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So you wanna be a poser?

In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion in competitive bodybuilding. As the sport gains traction with a younger, more socially orientated audience, more and more are looking to give it a go. You may have thought about it yourself, but do you know what it takes? It’s more than just a fake tan and a pair of budgie smugglers! Check this list to find out whether the grind is for you…


Attend your local bodybuilding show to see what all the noise is about. It’s the perfect opportunity to view your desired category on stage to determine whether it motivates you enough to compete against the other athletes. It will blow you away and is a must for any aspiring competitor.


Be prepared to be judged and critiqued – it’s the nature of the sport. All you have to do is focus on being the best possible version of you. If your attitude is, “I’m only going to compete if I’m going to win”, or you want to compete purely for Instagram followers, I would say competing isn’t for you. 

It requires strength of the mind and the body, and you need to be prepared to improve in the future. 

Competing isn’t cheap either, so be ready to pay for memberships, food, supplements, spray tans, posing classes, trunks, travel and possibly accommodation. 


So you’ve made your decision to compete – now what?

Pick your federation and show date. There are various federations you can join, so do your homework. 

Competitive bodybuilding is a slow craft; if you have a good base physique and you’re contemplating a show, give yourself about 12 months to prepare, providing your training and nutritional approaches are at beginner-intermediate level. 

Plan your diet and training phases leading up to the show. I recommend an off-season phase before doing your first show. It will enable you to grow muscle, work on weak points and fire up your metabolism for starting prep. 

It’s imperative to eat a calorie surplus during your off season to ensure optimal growth and recovery. I would also highly recommend keeping a log of all your training and nutritional approaches to track progress. 

Start the contest prep process 15-16 weeks out from show day. From there, you can manipulate variables to enable your body to reduce body fat and maintain/build lean tissue. The variables to consider are training, nutrition, cardio and supplementation. I prefer to have my athletes stage ready two weeks out, to prevent a mad panic in the last week.

Working with a coach can be beneficial to prepare you properly for the big day, and help you avoid over-doing it on any one thing. 

Depending on your chosen class, you need to practise routines and poses. Learning how to promote your strong points and hide your weaknesses to your federation’s standards and rules is imperative. 

As you get closer to your show, book a spray tan with a reputable company. If your tan is poor or running down your back, you’ll suffer the wrath of the judges. 


Show day has arrived: you’ve done all the hard work, reached your optimal condition and nailed your poses. Go enjoy your time on stage. 

This sounds obvious but you often see competitors so worn out from the prep that they forget to enjoy it. Remember, you look incredible; you’re in the best shape you’ve ever been in, so show them what you’ve got. And finally, at the end, there’s the epic cheat meal you’ve been waiting months for. 


Ben is a bodybuilder, PT and coach. He runs Team Benbo Body Coaching from Colchester in Essex.


I: @teambenbo


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