Ever considered stepping on stage for a figure or bodybuilding competition? As an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and National Physique Committee (NPC) competitor, I wanted to share my with you the things you should consider before you commit to competing. Here is the first of a two-part series.
Go to a show. First and foremost, go to a show! So many people see fit physiques, or already have a fit physique themselves, and will say that they want to compete. The competition scene is a whole different world, so make sure you actually go to a show so you can see the nitty-gritty up close before you make the decision and investment to compete. What you see on stage and in pictures are beautiful, fit models strutting their stuff with grace and elegance. What you see off stage is oompa-loompa orange, greasy and overly made-up men and women running around in organized chaos. Personally, I love it, but it’s important to make sure that you do, too.
Find a coach. Notice I say “coach” and not “trainer.” A coach is someone who is with you from the first step of your journey until long after you have stepped on stage. Your coach is your initial support group and should be willing to help you, either via text, email or phone, whenever you need them—within reason, of course. A coach examines your figure, makes weekly changes to your workout routine, diet, etc., to help you to be the best you can be. A good coach offers constructive criticism and will not necessarily sugarcoat everything. A competition judge is ruthless, so you need a coach who will tell you the good and the bad so you won’t go into competition with an inflated ego, only to be knocked down by the judges’ critique. Beware of “coaches” who send you a 12-week cookie-cutter program, because everyone is different. A program should evolve based on your personal progress. Also, avoid coaches who start your program with an excessive amount of cardio, or who recommend completely cutting out whole macronutrient groups at the start of your prep.
Consider the cost. Many people do not realize how expensive it can be to participate in these shows. If you think all that’s involved is prancing around on stage in a blinged-out bikini, think again. The cost can make or break a competitor, so before you go through rigorous prep, dieting and exercise, know the costs involved. The cost will be a motivator. After all, you do not want to spend a massive amount of money only to go through your prep with anything less than 100-percent effort.
- Diet – Depending on your current diet, food can be expensive. You will buy a lot more protein, fish, chicken, lean meats and eggs, as well as whole, unprocessed foods. Buying in bulk can help to keep costs down.
- Supplements – If you are not taking supplements, adding these to your regime can be expensive. Supplements can vary, but generally you may consider using whey protein, BCAAs, glutamine, CLA, multi-vitamins, fish-oil and vitamins C, D and E.
- Federation Registration – You need to register to be a member of the division in which you will compete. I compete for the National Physique Committee (NPC), which is $100 per year.
- Show Registration - Depending on the show and how many classes in which you compete, registration typically runs $50 to $100 per class.
- Suit – For women, suits are surprisingly expensive. You might think tiny pieces of fabric should not cost that much, but each suit is handmade especially for you, with high quality crystals sewn on. There are factors that can make it more or less expensive, such as crystal count and fabric choice, but suits can run from $150 to $1,500.
- Tan – You need to be dark on stage—darker than any tanning bed or spray tan can get you. There are competition-specific tans and tanners, such as Jan Tana, Pro Tan and Liquid Sun Rayz, as well as many independent local tanners. Tanning will usually run from $80 to $150 dollars per competition.
- Hair/Makeup/Jewelry - For women, this is not just a competition to showcase your muscles, but also your beauty, so impeccable hair and make-up is a must. You will save cost doing it yourself, but trying to match your skin tone to your tan can be a challenge, so I suggest working with a makeup artist who has experience with competition makeup. Typically, jewelry is big and gaudy so that it can be seen from afar. Bracelets, earrings and rings are the norm during competitions. Both hair and make-up can cost approximately $50 to $150 each; jewelry is usually less expensive, about $50 for all pieces combined.
- Shoes – The best shoes are clear, plastic 5-inch heels. I opt to wear just a single strap around the foot with no ankle strap, so that I can easily slip them on and off without having to bend over. Shoes typically cost about $35 to $50.
Understand the time commitment. Expect your gym sessions to increase in both duration and frequency. Most competitors work out twice per day, with one session geared toward cardio and one toward resistance training. As the show nears, the frequency or duration of each session may increase even more. Also, be aware of the time it takes to prep your meals. Many competitors dedicate their Sundays primarily to cooking and meal prep—measuring, weighing, and separating food into individual meal portions to eat throughout the week. Another time consideration is the sessions with your coach, for both assessments and posing. In the last four to six weeks before a show, you should spend at least 30 minutes per day practicing your poses.
Curious what the life of a figure competitor is like? Riana shares her training tips for getting in competition ready shape.