Hitting the Stage: Are you Ready for your First Figure/Bikini Competition?

 2013 NPC Fort Lauderdale Cup, Novice Division

2013 NPC Fort Lauderdale Cup, Novice Division

Bikini and figure competitions have been growing in popularity over the past few years as the Bodybuilding industry continues to change. As a novice contestant, what can one expect during one of these competitions? We’ve had quite a few questions about where to start and what to know.  I’m sure there will be more posts in the future regarding this topic, but for now here is what you should consider and expect at your first competition.

How to Locate your First Competition:

For your first competition, you will definitely want to participate in a smaller, local show.  Some organizations choose to rank their shows by levels, but this method has been used less and less and many competitions encourage multiple levels of competition. Here are a few ways to locate your first show:

Look for local shows on the organization website
NPConline.com, OCBonline.com, and WBFFshows.com are some examples.  OCB shows are great places to start although many NPC shows are smaller and can provide a great experience for a novice competitor as well. More and more NPC shows are including the Novice division for new competitors.

Look at social media
See if the organization has a social media account in your area or state where many smaller shows are announced in advance.

Look for shows that have a “Novice” division
The Novice division is great for new competitors.  You can also enter the open division as well. You are also welcome to cross divisions in some organizations, but crossing from bikini to figure in the same show would not be recommended for a beginning competitor (and in many cases-advanced competitors as the judges are looking for different things).  Participating in Open and Novice is encouraged for new competitors.

When Should I Begin "Prepping?"

Hopefully, you’ve already been prepping for quite some time.  We do not recommend entering a show if you haven’t been lifting and eating consistently for AT LEAST a year.  At this point, you should consult with your coach about how long you need to prep before the show.  We usually recommend 2-3 years of consistent lifting and nutrition tracking before planning for a show. This may seem like a long time, but the people on stage have been working hard for years to build their physique and the journey is just as important as the destination. Building a base with training and nutrition can save your metabolism and your emotional state when competing.

Should I Hire a Coach?

BE CAREFUL when selecting a coach or trainer.  You want someone with some experience with at least a few shows but more importantly, someone who knows what they are talking about.  A nationally certified, EDUCATED trainer with experience in competition and strength and conditioning would be your best bet.  If you can find someone who also does posing clinics/coaching and nutrition, you’ve hit the jackpot.  Nutrition is tricky as many trainers are technically not allowed to prescribe diets to clients.  Make sure the person you work with can either point you in the right direction with nutrition, or has qualifications to back up any nutrition advice they give (research!).  Everyone will have a different amount of time needed for “prep.”  A professional opinion is helpful here, however, someone who has some impressive Instagram photos with no qualifications or background WILL NOT cut it.

How Much will this Competition Cost?

More than you think! It is EXPENSIVE.  Consider all of the things you will need to purchase for the show along with the show itself and the lodging/travel.  Here’s a short list:

  • Suit (usually $200-$2000 depending on your level of show)
  • Shoes (heels, clear)
  • Jewelry
  • Make-up (for your face – darker than your usual make up but not as dark as your body). Some people like to have their makeup done professionally as well.
  • Tan – you will want to get this done professionally or buy professional products. The show will usually have a professional tanning service. You may want to play it safe for your first show and if they offer a tanning service – book it.  This usually runs around $150+ but it varies.  Otherwise, look into tan products other competitors are using and be sure to exfoliate before using these. The tanning companies will also sell self-tanning products but be sure to follow all instructions (including hair removal and exfoliation) if doing your own tan.
  • Hotel – Tan usually happens at the host hotel or the venue so you’ll want to stay at least the night before but plan for a second night (night of show) if you want to celebrate after the long day (there is usually an after party!).
  • Organization membership card – You will have to become a member of the organization you are competing in. Prices for this membership vary.
  • Competition Registration – Registering for the show itself will obviously cost money. Be prepared to pay extra if you want to do multiple divisions (Ex: novice and open).
  • Hair Removal- It all has to go. Waxing can get expensive. Shaving is also an option though most recommend going the waxing route.  The tan will bring out the smallest and finest of hairs and make you look spotty.  You’ll want to remove all of it (arms, legs, face, stomach, back – ANY extra body hair you can). 

Other things to Pack for the Big Day:

Bikini “glue” (ex: bikini bite)
You will want to glue your bikini on after you are wearing it.  You will be moving around on stage and that small piece of fabric needs to stay in place! Bring this with you and have it handy backstage! People will help you with the glue (or your coach can if you have one).

Vaseline
Some people recommend putting this on your teeth – you will be smiling A LOT. Personally, we haven’t tried this method but it is very popular.

Pump Items
You will want to get a “pump” going backstage before you walk on. While some competitions have this available in the facility, many do not and I always bring at least a resistance band with me and sometimes a set of small dumbbells.

Food/Water
The type and amount will depend on your peak week plan. This plan should be determined between you and your coach. Everyone is different, but depending on where you are before the show, you may want to manipulate a few things in order to look your best on stage. This week is very important to bringing your best package.  Hopefully, your training and nutrition have been consistent and you won’t need to change as much. The less you need to manipulate, the better!

Robe/Sweats
For backstage and post tan. Be comfortable backstage. You may be cold – a robe or a comfortable sweat suit is best.  Also, long sleeve sweats and shirts have been recommended after a spray tan with some vendors.  This helps to prevent smearing if you rub against something.

Extra sheets
You may consider bringing an extra set of sheets to the hotel if you are getting your tan on that night before.  Your tan will bleed on your clothing and potentially, the sheets.

Phone charger
Don’t forget! You’ll probably want some photos backstage!

Book/music/headphones
There will be a LOT of waiting. Your time on stage is short and the majority of your day is spent waiting backstage. Bring whatever you need in order to wait out the time and not go crazy.

Am I Ready?

If you are comfortable and prepared with all of the above (including the minimum amount of training and nutrition tracking before prepping for a show), take one last thing into consideration: your emotional stability. Competitions are such an amazing experience and they often provide a huge confidence boost, but if your emotional stability and emotional relationship with food is not healthy to begin with, we urge you to reconsider competition.  The stage is open to anyone who is ready to compete, but don’t forget being ready doesn’t just mean physically. Emotional health and a good relationship with body image and food is KEY to having a healthy prep and competition season.

These are just a few things to consider when looking into doing your first competition.  Be as prepared as possible so that you can have FUN and ENJOY your time on stage!  This is your time to shine and show off everything you’ve worked hard for.  Preparation and a great peak week plan are KEY to making this experience memorable and amazing!

Heather & Katie
The Power Couple

Katie Kollath