Bodybuilding Reviews / Videos
Repetrope Rep Series

Rep 1

Repetrope Productions
1998; 83 minutes
Availability: DVD and download.

This video -- the first Repetrope’s showcase line -- features a variety of muscle,  mostly from the intermediate weight classes (bantam to middleweight).  Dozens of bodybuilders are featured.  Some are onscreen for as little as five seconds, others longer than a full  minute.  The tape is  intended for the bodybuilding fan who wants to view a variety of bodybuilders at their best,  just before and during a contest.  The quality of the photography overall is excellent -- typical of the Repetrope videos.

The tape is not a documentation of any particular contest.  Rather, it is broken down into about sixteen segments.  Six are from a bodybuilding contest pump room from an amateur Florida show (about 43 minutes total).  Seven are from onstage posing (about 34 total).  Three segments are gym scenes, where one guy is lifting and later posing for the camera (about six total).  The scenes alternate back and forth as the tape progresses.

The pump room segments are my personal favorite.  You see several of the activities common in a pump room.  Many are doing various exercises -- each bodybuilder seems to have his own routine.   Some are practicing their posing.  Sometimes their posing is critiqued by more experienced contestants in the pump room.   Later you see them in the process of oiling up -- almost always with the help of another person.  Finally, you see them line up by the door to the stage.

The photography of the men in the pump room is outstanding.   The cameras are close to the bodies, with frequent close-up shots of freshly pumped muscle.  The lighting conditions are also good, resulting in images with outstanding clarity.   The camera is intrusive here -- getting right into the middle of the scene and making you part of it.

The onstage posing segments have more variety than the pump room segments.  One features six contestants for their entire contest posing routines.  You hear the actual contest posing music and the whistles and screams from the audience.  The camera is not directly in front of the contestants (impractical for a live contest), for the video clarity isn't quite as sharp as the other onstage sequences.  Still, this sequence conveys the excitement of a contest in progress.

The other onstage posing segments are photographed by a camera nearby the contestants -- possibly  before or after a contest posedown.  The photographic clarity is better here.  Some contestants have their contest trophies in front of them.   Some sequences are in slow motion, with dramatic music.  Some have two contestants on stage simultaneously, battling it out in friendly competition.

The gym sequences show close-ups of a bodybuilder using equipment in a workout setting, as opposed to a pump room.  The bodybuilder does some poses for the camera here as well.  There are three gym sequences, varying in length between one and three minutes.

Repetrope provides a variety of bodybuilding footage in this video.   Even though it is not about documenting a contest, you get a good idea about what the pump room and onstage posing are about.  The alternating sequences blend together in a complementary manner, limiting monotony by not staying on one scene too long.   Highly recommended, especially for fans of men in the intermediate weight classes.

July 1999

Rep 2

1998; 85 minutes
Availability: DVD and download.

This is the second tape Repetrope issued in its series, one designed to showcase its strengths as a purveyor of videotaped muscle.  The contests taped are not given, but one was the Tampa Bay Classic in 1997, if the T-shirts worn by contest staff are to be believed.  It looked to me like two different contests were filmed, because one had a stage backdrop in an ancient Egyptian decorative style, and another had a black curtain with a dry ice haze.  These are local or state-level contests with no names for competitors, nor any information about how they did in the shows.  It strictly emphasizes their muscularity, with several dozen guys shown in passing, and a few separated out for extended attention.

Repetrope producers were experimenting with what they wanted to do with image and sound on this tape.  It is busy in its effects, sometimes using slo-mo and sped-up movement to vary pacing, a great deal of rapid editing, and heavy use of the analog computer effects credited to Domino on later tapes (I call it “Repetrope music”).   Except for the music, which was used less intrusively on later tapes, the fancier effects were later dropped.  At its best the film resembles Frederick Wiseman’s cinéma-vérité documentary style, with a camera so familiar that it’s just another element of the scene.

The majority of this tape is footage from the pump rooms of the contests.  However, the tape has interludes of two kinds.  Stage posing is periodically intercut, often to display the presentations of the guys we have just seen pumping up backstage.  Also, gym workouts feature a handful of the best guys competing.  At its most synergistic, the tape singles out one guy, jumps to him in a gym workout, cuts to him onstage, then cuts back and forth from stage to gym so that we get a rounded sense of him as a bodybuilder.  The stage sequences are the most heavily edited; a couple competitors give their full routine, but most are shown in parts or even bits as the music paces the images.  Bodybuilding becomes intensely poetic in these video sequences, which couldn’t be better done than they are here.

