Bodybuilding Show Day Tips By Matt Phipps

For some of us training isn’t only about living a healthier lifestyle. In addition, the goal of training could be in preparation of a bodybuilding competition.

Why not show off the physiques that we’ve built?

Bodybuilding competitions are rumored to have been around since the late 1800’s. Eugene Sandow is credited with organizing the first contest called the “Great Competition” at the Royal Albert Hall in London, on September 14th, 1901.

In 1977 the movie “Pumping Iron” premiered. The movie documented Arnold Schwarzenegger’s journey on his pursuit of his 6th title as Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion. This movie along with Arnold Schwarzenegger himself brought bodybuilding to the mainstream.

Today the Mr. Olympia is still the most prestigious bodybuilding title. Arnold now has his own event called the Arnold Classic, which takes place every March in Columbus, Ohio.

Social media, movies like Generation Iron, magazines and supplement companies have helped the sport’s popularity explode.

With competition season in full swing, I will dive into some things to consider leading up to Show Day.

Finally, the day is here for you hit the stage to display all your hard work, receive the judge’s feedback, and hopefully walk away with a win!

Show day is one filled with mixed emotions.

The anxiety leading up to your stage time, but the excitement to show off what all the discipline, sacrifice, obsessing over what you eat, and days in the gym have created.

The joy of hearing your family, friends, and other people in the crowd cheer for you. Also, the happiness knowing you’re going to pig out on whatever food you’ve been craving and had to deprive yourself of for a significant amount of time.

Everyone who has participated in a bodybuilding competition knows that “peak week “as we call it, which is the week of your show, can be hell! You’re likely eating no carbs or have tremendously limited your carb intake.

The gym sessions are more taxing on your body and your strength slightly diminishes.

In my opinion it is by far the hardest week of a competition show prep, but with that imminent stage time looming closer you must continue to push through and think about that win you’re training so hard to obtain.

First, when it comes to preparing for a bodybuilding competition is choosing a show and category that is right for you. Research categories and look up images of what body types, posing, and stage attire is like.

Categories can range from bikini, figure, classic physique, men’s physique, masters, fitness model, bodybuilding, athletic, and transformation.

There are dozens of federations and leagues to join including IFBB, PNBA, IPE, ANBF, WBFF, NFF, USBF and the list can continue to go on.

Things to consider are:

  • What awards do they offer?
  • What region are the shows in?
  • How much are the membership fees?
  • Can you compete in multiple shows that year to maximize your yearly membership?
  • Does their league pro card transfer to other leagues?
  • What are the most prestigious events in that federation?
  • Are the shows drug tested?

The real reward to being in a competition is the discipline and body you built. Just stepping on stage makes everyone a winner if you ask me, but who doesn’t like medals, trophies, championship belts, swords, and axes. The prize may very well be worth entering a certain competition. Knowing whether you’re competing against enhanced athletes or not could play a huge role.

Personally, as a natural athlete at this point, I prefer to compete in shows that are drug tested. This is how I know the competition is even across the board. I have nothing against athletes who choose to be enhanced and compete in those competitions, they’re usually more popular known events.

I have competed in non-drug tested leagues like the NPC at a national level and competed in natural drug tested leagues such as NANBF, UFE, and OCB. This can be an expensive sport so if you don’t have as much cash to burn, do your research and plan accordingly, so you can get the most bang for your buck.

Membership fees to federations can range anywhere between $75-$150 per year. Then that does not include registration fees for each category you are competing in at a particular show.

If you plan on doing multiple shows, choose a federation where they have events within your region or in places you would like to visit throughout the year, so you can take full advantage of your membership.

In my opinion do what feels right for you when it comes to being an enhanced athlete and choosing your federation.

Leading up to Show Day there’s a few preparation tasks. Depending on if you’re traveling and/or staying in a hotel you likely need to book a flight, room, and pack. Even if the show is local, it’s wise to bring resistance bands or weights.

I competed in an NPC Masters National competition in July of 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa and there was no equipment provided to achieve the “pump up” prior to hitting the stage. The all-important “pump up” is the effect of your muscles swelling and becoming full due to the blood going in them as you perform exercises.

Some guys were scrambling around asking other guys to borrow their resistance bands.

Now, one thing I will say is that when it comes to bodybuilding shows even though we are all competing against one another majority of the competitors are usually friendly and helpful.

We share a bond in the fact that we all know what sacrifices, hard work, how each other feels in that moment and what steps were taken in the journey to get to Show Day.

If you’re more introverted, you should bring your own equipment for the pump up or its just nice to have in case there isn’t any. It is always better to over prepare then to under prepare.

One item you’ll certainly need is your stage wear whether bikini, heels, trunks, shorts, costume, etc. Other items include a towel because you’ll likely get sweaty from being on stage, snacks to help with your pump, and water or Pedialyte to rehydrate when the time comes if you’re depleting your water.

I recommend wearing flip flops and loose-fitting clothes on Show Day, so you do not rub any of your tan off.

Lastly, make sure your phones and cameras are fully charged because you will want to take lots of photos and videos to capture those memories and what is hopefully your first-place
win on Show Day!

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