How to Enter and Compete in Your First Bodybuilding Competition
What if I told you that you can compete in a bodybuilding competition?
I know what you're thinking.
Well I'm here to tell you that you can.
You see, when you think of bodybuilding competitions you think of Arnold.
Arnold was arguably the best bodybuilder of all-time and competed in pro-bodybuilding contests.
That's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about natural bodybuilding contests.
What's the difference?
Well, a 5'8″ pro bodybuilder gets on stage at 270 pounds at 4% bodyfat thanks to heavy drug use.
A 5'8″ natural bodybuilder steps on stage at 150 pounds at 6% bodyfat.
I competed in my first and only contest in 2014 and it was quite the experience.
Prior to that I trained my 60 year old dad in his first ever contest and we got him down to 5% body fat and he took 1st place in the 40 year old division, 1st place in the 50 year old division, and 1st place in the 60 year old division.
I thought I'd give it a shot as well.
It was hard and fun at the same time.
I will walk you through EVERYTHING you need to know and do to enter your first contest.
Step #1 – Understand the 3 judging criteria.
You will be judged on 3 areas.
1 – Muscularity
This simply means how much muscle you have.
The more muscle you have, the better.
2 – Conditioning
Conditioning might be the most important area.
Conditioning refers to how much body fat you have.
The less body fat the better.
You want to be as lean as possible.
Conditioning is more important than muscularity.
If there are 2 5'8″ guys standing side by side and one of them has 5 pounds more muscle, but the other has 2% less body fat, the guy with 2% less body fat will do better.
3 – Posing
Posing and conditioning are the 2 most important areas when it comes to doing well in shows.
Posing is when you are required to hold, well, poses.
During the prejudging you are called out on stage with your fellow competitors.
The judges will call out your quarter turns first.
- Front Relaxed.
- Quarter turn to the right.
- Quarter turn to the right.
- Quarter turn to the right.
- Quarter turn to the right (you will now be facing the front again).
- The judges will then call out 8 mandatory poses.
- Front lat spread.
- Front double biceps.
- Side Chest.
- Side Triceps.
- Back lat spread.
- Back double biceps.
- Abs with flexed quad.
- Most muscular.
Step #2 – How fat are you right now?
Like I said earlier, the leaner you are, the better you will do.
You need to determine how much fat you have to lose.
You must understand that you will weigh a lot less than you think you will weigh when you step on stage.
Just to give you a ballpark/general idea of heights and weights of past competitors that have done really well.
5'5″ — 135lbs
5'9″ — 150lbs
6'1″ — 175lbs
Do you see how light these competitors were?
There is a way to find out how much you are going to weigh at a certain body fat % based on where you currently stand.
DBW = LBW/1 – DBF%
DBW = Desired Body Weight
LBW = Lean Body Weight
DBF = Desired Body Fat
Looks confusing, but it's not.
Let's take it one step at a time.
First you need to determine your current body fat % and current bodyweight.
Lets use Bob as an example.
Lets say Bob currently has 15% and weighs 190 pounds.
Bob knows that to place really well in a show he wants to step on stage at about 5% body fat.
Bob wants to know what his bodyweight will be at 5% body fat.
Because then Bob will know how much body fat he needs to lose and can plan on how long it will take him to lose that body fat.
Let's plug his current stats into the formula.
We need to determine Bob's Lean Body Weight (LBW).
To do that you take his current weight, 190, and multiply that by his current body fat, 15%.
So, 190 x .15 = 28.5.
28.5 = Bob's body fat.
Take 190 – 28.5 to get Bob's Lean Body Weight.
So, Bob has a Lean Body Weight of 161.5 pounds at a current overall weight of 190 pounds at 15% body fat.
With me so far?
Remember, the formula is DBW = LBW/1 – DBF%
Bob's LBW = 161.5.
So, DBW = 161.5/1 – DBF%
Bob has determined that he wants to step on stage at 5% body fat.
This 5% body fat is his DBF%
So, DBW = 161.5/1 – .05
So, DBW = 161.5/.95
So, DBW = 170
We have determined that with a current overall bodyweight of 190 pounds and a current body fat of 15%, Bob will end up weighing 170 pounds at 5% body fat.
That is in a perfect world though.
Bob will actually weigh less than 170 because through dieting he will lose a little muscle mass.
This is inevitable.
He would probably end up weighing in the 160-165 range.
Bob might be shocked to learn that he will end up losing upwards of 30 pounds between now and his competition.
He might be surprised to learn just how light he will be for his show.
Step #3 – How much time are you going to need?
You often read about these ‘3 month bodybuilding preps.'
Give yourself time.
A whole lotta time.
More than you think you need.
I recommend to my clients to lose no more than 2 pounds a week.
That's the max.
You don't want to do anything drastic.
The quicker you lose fat, the more muscle you lose and the shittier your experience is.
Losing weight fast is no fun.
I suggest losing .25 – 1 pound a week.
So, we are looking at about 4 pounds a month of fat loss.
Obviously, the fatter you are the more you can lose each month.
Someone like Bob in the above example should shoot for 4 pounds a month of fat loss.
Remember, Bob is 190 pounds at 15% body fat.
Bob doesn't have to do anything drastic to lose 4 pounds of fat a month.
To determine how much time Bob needs, he simply needs to divide the amount of fat he needs to lose, 30 pounds, by 4, the amount of fat per month.
30/4 = 7.5
Bob needs 7.5 months to prepare for his show if he wants to step on stage at 5% body fat and get there by losing 4 pounds of fat a month.
Remember what I said earlier, always give yourself more time than you think you need.
I would suggest to Bob to give himself another month and a half.
So, Bob should look at a 9 month prep.
Get this idea out of your head of losing 30 pounds in 3 months.
I see this crap all the time on the internet.
Step #4 – Pick a show.
Once you have determined how long it will take you to prepare, it's now time to pick a show.
There are many different organizations out there.
Pick an organization that drug tests.
You are looking for a natural show.
To make it easier for you I strongly recommend The Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders (OCB).
Pick a show that fits your time period criteria and mark it down on your calendar.
Step #5 – Practice your posing.
Posing is maybe the most overlooked aspect of a competitor's training.
It shouldn't be.
Posing is so critical to how well you place.
I've seen guys with amazing physiques pose terribly and on stage it makes you look small.
Bad posing takes away from your physique.
On the other hand, I have seen guys with average physiques look phenomenal on stage due to their posing.
Great posing combined with the lighting on stage can make you look amazing.
Judges place a huge emphasis on posing.
Here is a colleague of mine, competitive bodybuilding and OCB judge, Joe Franco showing you how to pose.
Practice, practice, practice.
The bodybuilding show is broken down into pre-judging and the night show.
The pre-judging is all business.
This is when the winner is actually determined, but is not actually announced until the end of the night show.
The night show is all about fun.
The competitors are called out 1 at a time and given 60-90 seconds to pose to their own music.
Unlike the pre-judging, at the night show, each competitor can do whatever they want.
They can hit any poses they want.
Step #6 – Create a checklist and make sure you have everything for your show.
I like lists.
When I competed I made my own checklist.
It helped keep me organized.
Here is a checklist for your show.
- Hotel reservations
- Posing trunks
- 2 copies of your posing music
- Change of clothes
- Confirmation of polygraph
- Confirmation of spray tan
- Flip flops
I know I'm forgetting things.
I would add items to my list as time went on leading up to the show.
The most important thing is to have FUN!
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If you would like 1-on-1 online coaching, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]
photo credit: Dana Man