Have you been training hard and eating clean? Do you feel ready to compete on a Bodybuilding, Bikini, Figure or Physique show?
Our friends from zelsh.com wrote this blog about the 10 things you should consider before you enter your first competition.
So you’ve been searching around the internet, looking at pictures of bodybuilders, watching videos of bodybuilding shows and you’re thinking “I can do this, I WANT to do this” and then you realize (or don’t) that your sitting in the comforting confines of your house. In your house you’re viewing yourself in a setting that you are comfortable, with lighting that is most likely favorable, and a judge (Yourself!) that is most likely very forgiving! This is why you should attend a bodybuilding show before you decide to step on stage yourself. By attending a show you will familiarize yourself with how they are run, how they are judged, and what it will take to show CONFIDENCE on the stage in front of hundreds (maybe thousands) of people! This will be an invaluable experience when determining if this sport is right for you.
Now that you’ve decided that you can handle the spotlight, you must consider if you can handle the commitment! If you’re going to do this you need to go at it full steam ahead. You are putting yourself in a situation that
if you slack off for even one day, there will be someone competing against you who didn’t!
If you were to finish in second place knowing that you didn’t give your contest preparation your full commitment, would you be okay with that?
You should also be able to commit a minimum of 12 weeks for contest preparation (if starting very lean) and in most cases you should plan for 20+ weeks. That’s a minimum of three months of contest dieting,
ARE YOU READY? DO YOU HAVE THE WILL POWER?
Ah, here we are, the inevitable debate of clean food versus “if it fits your macros”. The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to diet. What is optimal for someone else, may not suit your needs. If you enjoy the typical “bro” foods such as tilapia, sweet potato, and brown rice then you go right ahead and enjoy those foods on your journey to get shredded. The same can be said if you want to eat pork chops, white potato and (GASP!) ice cream for dessert.
The only requirement when dieting is knowing what is entering your body and what quantity. You should know your macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Fat, Protein) and how much of each you are consuming. If you track your macronutrients and hit your desired number of each you will reach your goal physique. It doesn’t matter whether your macros are reached by eating sweet potato or white potato!
As mentioned above, your macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and protein. Each macronutrient has a caloric value.
Carbohydrate = 4 calories
Fat = 9 calories
Protein = 4 calories
Here is a sample macronutrient breakdown;
Carbohydrate: 300 (1200 calories)
Fat: 50 (450 calories)
Protein: 200 (800 calories)
This sample breakdown would put your overall caloric intake at 2450 calories. Your body will not know whether you hit your protein from chicken, beef, or fish just as it won’t know whether you got your carbohydrates from white or brown rice. What is important is that you set your “macros” and hit them on a daily basis. If you are uncomfortable setting your own macronutrient breakdown, then I suggest hiring a contest preparation coach (see #2)
I’m sure you’ve heard it before “I’m going doing high rep work to get cut!”. Please, for the love of all things bodybuilding, don’t listen to this advice! Your best bet (in general terms) during a contest preparation is training the same way you trained before you made the decision to compete. If you’ve always trained and gained by lifting heavy ass weight, then why, come contest preparation would you change that? If in your offseason you’ve always trained in the hypertrophy ranges and seen results then stick with it! Your best bet is most likely a combination of both power and hypertrophy training, but whichever you choose there’s only one thing you MUST do and that is push yourself! Progressive overload in contest prep will help you maintain muscle as long as you can, just as it helps you gain muscle in a caloric surplus. Your diet and cardiovascular work will decrease your body fat, not your workout program! Remember, KISS! (Keep it simple stupid)
Food will likely become a high priority in your life come contest prep time. There a few important things to consider in regards to food over the course of your prep.
Prepare your meals in advance – Although this is not absolutely necessary it can certainly help you maintain a level of sanity when the craziness of contest prep hits. In order to make your prep more manageable I recommend purchasing seven Tupperware containers and pre-cooking your meals for the week. On each Tupperware containers write in washable marker the contents (weight) of what’s inside. This may not be ideal for all, but it will certainly help a large majority.
