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November 15, 2021 4 min read

Some people want to take their fitness journey to the next level. Bodybuilding is one activity that requires intense dedication, persistence, and hard work to achieve a well-rounded muscular physique. If this appeals to you, read this guide on how to prepare for your first bodybuilding competition.

Hire a Coach

The first thing to keep in mind with any fitness competition, especially bodybuilding, is that it’s a sport. That means you need to hire a coach to work with you on your progress. Bodybuilding is an independent sport where only you put in the time, commitment, and perseverance to achieve the look you’re going for. While you can theoretically do this alone, don’t. Coaches understand the time and energy it takes to train your body for the hard work it requires. Remember, bodybuilding is focused on body proportions and composition. Unlike strength-based athletics, like powerlifting or strongman in which your strength is the main test, bodybuilding demands you change your body competition to a skin-tight level. That means losing as much body fat while retaining as much muscle mass as possible. Similarly, bodybuilding also requires posing practice. A coach will help guide you on proper posing techniques as well as keeping you focused and oriented on your goals.

Pick a Show

After you pick a coach to guide you through your hard work, pick a show to compete in. Since this is your first show, there are many different federations to consider. The National Physique Committee is the largest and most common bodybuilding federation in the United States. Perfect for amateurs, it sponsors many local and national competitions to choose from. Otherwise, there are many other local federations on a smaller scale, like the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA), World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), and the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB).

Keep in mind the IFBB is a professional federation that showcases the best bodybuilders and fitness competitors in the world. It’s not an ideal amateur federation, but many NPC competitors who win their pro cards transition to IFBB shows for greater competition and higher rewards and recognition. After selecting a federation and local show, consider which bodybuilding style you’ll compete in. For men, there’s physique, classic physique, and open bodybuilding. Each style has its own weight class, and each has its own requirements for muscle density and symmetry. For women, the styles include bikini, figure, physique, and bodybuilding. Like men’s bodybuilding, each style of women’s bodybuilding has its own physique-based requirements based around muscle density and symmetry.

Train

The next step is obvious: train. Given that the goal of bodybuilding is to be as lean as possible while retaining the most muscle definition, your training should include a mixture of cardio and strength-based exercises. Weigh training is the obvious solution as this will build your muscles, tone up your density, and improve your overall physique. Some people opt for one main muscle group per training session, whether that’s chest, back, legs, shoulders, or arms. Other people split their weeks into two or more muscle groups a day. Either way, your coach may create a training plan tailored to your genetics and physique goals. Cardio is also important. Your coach may recommend daily steady state cardio sessions for heart health and gradual weight loss, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for extra fat loss. Don’t skip cardio. It’s one of the essential facets to looking your best at showtime. Also, don’t forget to rest. Rest days are a crucial part of bodybuilding and recovery. As dedicated as you are to winning your first show, even the top bodybuilders across the globe understand when to relax and recover. Many bodybuilders use this time to get deep-tissue massages to heal faster before their next training session. Others use their time as an active rest day in which they’ll do yoga or light cardio to burn extra calories when closer to the show date. Again, check in with your coach on what they recommend.

Eat and Hydrate

Another necessity on how to prepare for your first bodybuilding competition is diet. Nutrition and hydration are two critical components to any healthy lifestyle but are especially crucial for fitness competitions. Arguably, more work happens in the kitchen than in the gym. High-quality foods ensure your body is energized and ready to tackle any workout you put it through. With that, there are three main food groups or macronutrients to consider: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Lean proteins, like chicken, turkey, fish, and egg whites, replenish muscles and help them grow. A high-protein diet is commonly advised for bodybuilders given their focus on muscle density. However, give your body the energy it needs for daily use with complex carbohydrates. This includes brown rice, sweet potato, whole-grain bread, oatmeal, and quinoa. Simple carbohydrates also help, like fruit and white rice, for rapid nutrient intake following an intense training session.

Of course, healthy fats play a crucial role, too. Nuts, avocado, olive oil, and nut butters are great healthy fat options that help your joints and satiate you when you start to cut out foods to reach your desired show weight. In addition to diet, many bodybuilders use supplements to keep their bodies fit and strong. These include protein powder, creatine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, multivitamins, and fish oil. While supplements aren’t required, they help provide essential vitamins and nutrients.

Stick With It

Finally, stick with it. A bodybuilding show is a serious commitment. Depending on your fitness level and personal goals, this can take three to four months of hardcore prep work. It’s okay to feel stressed out or overwhelmed at times. Every competitor goes through various mental stages throughout their journey. Your coach will guide you every step of the way to ensure you look and feel your best. Don’t forget to have fun with it. Some people do shows only once for the experience. Others do so until they can’t anymore. Whatever your personal motivation is to compete, use this time as your own personal competition against yourself.

With that, if you’re looking for high-quality weightlifting equipment for sale, check out our selection at Top Fitness Store. We sell various strength equipment for you to train towards your show. Whether it’s free weights, weight cages, or strength machines, we offer economical home gym solutions for every type of competitor.

How To Prepare for Your First Bodybuilding Competition