If you’re a bodybuilding competitor, don’t even think about it. The appropriately dubbed moon pose, named for its iconic rear hip hinge posture in which the athlete bends over to “moon” the audience, is one of the few poses you’ll (almost) never see during a modern physique competition.
That’s not just because a certain slice of the bodybuilding community regards it as lewd — the moon pose is formally banned by the National Physique Committee, the IFBB Professional League, and many other major bodybuilding organizations.
What Is the Moon Pose?
Historical information on the moon pose is sparse, but you can trace it back at least as far as the career of bodybuilder Tom Platz. If you know your bodybuilding history, you know that Platz is among the most famous physique stars to ever grace the stage, despite having never won the Mr. Olympia competition (he did, however, place third in 1981).
Platz is widely regarded as possessing the most impressive pair of wheels in bodybuilding history. Part of that reputation is, of course, owed to his craft at posing and posture.
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“The Quadfather,” as he’s known, helped popularize the moon pose as a way of showing off his carved-from-marble posterior chain. By facing his backside to the audience and folding over from a standing position, Platz could reveal every individual striation in his glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Eight-time Mr. Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman also performed the pose in competition, though he hardly made it his calling card. Coleman is famous for having perhaps the best overall backside in bodybuilding; his insane muscularity made him a perfect candidate for the moon pose.
The moon pose is also starkly similar to the forward fold stretch in yoga, in which the practitioner bends at the waist, attempting to wrap their arms around their calves or touch the floor with their palms.
This stretch not only highlights the muscles of the rear leg but also provides a tremendous stretch in the soft connective tissues around the ankle and knee.
The Dark Side of the Moon (Pose)
In a sport that celebrates the shape and condition of the human body, it may seem a bit curious to forbid a pose that effectively shows off a significant portion of the body. Regardless, bodybuilding federations have taken a stance against athletes performing the act on stage.
Some within the larger ecosystem of bodybuilding regard the pose as unnecessarily vulgar or inappropriate. It’s possible that bodybuilding organizations wish to avoid any unwanted attention that the world’s most muscular men may unintentionally draw by exposing themselves so fully in little more than posing trunks.
There’s little in the way of formalized reasoning behind prohibiting the moon pose on stage, but some competition regulations do characterize it as a “lewd act.”
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Regardless, there are several other poses in bodybuilding that more than adequately highlight the muscularity and definition of the glutes, hamstrings, and calves; bodybuilders are critiqued from head to toe during poses like the back double biceps.
The moon pose, while extravagant, could also be considered redundant in this regard. It’s far from the only way to show off your legs.
What Are the Mandatory Bodybuilding Poses?
Make no mistake — competitive physique athletes were never under any direct order to hit the moon pose on stage. Bodybuilders are often allowed to perform freestyle posing routines, and some athletes take this opportunity to inject their own personality or artistic vision into the presentation of their physiques.
However, the Men’s Open and 212 divisions in the IFBB Pro League do mandate eight other assorted poses that, in totality, reveal just about every last muscle fiber on the body:
The side triceps pose highlights the muscularity of the arms, chest, and shoulders. The athlete takes a perpendicular or three-quarters stance to the judges and wraps their arms behind their back, sharply straightening their elbow to flex the triceps brachii.
The side chest pose is similar to the side triceps, but it requires a fully perpendicular stance. To demonstrate the size, shape, and definition of the pectorals (and arms as well), the bodybuilder bends the arm closest to the judges while pressing their far arm into their torso to flex the pecs.
Rear Lat Spread
Back width and silhouette are evaluated during the rear lat spread. Athletes will stand away from the judges and expand their latissimus dorsi muscles as wide as they can, creating the coveted “V” shape from shoulder to hip.
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Judges will often consider the shape and proportion of the lower body during the rear lat spread, including the same muscles shown off by the moon pose.
Back Double Biceps
Similarly to the lat spread, bodybuilders highlight the size of their arms, shoulders, and upper backs by performing the back double biceps pose. Additionally, athletes will “spike” one of their legs by pressing their toes firmly into the floor to tense up their calves and glutes.
Front Double Biceps
Frontal poses like the double biceps put a bodybuilder’s entire physique on display. Athletes raise their arms and contract their biceps, flatten their stomachs, and contract their quadriceps muscles all at once.
Front Lat Spread
The front lat spread pose demonstrates back width and thickness when viewed from the front. Athletes assume roughly the same posture as the rear lat spread but also incorporate some ab and thigh flexion into the mix.
Abdominal & Thigh
Bodybuilders show off their abdominal leanness and leg gains with the Abdominal & Thigh pose. They raise their arms out of the way, placing them behind their heads, crunch their abs down to bring out every cut and crevice, and then flex their quadriceps and calves in equal measure.
The most muscular pose is an opportunity to show off just how much muscular size a competitor has. It also happens to be a fairly interpretive move, allowing the athlete to flex their entire body in various ways.
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Some athletes stand upright with their arms flared and their entire body tense. Others will lean forward and clasp their hands together to contract their arms and reveal their trapezius muscles as well. The most muscular pose is considered the athlete’s masterstroke — their chance to reveal all their hard work at once.
Waxing and Waning
You’d probably get very different answers if you asked around about the moon pose at a bodybuilding show. Some consider it essential bodybuilding lore, while others consider it needlessly brazen.
Regardless, the pose has been consigned to the history books. Platz and the other practitioners of the pose enjoyed long, storied careers in the sport — despite its gnarly reputation, the moon pose was hardly a death sentence. It just happened to be a dangerously effective way of showing off your legs.
Featured Image: @golden_era_of_bodybuilding on Instagram // Mahmudul-Hassan on Shutterstock (“Banned” image)