The tape starts with competitor number 32.  No information is given on weight class, so I’m guessing he’s a middleweight.  After some nice stage posing, we’re suddenly in a gym workout with someone else, this time without any live sound, just Repetrope music.  His weight belt has “JASON” branded on it.   Now another guy is posing in a contest, this time with live sound under the music.  Then another onstage.  And another.  Several more are shown before we get to the first pump room sequence, where we go directly to closeups of arms, chests, traps, backs, quads, calves, abs, whatever the guy’s getting ready.  Stretching, dumbbell and barbell curls, dips, pushups (including one guy who grasps dumbbells on the floor as he pushes up from them), towel pumps -- anything that gives muscles a quick workout gets done.  The camera searches out the most direct angles to show as much muscle as it can, but pauses at certain points to reveal the moment.  One guy, looking down at himself, nods to a friend that he’s ready for the lineup.  Live sound produces a babbling drone, but you get the idea of what’s being said.  Everyone concentrates on looking his best for the judges and audience.  It’s an environment directed entirely towards that: weight plates and dumbbells, gym bags and shoes, water bottles and oil aerosol cans are scattered everywhere you look, there to help these men (and some women) look their best for the few minutes that decide their placing and possibly their future competitive careers.

The shift from the pump room to the stage gives two slants on posing.  On stage it’s for public consumption, more artful, finished and impersonal.  Behind the scenes it’s for the competitor himself, as he checks out specific points he’s trying to get pumped.  He either looks down at himself or into a mirror, doing a single pose to see what he’s got.  Some guys check out their competition, and occasionally one coaches another about how to display a body part (especially for new competitors).  The personal posing is exciting because it has a you-are-there feel, and the public routines are beautiful to watch when the competitor has his act together, which many do here.

The pump room environment is a key to how the competitor will perform onstage.  Several have helpers oiling them, encouraging them, offering last-minute advice or moral support.  Friends in the competition help each other out, but some loners depend on contest staff for help.  Small groups work in self-enclosed units, oblivious to one another.  Keeping focused is everything here.  The call for the lineup ends the prep for that weight class, and then another class is left in the room.   There’s a variation of ethnicities, with white, hispanic, Asian-American, and African-American men all represented.  The level of experience varies as well, from newbies to seasoned competitors.  Tans vary, some of them being applied as we watch; the best have a burnished, brassy glow.  Pliant skin is shown as oilers smooth gloved hands over pecs, and the skin briefly takes on finger-mark indentations.  One oiler sprays a mist of oil past the guy’s back, and we watch it floating in the air.  There are almost always several things to look in each shot -- someone in the foreground will be pumping as others behind him are posing or oiling up.  It’s a brisk, exciting scene to watch.

As the tape progresses (an hour in), the smaller guys are gone and the bigger, more experienced ones are left in a fairly empty pump room.  Few play to the camera or even acknowledge it, but one smiles at us and says “hello.”  Seeing these guys pump up, then go out on stage and show their stuff, climaxes the tape effectively.  Intercut in this sequence (at 65 minutes in) is a Gold’s Gym workout with a heavyweight bodybuilder with huge arms and a Superman shirt (he takes it off to pose his back and side chest). Then back to the pump room, for one last look at the purest muscle world that exists.  It is not onstage but here that muscle rules.  For a timeless period punctuated only by lineup calls, muscle is the be-all and end-all in this room.  Even the stage seems remote from these men, all of them absorbed in getting the final pump in their muscles to achieve a personal best.  One will go home a winner -- but each competitor in this room can say he’s done what he could to hone his body into its sharpest form.  It’s great to share that moment with the guys on this tape.

Mike Emery
September 1999

Rep 3 & Rep 4

Both released in 1998; both 86 minutes in length.
Availability: DVD and download.

