Bodybuilding competition

A Beginner's Guide to Competitive Bodybuilding

14 min read


16 May 2024

Hack Beast Mode

  1. The Importance Of Conditioning In Natural Bodybuilding
  2. Genetics And Bodybuilding Success
  3. Choosing The Right Bodybuilding Competition For Beginners
  4. Preparing For A Bodybuilding Competition
  5. Choosing The Right Bodybuilding Category
  6. Posing For A Bodybuilding Competition
  7. Show-Day Preparations For A Bodybuilding Competition
  8. Final Thoughts
  9. FAQs

Taking on a bodybuilding competition can be a daunting task, especially for beginners who are thinking of taking up Competitive Bodybuilding.

But, with the right guidance and preparation, anyone can confidently dive into their first bodybuilding competition. 

If you’re thinking about getting into the game, but you’re not sure where to start, this epic guide will tell you all you need to know to start your journey.

Are you ready? Of course you are—let’s go.

The Importance of conditioning in natural bodybuilding

Conditioned bodybuilder

In natural bodybuilding, achieving good proportions, symmetry, and muscularity is essential for success. It’s also important to carve out time for conditioning.

As a beginner in the world of competitive bodybuilding, focusing on conditioning can boost your chances of placing well—or even winning—in a big way.

Conditioning refers to having a low body fat percentage and well-defined muscles. To achieve this, it is important to prioritize both training and dieting. 

A combination of resistance training to build muscle and cardiovascular exercises to burn fat will help you develop a lean and sculpted physique that turns heads.

Plus, perfecting mandatory poses is another crucial aspect of conditioning. Learning and practicing the poses specific to your chosen category will showcase your physique in the best possible way. 

Top Tip: Seek guidance from experienced coaches or attend workshops to ensure that you master the poses with proper form and execution.

Finally, it’s important to pay attention to your overall presentation on stage. Seek assistance in competition tanning product application to achieve a uniform and bronzed look. This will enhance the visibility of your muscle definition. Oh, and, being well-rested and mentally focused on show day will help you bring your best package to the stage.

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Benefits of Conditioning in Natural Bodybuilding Tips for Conditioning
Enhanced chances of placing well and winning Combine resistance training and cardiovascular exercises
Showcases well-defined muscles and low body fat percentage Perfect mandatory poses with proper form and execution
Improved overall presentation on stage Seek assistance in competition tanning product application

Remember: Conditioning sets you apart from your competitors and demonstrates the hard work and dedication you have put into your bodybuilding journey.

Genetics and bodybuilding success

When it comes to bodybuilding success, genetics play a significant role. Your genetic makeup can influence muscle hypertrophy, muscle size, and your overall response to training. 

People vary in their ability to gain strength and have different fiber compositions in their muscles, which can impact their potential for muscle growth. 

Understanding your genetic predisposition can help you tailor your training program to maximize your results.

A little info on body types…

Body types, such as mesomorphs, ectomorphs, and endomorphs, also have an impact on bodybuilding. 

Mesomorphs tend to have an easier time building muscle and staying lean. Ectomorphs, on the other hand, may struggle to gain muscle and often have a lean and slender physique. 

Endomorphs tend to have a larger body frame and may have a harder time losing body fat. It's important to recognize and work with your body type to optimize your training and nutrition plan.

Here’s a quick roundup to help you understand your body type…

Body Type Description Training and Nutrition Recommendations
Mesomorph Naturally athletic build, gains muscle easily Focus on resistance training to build muscle, maintain a balanced diet
Ectomorph Thin and lean, difficulty gaining muscle Frequent, intense training focused on compound exercises, increase calorie and protein intake
Endomorph Larger body frame, tendency to store body fat Combination of resistance and cardiovascular training, focus on calorie control and nutrient timing

Understanding the interplay between genetics and body types can help you set realistic goals and tailor your training and nutrition plan accordingly. Remember, while genetics play a role, hard work, consistency, and dedication are equally important in achieving bodybuilding success.

