I know, I know. Tattoos are an art form and an important expression of your individuality, BUT they can also be a distraction for judges if you are a competitive bodybuilder or figure competitor.

What do you see first?  The tattoos or the muscles?

The little cutesy-cute strategically-placed ones aren’t so bad, but some of the larger full-torso, arm-length, or bizarre-looking tattoos can greatly detract from your physique or figure. You are supposed to be trying to display your body to best advantage – not your tattoo(s).

There is a reason why very few, if any, top bodybuilders or figure competitors have very large or prominent tattoos. They know that tattoos – or, for that matter, even birthmarks, pigmentation conditions (e.g. vitalago), or even a bad case of zits – can divert the judges from looking at what they should be looking at , and the voting among the top competitors is often so close that they don’t want leave anything to chance.

Most judges have a good enough “eye” to know what they are looking for and will make every effort to look for the real thing under all that ink but, everything else being equal, judges will typically give the nod to the athlete without the tattoos. Why? Because the “tatless” athletes present a cleaner, less complicated look. The judges don’t have to guess what they are looking at – they can see what they are looking at without having to interpret what might – or might not – be there. Your tattoo(s) might make you stand out from the other contestants, but for the wrong reason.

Judging is hard enough as it is without making it more difficult for the judges by making your body illustrations the focus of their attention instead of your physical development. You might get away with it at a lower-level contest or when you are just beginning to compete, but if you ever expect to compete at the top level, you should make up your mind about why you are competing. If it’s all about showing off your tattoos, you are in the wrong sport. Otherwise, let your muscles do the talking.

If you have a large or unusual tattoo and you are serious about competing in natural bodybuilding, consider covering it up with makeup when you compete, and then wear it with pride after the competition. There is nothing wrong with tattoos. They just don’t belong on the bodybuilding stage. The same goes for extreme body piercings.