Gerry's Posing Pointers

Bodybuilding, whether or not for competition, requires discipline and dedication beyond belief. I have tremendous respect for the athletes who live this lifestyle. Their pursuit of physical excellence is worthy of commendation. Unfortunately, for many of the general population, this is a misunderstood and underappreciated sport. But the bottom line is that you as an athlete know what you are achieving, and your self-satisfaction should override any external negative factors.

For those athletes pursuing excellence in the competitive arena, the determination, will to succeed and sacrifices made on many levels are nothing short of amazing. The athlete goes through the rigorous prep of dieting, training, tanning and practicing quarter turns and poses required for prejudging. Families of the athletes give their support and sacrifice time with loved ones to see them succeed. The emotional support provided by families and friends has been indispensable to the athletes I've known. This is a year-round sport, unlike many others.

Bodybuilding is like a dart game. To succeed, you must consistently hit the bull’s-eye. With the following components, you should be able to do so:

D = Discipline and dedication to be consistent in your approach to training and diet, as well as determination to achieve your goals.

A = Attitude and mindset. The mind is the strongest muscle you bring to the gym or stage. You must focus on your goal and visualize positive results. Always be confident and have faith in yourself.

R = Rest and recuperation. Through rest comes growth and energy. The body requires downtime, and rest is a big part of the bodybuilding equation.

T = Training smart and consistently. Figure out what works for you and sticking to it. Also, tenacity to practice turns and poses.  It does not come easily.

My area of (some) expertise is contest/stage presentation. I am a competitive posing coach, and will go into the nuts and bolts of solid presentation here. Something I always impress on my beginning "students" is never to place the cart before the horse. My instruction always begins with mastering the turns (not as easy as it looks), then nailing each compulsory, then developing a routine. The routine is the child of the parents (turns and mandatories). My basic philosophy is this: "Less is more, and simple is better."

The Symmetry Round

An important part of your prejudge score and ranking comes from the symmetry round, which consists of the quarter turns. They are not as easy to do as they look. It requires practice to do them as the judges want to see them.

It has always amazed me how an athlete will go through the expense and sacrifice of training, dieting, tanning, and supplementing in order to compete--not to mention organization membership and contest entry fees, as well as travel and accommodations for the show. Yet when it comes to practicing the presentation aspects of competition (turns, mandatories and routines), I have gotten these responses from athletes:

"I practice the night before."
"No big deal, I can wing it. It's easy."
"If the figure girls can turn in heels, I can do it barefoot."
"Should have been top five. What went wrong? I got screwed."

Daily practice in posing at least 5 to 6 weeks before a show is essential.  A tourist lost in New York City once stopped a man who happened to be a violinist and asked, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"  The violinist answered, "Practice."  This is an athletic performance--and for any performance, practice makes perfect.

First pose to practice is the front relaxed, or home pose. You are in this position when you come onstage. Actually it is semi-relaxed, as you are tensing but not flexing. Shoulders and chest high, arms hanging close to sides, legs tensed. Heels should be close together and toes flared out a bit. Breathing is very important, as you are inhaling deeply to raise the chest cavity, then exhaling and inhaling in short breaths. In practice, hold the pose as long as you can.

Home pose is the beginning of the quarter turn process. You are then asked to make a quarter turn to the right, so your left side faces the audience. Then another quarter turn to the right, so your back is to the audience. Then another quarter turn to the right, so your right side faces the audience. Then the fourth turn to face front again in the home position.

In each turn, arms should be at your sides and feet flat, with no twisting of the head or torso. Many times judges will call out "feet flat," or whatever they expect to see. Since this is a big part of your placement and will determine callouts, it's no time for creativity. Do it the right way as the rules prescribe.

Tips: for side turns, can tense arm a bit to show triceps, especially if that is a strong point for you. For back shot, lats should be flared a bit to show width of upper back and enhance V-taper. When second turn is requested, flare and then turn so you are already in position.

Posing Practice

 Posing practice should occur year -ound, nothing formal in off-season, but flexing and posing is aerobic exercise and contributes to muscular definition and separation.

During a workout, always good to flex or tense the muscle group worked.  After each set of bicep curls, for example, good to squeeze the bis to maximize pump and get some blood flowing.

