Preparing for a Bodybuilding Show

We’ve all done it – looked with envy at fitness magazines, or maybe some of the athletes online, and wished that could be us up there on stage being showcased before a panel of judges.

Will to Power

Ben Pakulski PosingIf you’ve thought about competing, you’ve likely also questioned whether or not you have the requisite determination to follow in the footsteps of these elite athletes. These guys and gals eat, sleep, and breathe fitness. They follow a lifestyle that only a very few have the courage to even attempt. Do you think you have it in you?

So you’ve decided to enter your first competition. In addition to having your physique fully prepared and dialed in, there are several other things that you need to focus on to be stage ready. Show preparation is not an overnight exercise. It can take anywhere from a few months, to up to a year of preparation to prime yourself mentally and physically.


The following is an outline of the basic steps required to get you stage ready.

Set a Goal

First things first. Pick a show date, mark it on your calendar and start working towards that date. Work with your coach, or find someone with competition experience, and start working on a plan that’ll have you ready by your competition date. Keep in mind that competition preparation includes a cutting period which can start up to twelve weeks out. If this is your first attempt at cutting, it’s important to give yourself a few grace weeks to account for slip ups.

Get Your Life in Order

Your social life is about to suffer and you need to face that fact and deal with it. This is where coaches can come in handy, because they themselves have been where you’re about to go, they’ll understand the emotion, pain, and ache along the way. If you’re planning on doing this alone make sure you have a sturdy training partner, friend, or family member that has agreed to be there with you on the couch on Friday night when everyone else is on a patio with pitchers and nachos.

Organize Your Training

Your training schedule needs to be planned in a very concise fashion, understanding that as you approach your contest date you won’t be able to lift as heavy as your deplete your glycogen storages, and cut your body fat. With this lost energy, you’re going to have to come up with different ways to get a pump, break a sweat, and increase your heart rate.

Diet, Nutrition & Supplementation

A stage physique requires you to drop your body fat to unnatural levels. This is done primarily through a cutting phase – essentially eliminating your carbohydrates, and moderating your fat intake over a period of time, and as the date approaches, cutting your sodium to get that “dry” look.

Sodium Cutting

During the final week before the show, you should seek to consume as little sodium as possible to rid your body of as much subcutaneous water (between skin and muscle) as you can. This will enhance your conditioning even more and give the “paper thin skin” appearance. However, when sodium is cut, the body loses its ability to hold potassium (responsible for enabling muscles to hold water). When the body is too low in potassium, the muscles will appear flat and you’ll be unable to get a pump. You can maintain potassium levels by employing a potassium supplement to keep muscles full.

Pro-Competition Series

To help you achieve that lean physique that will allow you to shine on stage, ALLMAX Nutrition has developed several products which help to get that perfect stage look.

RAPIDCUTS SHREDDED has pure, unadulterated, fat-shredding potency. It operates as a thermogenic (by way of the recently popularized Green Coffee Bean Extract, among other things), rapidly increasing the fat burning process while simultaneously reducing the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, which is a key contributor to abdominal fat.

HydraDry is the most advanced competition-specific water loss system ever. Tailored specifically to the needs of the on-stage competitor HydraDry works by eliminating excess water from beneath the skin to reveal the kind of detail that wins shows. Puffy, bloated skin caused by excess water hides muscle definition; this is made even worse by the harsh lights used in stage competition.


The expression “presentation is everything” could not be more true when it applies to bodybuilding. Posing is creating an illusion of mass onstage, in which each pose is ultimately designed to maximize the width of the shoulders and minimize the width of the waist (Learn more about the “V-Taper”).

Perfecting the pose is not done in weeks, or even months and is a critical factor in your competition success – as Arnold Schwarzenegger says:

Posing requires just as much attention as the rest of your training … as great as your physique may appear at rest, it will primarily be judged as seen in poses. Therefore, what it looks like when you pose is the ultimate measure of your success.

Beginners should start in front of a mirror, then graduate to having someone knowledgeable critique and even videotape the posing session so that you can go back to correct and perfect your poses. There are 7 mandatory poses you’ll be expected to display during the symmetry and muscularity rounds of the prejudging. Since there are no mirrors on stage, you’ll need to know exactly how each pose feels and remember to completely contract each muscle, from head to toe.

Posing Routine

Once you have a good handle on your poses, you’ll need to create a posing routine. Usually 90 seconds in length, you’ll need to incorporate each of your 7 mandatory poses to 90 seconds of music of your choosing. Depending on the organization you choose to compete with, this routine will be marked and can have an impact on your final placing. Your routine should match the theme of your music along with any props or costumes you may decide to use.

Posing Suit

Your tighty whities, speedo or Borat style banana hammock will not do. Proper posing suits can be purchased off the rack, but finding a custom suit tailored to your physique is always the better choice. The off the rack lycra suits look just that, off the rack and cheap. Finding a local custom suit designer is well worth the extra effort and money.


The stage lights are extremely bright and are fantastic for enhancing definition, but if you’re not dark enough, your cuts will not be as noticeable and your lines washed out. You don’t need to bake your skin in the sun or under the lights of a tanning bed. A spray tan two days out, and again the day before, and then an application of Dream Tan 1 hour before you step onstage will give you all the darkness you need negating the need to add any oil. Make sure the body and face is freshly shaved or waxed and free of all hair before tanning.

Pumping Up

Now that you’ve made it to the show full, dry, tanned, confident with your physique, your suit, your posing, and your routine, you only need to pump up and hit the stage. Theoretically, there should be plenty of weights backstage so that each athlete can pump up beforehand, but this is not always the case. Bring along a rubber exercise band with medium tension so that you can use it in a worst case scenario. If energy levels are low, you may choose the bands over free weights anyway. Lie down and keep legs elevated in long periods of waiting. This will keep all blood in the upper body. About 30 min before hitting the stage start to pump up the shoulders, chest, and arms as much as possible.

The Show

vince-wawryk-posingNow that you’re pumped, head to the stage confident and pose hard. Your first show will be a great learning experience, validating much of the work you’ve done and providing you with ideas and direction on what you need to do for future competitions.

The most important thing with respect to competing is that you keep an open mind when dealing with constructive criticism from the judges. Bodybuilding should be a competition with yourself, pushing you to always improve on size and conditioning from show to show. If you’re able to make the improvements you were seeking, then you have achieved your goals and your first place trophy will be just the icing on the cake.


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