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How To Prep For A Men’s Physique Competition

Bodybuilding competitions are taking the US by storm. Recreational gym-goers are taking part in the exciting challenge that pushes their limits to the maximum and exceed their potential of achieving their most desirable physique. Richard King, a determined, ambitious fitness lover is one of many who took the plunge to compete in an NPC Bodybuilding competition – and wants to share his experience for others who wish to follow!

My first show to compete in the Men’s Physique category commenced at the 2013 Southern California Championships. I’d planned to write an article to provide information for potential future competitors but I chose not to jump the run as a rookie competitor but rather learn from my mistakes and provide more effective advice to those wanting to join the bodybuilding community.

Finally hitting the stage again last year, I proceeded to compete at the GNC 2014 NPC Grand Prix Championships. It was a great night that was topped off with being able to watch the 30 IFBB Men’s Physique Pro’s compete which simply motivated me further. It is an incredible experience that I wanted to share to advise nervous newcomers!

Information For Future Competitors

The NPC (National Physique Committee) is one that I would recommend joining if it runs in your area. Let’s face it, when you pick up any fitness magazine what do you primarily see? IFBB Pros.

Competing as an amateur with the NPC is the perfect, yet only way to be given a chance to earn the IFBB Pro status – and is completely achievable.

If you’re willing to work hard, make sacrifices and you find the concept of it an appealing goal you’d like to achieve, read about my experience of what to expect and how to prepare for your first competition. It will be your chance to present to the bodybuilding community what you’ve worked hard for – it could open up a world of opportunities!

Preparing For A Bodybuilding Competition

1. Registering for a bodybuilding competition

Competitors of any bodybuilding show have to be registered to take part. The NPC registration fee is around $120 – typically a good price for this calendar year. Registration is easy and quick, leaving you more time to worry about getting everything else prepared. I mailed my check and registration card from Southern California to Pittsburgh and received my registration card in less than two weeks.

However… do remember to register early to avoid a late registration fee ($60) which would be less than ideal with a price tag of $120 to compete in one class alone! Normally it’s a week prior to the competition before they start charging a late registration fee.

Tip: I highly advise you to get your card well before you decide to hit the competitive stage. If you wait until you check-in for the competition you’ll be dropping a lot of cash all at once. It is also a great piece of motivation when you receive your registration card in the mail that pushes you to strive for more before the big day!

2. Spray tan

A stage tan is one of the most important final touches to displaying what you’ve worked incredibly hard for, training most days for months or even a year or two.

It may seem inappropriate to some, but a tan defines and accentuates your best assets when the stage lights are brightly focusing on your body. The better the tan – the more your muscle definition will pop; just be careful not to over do it!

Where? How? When?

Most, if not all shows offer spray tan, pictures, and videos available to purchase when you compete. A spray tan depending on your skin complexion can cost you a pretty penny with a cost of $99 for only two applications.

If this is something you have decided to do for the long run, I recommend purchasing your own spray tan kit and have your significant other and or friend spray tan you. It will save you a lot of money while you concentrate on chasing that IFBB Pro card. I tried using tanning lotion for my first competition and it wasn’t good enough for how bright the stage lights actually are, so I invested in a spray tan kit to prepare for the next competiton.

I had my beautiful wife spray me four times before I hit the stage; one spray application starting three days out in the morning and one final spray the night before the competition. Depending on your skin complexion you might need more than just two applications.

Bodybuilding Competition Preparation: Thinking about Competing?

Left: tanning lotion, Right: spray tan………

Tip: If you spray tan the night before and you’re staying at a hotel, bring your own sheets so they don’t charge you a fee for staining the sheets with the spray tan.

Some of you might be thinking ‘purchasing my own spray tan kit? Really?’ This is a competition must have and you need it to look your best. This is a huge part of my lifestyle in which I will work hard and try to perfect details in order to try and earn my IFBB Pro card. If I become one of the fortunate few athletes that get picked up for a sponsorship I’ll always be ready (tan) for a photo shoot or to work a booth at an event. I save countless dollars with my own kit… A gallon of spray tan liquid last a very long time at only $99 per gallon!

3. Practice Practice Practice your Routine

Preparation is everything – make sure you know your routine. Each contestant is allocated a time slot on stage to perform their mandatory turns and impress the judges. I was unaware that this year the time slot had increased and I was stuck without a routine. I’m pretty sure I would have placed higher if I had practised a routine prior to hitting the stage.

Although Men’s Physique it’s only 10 seconds and you can’t perform flexing like the bodybuilding category needs to, a great stage presence could still determine a better placing on the score card. A conditioned, symmetrical all-round package may give you the confidence to think that you’ll succeed well, but without enthusiasm you may not get the vote!

4. Paying for pictures?

Only $79 for professional photography?… A potentially appealing price for some, but first consider the current costs:

  • $120 NPC registration
  • $120 to compete at the contest
  • Spray tan cost
  • Hotel fees if needed
  • Petty cash to travel, eat, drink, etc

You’ll burn up a lot of cash before it’s all over! I don’t pay for pictures as they can usually be found online a day or two after the competition. Most of the big supplement and magazine companies will have pictures for the NPC and or IFBB contests posted.

Also, you can have a friend or family member take plenty of pictures for you. Most places will have restrictions on what kind of video/camera equipment you can bring into the event as a spectator, but today’s smartphones have decent capabilities to take almost professional quality photos.

5. Competition video footage

Video is priced at $59 if purchased before the show. This is an option I was going to take but the turnaround time is 3 to 4 weeks, so I wouldn’t have it available to study my stage performance and try to perfect my stage presence and personality before my next competition.

I will definitely be purchasing it at my next competition though! It seems video coverage is not available online for the competitions. Having your own copy could definitely be a brilliant investment to allow you to improve for future shows.

Saving Money

Prices given are from my state in Southern California (pictures, video, and competition registration)… the prices may be less or even more in your area! Tip: If you pay for everything on the day of the athlete brief/check-in, it would have totalled $537. 

One thing I’ll advise (and repeat!) is to remember to register both with the NPC as an athlete and for the competition before they charge a late fee! I’m glad I know about it now to avoid future financial losses! If you’re wealthy and don’t mind burning up the cash, then there’s nothing to worry about!

Take-Home Message

Learning from my mistakes and following these snippets of advice helped me bring home my first trophy! I hope this helps you if you decided to compete in your first competition. Good luck!




Writer and expert

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