A Breif Overview of Competitive Bodybuilding

There is a very small percentage of crazy fitness enthusiast that understand the world of competitive bodybuilding.  This blog post is dedicated to all of you “normal” people that are slightly curious and intrigued by this sport that is spreading like wildfire amongst gym rats.

The focus and goal of competitive bodybuilding is building a balanced physique and changing your body composition (less fat, more muscle) through strength training and strict nutrition.  (Yes ladies, you will have to lift weights)  How you want your physique to look depends on what category you are going to compete in.

For men, the main categories are Bodybuilding and Physique.

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Men’s Bodybuilding Example

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Men’s Physique Example

I don’t have much experience with men’s bodybuilding so my overview will stop there.  If you are at all interested in competing you should find a reputable coach in your area that and work with them.  Be very careful of online coaches that only post pictures of themselves.  In my experience, having a coach you can see in person and talk with is much, much better.  I would also ask to see or meet some of their past clients.  Has your coach competed themselves?  I am not sure that anyone can truly understand what you are going through unless they have done it themselves.  (Back stage jitters, naked spray tan, dehydration, oily bodies, pumping up, addiction to peanut butter,etc.)

Now on to my favorite topic, women.  For women there are 4 categories; bodybuilding, physique, figure and bikini.  Figure and bikini are by far the most popular categories.  It is very difficult for women to get bulky naturally so I don’t have any experience with the physique and bodybuilding categories.  Those women are beasts and I applause them. However, because I don’t know much about their prep and the kind of supplements they need to take to build that kind of muscle, I will leave it at that.

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Women’s Physique Example

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Women’s Bodybuilding Example

Women’s Figure is a blend of  bodybuilding and fitness.  Women are judged on symmetry, presentation and other aesthetic qualities such as skin tone, suite color, fit, etc.  The “X” factor is the desired physique with well formed shoulders and back, small waist and round and full glutes and quads. Visible muscle separation is desired but visible striations is not, that would bring them into the bodybuilding category. Women in this category typically get into the 8-12% body fat range on competition day.  At this range your hormones are out of whack and you will stop menstruating.  Your family and friends will not enjoy being around you.  (TRUST ME, I KNOW)

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Women’s Figure Example

The final and most popular category is Women’s Bikini.  This is where a lot of amateurs begin and where a lot of us stay.  Women are judged on their lean and firm physiques and scored on proportion, symmetry, balance, shape and skin tone.  Shoulders, abs and glutes are very important muscle groups.  Bikini competitors are fit and lean but not ripped and shredded.  They are typically win the 10-15% body fat range which is still way, way below average.  Bikini competitors do a front and back pose for the judges.

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Women’s Bikini Example

So now that we covered all the different categories lets talk about how someone gets into competing and what types of shows they would do.  First, you kind of have to enjoy weight lifting and eating healthy.  If you hate spending time in the gym and eating meat and vegetables then you should just take this off your list.  Women do not get their shapely and toned physiques from long cardio sessions and low calorie/low protein meals.  We lift weights and we eat a lot of protein.  Protein is the building block for muscle and to have the bodybuilder’s physique, you need muscle.

I first decided to compete becasue the trainer I was working out with for a few years had competed himself and coached a few of my friends for shows.  I watched them transform their body in a few months and was absolutely amazed and inspired.  I thought about it for a couple years but finally committed to a show after watching a close friend of mine prepare for a competition.  I stopped making excuses and signed up.  The first thing I did was meet with a reputable trainer and discuss my goals.  He put me on a 16 week program that included weight training 6 days per week, eating ~1600 calories each day comprised of 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat and weekly check-ins.  Based on my photos and changes in weight, he adjusted my macros (protein, carbs, fat).   My progress photos were submitted weekly to him. Cardio was used sparingly until the very end when I had to shed the final few pounds of fat.  I trained legs twice per week at a minimum, upper body was focused on shoulders and back and my core was hit a few time a week.

My first show was a local amateur show put on by the National Physique Committee (NPC).  Shows are held locally at the state level.  If a show is designated as a “National Qualifier” then you can qualify to compete at a national level if you place in the top 3 of Open division.

