The sparkling bikini, bronzed tan, and stage makeup glamorize bodybuilding competitions, but there is a lot more to it than you see from Instagram stories and highlights.
Comp prep will usually go from anywhere between 20-25 weeks and requires a tremendous amount of dedication and sacrifice. You will land up devoting a lot of your time towards it, which means you will have less time to focus on other areas of your life.
Before making the commitment, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you in a good starting position?
Everyone will have a different starting point for prep, but the following factors can definitely make the process a lot easier for you, especially if you haven’t competed before.
- 1+ years experience resistance training: The whole point of shredding down to compete is to showcase the hard-earned shape and muscle that you have built. Resistance training is essential for growth, and the longer you have been training hard, the more you’ll have to show for it.
- Currently maintaining weight consuming high calories: To get stage lean, your calories will decrease so you can lose body fat. Starting prep on high calories will give you more room to create a “calorie deficit” and help ensure your calories don’t drop too low - no one wants to live off zucchini and egg whites for weeks.
- Body fat < 25% (females): The more weight you have to lose, the more aggressive your cut will have to be, which means less food and less energy - not so enjoyable. Bikini girls can get away with holding a little more body fat than fitness and physique girls. If you want to enter these two categories, you will need to start prep already fairly lean.
Do you have a good relationship with food?
Competition prep requires you to be fairly strict with your diet. Your coach will either set you a meal plan or provide you with weekly macronutrient targets that you will need to hit to the tee.
To come out of prep with the best possible results, your food tracking needs to be on point. This means you will have to say goodbye to alcohol and eating out for the duration of comp prep, which can lead to you feeling a bit restricted. If you don’t have a good relationship with food, you will be more likely to binge after your competition.
What is your financial position?
Competing is not cheap and the last thing you need to worry about during prep is how you are going to afford it all. Bodybuilding is, unfortunately, one of those sports where your performance may be compromised if you try and cut corners on costs. The best way to save a few pennies would be to do a local show and purchase a second-hand bikini. Costs will vary depending on which competition you compete in but I have provided a rough pricing guide below.
Costs you will need to consider:
- Gym membership ($15-25 per week)
- A comp prep coach ($50-$150 per week)
- Personal training sessions ($50 each)
- Posing lessons ($10-$50 each)
- Competition registration ($50-$100)
- Competition entry fees ($80-$100 per division)
- Bikini/swimsuit for show day ($300+)
- Heels ($80-$150)
- Accessories ($25-$100)
- Makeup, hair and tan for show day ($350+)
- Nails ($100)
- Professional stage photographs ($100+)
- Post-comp photoshoots ($400+ per shoot)
- Travel costs if required
What federation and divisions do you want to compete in?
There are several fitness/bodybuilding shows, and all of them require different looks and posing routines. Before competing, it is worth doing your research on which show is best suited for your physique. This will likely be a local natural bodybuilding federation when you are first starting out.
Tip: Get a coach that is very familiar with the federation you want to compete in!
Do you love training?
If you don’t love going to the gym and training hard, competing probably isn’t for you. Competition prep will require you to complete 4-6 weight sessions per week, and you will often have cardio on top of that too. As you get further into prep, your calories and energy levels will decrease, making these training sessions more challenging and less enjoyable. If you don’t love training, you will find it very difficult to push through the exhaustion and make the most out of your session.
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