You should actually practice posing elements when starting contest diet. Set a definite practice schedule and stick to it. Start with holding a semi-relaxed pose as long as possible, and maybe longer in next practice to build up endurance. Up to 6 weeks out, try to do turns and mandatories at least 2-3 practice sessions a week for 10-15 minutes each.

During the last 6 weeks, do at least 4-5 sessions a week at 20-30 minutes per session. Go through all prejudge elements of turns, mandatories and short non-music routine. By this time, routine music should have been selected and recorded for evening show.

During the last week you should do a daily run-through of the prejudging and evening routines. Do a double run-through if really ambitious and determined. This will get you ripped up for the stage and give you endurance and confidence for your competitive presentation.

Ideal to have someone with competitive experience watch the sessions and maybe every two weeks videotape it. Actually looking at your execution is the best way to see possible need for adjustments. This is a lot of work, but if done religiously along with the training and diet, should pay off with a good presentation and notice from the judges.


After quarter turn execution, there are seven required poses that the panel of judges will request:

Front Double Bicep
Front Lat Spread
Side Chest
Side Triceps
Back Double Bicep
Back Lat Spread
Overhead Abdominal/Thigh

There are competitions where a competitor may be asked to execute a most muscular shot, but that is an exception. However, the most muscular variations ("crab," hands on hips, hands behind back, "praying shot") should be included in practice.

As of 2006, the above list applies to all NPC bodybuilding prejudges, male and female. Before this year, female bodybuilders were not required to do the front and back lat spreads.

Also in prejudge each competitor (or top 15 in each weight class for bigger shows) will do a short routine without music, which basically consists of the required poses with transitions. Usually will be 45-60 seconds in length (competitor is told how long it is before the show). Judges are timing it, competitor will hear "10 seconds" from the judges as a warning to finish up. When judges say "time," the competitor has to stop and leave the stage.

Front Double Bicep Pose

This is the first pose called by the head judge.

One thing to remember with this and all the mandatory poses: each pose should be constructed from the legs up. Feet should be placed somewhat apart and quads must be tightened and flexed.

Arms can be brought into the flexed bicep position from the upward or side position. Either extend arms and raise upward bringing them down into a flexed bicep position, or extend arms outward to shoulder level and go into a flexed bicep position.

In a flexed bicep position, wrist should be twisted a bit so fists are parallel to head. This brings out the forearm and maximizes bicep peak, both of which enhance the look of this pose. Squeeze bicep as hard as you can. Elbows should be about shoulder level. If arms are too high, you lose shoulder width. Too low and you lose lat emphasis. Either will affect the V-taper you must create.

Breathing is also important as with any pose. You should inhale when bringing arms into flexed bicep position, and take short in and out breathes when in the pose. Also keep abs as tight and flat as you can. Hold this pose until head judge says, "Relax."

Things to remember:

In this pose judges are looking not just at bicep shape and peak, but how they tie in to the rest of the body and to each other in symmetry and proportion.

When practicing this pose, try holding it and squeezing biceps as long as you can. Remember to tense abs and squeeze quads as much as possible.

Front Lat Spread

This may be the most difficult pose to master. It is also an important one, because your muscularity and symmetry are being assessed. So it requires a lot of practice.

Plant feet somewhat apart and flex the quads as hard as you can. Important to have upper body erect and inhale deeply here to raise the pectoral area and suck in abs. Fisted hands should be placed just above waist and elbows straight out to display lats. Exhale and inhale in short breaths while holding the position. Hold till judge says, "Relax."

Arm position is very important. Elbows should be in a straight line with torso. If elbows are too far out, that will inhibit view of lats. Too far in will decrease the perception of width.

Tip for beginners: If someone can work with you, have him/her hold a yardstick across center of abs area. Then go into the pose. When inner elbows hit the ends of the yardstick, you are in good position. Try it this way till you have feel for the position, then do it without the yardstick.

Some competitors like to loop a finger through the sides of the trunks and pull up into position. If you feel comfortable doing this, it usually works. Just don't pull too hard! (A friend did that in a show and one side tore. He had to leave the stage or he would have exposed more than his lats! He laughs about it now, but it was definitely not funny then!)

