Body Conquest Articles | Contest Preparations Part 1
Contest Preparations - Part 1
Contest season is right around the corner with numerous trainees preparing for their assault onto the Australian competitive stage. Preparing for a contest is no easy feat and everyone is seeking extra tips, techniques and advice to give them a winning edge. In a two-part feature I will be looking at certain aspects of competing and offering some solid contest advice. These hints are especially aimed at those who have never competed before, but also to those athletes who seek to make improvements on past stage performances. This month I will look at costumes, posing and routines and next month I will tackle tanning, stage presentation and manipulation techniques to peak on contest day. This should enable you to present your body to the best of your ability and avoid some of the pitfalls that many competitors succumb to.
At the outset I am going to make a couple of assumptions. Firstly that you have decided which federation you are going to compete with and secondly that you have chosen the best division for your physique. One of the first things you need to then work out is what bikini or posing trunks you are going to wear. This should not be a slap dash decision although men have it a lot easier than women with a lot less choice in fabric and style to choose from. A flattering and well-fitted bikini or posing trunks is essential. They can do one of two things- enhance your physique or detract from it. You want to make sure yours does the former! How can you hide your flaws with a tiny piece of material you may ask? Well, you probably can't but you can deflect the judges' eyes from your flaws and enhance your strong points if you are clever.
Having someone appraise your physique is beneficial as sometimes it is difficult to criticise and assess your own body. Then you will be in a better decision to choose you're posing trunks or bikini more wisely.
For men, colour and style is probably the two major decisions required.
Posing trunks with thin sides and a three-quarter bottom are going to suit a shorter male who is perhaps a bit "blocky" as opposed to a fuller fitting posing trunk with thicker sides which will suit a taller competitor with long legs and a long torso. If you are genetically blessed and have loads of quality muscle then you have the greatest flexibility when choosing your trunks. Let your quadriceps shape and mass, particularly your outer sweep guide you in your decision. For example, if you have an overdeveloped outer sweep then a low cut will lessen the look of it being overdeveloped. On the contrary a high cut can give the appearance of more of a sweep if you are lacking in that department.
Plain solid colours such as navy blue and black are very "safe" and do not detract from the physique. Black trunks do not draw attention to the mid section and so de-emphasize the waist. If you are a little thick around the waist line this may be a good choice of colour. Brighter colours such as red and purple, or colours with shiny flecks throughout can be eye-catching and reflect your personality better than the plainer colours. Fluorescent colours are rarely flattering and can detract from the overall "look" of the competitor.
For figure, fitness and female physique competitors allocating some time and thought to your bikini will bode well in the long run. Bikini's are a part of "stage presentation" and their importance in your overall appearance should not be underestimated. Whatever you do, don't wear a regular bikini. Don't laugh! I have seen it happen and it's just not a good look. You need to look like a seasoned competitor when you get on stage. My suggestion is to take your time and try on as many outfits as you can to determine what colour, cut and style looks best on your body. While you will never be judged on the cossie that you are wearing, how well it fits and compliments your physique can have a big impact on your overall look and confidence. Choose your colour to suit your hair and skin tone. Also take into account that you are going to be under some very bright stage lights. Take this into consideration. For example, a pale pink outfit may suit you if you have nice skin and blond hair, but under the stage lights it may look white and make you look totally washed out. Again, your designer will be able to guide you as to what colours best suit you and compliment your hair and skin tone.
If you can afford too, I highly recommend that you get your bikini custom made, so that it is tailored especially for your body. I would try and contact a designer at least twelve weeks before the date of the show. Be confident that, if that is what they do for a living, then they will give you the best advice on choosing the right style to flatter your physique. It should however be a collaborative effort. A competition bikini should fit you like a glove and you should love it on you. If you feel great in your bikini then this will transfer to your demeanour on stage. Bear in mind that a suit too small or that doesn't fit you properly can mean deduction points from the judges. Make sure that your bikini hides all it's meant to hide and invest in some bikini bite to ensure you only show what you want to show! One more tip- it's a bright (and safe) idea to have two bikinis, one as a back up because you never know what might go wrong. Bikini's can be lost, stolen, forgotten or even worse someone may front up with the same one as you. Always have a spare bikini in your contest bag just in case!
If you get your bikini custom made then the designer is probably going to use quality fabric and most federations allow for adornments and crystals but check with your federation and divisions rules on this. Keep in mind that too many adornments and crystals may be distracting for the judges. Sure, you want to sparkle on stage but you don't want to take away from your overall look.
For those of you who are competing in Fitness or Sports model divisions, you require extra outfits for your fitness round and evening dress round. Again, choose colours, lengths and styles that best suit your physique. In the fitness category you can afford to have fun with your free routine, particularly if you have a theme and a costume. Make sure that it fits well and stays on, as a robust routine sometimes dislodges the best of outfits.
POSING AND ROUTINES
As a judge, without a doubt one of my pet peeves is a competitor who flounders around on stage and obviously hasn't learnt to pose. Posing is definitely one of the most ignored aspects of contest preparation. I say this time and time again, what is the point in having a muscled, ripped and conditioned physique when you don't know how to showcase it properly? Don't leave it until four weeks out from the show and even worse, don't even think about trying to wing it on stage without practicing at all.....you are shooting your self in the foot. You cannot practice posing too much!