Related: Somatotypes: do the three body types matter?

Choosing the right bodybuilding competition for beginners

Male bodybuilder in competition

When venturing into the world of competitive bodybuilding as a beginner, it’s crucial to choose the right bodybuilding competition that suits your needs and goals.

As a natural bodybuilder, participating in a drug-tested competition can provide a level playing field and ensure fair competition. One such reputable organization is the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (NANBF), which organizes drug-tested competitions exclusively.

By selecting a NANBF competition, beginners can compete confidently, knowing that their fellow competitors have not had an unfair advantage. 

NANBF competitions require participants to pass a polygraph screening to prove that they haven’t used any banned substances. 

This commitment to fair competition ensures that the playing field is equal and allows beginners to showcase their hard work and dedication without worrying about an unfair disadvantage.

Plus, the NANBF provides an inclusive and supportive environment for beginners. The federation recognizes the importance of encouraging newcomers to the sport and offers various categories for both men and women, allowing individuals to compete in divisions based on their physique and experience. This flexibility allows beginners to find the category that aligns best with their goals and body type.

In summary, choosing the right bodybuilding competition for beginners is crucial for a positive experience and fair competition. Opting for a drug-tested competition, such as those organized by the NANBF, ensures a level playing field and allows beginners to participate with confidence. 

With the right competition and supportive environment, beginners can embark on their bodybuilding journey and gain valuable experience as they progress in the sport.

NANBF competition categories: a quick overview…

Category Description
Bikini Focuses on overall aesthetics, with a balance between muscle tone and femininity.
Figure Emphasizes muscle development while maintaining a balanced and feminine physique.
Physique Requires more muscularity and definition compared to bikini and figure divisions.
Classic Physique Combines the aesthetics of the Golden Era of bodybuilding with modern physique standards.
Bodybuilding Showcases extreme muscle development and size in a symmetrical and balanced manner.
Transformation Challenge For people who have undergone a significant body transformation, showcasing their progress.

Preparing for a bodybuilding competition

Preparing for a bodybuilding competition requires plenty of planning and dedication. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced competitor, having a contest prep coach can be invaluable in helping you navigate the rigorous training, dieting, and posing requirements.


A contest prep coach provides expert guidance tailored to your specific goals and physique to ensure you stay on track throughout the training process.

Training is a vital component of preparing for a bodybuilding competition. Your contest prep coach will design a training program that focuses on muscle hypertrophy, strength, and conditioning. 

This may involve split training routines, progressive overload, and targeted exercises to develop specific muscle groups. Consistency and proper form are key to maximizing your progress and achieving the desired physique for the competition.


Dieting is another crucial aspect of preparation. Your contest prep coach will create a customized meal plan that aligns with your goals and promotes fat loss while preserving muscle mass. 

This may involve calorie cycling, macronutrient manipulation, and strategic timing of meals to optimize energy levels and recovery. It's important to adhere to the diet plan and make adjustments as necessary under the guidance of your coach.

Pose practice

Bodybuilder posing

Pose practice is essential for showcasing your physique confidently on stage. Your contest prep coach will teach you the mandatory poses for your chosen category and help you perfect your technique. 

They will provide feedback on your posing routine, ensuring you highlight your strengths and present a polished physique to the judges. Regular posing practice will improve your stage presence and overall presentation during the competition.

Remember, preparing for a bodybuilding competition is a journey that requires discipline, consistency, and patience. 

With the guidance of a contest prep coach, you can maximize your potential, fine-tune your physique, and confidently step on stage to showcase your hard work and dedication. Stay focused, remain motivated, and embrace the process as you work towards achieving your bodybuilding goals.

Choosing the right bodybuilding category

When competing in a bodybuilding competition, it’s crucial to choose a category that suits your physique and goals. The North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (NANBF) offers various categories for both men and women, providing options for all body types and preferences.

For women, the bikini category focuses on a more toned and athletic look, with an emphasis on overall balance and symmetry. 