These follow-ups to the first and second Rep tapes vary the format in the earlier ones a bit.  The first two have busier visual effects, although an occasional zoom cut montage will jazz up the pacing in these as well.  The content overlaps in the third and fourth tapes, including material from the same contest (the 1998 NPC Tampa Bay Classic, or “Mr. Tampa Bay”).   The fourth tape has material from the 1998 NPC Coast to Coast Florida Bodybuilding Championships.  I’m getting this information from the T-shirts worn by the contest staff, because these tapes are not official accounts of any contest.  Parts of at least two other contests are shown, judging from differences in stage lighting and curtains, as well as different pump rooms for the shows.

Rep 3

Rep 3 starts (where else?) with the pump room.  The camera immediately jumps to close-ups of competitors getting ready, sometimes tracking back and forth across the upper torso as the guy does alternating dumbbell curls, or tracking up and down the body as he gets oiled up.  A lot of ripped muscle is on display, mostly on guys in the light and middleweight range.  Some sport goatees, tattoos, or earrings.  Live music from a radio floats in the air, but we can also hear the shouts of the crowd from the auditorium, where the contest is underway.  One contest staffer marches around the room exhorting the guys to “pump it up!” like a drill sergeant in bodybuilder boot camp.  The light is so bright that at times the wall behind the contestants is just a white blur, like Hollywood’s conception of heaven.  We seem to be in a never-never land of muscle, weights, oil and little else.

At eight minutes in, the scene shifts to stage posing for the guys we just saw in the pump room.  We get excerpts from their routines, with their own posing music used (live sound here).  Again, it’s mainly tight close-ups of torsos, often without faces visible.  Sometimes the camera shows us backs, arms, and legs (both front and back views).  The soundtrack sometimes shifts to the computer music that Repetrope uses on all its tapes.  It’s fun to hear and zips up the pace of the tape.

The rest of Rep 3 continues in this format, shifting to the pump room for a new set of competitors, then cutting to their presentations in the evening show.  What sets this tape apart from the others in the Rep series is its detailed portrayal of pump room life.  The Tampa Bay contest's many staffers offer last-minute advice and moral support, or bang rolled towels against competitors’ bodies to remove excess oil, or help the guys get a pump going with a towel (holding its ends down while the other holds it in the middle and pumps upwards -- towels are underrated as workout tools).  I can’t imagine a staff more concerned about the well-being of a show’s competitors.  The tape also documents the concern experienced competitors have for the newer guys, including teens competing for the first time.  We witness a true community of muscle on this tape.  We also come to better appreciate the quality of smaller competitors in local shows.  Many seem to be getting a kick out of just being there, enjoying it more than top pros who know their placings will determine income, sponsorships and magazine appearances.  The rush of competition is more apparent in those who haven’t been involved in it as long.

The stage sequences in this video are superb, capturing the atmosphere and excitement of a live show.  Class winners get all of their routines shown, but others are well displayed.  Occasionally I was sorry not to get more of some guys visible behind the one the camera is filming.  It’s impossible to include everyone, though, and the Repetrope cameraman makes good choices.  Good posing and excellent cuts are the rule here.

At 38 minutes in, we get a different pump room to look at.  This one is in the storage area behind the stage, complete with a woodworking shop, elevated catwalk and suspended metal stairway under which one guy does pull-ups.  No music is on here, but the chime of weight plates against dumbbell collars has its own tune.  We see some bigger guys, including a heavyweight who’s a seasoned competitor.  We get him several more times in various sequences before he goes onstage.  He’s a freak with massive arms and chest well displayed as he does dumbbell flyes and curls.  He actually looks better backstage than in his routine, which is still impressive.  At the end we get a brief look at award winners in a lineup, but no announced results.

Rep 4

This tape starts with some excellent competitors in an unnamed show.  They’re pumped, ripped builders in the midrange weight classes.  Some are bald with goatees and tattoos, what I call the pirate look.  It’s fun to follow these guys to the stage about six minutes in.  This tape tracks specific competitors even more than the third one does, so we have a firm sense of the person before the tape moves to someone else.  One teen we see early on gets a statue half as tall as he is -- he could get a pretty good pump with it if he had to.

The pump room here is another backstage storage area, with wall switchboards, stacked chairs, and a junk food vending machine pointedly ignored by the competitors.  When the scene moves back to the stage you can hear the music the guys pose to, and it varies widely.  Music cues how the bodybuilder wishes to project himself, as either graceful or powerful (sometimes both with two songs spliced together).  One falls back on Vangelis’s theme to "Chariots of Fire," but most use upbeat pop, noisy heavy metal or soulful blues.  Each song demands a different pace to movements.  It’s amazing how varied routines can be -- no two are exactly alike.  A competitor only gets a few minutes to show his stuff, and he has to give it everything he’s got in that short time.  Then it’s back to the pump room to get ready for the next trip out, if he makes the cut for the prejudging compulsory round.

