Getting stage ready in time is every bodybuilding competitor’s driving motivator. No one wants to work hard for months and still show up ‘softer’ (less conditioned/less defined) than the rest of the competitors. It’s easy to start doubting yourself and your coach, wondering if you need to work harder or if you should just give up.
If you’re new to competition prep, you may not be as familiar with what the expectations are on a regional or national level. You’ve probably seen famous IFBB Pros, but comparing yourself to them is counter productive, since you’re not there yet. It’s great to have their physique as a goal, but goals need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. If you’re competing at a regional level, aim to look regionals-ready. What does this mean?
Alpha Training Protocols (no affiliation with me) has useful infographics and detailed explanations on the Bikini, Figure, and Men’s Physique divisions. These are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
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‼️MUST READ Athlete featured: @queefany ✖️ The lack of awareness in what it means to look stage ready, is one of the reasons why see many people fail to reach their potential during prep. This of course makes absolute sense, since not everybody hangs around in fitness circles. To potentially remedy that, I created this little BIKINI physique marker guide in hopes of enlightening some bikini competitors out there. Now not everybody cares if they bring a competitive package but for those who do, sit down and read 📚 ✖️ Bikini competitors have it very hard in that judging in this category can be highly inconsistent and of course subjective: A couple key factors to consider ✖️ 💢From the front you clearly want to be able to display all of your physique with clean and ✂️ lines. One of the problem areas from the front is the fat in the hip crease. Nail that down and you're going to find that your physique pops and presents itself much sharper ✖️ 💢From the back, being able to display sharp detail in your hamstrings and your glutes 🍑 is going to be crucial in how you are scored. It's arguably what this category is all about. ✖️ Tips to consider❗️ 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽 ✖️ ☝🏽 FIRST and foremost being very lean and conditioned is something you need to understand is a necessity. This doesn't mean having just a flat stomach or some abs and slapping on a bikini looking like a bar of 🍫. It means aiming to achieve a body composition that allows you to display all of the necessary features correctly. The goal is to be very lean, but NOT peeled to your fucking eyelids 😂 ✖️ ✌🏽 SECOND thing you need to understand is that prep is going to be incredibly difficult. Achieving a solid state of conditioning is not easy by any means. In some cases this can even consist of extreme dieting measures, which I know might come as a shock to all of the anti-cardio, anti-really dieting hard demographic out there. To achieve godlike body composition you're gonna have to do some heroic fucking shit sometimes ✖️ Be hungry for a goal, and be hungry to see the best come out of yourself STAY TUNED FOR MORE CATEGORIES TO BE COVERED‼️‼️
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What does it mean to be stage ready for figure? – Figure as a division brings more muscle and conditioning to the table than Bikini, but less than Women's Physique – Here are some of the main focus points for figure competitors: 💢 Round shoulders and bi's/tri's 💢 Lats to enhance taper 💢 Quads to further enhance taper 💢 Strong Glutes and Hamstrings – Conditioning for figure competitors needs to be such that hardness and details can be observed in the important muscle groups. You want to acquire clear and crisp lines but avoiding deep striations – If you find that you were unable to attain the proper conditioning, then consider extending your dieting phase and give yourself enough time to be ready – Athlete featured: The badass Tina Nguyen @tinang13 Sick Photo credit: Dan Ray @danrayphoto
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Mens physique is about bringing an aesthetically pleasing, and conditioned upper body (and calves if you are a G) to the stage. Over the years conditioning has definitely gotten sharper in mens physique, so it's not about having a hint of abs and thinking you are ready ➖ The goal is to be bring a relatively shredded package, but display it in a manner that isn’t overly intense. Mens physique is not bodybuilding so the presentation is a bit more delicate ➖ Main hit points of Mens Physique are: – 💢Abdomnials and obliques should be chiseled, hard, and detailed from both front and side shots – 💢The chest should have fullness and shape but you should not be aiming to displaying striations – 💢Shoulders should be hard, detailed and round too enhance the appearance of your taper – 💢Back should be have good detail and wide as to further enhance your taper ➖ Like with other divisions. being truly ready can be hard to judge without an outside perspective. Especially if you are new to competing. Looking at photos of higher level competitors as well as this guide, will hopefully give you the proper perspective on what you need to achieve ➖ Athlete featured: Andrew Morata @_a2thejay_
Proper posing is going to be key in displaying all of the physique characteristics the judges will be looking for. If you don’t properly engage your muscles for the front or back pose, you’ll lose the details that you worked so hard for.
Ed Sanders, Mideast Zone Chairman, told his athletes that symmetry was important. Most of the time, competitors look very impressive from the front. What distinguishes competitors is their back, hence the phrase “competitions are won from the back.” For Bikini, that means the presence of a glute-ham tie in (where you can see the end of the glute tapering into the backs of the legs). Showing the back muscles is optional for Bikini, but if you do show it off, you want your shoulder blades at neutral (no scrunching back) and muscles in between the blades (rhomboids and lower traps). Your shoulder blades shouldn’t be prominent. For Figure, you want all of the above, as well as wide lats, thick spinal erectors (the muscles on both sides of the spine), and rotator cuff detail. For MP, you want the wide lats, thick spinal erectors, and rotator cuff detail.
Furthermore, conditioning should be symmetrical, front to back, top to bottom. No matter how you cut it, the two halves of the body should look like they belong to the same person – for women, that means getting your legs/glutes down to the same leanness as your upper body and shoulders, which can be challenging in a short amount of time.
The timing – when you get on stage – depends very much on your goals. Discuss with your coach your goals for the show, and then decide with them what conditioning you want to bring to the stage (and what supplements you should take to get there). Want to step on stage for the first time, regardless of how you place? Then prep for as long as you’re able to stand, get on stage, and then celebrate. Qualifying for Nationals, winning your class, or winning the Overall requires a different mindset and slower, longer preps (anywhere from 16-24 weeks). It’s all situation dependent.
Don’t let someone gate-keep and tell you that ‘you’re not ready’ or ‘you shouldn’t compete if you’re not going to place.’ I told my coach to not let me step on stage if I wasn’t ready, and I trusted her judgment and her knowledge on how competitive the show would be. If I let internet strangers dictate when I compete, I wouldn’t have NQ-ed my first show. Other competitors I know have a set timeline in mind and step on stage at the end of prep. There’s no right or wrong way to go about this; after all, it is your money, your time, and your sacrifices.
There’s nothing saying that you have to get it right the first time. As you go through more contest preps, you’ll figure out what works and doesn’t work for you, and you’ll be able to tweak different aspects of your training and diet to look better the next time. Even IFBB Pros constantly tweak and adjust, aiming to improve from their last show. Aim for progress, not perfection.