Assessing your physique
As a novice or even a seasoned competitor will know, one of the things you learn pretty quickly after competing in your first bodybuilding show is the need for assesment of your physique before, during and after each show. Granted, as bodybuilders or figure athletes you're constantly critiquing your physique anyway right?! you think your legs could be more cut, your biceps could be bigger, maybe your biceps are too big or you think you're lean when in fact you could still lose a few kgs.

07-NzfWell2-Figline Because you're looking at yourself each day sometimes its hard to see the changes, faults or strengths of your own physique so its almost impossible to be objective about your own body. Your friends, family and boy/girlfriend tell you you look great but they are not usually equipped with the knowledge to give advice on what judges are looking for in a bodybuilding/figure competition.

Your boy/girlfriend could be helping you train for a show but sometimes you end up arguing back and fourth about what may need to be worked on for the next time. What you need from a boy or girlfriend is unconditional support not them critiquing you which could lead to clashes - which is the last thing you need during serious precontest phase.

Ask for outside Opinion!
To this end, its important to use outside advice, a seasoned athlete/trainer - someone who can give you an honest opinion to how you can improve your physique. Judges are there to help you with constructive feedback for improvement. The judges are trained to professionally assess your physique and presentation so after your show feel free to approach them and ask what you have to do.

If a result didn't go your way, don't throw out everything and start over when changing things up. Realise there are both strong and weak points to your physique. There is always room for improvement no matter what your level may be and there are always some positive points to use for future shows you will want to make sure to repeat. You may not need some big bold new solution. You may just need to give an existing one time to work and grow. Progress is the goal as always.

Sheta Hall

Capture your progress
A very useful tool is to have someone take PICS of your physique at the start of your contest prep training right up until your show. As a trainer working with clients over the net, I make it a pre requisite that my clients own a camera so they can send me pics at least once every 3 weeks. This makes them accountable knowing that they have to send me their progress and I expect to see changes - right girls?!

Compare and use these for future information to see how your body reacts during the weeks of dieting and training. The truth is pictures don't lie and friends and family are bias. Study these with your trainer/helper/friend and make adjustments as needed with some solid facts. Assess your weak body parts and create a program to address them. Not all parts should get the same attention and time.

left: Supergirl Sheta Hall with progress pic 10 weeks before NABBA Waikato

Which Class for you?
In figure competitions, judges are looking for symmetry and good muscle definition. Please note that NABBA,INBA and NZFBB will have their own critieria of how much definiton they want in their female figure competitors so best to check their shows out before deciding which look you'd like to compete in. NZFBB usually prefer fuller muscle while NABBA mark females who possess lean defined muscle. Women possess a wide range of physiques and shapes so there will be a class for you in the above mentioned federations if you choose to compete. Begin your assessment by analysing your body composition and determine your body fat percentage. Since height, bone density, body shape and various other factors play a role, body weight is not the ideal indicator of what your best physique is.



What your body should look like
Symmetry is one of the most challenging elements of bodybuilding as this is part of what judges will make you on. Whether you're a girl or a guy, both sexes are judged on their symmetry. A symmetrical physique will have an hourglass figure (yes you too guys!).

From the front, the shoulders should be wide with a lat spread that tapers down to a smaller waist. The hips and outer quads should open up the physique and taper down again at the calves. From the side view, the chest and back should be built up enough to provide depth in the upper back tapering down to the waist with the glutes, quads and hamstrings bringing that depth back to the physique.

Pics: Monty and Jamie show their symmetry

Jamie Cameron


The second aspect is muscular condition. Female bodybuilders compete at an average body fat percentage of 6-10%. The average body fat percentage for female figure athlete is around 9 - 15% body fat. Determining how much of your body composition is lean muscle mass and how much is body fat will help you evaluate your level of muscular development. Your muscular development should be distinct enough to identify the major muscle groups. For example, you should have a good development of your shoulders, biceps and triceps, abs, lats, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.

Your body conditioning will also help display the lines outlining these muscle groups if you are lean enough. If you are carrying too much body fat, it will be difficult to identify the quality of your muscle mass. You will need your muscles to look hard and firm. This hardness will be the result of minimising your body fat. The lower your body fat, the more vascularity will be seen by the judges. Again, how vascular you need to get will depend on which organisation you compete in.

07-SuperGLisaHeidi12may Assess and plan
During your assessment with your PT/ trusted athlete or judge, you both should identify and discuss your strengths and weaknesses. For example, when I evaluate my clients' physiques, I look at their shoulders in ratio to their waist and how wide/small it is, and how their arms are in proportion to their bodies. Whether legs are big/small and if extra leanness is required. From there, we work out what exercises and what rep ranges we need to do to bring up the weaker bodyparts.
left: Lisa and Heidi discussing our strategy this year

The assessment may dent your ego for a little while - especially if there are serious weak points on your physique - but this is bodybuilding and you're putting yourself up on stage to be critiqued. So take the advice, which will be good and bad, as a positive to your training plan as this will direct you to the type of training you'll need to do to enhance your look and make you a better competitor on stage.

Good luck and happy competing!


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