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

Six weeks down and six more to go!

So it’s official, I am six weeks out from my NPC Bikini competition.  This prep hasn’t exactly been as easy as some of the other ones. I switched trainers and my diet is much more restrictive with less flexibility.  I eat 5 to 6 meals per day depending on how early I wake up. For the first five weeks each meal consisted of 25 g of carbs, 25 g of protein and very low fat. Approved carbs are such things as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, plain rice cakes and brown rice. My protein sources are lean and I pretty much eat mostly chicken and egg whites. I eat green vegetables with almost every meal and my go to veggies are  broccoli or spinach.  When I’m craving chips or a snack I eat cut up bell peppers dipped in salsa. I eat  an insane amount of raw veggies when we are at parties or potlucks just to keep me satisfied. This has caused an uncomfortable amount of bloating and gas. My kids don’t even want to be in the same room as me after I eat. Last night on our walk home I looked six months pregnant and it was all gas. I’ve tried beano, Gas ex, digestive enzymes and probiotics. I can either go hungry because I’m out of food or eat some more veggies and deal with my pregnant belly.  Because I’m not supposed to snack between meals I have an abundant supply of chewing gum in my purse and drink an excessive amount of coffee. I need to replace every 8 ounces of coffee with an additional 8 ounces of water on top of the gallon I’m already drinking each day so I pee every 20 minutes. This makes traveling in a car with me difficult or even going to the grocery store. So not only am I bloated like I’m pregnant, I also pee constantly like a pregnant lady. I get hangry after about 7 PM and everyone in the house just stays away from me.  I’m either yelling or farting.

This past week has been extremely difficult because I am now carb cycling and I’m having a hard time keeping track of how many meals I get carbs in, etc.  My weight hasn’t really moved in two weeks and that is getting frustrating. I was consistently losing 2 pounds a week and this past two weeks I’ve lost only 1 pound.  Competition prep is really a mental mindfuck.  If you’re not strong mentally this is not the thing for you. Food becomes an obsession and skipping the workout is not an option.

Although everything I’m saying sounds kind of negative, the overall experience is pretty wonderful. You push yourself to extremes you never knew you could.   I also feel amazing physically. I don’t have any junk in my body besides the bloating and I wake up with tons of energy. My skin is great, my nails are growing, my hair is growing and I just feel amazing. Looking in the mirror and seeing a six pack after having three kids and being 35 feels pretty damn good too. My boys all know what a glute is and complement me on how big mine are getting.  This mamas got back!

So with all of that said, below are some of my progress photos and food pictures. I’m overall happy with the changes I’m seeing but would like to be a little bit leaner in the lower body.  Cardio absolutely sucks and I swear while I do it every single time.

So I raise my glass of BCAAs and cheers to another 6 weeks!

Today I decided to use the marker board in kitchen to track my carbs each day.  My weight loss plateau is pissing me off. 

My low carb lunch consisted of cold grilled chicken topped with spicy guac and fresh green beans from my garden. (This meal gave me gas) 

I am happy with the size decrease in my waist and thighs.  My face looks a bit thinner also.  I typically lose it from by cheeks first.  Oh, and my boobs.  They go bye, bye really quick. 

My son kept snapping photos after I was done posing.  This is me relaxed and real.  No sucking in, twisting, etc. 


I have to bring my own food everywhere I go so I always have a cooler packed and ready.  This was two chicken salads I made for a day volunteering at my son’s senior class retreat.  

I took my youngest out to breakfast for his 10th birthday.  He ordered some fluffy pancakes and I asked for a western omelet with egg whites and no cheese. I also asked that the make it without butter and had a side of plain oatmeal as my carb.  

My go to breakfast is egg white veggie scramble (because I cannot make omelets), plain rice cakes and some organic salsa.  

I make my egg white scramble in bulk so it lasts a few days.  One this day I switched things up by having steal cut oats instead of plain rice cakes.  Yeah, I know, crazy! 

My Second Competition was a Success!

Last weekend I competed in my second NPC Bikini Competition.  I went into it with much more confidence and determination.  I turned 35 since my first competition so I was excited to compete in the Master’s division (35 and up).  The goal I set for myself was to take first in Masters and top 3 in Open.  Well, I concurred that goal!  I placed 1st in Master’s and 3rd in Open.

Because I had competed before the fear of being on stage and being judged was completely gone.  At my first competition I spend a lot of time looking around and comparing myself to others.  I counted how many girls were in my height class and let their appearance bring my confidence down.  After the show I looked at the pictures and videos and realized that I had nothing to feel insecure about and that the only person on stage I should have been focused on was myself.  This show was completely different.  I didn’t even look at the line up or know how many girls I was competing against.  When my friends arrived and asked how many girls were in my class I simple said “I don’t know, I didn’t even look.  Who cares, I am going to go out there and rock the stage.”  I was competing against the girl I was last time around and no one else.

It has been a week since the competition and I kind of feel a little lost without that goal.  I didn’t go crazy with food after the competition but I can say that I have overindulged on red wine.  Tomorrow I am starting the 22 Minute Hard Corp challenge with my husband and a challenge group I am leading. The program is 8 weeks log, comes with a balanced nutrition plan and 22 minute workouts.   This will allow me to focus on my fitness and nutrition again without completely consuming my time and energy.  I will be blogging about this challenge so others can see what it is like.

Here are some photos from my competition:

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This is the top 4 in Master’s Division

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This is the Open line-up.  I placed third.

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