Remember, judges are looking for overall symmetry, hardness, and muscularity in this pose. You need as much of a V-taper as you can. If your waist tends to be blocky, then lats and quads need to be as full as possible to create the illusion of a tapered V.

Side Chest

The side poses will show how thick and full you are. Side poses can be executed from either side. Best to look at yourself in a mirror and see which side will show you to best advantage. If you can get one or more expert opinions, so much the better.

Like other poses, the leg is important. When side chest is called out, flex outside leg (leg closest to audience) by shifting foot weight to your toes and squeezing down. This will bring out the calf and hamstring muscles. Taking a deep breath in, raise delts and chest cavity as high as possible and clasp hands to flex outside arm. Must hold position till next pose is called for. Inhale and exhale in short breaths while in side chest position.

Tips to remember: Keep delts high. When you drop a shoulder (meaning one is higher than the other), it tends to ruin the perspective of thickness and make the competitor appear shorter. For shorter competitors, keeping posture erect and delts high makes use of every inch of your height and gives the illusion of a long torso and narrow waist. Also, squeeze the pecs as much as you can to show striations and maximum thickness. Striated thick chests score higher. Again, the chest is being compared to the rest of the physique's symmetry.

Side Triceps

Theory and set up is somewhat similar to side chest. Can be executed from either side. Check the mirror or have someone advise on which side looks better. Like side chest, should be able to show it from either side.

Again, position the pose from the leg up. Flex the outer leg (one closer to audience) by raising heel and shifting weight to the toes. Then squeeze down as much as possible. This will bring out the calf and hams to fill out the leg.

Then take a deep breath in and place outer arm (again, the one closer to audience) behind waist and clasp hands from behind. Pull down on outer arm as much as possible to reveal triceps. Exhale and inhale in short breaths while holding the position. Judges are looking for a pronounced "horseshoe" shape and detail in the triceps, as well how it relates to the rest of the arm and total physique.

Tips to remember: This like any other pose is not judged in a vacuum. Triceps must tie in and be in proportion to the overall physique.

If comfortable for you, execute side chest and side triceps from different sides. This sends a message to the judges that you are confident and willing to show both sides of your physique.

When this pose is called, extend outer arm and squeeze as much as possible before pulling back into clasped hands position. Not required, but again sends a message of confidence in your triceps development.

Rear Double Bicep

The back poses are extremely important to be able to do well. If judging is close in a show, the back poses usually are the tiebreakers. The conditioning in the lower back, hams and glutes separate the future pros from the wannabes. These poses display this development.

For the rear double bicep, start with leg positioning as with the other poses. Place one leg slightly back or at a comfortable side angle, and shift weight to the toes to flex the calf and hams. Then go into bicep position used for front double bicep (either arms up then down, or out then in).

Elbows should be approximately on same plane as delts for maximum effect. If your elbows are too high, you will not be displaying full width of delts and back, and detail of upper back will also not come out.

Again, breathing is important. Inhale deeply when going into bicep position, taking short breaths in and out while holding the pose. Stay in position until next pose is called.

Tips to remember: Practice in mirrors in front and behind you, and ideally someone should be observing you till you have the feel for the position. Then no mirrors, especially the last few weeks before the show.

Squeeze down hard as much as possible to bring out "Christmas tree" striations in lower back. The whole body is always judged in each pose, but lower back, glutes and hams are what judges focus on, especially how they tie in to the rest of the physique.

Rear Lat Spread

This pose is meant to show width hardness and thickness of the back, in addition to hamstring and calf development, and overall proportion.

Again, set the pose from legs up. One leg must be back with weight shifted to the toes, and squeeze down to display hams and calf. Same upper body position used for front lat. The shoulders and chest cavity high and erect posture will accentuate the V. Inhale as deeply as you can as you position upper body. Take short breaths when in position. For effect, you can squeeze your shoulder blades together, then flare out to emphasize width. Elbows should be 180 degrees out to maximize lat flare and width.

Tips to remember: This is a full body pose. Judges look for V shape and symmetry and how back relates to lower body. Flex every back muscle you can.

Not required, but recommend flexing different legs in this pose and rear double bi. Sends message of confidence.

As in rear double bi, practice with mirrors in front and behind. Best to have someone photograph you or videotape you so you can actually see how it looks.

