Whether you are new to training or have a few years of experience behind you, competing in a Bodybuilding Competition and stepping on stage for the first time requires extensive preparation, discipline and commitment. You may start paying more attention and spending more time and money than you thought was possible preparing your meals for the week, training in the gym and getting enough sleep. We’ve highlighted some key tips that we urge you to consider, which are often neglected and therefore negatively impact one’s potential success in this sport. Read the following to learn how to ensure you are adequately prepared for what is truly involved in this sport.
The first step we recommend is to attend as many different competitions as you possibly can as a spectator. Try to vary the Federations as well, as it is likely that there will be multiple Bodybuilding Competitions held by independent organisations around you, each with different requirements, structures and judging criteria. In Australia, the main federations are the IFBB, NABBA, WFF, INBA, ANB and WBFF. Make sure you check out all divisions available in each of these Federations, as they are all judged differently and require varied looks, poses, muscularity and stage presence. This way, you can narrow down your choice of federations based on what suits you, your body type and preferences the most.
Once you have come to a decision as to what Federation and Category you wish to enter, check out a contest calendar which displays when the contests are to be held during that year. Make sure you start preparing for your Competition with ample time, with first-time competitors usually commencing their preparations 12 – 20 weeks in advance!
As a novice or first-time competitor, it is imperative to remember that it is absolutely normal and common to make mistakes during your contest preparation. This is why one of the best things you can do for yourself is actually run through a practise competition prep. This is where you commit to carrying out the 12 – 20 weeks, but not actually step on stage at the end. This may sound like a lot of effort for nothing, but what you will gain by doing this will give you a competitive edge when you decide to actually compete in the future. A practise run will give you a glimpse into what is required, how hard you have to work and what you have to sacrifice. It will teach you a lot about your own body: what foods and macronutrient quantities you best respond to, what training methods and cardio work best for your body and how those around you influence your ability to commit 100% to a plan.
This will also enable you to discover whether you actually enjoy the lifestyle that accompanies contest preparation, which is a must when you need to devote so much time toward it, by tweaking every aspect of your life.
Once you have decided what Federation and what category you want to compete in, and you have undergone a practise run of a competition preparation, check out a contest calender and lock in the date of a show. Ensure you leave ample time to prepare, which can vary between 12 and 20 weeks depending on how close you are to being ‘stage ready’. Hiring a coach can be a useful tool, as it becomes harder to assess whether you are indeed progressing in the desired direction, as you will begin looking at yourself. Often. Every. Single. Day. Coaches also will be experienced in a variety of methods to get you where you want to be, so can be of assistance if you experience a plateau or aren’t getting the results you desire. It is also better to diet or cut weight slowly, which means losing a smaller amount of body fat each week, for a longer amount of time. This will keep your internal health in check, including your metabolism, hormones and your mental state!
It is also advisable to have someone, whether that be a coach or an experienced competitor, teaching you about and critiquing your posing! You will need to find information about the relevant poses and routines that are required by your Federation and Category, which can be sourced on the relevant websites or by watching online videos. Posing and stage presence become one of the most important aspects that you will judged by during a competition, so pay close attention to this early on, as all that time spent dieting and training won’t be enough!
Finally, we recommend taking weekly progress photos to keep track of your results, and also keep record of your training protocols and nutrition including calories each week. This way, you can see whether you are indeed making progress, and in the future, recall what methods allowed you to achieve this.
At the end of the day, competing is commonly considered by regular gym goers who are looking for a new personal challenge and to take their training to the next level. While we strongly recommend constantly setting yourself goals to ensure you are progressing, competing is a very complex, encompassing challenge, which requires a lot of sacrifice in other areas of your life. If you truly think it has what it takes, use these tips to prepare you for what is involved, and give you a competitive advantage over other novice competitors come show time!