The figure category is slightly more muscular and defined, showcasing a more sculpted physique. The physique category requires even more muscularity and definition, with more emphasis on muscle size and conditioning. 

Lastly, the bodybuilding category is the most muscular and defined, where competitors showcase their physique through mandatory poses, and muscularity is the main focus (beast mode activated).

Men also have a range of categories to choose from. The classic physique category is inspired by the golden era of bodybuilding and emphasizes symmetry, proportions, and balanced muscularity. 

The physique category focuses on a muscular and defined appearance, with an emphasis on v-taper and aesthetic appeal. 

Lastly, the bodybuilding category is where competitors display their maximum muscle mass and conditioning, with mandatory poses that highlight their overall physique.

Bodybuilding divisions: a quickfire rundown…

black curtain or wall to emphasize the man and the categories.

Category Description
Bikini Toned and athletic look, with an emphasis on balance and symmetry.
Figure More muscular and defined than bikini, showcasing a sculpted physique.
Physique Even more muscularity and definition, with emphasis on muscle size and conditioning.
Bodybuilding The most muscular and defined category, where competitors showcase their physique through mandatory poses and muscularity.
Classic Physique Emphasizes symmetry, proportions, and a balanced muscularity.
Physique (Men) Muscular and defined appearance, with an emphasis on v-taper and aesthetic appeal.
Bodybuilding (Men) Maximum muscle mass and conditioning, with mandatory poses that highlight overall physique.

Posing for a bodybuilding competition

Presentation is key when it comes to bodybuilding competitions. Posing plays a crucial role in showcasing your physique and highlighting your hard work. 

Each category has its own set of mandatory poses that you must master to impress the judges. By practicing these poses and adhering to the category guidelines, you can present yourself confidently on stage.

Mastering the mandatory poses

Bodybuilder practicing poses for competition

Before stepping on stage, you must learn and perfect the mandatory poses for your category. These poses are designed to showcase different muscle groups and highlight your overall physique. 

Take the time to study videos of past competitions to understand the proper form and execution of each pose. 

Practice regularly to ensure you can hold each pose comfortably and confidently during the competition. You’ve got this.

Adhering to category guidelines

Each bodybuilding category has specific guidelines for posing, including stance, angles, and transitions between poses. 

Understanding these guidelines is essential to ensure your posing routine complies with them. Deviating from the category guidelines can result in point deductions or even disqualification. 

Pay attention to the small details, like hand placement, foot positioning, and facial expressions, to make your posing routine stand out.

Remember, posing is not just about displaying your muscles but also expressing your personality and confidence on stage.

Practicing poses

Consistent practice is the key to perfecting your posing routine. Set aside dedicated time in your training schedule to practice each mandatory pose and your overall posing routine. 

Consider seeking the guidance of an experienced posing coach who can provide expert feedback and help you refine your technique. Practice in front of a mirror to assess your form and make any necessary adjustments. The more you practice, the more natural and effortless your posing will become.

By devoting time and effort to perfecting your posing, you can make a lasting impression on the judges and elevate your chances of success in a bodybuilding competition.

Mandatory poses: a quick rundown…

Category Mandatory Poses
Bikini Front pose, back pose, side pose, free-style pose.
Figure Front pose, quarter turn to the right, back pose, quarter turn to the right, side pose, quarter turn to the right, free-style pose.
Physique Front pose, quarter turn to the right, back pose, quarter turn to the right, side pose, quarter turn to the right, free-style pose.
Classic Physique Front pose, quarter turn to the right, back pose, quarter turn to the right, side pose, quarter turn to the right, free-style pose.
Bodybuilding Front double biceps pose, side chest pose, back double biceps pose, side triceps pose, ab and thigh pose, most muscular pose.

Show-Day preparations for a bodybuilding competition

Bodybuilders competing

As the day of your bodybuilding competition approaches, you must make sure you have everything in order for a seamless and successful show-day experience. It’s showtime.

