Competing in bodybuilding contests become more and more popular and accessible for anyone interested. And I’m not surprised about this trend at all. As it’s all very exciting, glamorous and perceived as elite – even if a show day lasts only for one day and (usually) requires lengthy preparation.
To enjoy the show day to the fullest and save yourself stress or uncertainty, you need to take a lot of aspects under consideration. Because, as it says, ‘fail to prepare is a prepare to fail’. Therefore, before make any decision you should ask yourself ‘should I compete in a bodybuilding contest at all?’.
This article begins a series of articles about competing. Therefore, I’m going to start this series from a few questions which you need to ask yourself and answer them honestly if you’re thinking about entering a bodybuilding contest. It’s crucial to have a powerful inner drive and motivation to commit to it. Because it requires a lot of work and it may challenge you physically and mentally as nothing else did before.
These are TOP 5 questions you need to ask yourself and honestly answer them before you even think about competing.
1. Why do I really want to compete in fitness or bodybuilding show?
Oftentimes, when I talk to girls who think about competing and I ask this question, their answer is ‘I would like to compete because I want to get in shape’ or ‘I really want to build that body, that’s why’ or they simply don’t know why by giving me not a specific answer. Well, don’t get me wrong, I hear you. But if you really wanted that body, why don’t you have it already? If that’s what you really want, you should be looking amazing without a competition… And yes, it’s doable if you’d only really wanted it.
In 99% of bodybuilding competitors, we prepare this body ready for only one day. For most of us, keeping very low body fat percentage isn’t sustainable (of course there are exceptions). If it was, however, everybody would have looked freaking fantastic daily. But we don’t, as it isn’t easy to keep it. So don’t tell me that you’d like to compete to build that body, because this particular reason is usually not enough to keep you going.
It may sound brutal, but prepping for the contest is going to be even more challenging. So, the stronger your reasons are, the stronger your mentality and motivation during prepping will be. And, when your reasons for doing it are reasonable and worthy to you, then this is when you have a chance to be very successful. A fantastic physique isn’t usually one of those reasons.
2. Have I got enough time under the bar before entering my first bodybuilding show?
Put simply, do you have enough muscle mass to enter a contest? Could you start your prep from the cutting phase, when you only focus on reducing fat level to reveal your muscles? Or should you plan your show in a year or two ahead and undergo a muscle-building phase first?
If you have difficulty to answer these questions, I can assume that you’re a beginner in weightlifting or haven’t competed before. In this case, you can choose one of two options.
Option one. Ask a reputable stagecoach to evaluate your physique and advise you what steps you should take next to compete in the bikini or bodybuilding contest.
Option two. Undergo a cutting phase anyway to see what you have. If you carry anything around 20% body fat chances are you can’t really see your muscle definition. Strip it down, take pictures, compare it with winners of the category you’d like to enter and check what you need to work on.
3. Do I have enough time to train (both weight lifting and cardio) 5 to 6 times per week?
Depends on where you start, whether it’s a cutting or bulking phase, you will need to allocate anything from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours or so, 5 to 6 days per week to train in the gym (in the majority of cases, very rarely I meet competitors who train less often than that)
This frequency and length of training is only a rough guide, but it works in most cases. This is the time you will need to train, without taking into account some kind of things like commuting or having a shower after your workout.
Also, bear in mind that the time you spend in the gym will get longer toward the end of the prep. It’s usually due to the lengthening your cardio sessions. This is when I highly recommend having a cardio machine at home. This way you will be able to perform your fasted cardio (often included a couple of weeks out of the show) or any cardio in your spare time. You are still going to need some time to do it, but you will have flexibility then.
4. Am I able to follow a diet, nutrition plan for a prolonged period?
This one is also significant. Try to answer this question ‘Have you ever followed a diet (any diet, doesn’t matter what diet it was) for at least eight weeks?’. If you answered ‘yes’, then brilliant, you’re good to start your prep. If you answered ‘I don’t know’, then go and get yourself a diet, any diet, it doesn’t matter what diet it will be, and follow it for eight weeks to the T. If after eight weeks you succeeded, then congratulation, you’re good to go. If you answered ‘No’, then none of the reputable coaches won’t work with you, because they will require you to stick to the plan. And if you won’t, then they won’t work with you.
Of course, you could try to prep by yourself. But you still will need a high level of discipline and dedication to make competing in bodybuilding contest a real thing. Can you do it? Only you can answer this question.
5. Am I able to make some social or family sacrifice to stay on track with my diet and training?
Do you have a big family gathering about six weeks out of your show? Or have you planned a city getaway for a romantic weekend with your partner? Or maybe there is your besties birthday exactly three weeks before the show?
Right, being on prep doesn’t mean that you need to skip all of those social situations. However, a level of discipline and self-control will still be highly required. You still need to go to the gym and train, do all of your cardio and strength training. And of course, you most likely won’t be allowed to have a slice of that birthday cake and a glass of wine.
Will you still be able to attend all of these parties and stick to your plan? Go to the gym, train, then bring your boxes and eat your chicken instead of these delicious foods?
There is another scenario too. Closer to the show, competitors tend to be tired, a little grumpy, isolated and therefore not in a mood to go and watch these happy people having these delicious foods. Will you be able then to choose not to go there and go to the gym instead? Or stay at home and roll on a foam roller to relax your tired muscles?
Okay, I know it was a lot to think of and digest. But trust me – you want to know why you should compete in bodybuilding contest before you sign up for it. A competition prep will likely challenge you physically, mentally and perhaps financially like nothing else before. So the more you know about yourself and your motivations and the prep itself beforehand, the smoother it will go.
Also, these are things I wish I had known before I started competing in bodybuilding contests. Particularly, in three shows within two months! I have had not known any of this and the information on the Internet about it was scattered. Now, if you consider taking part in such a contest, I would want you to have all this information at hand. Also, I would want you to make your decision having all the necessary information intentionally . That’s why I have written this article for you to share my experience and knowledge about it.
In the next two articles, I’ll talk about things that you need to prep yourself successfully. Also, I will cover the subject of the cost of it, as this is another thing many competitors don’t know about before they make a decision and face it at a particular stage of their prep.
If you have any questions regarding any of them, then feel free to ask them in the comments.