Besides the strict diet and workout regimen, I practiced posing regularly with my coach and on my own.  Stage presence and posing are extremely important.  You can have the best body on stage but if you don’t present it well you will not place at all.  Another thing most people don’t know about is the spray tan.  This isn’t optional if you want to place well or even look like you belong.  Think of it as foundation for your skin. It evens out your skin tone, covers up blemishes and stretch marks and helps bring out the definition in you muscles.  Everyone does it and yes, you look ridiculous off of stage; however, if you didn’t get the spray tan you would not show off your shredded body and would look extremely white compared to everyone else.

After your show most competitors take what is called an off-season.  It is recommended that you take at least 6 months between shows to allow your metabolism to re-adapt back to normal food intake levels.  During prep you continually drop your calories to get take your body below a natural level of body fat and if you think you can just jump right back into eating like you did before you will be in for rude awakening.  It is not uncommon for competitors to gain 10-20 lbs of fat in only a couple weeks after the show if they do not reverse diet properly.  During a planned off season competitors focus on slowly increasing their calories, reducing the amount of cardio and building up their strength.  When you are prepping for a show you are in a calorie deficit so you don’t build much muscle.  The focus is on maintaining muscle while losing fat.  The off season is where the gains happen in the gym.  I recently maxed out my squat at 190lbs and my deadlift at 220lbs.  I could not have built up to this during competition prep and owe my success to an increase in carbs and protein along with great training partners at MVP Sportsclubs.  #ilovecarbs

So far I have competed in four shows total, three of which were National Qualifiers.  I placed in the top 5 in Open in all of them and took 1st in the Master’s Division (35 and older) in two of them.  I am a 2X Nationally Qualified Bikini competitor and currently enjoying my off season.  If someone asked me today if I would compete again I honestly don’t know that I could answer that. Competitive bodybuilding is a very selfish sport and your whole focus in on yourself.  My meals were planned out each day, my workouts were written out, my cardio, etc.  I could not go off my plan and that made family life a bit difficult.  I currently have been really enjoying helping my clients with their fitness goals and love having more flexibility with my workouts and nutrition. My goal for this month is a 200 lb back squat and I can’t wait to crush it.

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2016 Iron Man NPC Competition

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Front Pose

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Front post comparison during pre-judging

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2016 Central States NPC Competition

Diary of a Bikini Competitor

For those of you that follow me on Facebook at See Mom Lift  you are more than aware that I recently competed in two NPC competitions.  The first was the Great Lakes Iron Man in Flint MI on September 24th and the second was the Central States Championships on October 8th.  I am now officially in my off season and do not plan to compete again until the spring of 2017.

Now that it has been a couple weeks since my final show, and all of the stress of competing and starting a new job the Monday after my show has worn off, I thought it was a good time to blog a bit and catch everyone up.

Let’s first talk about the prep.  How long does it take to get “stage ready”?  I get asked this a lot and my total prep is approximately 12 weeks.  I lost a total of 10 lbs in this time and maintained my muscle mass.  If you have a large amount of weight to lose and you are not already weightlifting regularly then 12 weeks really would not be enough.  This was not a weight loss competition, it was a fitness competition. Skinny girls don’t place well.  (They don’t look that good either)

On that note, let’s talk about the workouts.  Many people assume I spend hours in the gym each day to achieve the lean physique when actually most of my time is spent in the kitchen prepping my meals.  The workouts consisted of weight training 5 days per week and cardio 5 days per week.  Total time in the gym ranged from 1- 1.5 hours with cardio included.  The weight training was not small 3 lb dumbbells that most of us have on our bedroom floor or cheap resistance bands.  I used barbells and squat racks.  I trained legs 2-3 times per week and squat more than my body weight.  Sorry ladies, if you want a tight ass you are going to have to squat.

The nutrition is the most difficult part and the most important.  This is where most people fail.  I cut out all processed foods, protein bars, etc and at whole, natural foods.  My main sources of protein were chicken, white fish, turkey and whey protein powder.  My complex carbs consisted of oatmeal, plain rice cakes, brown rice and sweet potatoes.  I took fish oil to get in my fat and at green veggies with 5 of my 6 meals each day.  Spinach was on my plate for almost every meal.  The last four weeks I cut out all fruit, tomatoes, corn and carrots.  This was to eliminate sugar from my diet and shred the last bit of fat from the back of my legs.

