What to Expect when Competing in your First Bodybuilding Competition

What to Expect when Competing in your First Bodybuilding Competition

If you have never been to a show before, you might be curious as to what exactly happens during the day for a competitor. Whether it's for yourself or someone you know who competes. 

I will mostly be covering what happens on the women's side, as I don't have a male perspective of the day, but it will give you some good insight as to what all goes on behind the scenes. 

 What to expect when competing in your first body building competition


Why Compete?

Everyone has their own varying reasons as to why they are competing. For some it is to challenge themselves to the next level. Others it is to prove to themselves and get in incredible shape. One thing is usually in common though. We all want to be better than what we have been. 


Prejudging & Evening Show

The show is usually split up into two parts. The morning to mid-afternoon (depending on how big the show is), is for prejudging. While the evening show is where the judges make the final calls as to who won and where you have been placed. 

Prejudging is basically a rehearsal to the evening show and allows the judges to get evaluate all competitors without a huge crowd for distractions. As a future competitor you will need to attend the prejudging. 

For the prejudging, it is divided into different rounds. Symmetry, compulsory poses, comparisons, and individual routines. 

Your posing abilities to execute your routine can make or break your placement and winning the contest. 

The evening show starts later and is similar to the prejudging, but with a larger audience. All routines are done just like in prejudging, and after the judges have made their decisions, they will have the "pose down". Where top competitors will freestyle posing together on stage. After the judges will announce winners and award medals. 


Choosing your first contest

 As a first time competitor, you will need to pick a show that will be most compatible to your physique. Most shows have the option for "novice" which is a great choice to start with. 

To find a show near you, it is best to look at the different federations and pick which one you would prefer to compete in. Then look at shows on their website for that specific federation. 

If you are unsure what federation to compete in, I always recommend finding a show near you, just to watch for the evening show. You also have the option to watch a lot of the shows on YouTube as well. See what you like and don't like about them. Then you can make the best decision for yourself. 



The goal with posing is to highlight your strong points and to hide your weak ones, while also showing off your physique with your routine. It is recommended to get help from an experienced competitor to help you come up with a routine that fits you. 

Organizing your routine to show case your strong points early while also having fluid and seamless transitions are key. Showcasing front, side, and back. 

You will need to practice your routine over and over again so that you can even do it in your sleep. That way with nerves and everything else on show day, it will just come naturally to you. 

When on stage you have to smile and be confident while showing the judges a little of your personality, keeping eye contact with the judges at all times. 

Picking your suit will also be key depending on the division that you choose.


Contest Diet 

Female Bodybuilders will need to lower their body fat percentage to around 10-15% body fat. Which is all dependent on which division you are in. 

This will be an unhealthy body fat percentage to maintain for a length of time so after the contest you will need to slowly increase your body fat percentage again overtime. 

The goal is to maintain as much muscle mass as possible during the off season and then shred excess body fat while maintaining as much muscle as possible for a contest.

Most will try to keep within 15-25 pounds of contest weight. 

On average you only want to be losing 1-2 pounds per week. So if you need to lose more than the average you will need more than 12 weeks to prepare for a show. 


Shaving vs. Waxing

You do not have to wax unless you really want to. I would recommend not waxing if that is something that you are not already doing regularly. 

Other than your normal shaving routine, you may also want to shave any other body hair on your arms, face, etc. so that the tan can be applied smoothly and your physique will shine through on stage. 



There are a couple different options when it comes to tanning. If you are not someone who uses the tanning bed, a deep competition tan from the vendor at your show is more ideal. 

If you do decide to use the tanning bed, you will need at least 6 weeks to help build up a base tan, and then you can use the vendor or use one of the kits from ProTan to apply your own competition tan. It may take several layers to get the desired darkness that you need. 

The purpose of the tan is to help show your muscles on stage and make sure that you are not washed out under the lights. So it is darker than a normal spray tan. 



Normally you will wake up relatively early for tan touch ups or for hair and make up. Eating a small meal to start your day. You will want to try and get as much sleep as possible the night before. 

You will spend most of your time backstage or in a room with all other competitors for the show where you can practice your routine over again and again, rest, use bikini bite for your suit to make sure it stays in place, pumping up your muscles, and eat according to your plan. 

When it is time, you will be called to get in line for your class prior to stepping out on stage for the prejudging. Even though it is not always the case, bikini usually is the last division to walk across the stage. 

With your class you will be placed on stage, each person will do their routine and be judged, then walk off of the stage. 

Afterwards you will be able to go grab something a little more to eat and rest until the evening show. 

From there it is very similar to the prejudging, but moves quicker and is where the winners will be awarded. 


Now what? 

If you are ready to dive in and get started towards becoming a competitor yourself, we have lots of tools for you in getting ready! Of course you can always join our First Time Competitor group to help answer more of your questions. 

If you are thinking about prepping for a competition and ready to take the next step with a plan made just for you, schedule a free 15 minute consultation with one of our coaches here at Top Knot Strong today! 

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