|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
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 bulls-eye. With the following
components, you should be able to do so:
Discipline and dedication to be consistent in your
approach to training and diet, as well as determination
to achieve your goals.
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.
Rest and recuperation. Through rest comes growth and
energy. The body requires downtime, and rest is a big
part of the bodybuilding equation.
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
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
"Should have been top five. What went wrong? I got
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
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
After quarter turn execution, there
are seven required poses that the panel of judges will
Front Double Bicep
Front Lat Spread
Back Double Bicep
Back Lat Spread
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 athletes
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
Its 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
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
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.
About the author:
Gerry Triano is a competitive posing
coach. He is happy to answer any questions via e-mail, email@example.com
Feel free to ask anything and will get back to as
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.