At 28 minutes in, guest poser Dennis Newman appears for a couple minutes.  He’s not in contest shape, has no cuts, isn’t tanned, but displays himself well and plays to an audience that loves him.  It’s a brief visit from a huge fleshy monster, over so fast you wonder you didn’t dream it.

Bigger guys are now on display in the pump room.  As always, an individual prepping routine or reaction to the camera is fun to watch.  One guy looks right at us and says “hi mom.”  Another raises his arms and shows he didn’t shave under them.  One helper kids the guy he’s prepping that he can put a finger in his ab ridges.  The Repetrope camera gets hold of the best guys and won’t let go, tracking them at length.  One after another great bodybuilder gets his moment.  After awhile the pump room seems to become the world, shorn of anything unrelated to physical culture.

Towards the end heavies and superheavies get ready to go.  One guy doing the prepping is even bigger and more muscular than the one he’s helping.  (Often the guys in the audience are bigger than the ones onstage.)  I recognized one competitor from a Repetrope tape of a '98 national show, so this contest must be a NPC national qualifier.  We get the stage routines of the bigger guys nearly in their entirety, and these guys are the real thing – sharp V lats, shredded quads, monster guns, the whole shebang.  The tape concludes with the class winners’ posedown, and the middleweight gets it.  Big guys don’t win all the time.

Mike Emery
September 1999

Rep 5

1999; 89 minutes.
Availability: DVD and download.

The Rep series is a showcase for male bodybuilders in competition settings.  This video mixes pump room and stage posing.  None of the guys is identified, nor are the contests, but observation indicates that the two shows covered are both in Florida: one is the Florida State Bodybuilding Championship for 1999, and the other is Mr. Tampa Bay, presumably the same year.  Repetrope does contest videos available at the shows, then edits the footage down to a tape that presents the best material here.

A synth beat is overlaid on the pump room video footage after the credits.  The starting competitors are impressive.  The lighting gives the darkly tanned bb's a reddish glow --  a pump room in hell?  Pump rooms are the purest bodybuilding environments, where many competitors have reached their peak shape, with months or even years of preparation finally coming to its logical conclusion.  Some don't peak: their diet didn't work, or water retention is too great, or carb or fat depletion gives them too gaunt a look.  But most guys here look shoehorned into their skin, and their final prep involves basic movements with a dumbbell, barbell, a towel pulled with a partner, pushups, chinups, handheld cables, anything for a pump.  Pumping up alternates with oiling down.  At most local or regional NPC shows now, no one is permitted backstage except competitors and contest officials, so the guys either help each other, or a contest official does it.  These guys aren't that big, but they're in great shape. 

The camera follows two of them (both teens) onto the stage.  The first (#3) is a fine poser, using a Latin rap song.  He responds to the shouts of friends, family and fans in the audience.  Terrific abs.  Then #4 follows, with peaked biceps on a compact build.  The posedown reveals they're the only ones in the class.  Neither looks like a newbie to the stage as both give it their all, lines of sweat pouring down their torsos.  It's announced -- #4 wins, and grabs his trophy.

What looks to be the novice class hits the pump room next.  You can compete as a novice as long as you haven't won your weight class in another NPC show, but you can also register for the open competition.  Occasionally a novice will show up those in an open class.  We get the usual rhythmic, fluid pumps of dumbbells, standing flyes, towels, and pushups in every direction.  Completely focused, controlled movements hint at the many months, the thousands of hours it took to get here.  The camera tends to pick a competitor and stay with him, or frequently cuts back to him, so we get to know some of the competitors' builds and styles.  A couple guys pose for the camera, but most are oblivious to it, deeply ensconced in their prep. 

