You've been along to a bodybuilding show and you've seen your friends compete and you think ' wow I'd like to look like that!' You've always loved the thought of strutting your new sexy body on stage but never know quite how to do it. It's one thing to say you want to compete but how do you actually go about doing it?

So I thought I'd outlined a few point you'll need to consider before finally stepping on stage.


Getting ready for a show is a long term process, just like bodybuilding itself.  It takes years to develop a great physique.  Some novices can get ready in 3 months or less, others need at least a year depending on their starting muscle mass and bodyfat.   
  1. Find someone who can critique your physique.
A Personal Trainer with a specialty in bodybuilding or an experienced competitor is an important element in your contest plan. Bodybuilding is all about how you look on stage. That's why its imperative that you find someone who has knowledge of bodybuilding and can 'critique' your physique as your diet and training progresses.  

left: with Supergirls Jill and Wendy
A PT or friend who can give you an honest opinion on how you're looking and what changes you need to make can be the difference between a good and a great physique for you. A PT can also help you decide on whether your structure is suited to figure or physique competition.

2. Choose your competition date. Calendars for NZ's bodybuilding organisations should be out in December. Once you've got the services of PT or talked over with a friend about your contest goals, the next step is decide which show you'll be ready for.

Traditionally, 12 weeks is the period required for contest preparation, however, if you're a novice it may be a good idea to start early at 16 weeks. The reason being is that you're not sure how your body is going to respond to the new diet and training plan. Your body may be stubborn to change and may take longer to loose the weight you need. It's better to start early than do hours of cardio towards contest time anyway.

3. Check your weight, bodyfat levels and take photos.
You'll notice subtle changes in your bodyshape. Some days your legs will look leaner and other weeks your top half will come into shape. Everything won't change at once!

Everybody hates weighing themselves but if you're going into bodybuilding contest, especially
in a weight class, you'll need to check your weight before and during your plan. It doesn't matter
so much if doing figure as you generally go on how you're looking but if your aim is to compete
in a weight division then it's imperative you get on those scales to see that you are loosing weight.  


Be prepared to take food
with you anywhere anytime!
4. Working out your diet. Again, employing the services of a PT or dietitian would go a long way towards helping you sort out your nutrition needs. Whether you are competing in the figure or physique category, bodybuilding is about displaying your muscles.

If you don't eat enough calories you could be eating into your muscles and your hard work in getting your muscles could be wasted. Eat too much and you may not loose the fat as much as you like.
Everybody is different and you'll need to work out, along with your PT or nutritionist, you'll be able to workout what nutritional needs work best for you.

5. Contest eating. Contest dieting is about eating for energy and recovery rather than for taste. So it's just not exciting. At the beginning of your contest plan it's probably a good idea to clear your cupboards of any naughty foods such as biscuits, delicious condiments like mayonnaise or sugary sauces or any tasty treats as they won't be part of your diet for the next 3 months or so.

6. Contest Training. There's a fine balance between your weight training and cardio regime.
You need to do enough cardio to promote fat loss while weight training will help shape and give muscle definition. Do too much cardio and you could be eating at some of your muscle. Depending on your muscular condition, you should do at least 5 x 45 minute cardio sessions per week - which will increase as your contest day approaches.

Ideally you should do your cardio in the morning before breakfast as this promotes more effective fat burning while your weights is done later in the day as this will help prevent overtraining. Again, you should seek advice from PT as to how much you'll need to do to burn fat and maintain muscle mass.

Here's an overview of your diet and training plan

3-4 Months Before
Measure body composition. Measure bodyfat with calipers or electronically.
Clean up diet. Eat 5 to 6 times a day. Increase cardio.
Practice semi-relaxed and compulsory poses

Every 2 Weeks
Measure body composition. Assess progress. Manipulate activity and diet if needed

2-3 Months Before
Reduce dietary fat if progress is not adequate.

1-2 Months Before
Decrease calories if progress is not adequate. Work on your posing and posing routine

2 Weeks to 1 Month
Practice posing without mirror.

1-2 Weeks Before
Make changes to your diet and cardio, decrease or decrease cals, depending on how you're looking.

6-3 Days Before
Stop weight training
Decrease walking and posing slightly

3 Days Before
Decrease intestinal volume:
Eliminating bulky low calorie foods
Eating smaller portions 6 to 8 times a day

2 Days Before
Reduce dietary sodium by eliminating canned foods, eggs, dairy, diet drinks and sweetners

1 Day Before
Drink water only when thirsty


As you can see alot goes into your pre contest plan. It requires plenty of commitment and dedication to your training and diet. But it is fun and rewarding on the day.  So give it a go!!!

Lisa, Go Figure
Personal Trainer
6 November 2009  

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