Become a master chef – This one almost comes naturally with the territory. You will find that over the course of your prep you will develop many different recipes out of necessity. As your calories drop you will do everything in your power to find way to make your meals as appealing as possible. Some people will strive on flavor and others on volume, whatever it is that you desire, become a master!
Maintain a healthy relationship with food – Time and time again athletes will develop very bad relationships with food, some going as far as developing eating disorders. This is something that you must avoid at all costs! There isn’t a bodybuilding stage in the world that is worth risking your health or destroying your metabolism. It is very common for food to be on an athlete’s mind during prep, after all, you are restricting your calories and will often times be hungry. Just remember, if you find yourself heading down a bad path in relation to your food, take a step back and analyze whether what you’re doing is really worth it. The honest answer is, it’s not.
You first must decide which organization you’d like to compete in. There are many organizations to choose from for both the natural bodybuilder and the “equipped” bodybuilder. Do some research and decide which organization best supports your beliefs and views when it comes to bodybuilding. If there is multiple that you feel comfortable with then feel free to compete in all of them!
Next you much choose which show you’d like to enter. My biggest recommendation is choosing at least one local show where your family and friends can attend and cheer you on! My second suggestion is competing in MULTIPLE shows. Think about it, you’ve dieted for weeks on end; do you really want all the hard work to be over after one show and 15 minutes on stage? Enter as many shows as you can! Not only to show off what you’ve accomplished, but to gain stage experience!
Imagine this; you’re pumping up backstage, waiting for your time to shine. You look around and see a few other competitors that will be competing for that first place trophy. You all have good symmetry as well as comparable size and leanness. What can you do to set yourself apart? POSE YOUR ASS OFF!
Once you have chosen your organization as mentioned above you should research their posing guidelines. Most organizations will list their typical posing call outs. You need to know all of the posing possibilities! There is nothing worse than standing on stage and not knowing one of the poses that is called. Remember, it takes a long time to impress a judge, but only a few seconds to turn them off. Practice, practice, practice!
Pro Tip: The best way to practice your posing and to feel the physical and mental demands it will place on you is by logging on to Youtube and searching for a show in your organization. Follow along with the youtube video as the mandatories are called out! Prepare yourself – It’s exhausting!
There is no denying that the most optimal way to approach contest prep is by hiring a coach. Even the most well-known coaches in the world have a second set of eyes watching over their prep. Do dentists perform work on their own teeth? Do doctors perform surgery on themselves? The answer to that is an obvious NO! If you have the financial means to hire a coach, you will find your prep much less stressful and easier to complete. Hiring a coach will provide you with a nutritional plan, a workout program, recommendations on bodybuilding products such as supplements, tanning products, posing suits and most importantly they will provide you with an objective set of eyes!
The biggest factors to consider when hiring a coach are their reputation and their results. DO YOUR RESEARCH! If someone in your gym is offering you coaching ask for references and speak to them. Find out how their prep went and how they did on stage. Most importantly find out how their long term health was affected (if at all). There are too many coaches in the bodybuilding world that have no regard for your health and will do whatever it takes to get you stage ready. Once again, DO YOUR RESEARCH, there are plenty of coaches who do it the right way, and that is making your health their number one priority, not your stage results.
Off the stage you need to maintain BALANCE. Many times a competitor will become so wrapped up in their prep that they completely disregard family, friends and fun. Once their prep is over they may appreciate their results but they ALWAYS regret not maintaining a balance in their ever day life. It is very important that you don’t become a shut in, and shut everyone else off. Maintain your relationships and most importantly have some FUN in your day to day life!
On the stage you need to be a sportsman! Every person sharing that stage with you put in a ton of work to get there. You need to respect your fellow competitors! You will find that bodybuilding is a very political sport. You may feel that you deserved to win this time around and you got screwed! Fact is, maybe you did. Being disrespectful and rude to your fellow competitors will do nothing to change the results! All you can do is bring the best “YOU” to the stage, and if you left everything you had on that stage then you should walk off with a SMILE!