For lead-in from Musclemag, Mar. 2004, click here

Photography by Peter T. Geraghty of Thomas Whorley,
second place winner, light-heavyweights, 2004 NPC Junior USA.

Posing Practice Drill (Based on Men’s Competition) 


Start five to seven weeks out from competition at least three or four times a week, so muscles are acclimated to the repeated contractions during competition.  It is best to practice with a partner, or to videotape practices or routines, so you can see what you are doing and make adjustments.  As you see yourself become a better poser and see your definition improve, it will motivate you to keep at it.

Symmetry/balance judging (first round):


Quarter Turns: Make each turn when instructed by head judge. Start by facing the judges' stand. First quarter turn is to your right, so your left side faces judges' stand. Before turning, tense left arm to show tricep so judges see it when you turn. Both feet flat, arms at sides, tensed not flexed. Second quarter turn to your right, so your back now faces the judges' stand. Before turning, flare out lats and widen back. Shows back, lats and calves, but tensed not flexed. Both feet flat. Third quarter turn to your right, so your right side faces judges' stand. Then last quarter turn to your right, coming back to your starting position. Tense abs and quads, but not a flexing round. Feet flat.

Compulsory poses (second round, done as called out by head judge):

Front Double Bicep:  Arms out at 90-degree angle; bring up
fists and turn wrist inward for maximum peak.  Abs and quads
should be tensed.  Judges look for overall symmetry in all
these poses, and how biceps look in relation to rest of the
    Front Lat Spread:  Should see space between lat and
forearm.  Stand upright, too much back or forward
detracts from V shape and symmetrical look.  Again
tense abs and flex quads.  Flare out pecs and delts as
much as possible.  This is an everything pose; judges
scrutinize whole physique.

Side Chest:  Can be executed from either side.  Hand
over wrist, arm is pulled back as much as possible to
highlight chest.  Hit hard and flex pecs.  Calf and hamstring
of one leg should also be flexed.  Judges are not just
looking at pecs, but how it ties in to rest of physique.


Side Tricep:  Can be executed from either side.  With one hand,
push the arm back to highlight ”horseshoe” development in tricep.
Flex calf and hamstring and sit on pecs and delts.  Again, entire
body is being judged.

Back Double Bicep:  One of the make or break poses.  Some
competitors look ripped from the front, but  are smooth when they turn
around.  As in front double, arms out at 90 degrees, flex bicep with wrist
turned inward.  Sit on back muscles, flex hamstrings and calf in one leg. 
If in top shape, lower back will have outline of “Christmas tree,” glutes
will be hard and hamstrings will be striated.
Back Lat Spread:  As in front lat, space between lat and forearm
for maximum V effect.  Flex calf and hamstrings of one leg.  An
extremely important symmetry and mass pose.  Separates top 5 from
the rest in today’s competitions.

Ab and Thigh:  Both hands must be behind head.  Flex abs and quad as
tightly as possible.  The lower the bodyfat, the sharper this pose will look.
This pose will point out the cardio slackers.

Individual posing round
(third round, after judges make the cut):

This last 60 seconds.  You need someone to time the routine so you know what to do.  Should begin and end with most effective pose.  Best to incorporate all the compulsory poses; otherwise judges might think you’re trying to hide a weakness.  Giving them such an impression can cost a couple of places.  Big part of the game is having faith and pride in yourself.  Bodybuilding begins in the mind, which should be your strongest muscle.  Be aggressive and confident, but not obnoxious, and show what you have to the fullest.

Remember, you can have the best development in the contest, but not being able to show it effectively will hurt you.  Once you can do the poses by rote and hold them for at least fifteen seconds, you will know you arrived. Good luck and have fun.

Additional contest tips:

I always recommend dark trunks, since they create an illusion of a flatter midsection and sharper V taper.  Lighter color or patterned trunks are a distraction. You want the focus to be on the physique, not the trunks.  Bring 4 pair with you.  One pair each for prejudging and finals, and two extra pair for unexpected emergencies (tear, oil or Pro Tan spill, etc.).

It is important to practice posing without a mirror for the last few weeks of the show.  I cannot stress quarters and mandatories enough.  Even if you feel you have them nailed, practice them anyway.  It helps to have someone watching you.  There are no mirrors on stage, so you have to feel the correct positions.  Many times when a show is close, back poses are the tiebreaker.   It would be helpful if someone could tape the practice so you can see it later.  Helps to see what you look like and what needs to be adjusted.  Practice side chest and tricep shots from both sides.  Practice is hard work but very aerobic, bringing out cuts and separation.

For some reason, front lat is the hardest shot to nail for the guys I've worked with.  The following works if you have someone to assist you.  Have them place a yardstick across center of the mid ab region.  Hit pose bringing the pecs up by inhaling.  If done right, elbows should hit ends of yardstick.  To maximize V taper, elbows should be on the same plane as the abs at 180.  If elbows are too far forward or back, you look too narrow across the lats.  Keep practicing with yardstick until you have feel of the position, then practice without it in front of a mirror.  Then graduate to practicing away from mirror.  Control of breathing is very important in the poses.  It is necessary to inhale for side chest and front lat to raise pecs.  Exhale in short breaths while holding the pose.  This takes practice as well.

As to music, pick something that inspires you and that will project to the audience.  For beginners, it is usually better to select something familiar and up tempo.  That will be easier to pose to.  Classical or opera can expose flaws and awkwardness.  It takes really fluid movement to pose well to a slow piece of music.  It is irrelevant if music starts as you come onstage or when you reach center stage.  I have seen instances where a competitor is onstage and music doesn't start (tape jams or breaks).  So it may be better to have music start while walking out to center stage.  If possible, bring music on CD to avoid tape jamming problems.  Otherwise, bring at least 3 cassettes of the routine music. 

For anyone, beginners especially, I believe that "less is more” and “simple is better."  For a first show, I recommend using same routine for 60-second prejudging and finals.  No rule against it and only one sequence to remember.  For final, you can add an extra crab or any strong pose at the end.  If you do forget the routine, don't let the audience know it.  Just do all the mandatories, a couple crabs, bow and walk off.  It happened to one competitor I coached.  He was fine in practice, but froze onstage.  He just did the mandatories and still got 3rd.  Have nothing against dancing all over the stage IF you can move well and have the physique to back it up.  But judges at below-national amateur level can perceive it as a distraction or think you are hiding weaknesses.  If you use dance movements, make sure they work.

Posing effectively is much easier said than done, and much harder than it looks onstage.  Practice is the key to successful competition.  Luck and success to everyone.

Gerry Triano,
Peter Geraghty,

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