A typically day was 5- 6 meals and looked like this (insert coffee between each meal):

Meal 1: Plain Oatmeal with 4 egg whites sweetened with stevia and cinnamon

Meal 2: 4 oz grilled chicken, 1 cup broccoli and 125g sweet potato

Meal 3: 4 oz grilled chicken, 1 cup broccoli and 125g sweet potato

Meal 4: 4 oz ground turkey over 2 cups mixed greens

Meal 5: 4 oz ground turkey, 1 cup asparagus over mixed greens

Meal 6: 1 scoop casien protein powder, 1 tbsp powdered peanut butter, stevia, cinnamon, mixed with water until dough like consistency.

I seasoned my meat and veggies with onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and a lot of Mrs. Dash.  I used Sea Salt until the last week of prep.  I used balsamic vinegar as my dressing and avoided oils and fats.  No dairy, no bread, no variety. (yes, it sucks.  If it were easy we all would be fit and healthy and not overweight).

Overall I was very happy with the total package I brought to the stage.  I have competed 4 times now and my goal is to simple improve on the girl I was in the previous show.  My upper body tends to get shredded before my lower body and I the feedback I received from my very first show was to lean out my lower body to match my upper body.  I have slowly been working on balancing my overall physique.  I received great feedback from the judges this time around and will be working on building up some more muscle this off season and hopefully bring my best package ever in the spring.  I placed very well in both shows and have qualified for nationals if I choose to compete at that level.  My overall goal is to win a 1st overall.  I don’t think I will stop until that is achieved.

Here are some photos from the shows.  Most of the comparison and judging occurs during the day show called pre-judging.  The awards are given at night.  Thank you to stagetimephoto.com for the great photos!  If you want to follow any of the Michigan competitions go to http://michigannpcnews.com/.   If you need competition prep help or want to attend a posing workshop check out Elite Fit Center.   Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook as See Mom Lift.

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This line-up is Open Class B (all ages and levels). I placed 3rd in this class and qualified for nationals. 

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Open Class B back pose.  I placed 3rd in this class. 

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This is the Master’s Division (35 and up) and I placed 1st

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Master’s Division Back Pose at pre-judging.  I placed 1st. 

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This is from the second show in October. 

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This is the Master’s Division (35 and over) and it was a tough competition.  So many strong, beautiful and confident women on stage.  I made tons of new friends. 

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Master’s Division pre-judging.  I placed 2nd in this division.  

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Open class B.  I was absolutely thrilled to be in the top 5 with these young beautiful ladies.  I placed 5th in this class. 

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Top 5 from Open (all ages and levels) class B

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Master’s Top 5, I placed 2nd. 

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Open Class B top 5, I placed 5th. 

Diary of Figure Competitor – Great Blog

There are a lot of questions regarding what it takes to be a figure or bikini competitor. This blogger did a wonderful job summerizing the diary of a successful figure competitor. Jackie is a friend of mine and someone I strongly admire. She is hardworking, strong, dedicated to health and fitness and shares her passion with others by being an amazing personal trainer.

Check out this great blog post!

 

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http://www.mvpsportsclubs.com/blog/2016/03/15/diary-of-a-figure-competitor/

Bedtime Snack: Casein Protein Sludge

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  • 1 scoop of Chocolate Casein Protein (GNC)
  • 10 g powdered peanut butter (Costco)
  • ~1/2 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk (Grocery Store)
  • Sprinkle of stevia (optional)

Add all dry ingredients to a bowl and then slowly add milk while stirring.  You can get it to your desired consistency.  Less milk =more like cookie dough, more milk = chocolate pudding.

Why Casein at night? I am currently on a low calorie diet and trying to cut fat while maintaining my muscle mass. Casein protein is known to be a slow release type of protein and it should be taken before bedtime to avoid catabolic state during the night.

Breakdown: 185 cals, 7g carbs, 4g fat, 29g protein
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