Bodybuilding competitions are a bit of a mystery to a lot of bodybuilders. This article will address some common questions to do with the different types of competitions, the bodybuilders that compete in them, preparations and judging. If you are thinking of competing, it will also give you some basic facts & guidelines.
This difference in the "types" of bodybuilders has meant that there are different types of competitions for them. In the UK, the EFBB and NABBA competitions have generally been regarded as the more "hardcore" competitions. Bodybuilders in these competitions are usually a lot bigger and more ripped.
The ANB and BNBF are more for natural athletes and the competitors are usually a little bit smaller and less freaky in size. Depending on the actual competition, they have various tests such as blood or urine tests to determine whether the participants are truly natural or not.
In addition to the above a new type of competition has sprung up, calling itself "natural" but allowing competitors to take pro-hormones. These competitions claim to be able to test for pro-hormones. However once someone has taken some pro-hormones it is very difficult to differentiate. So the "testing" criteria is more for show than having any real value.
Each contest will have its own rules and regulations. Some judges may be harsh on bitch tits (gynecomastia), others may be harsh on lack of symmetry and many will mark down lack of size.
The one thing which is certain is that if you come in with decent size, you are not holding fat or water and you have good symmetry, you will place well.
Popularity with the crowd, smiling, posing, the tan, the music and the general presentation are always key factors in how a competitor will place in a competition.
Politics also plays a big role in judging. Many bodybuilders who do not place well usually make comments like "I was robbed", "it was fixed" and so on. Sometime they are absolutely right!
Many of the shows are organised by one company or organisation and they may well have a vested interest in one of the bodybuilders who is competing. It is not unknown for an out of shape or lesser bodybuilder to win a category just based on their relationship with the sponsors of a show.
The above should not put any aspiring bodybuilders off from competing but sadly it is a fact which exists in this industry like many others. The bottom line is, if you look good, you will place well.
Competitions can be local, national and international. The local ones are usually for beginners or those looking to move up a gear. Depending on who organises them, these shows can have an attendance of a dozen and be held in a community hall or they can be in a big auditorium attended by hundreds.
Shows are a great place to meet other like-minded bodybuilders. After all if there are only a few bodybuilders competing, the chances are that a beginner will walk away with some kind of title. Placing second at the Mr Skegness may not be the greatest accolade, but it is certainly better than being the greatest according to your mum!
The phrase "it's not about winning but competing" is a good motto for those early days. Once you are more confident and your physique starts taking shape, you can move on to national competitions.
Most people who stay on and stick at it, usually end up with a decent physique and some nice trophies. The mere fact that you are planning to enter a competition is a powerful goal that will drive you to build a superior physique.
In the actual competition, you will see the whole plan coming together. You will meet other competitors, fans and promoters. You may get sponsored, have your picture taken or have an article written about you. The bottom line is that by not participating, you will be missing out. By participating, it can only get better.
The classic mistake would be to enter into a competition to which you are not suited. If you are a small-framed natural competitor, it would be unwise to enter a big heavyweight event which attracts all the big boys. You will probably feel uncomfortable, not place well and get a little disillusioned. [Don't forget that on the other hand entering the right competition could mean placing well and being rewarded for your efforts.]
Coming in too big is not usually a problem unless you come in big at the expense of symmetry or conditioning.
So having a massive chest might look good, but if your arms or legs are lagging, then you will be marked down.
Competing with high levels of bodyfat or holding water are also definite disadvantages. This is why it is so important to make sure you start your pre-contest regime early enough and that you stick to it.
Holding water is something that many competitors suffer with and it really can be an absolute nightmare come competition day. Even a small layer of water can ruin the appearance of your muscles. Things which usually help this are:
Looking unconfident, slouching and not smiling both outside, backstage and on stage are not the thing to do. Also telling others that you are not looking good or that your tan/muscles/symmetry is lacking is not the best thing to do on competition day. Remember that walls have ears and you want to be projecting a POSITIVE picture. No room for negativity on this day.
Some slow country & western tune that you make love to might be fun in the middle of a moonlit night, but it is probably not the best tune to get the crowd and judges going! So use your head. Popular, exciting tunes are always a great hit with the crowd and their reaction adds to your experience on stage and to the way you are perceived by the judges. Test your music and posing on different people beforehand.
Make sure you have plenty of supporters in the crowd. The more people are shouting for you and talking about you, the more confident you will feel and this will have an obvious effect on your posing. Even an unknown bodybuilder on his first appearance can be made to look like a superstar by a big section of the crowd shouting for him and creating an exciting atmosphere in the auditorium.
Make sure you experiment with your tan weeks before your competition. Natural sunlight is great and so are sun-beds. On top of those, make sure you get the right tan for "your" skin. The darker you are, the better you will look. Remember the stage lights are extremely bright and they can make the Michael Jackson of the 70s look like he does now for nothing!
Make sure you get one which is not too embarrassing (colour/shape) and actually fits you. Wear it a few times and make sure you do your routine and your posing in it. Make sure the back doesn't go up your ass like a Tanga (unless you want that) and that it isn't a white pair of trunks which usually get heavily stained with your tanning oil, making you look silly on stage.
There are so many things you can do, but make sure you don't forget common sense. Make sure you know where the venue is and you get there on time. Make sure a jealous competitor who is putting on your tan/oil doesn't ruin your back (without you being able to see it). Make sure you don't give in to temptation at the last minute and down a Mars bar. Make sure when you go on stage, you have your number on you and you listen to the head judge. If you hear "quarter right turn", don't turn to the left; you will look stupid!
If you are going to enter a competition, make sure you plan it well in advance. You need to go through a bulking up phase and then get rid of your fat. Most people usually need to start reducing bodyfat between 8-4 weeks out from a show. This is a rough guideline.
Hopefully this article has given you some background on bodybuilding competitions. Whether you want to compete or you are a spectator, bodybuilding competitions are a great day out. They are good social events, can be fun, exciting and rewarding.
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