From your competition suit to tanning and makeup, here's a checklist of essential items to include in your packing list…

  • Competition Suit: Choose a suit that meets the specifications for your category. It should fit you well and highlight your physique.
  • Tanning: A deep, dark tan enhances muscle definition on stage. Make sure to follow the competition's guidelines for tanning and apply the products evenly.
  • Makeup: To stand out under bright stage lights, proper makeup application is important. Consider seeking professional help or practicing different makeup looks in advance.
  • Packing list: Create a comprehensive list of everything you'll need on show day, including your competition suit, tanning products, makeup, hair accessories, posing oil, and any supplements you may require.
  • Final preparations: Before leaving for the competition venue, double-check that you have packed all the necessary items. Ensure you have your NANBF membership card, as it is mandatory for taking part in any NANBF competition.

On show day, you should arrive early to allow ample time for final grooming and preparations. Stay focused, follow the instructions provided by the competition organizers, and embrace the excitement of stepping on stage. 

Remember, thorough planning and attention to detail during show-day preparations can contribute to a confident and successful performance. It’s in the bag.

Final thoughts…

Competing in a beginners bodybuilding competition can be a rewarding and transformative experience. 

By following the tips and guidance provided in this comprehensive guide, beginners can confidently embark on their bodybuilding journey. From training to dieting, posing, and show-day preparations, the key to success lies in dedication, hard work, and a passion for the sport.

Remember, anyone can compete in a bodybuilding contest, and it is a rewarding achievement in one's health and fitness journey. 

So, whether you are a novice or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, don't hesitate to step on that stage and showcase your hard-earned physique. With commitment and perseverance, you can achieve remarkable results and inspire others along the way.

So, start training, fine-tune your diet, practice your posing, and make sure to prepare meticulously for show day. 

The journey may be challenging, but the sense of accomplishment and personal growth you'll experience is well worth it. So, seize the opportunity, push your limits, and let the stage be the platform where you shine as a bodybuilding competitor. Go get it.


What is the key to success in natural bodybuilding competitions?

The key to success lies in having good proportions, symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning.

How can I achieve a single-digit body fat percentage for a bodybuilding competition?

To achieve a single-digit body fat percentage, it is important to focus on dieting, training, and perfecting mandatory poses. Seeking assistance in competition tanning product applications can also help.

How do genetics play a role in bodybuilding success?

Genetics can influence muscle size and strength gains. Training during puberty and early adulthood is the most effective for muscle growth. 

Plus, body types (mesomorphs, ectomorphs, and endomorphs) can affect bodybuilder physiques and the ease of achieving low body fat levels.

What kind of bodybuilding competition is recommended for beginners?

Natural bodybuilding competitions, such as those organized by the NANBF, are recommended for beginners. 

These competitions require competitors to pass a polygraph screening to ensure they have not used any banned substances, ensuring a fair playing field.

What should I do to prepare for a bodybuilding competition?

It’s important to choose a competition at least 12 weeks in advance and seek the guidance of a contest prep coach. 

They can help with training, dieting, posing, and ensure you are following the competition's requirements. Focus on training for aesthetics rather than simply losing weight or getting lean.

How do I choose the right bodybuilding category for me?

The right category will depend on your muscle size, density, and experience. Categories include bikini, figure, physique, classic physique, bodybuilding, and the transformation challenge. Understanding the criteria for each category can help you make the best choice.

How important is posing in a bodybuilding competition?

Posing is essential in a bodybuilding competition. Each category has its own mandatory poses that you must learn and practice. 

Watching videos, attending workshops, or seeking guidance from an experienced coach can help you perfect your posing technique.

What should I do to prepare for the show day of a bodybuilding competition?

Show day preparations include having a competition suit that meets the specifications for your category, proper grooming, including tanning, makeup, and hair styling, and packing items to keep your muscles warm before going on stage. 

Oh, and remember to bring your NANBF membership card—you can’t compete without it.

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