great experience that I will always cherish.

10. Any advice for those who are going to compete for the first time?

Have fun and enjoy the process because it will not last forever. Also, make sure you do your home work in order to prepare so you give yourself the best opportunity to win or do well. Go to the NPC News Online website and look at the rules and judging criteria for your division so you know what is expected of you as a competitor. Also, when on the NPC News Online website look up the various local, regional, and national shows to see what competitors look like at each level. Lastly, competitors should attend a couple of shows before their competition in order to see how things are done and not surprised by anything at their competition.

11. What would you like to see happening with the sport in the future?

Currently at all of the national shows the 1st and 2nd place in each class get a Pro Card. In my opinion the NPC is giving out too many Pro Cards and diluting the quality by giving Pro Cards to 2nd place. A lot of these 2nd place competitors are completely surprised when they compete in a pro show and discover that the competitors are much better and they really don't belong at the Pro level.

12. What most people don't know about you?

I have been judging for 12 years and was a former powerlifter and bodybuilder. Combining that with my biology and chemistry degree I have a acquired a lot of knowledge, which makes me well rounded and uniquely qualified to help younger competitors. I have seen and experienced things as a competitor and judge. I can be contacted on facebook @TonyDanieleContestPrep.

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