If you want to showcase your physique to your best advantage and wow the judges then you MUST give posing the due diligence that you give to your dieting and training. It is a really good habit to flex and pose the body part that you are training in-between sets and monitor yourself in the mirror. This has two specific advantages. Constant flexing is hard work and in itself is an excellent form of training, further helping your muscles to be firm, hard and well-defined. As well, it regularly shows you how much development you have achieved, or, what you need to continually work on.
Usually the first round will be the symmetry round. This is the initial time that the judges lay eyes on you so you want to make a first-class impression. In the men's divisions and the women's physique, "twisting" of the torso is not normally allowed. However figure and fitness girls are often allowed. Check with your federation for the rules in your division. There are better ways to quarter turn than others. I guess if you walk out on stage, turned right, back and left then that would be adequate enough to constitute a quarter turn, but that won't be adequate presentation of your physique. Therefore, do not underestimate the proper way to do a quarter turn.
Check out the competitors in your division in previous shows, borrow a dvd and see how they present themselves. Better still seek out a specialist coach to oversee your posing and presentation styles. Consult with other competitors or ex-competitors and learn what the judges are looking for. You are definetely being judged on how you present your physique so learn how to highlight your attributes.
The symmetry round can also be known as the "non-flexing" round. However nothing is more further from the truth! Flex your quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs, shoulders, lats ect and look like you love doing it and that it comes naturally. Make it look easy by smiling (not grimacing), it needs to look natural. Again, this means you need to practice. If your division is highly competitive, this is where the contest can be won or lost. When facing the front in your "relaxed" position, whatever you do, do not relax!
(For an in-depth account of the symmetry round and what the judges are looking for, please refer back to Ironman Volume 15 Number 3).
The compulsory round can last anything from 5 minutes through to 45minutes, depending on the number of competitors. Check with the competition organisation to get a list of the required poses for your category. Figure and fitness divisions typically have less poses because some of the mandatory poses, like the front lat spread, do not show enough muscularity on most females for it to receive a classification of a compulsory pose. In this round bodybuilders have a bit more latitude with angles and adjustments to their legs, arms and mid-section, to either emphasize a strong body part or hide a defect. Again, the best way to figure out how to strike each compulsory pose is to work with a specialist coach, or video yourself performing the poses and work from there.
A couple of hints for the newcomers: Firstly there is most often a long row of judges, somewhere between eight and eleven usually, evenly spaced across the front of the stage. If you hit static poses not every judge will see those poses from a good viewpoint. This means you should rotate your poses so that the judges down each end of the table can see each of your poses at its best. You should practice these rotations at home, don't just leave it until contest day.
Another important tip is to recognise that judges are seated lower than you, with their eye level usually at your toes. In your front poses you should direct your poses downwards by leaning forward slightly, and conversely, when you hit your rear double biceps and rear lat spread, arch your lower back and lean backwards to angle your body into a prime position.
Finally, to break a tie on a particular judge's score sheet sometimes the head judge may specifically request a competitor to show a compulsory pose on their non-preferred side. So make sure that you practice the poses on each side, not just your preferred side, so that you won't be taken by surprise on contest day if you are requested to do this.
Remember that you are on show from the second that you set foot on that stage. If in the event of a few call outs, don't ever be at the back of the stage and relax thinking that the judges aren't looking at you. They could be. You are on show the minute you are on stage until the moment you get off stage. Also, don't ever be at the back and become deflated because you aren't getting any call outs. You could very well be a clear winner and the judges are concerned with placing second, third and fourth.
A good way to put a posing routine together is to take a series of photographs doing all of the compulsory poses as well as other classic poses and your signature or favourite pose. Go ahead and divide the photos into three categories- great, average and poor. Disregard the poor photos, as they obviously aren't the poses for you. Most federations have a free posing section that lasts for 90 seconds. Try to stick to the time limit as going over it won't do you any favours and might even work against you. If you hold each pose for somewhere between 3 to 5 seconds you should only have time for about 18 to 25 poses taking into account transition time. You should start and finish with two of your best poses. This goes for females and males alike. It is not necessary but it is wise to include some of the compulsory poses in your free routine. Why? Well judges will immediately spot someone who avoids hitting the mandatory poses and will presume (maybe incorrectly) that you have something to hide.
What usually separates the good posers from the best are the transition skills. The best posers make it look easy and fluent. Try to time your routine so that you are moving between poses as the music is rising and hitting the poses as the music peaks. Even better seek a choreographer in your area, particularly someone who is familiar with bodybuilding and the poses and they will be able to best compile a routine that exemplifies your assets and hides your flaws. With your individual routine a general rule of thumb is to do fewer poses really well than a whole host of poses really badly. It takes time to develop a good personal routine.
You can get good posing tips by watching old dvd's of Miss/Mr Olympia or dvd's made of local shows to see the calibre of competitors and learn from the winners by how they present themselves on stage. Watching and emulating the best on stage will be beneficial, but make sure that the person you are "copying" has a similar physique to yours. It is no good taking from someone who has a completely different body to yours or you could be doing yourself a disservice.
Here are some general tips for music selection and preparation:
Firstly, choose a song that you like for your routine, because you will hear it over and over and over again, so you want to make sure you are fond of the song. Rather than choosing a song that matches your personality, I prefer to see a competitor choose a song that matches their physique. Always make at least two, preferably three copies of your music. If you have a gift for posing and you have the time, put together two routines, one for the pre-judging and one for the evening show.
Most of all, practice, practice and then practice some more.