Abs and Quad

This pose is intended to show abdominal development, and thickness and sweep of the quad.

As with other poses, execute from leg up. Flex one quad (can throw weight to heel or plant foot firmly down and squeeze). Place both hands behind head. Exhale deeply as you squeeze down on torso to display abs. Small breaths in and out when holding pose.

Tips to remember: Not required, but recommended to shift weight to other quad while maintaining upper body position. Sends a message of confidence that you do not have a weak leg.

Again as with other mandatories, abs and quad are judged in relation to the rest of the physique. Good upper body posture is important. Also, squeeze hands as much as possible from behind to bring out biceps and triceps. If elbows are far out enough, lats will be fully and properly displayed. Showing the maximum V taper can create an illusion of bigger quads.

Evening Routine

Let's assume you were in such good shape and posed so well in the prejudging that you made the top 5, and will be doing your routine in the evening. Of course, you have to be optimistic and go to a show expecting to do well. So a practiced routine is important for prejudge and evening show.

At shows below national level, the evening show is not judged. But you still have to be prepared with a posing routine lasting no more than 90 seconds (can be less) and done to music. At least 8 weeks out, you should have music in place and start thinking about what you will include in a routine. As mentioned earlier, there is nothing that says you can't use the prejudging routine as an evening routine. For beginners, this is recommended. More experienced competitors might want to vary it. 

Use music that you like, and that will inspire you to pose to your full capacity. Posing music can be incidental, and a choreographed routine to music is fine if it can be done within the scope of the athlete’s abilities.

A routine should start and end with the poses that show you off to your best advantage. Always hook the spectators from the beginning and leave them wanting more. If your back is your strongest, you can open with back shots and lead in to others. If quads stand out, you can start with hands on hips most muscular flexing the quad, and hit abs/thigh. For biceps, do front double bi.

It is good to build up some drama to your best pose. If biceps are strong, you can lead up to double bi instead of hitting it immediately as many do. For example, lift your arms straight up, bring one arm down, then the other. Or from lat spread position, bring up one arm, then the other. Then perhaps arms out, and both arms back into double bi position.

If you're really ripped, you can end with most muscular, using different variations to prevent boredom among judges and spectators. Also use a short wave or bow at the end to show routine is over. I have seen many athletes walk off the stage almost in mid-pose as if they forgot their routine. This does not make a good impression.

It’s good to make an outline of the poses you want to use. You can always modify it during practice. This will give you a sort of script to practice from. Then once your routine is firmly in place, practice it from memory. If you forget your routine sequence onstage, don't panic. Just hit all the mandatories and most muscular, wave and exit. The sequence of mandatories should be with you from prejudging practice. Always make the best impression you can.

These are just suggestions to give you a reference point to begin. As you become more experienced, this will start to be more natural. Just keep practicing and good luck.


Here is some miscellaneous competition information which may prove helpful:

For posing music, choose something you like and will inspire you to do your best.
Find out from promoter ahead of time whether to bring music on cassette or CD. I recommend bringing 3 labeled copies of your music, so you can keep one in case of emergency.

Bring at least 4 posing suits with you. Two dark color (recommended for prejudging) and two of whatever else you like for evening show.

For safety and security purposes, bring as little jewelry with you as possible. For men onstage, no jewelry is allowed except for wedding rings. So I suggest leaving valuables at home.

Bring essentials like several towels, pro tan, oil, etc., and have all this packed well in advance of leaving for show. Make sure you have all necessary food and water properly packed.

Make sure you know what times you have to report for weigh-in, prejudge and evening show. There is an athletes' meeting prior to prejudge where you receive your competition number (usually pinned to the left side of your posing suit) and procedures are explained, and another meeting prior to finals. You should be at the venue at least 20-30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time for each specific event. Missing anything where your attendance is required can very well result in disqualification from the competition.

These suggestions may seem obvious, but I've seen problems arise from all of them. And here are some recommended links for posing and contest prep info. The more information available, the better for competitors.

Good luck!

Gerry Triano
June 2006

About the author:

Gerry Triano is a competitive posing coach. He is happy to answer any questions via e-mail,   Feel free to ask anything and will get back to as time allows.

He also can consult before a show in the New York/Long Island area based on availability and by appointment only. No charge, no strings.