The popularity of bodybuilding for both men and women is growing increasingly, meaning that there are several competitions where you can show off your progress and see how you compare with your peers.

But if you’ve never competed in one before, you can still prepare for one as long as you’ve been active in the gym.

Being able to win or place in a competition is having achieved a certain level of discipline in your physical and mental state of mind.

Once you have both, there are some easy steps to prepare for your stage debut.

Time for a reality check

You have to set realistic standards as you make your first steps in preparing for the upcoming competition.

That means you have to look honestly at your physique in the mirror and determine whether you have the body with the right mixture of genetics and a fast metabolism or if you might have more body fat than you would consider a champion would carry around on stage.

Some people can’t handle the truth, but one has to consider if they prefer discovering the truth themselves or from how a judge scores them on stage.

The best thing you can do is find a professional trainer who can help prepare you for a great debut on a competition stage – one with enough experience to know when someone is ready or needs more time.

It can take years to be ready for your first contest, so be prepared to learn from someone who wants to ensure you are ready.

It’s all about being on the right stage at the right time. Also, you have to earn pro status before entering a national championship show – so be realistic about where you are now and where your full potential can take you.

Develop a plan

A trainer will help you develop the correct outline to get you ready for a practical bodybuilding completion, regardless of your experience level and current fitness.

The following is an example outline that can be altered based on age, experience, size, and current physique.

12 months away

  • Select the competition you want to train for.
  • Create an off-season training schedule and plan.
  • Eat well and with meals every three hours with a lot of protein.
  • Have about 20 to 30 minutes of cardio at least twice a week.
  • Track your progress in a journal.
  • Choose your music playlist based on your preferences.
  • Begin thinking about suits and how you will build a posing routine.

Six months away

  • Start working on the mandatory poses for the competition.
  • Update your workout routine and put extra focus on where you are struggling – don’t neglect other exercises, either.
  • Increase your cardio to 30 minutes every day.
  • Keep eating well with at least one gram of program for every pound you weigh. That includes regularly eating all week, with only a little bit of cheating on Sundays.

12 to 18 weeks away

  • Your strict diet to prepare for the competition begins now.
  • This is where an experienced trainer, judge, or former competitor can help give you a detailed breakdown of your physique and poses.
  • Remain focused on mastering the poses that are mandatory for your stage routine and holding each pose for 10 seconds – this is best to do after a workout.
  • Have pictures taken doing each of those mandatory poses?
  • Start placing your orders for posing suits. Order two sizes smaller than usual for the day of the contest.

NOTE: It’s better to begin working on those poses sooner rather than later. It would be best if you started working on these at least three days a week and then more often as you draw closer to the day of the show.

Some experts recommend holding these poses for up to 15 seconds each time and then ensuring they are cemented in your memory.

Eight weeks away

  • Complete the registration and hold onto your receipts for entry. There are several stories of paperwork being mixed up and costing someone a year’s worth of hard work and letting it go to waste.

Six weeks away

  • Make any necessary arrangements for the show – travel, hotel, rental car, etc.
  • If necessary, have your hairstyle, accessories, or make-up needed.
  • Get your tan – as long as it looks well and not over the top.
  • You’ll want to make sure you have the proper way of carrying the competition supplies you need – lotions, tanning products, and other accessories.

Three weeks away

  • Maintain your focus and do not let up on your diet and training in the gym.
  • Continue to practice at all costs on those mandatory poses.
  • Continue tanning.

Last week

  • Don’t stop practicing those poses, and do so in your costume for the stage.
  • Compile a complete checklist for everything you will need.
  • Are you still tanning? Good, keep it up.

Day of competition

  • Arrive at the venue early and check in.
  • Learn the schedule and get yourself prepared and focused.
  • Once you get out on stage, have fun. You’ve worked hard for this and deserve to enjoy that spotlight.

Learn from your mistakes, imperfections

Maybe you didn’t do as well in your first show as possible. But the adage still holds today – if you fail, try again.

Your first competition should be a great learning experience because you were able to share the stage with others and see what does work for today’s judges and what doesn’t.

If you were smart, you also spoke with some of the veterans on the circuit who provided you with a lot of beneficial information.

Maybe you got some compliments on your strong-looking arms and your smoother legs – which should be things you continue to build on and then improve what was not helping you at all.