Back to the stage.  Competitor #12 has a nice routine to quiet music, doing sinuous movements.  A nice smile on a good poser.  Competitor #13 has more dramatic music; under the lights he looks smaller than he did backstage.  The lights on a bodybuilding stage are cruel, shrinking many competitors down.  Big guys I've stood next to in a contest lobby didn't seem as big onstage.  Competitor #15 has solid cuts.  He makes freaky expressions as he hits his shots to heavy metal grunge, showing off his yin/yang bicep tattoo.  I doubt the judges missed him.  Competitor #19 has excellent lines, heavy quads, etched abs, doing a routine to a heavy metal "Star Spangled Banner."  Competitor #22, smaller than the last guy, shows off his traps and full biceps to a soulful ballad. 

At 25:00 in we're back in the pump room, where the competitors are getting bigger as they go.  We can hear the show off camera, and see the lineup at the side of the room for the next class, ready to walk onstage.  We get a good look at competitor #36, whom I'll call Mr. Quads because of impressive legs.

Back onstage, #21 is posing to a rap song.  He has thickness and cuts, with the Christmas-tree lower back.  Mouthing the words, he bumps and grinds to the music.  Competitor #23 is bigger, with a wide back and solid quads.  Next, #35 has an andoid-looking shaved head, and the synth music adds to the effect.  An intricate tattoo crawls across his upper back. 

Back to the pump room.  Here are the heavyweights, and they're bruisers.  We see more shaved or buzzed heads than on the smaller guys.  Everyone is in contest shape at the Florida show, as it should be for a state-wide NPC contest in one of the best bodybuilding areas of the States.  The tight closeups reveal a superb contest on display.  Even as they line up, the guys keep pumping with isometric exercises; it's no time for the blood to leave any major muscle groups (or minor ones).  No one stands still. 

Back onstage.  Competitor #30, a big guy, starts in the football "hike" position, then stands for a lat spread.  His upper and lower legs are solid; he poses well.  Next is #38, with a pirate look (bald, goatee).  He too has good legs, as many at this show do -- it's a giveaway for a good contest, since legs are often the part that do not get attention.  Mr. Abs, #35, is next, doing deliberate moves to a soul ballad.  He does a complete leg split to the floor for the wowed audience.  Who says big 'builders are musclebound?  Now #37 hits the stage, using classical guitar music to show off excellent cuts.  The next guy, #29, is clearly a serious competitor with a future.  He hits hits poses in startling fashion, locking in each body part in dramatic form.  He has great arms, a good overall look.  The next guy's number isn't visible; he's in red posing trunks.  He does the archer pose (without the bow), and is solid all over, with fine skin tone.  I'd hate to be judging this class.  Now for the real monster -- #33.  His legs are freaky, almost overwhelming his torso.  He's a casual poser without much of a routine, but who cares?  He mainly just stares down at his legs as he poses.  Wouldn't you?  

At 52:00 in, we shift to a different pump room.  The walls are white, like a 30's RKO dance film.  We start with teens again, who usually begin shows.  These are local guys in Tampa Bay.  It's a bit disappointing after seeing Florida's best, but you have to start somewhere -- and it takes courage to go onstage in a contest, especially one that exposes your physique and contrasts you to others in good shape.  Only one teen is shown onstage, which has a medieval castle prop behind the posers.  Back to the pump room, we get somewhat bigger guys, most looking like they're in their first show.  Several have cuts but lack size.  These are mostly local heroes who won't go any further, but they want in on the rush of competition.  We do get good moments in this part of the tape.  One guy has solid arms well shown by alternating standing dumbbell curls.  Another really pulls on an E-Z curl bar, lightly loaded.  Yet another doing bench presses has impressive pecs.  The synth music fades to the clanking sounds in the room, as staffers help oil up a big guy.  Finally we're seeing some size, and the room feels stoked as we get the endless, uncounted reps.  This video is perfectly named.  One guy has a tattoo radiating like a sun around his navel; another bald guy stands, unself-aware, in his gym pants.

Onstage, some of the bigger guys we just saw in the pump room are doing their routines.  It's brief, for we're whisked back to the pump room, where more seasoned guys are working out.  One does crunches for grated abs; he has a bicep tattoo.  Contest staffers are everywhere offering oil and last-minute pep talks.  We see contestant #71 get prepped; he's the one I'd give the show to.  The lineup call comes.  Standing in a row, the competitors wait for their chance to walk up onstage, get hit by the lights, music, screams, ready to give it their best shot.  There's nothing like it. 

Mike Emery
January 2001