Tips to successfully prepare for a bikini fitness competition.
The journey to a bikini fitness competition is probably the toughest you'll ever experience, but it's also one of the most rewarding. I have put together a simple guide for preparing for a show based on my personal experience.
So, you have decided to enter a fitness bikini Show. Why not? You work out hard, eat well, and maintain a relatively lean physique. You have a strong work ethic, are determined to reach your goals, and love meeting new challenges. Well if that's the case definitely say go for it! Of course, that leaves you with much to be learned and accomplished.
Being able to prove that you've got the mental and physical ability to get in contest or ‘SHOW’ shape and stand on stage is enough to give you the self-confidence boost to go after any and all of your lifelong dreams, not to mention, you will be in the best shape EVER!
I first had these thoughts myself several years ago, I spent hours on the computer, researching information and various articles online, following PRO athletes on Social Media, which made it even more confusing and a bit daunting to be honest.
However I did decide to enter my first show in 2014 and 6 months later I entered my 2nd show and then that followed on all through to 2015 with 5 more shows and by the end of 2015 I had competed in 7 shows with the ambition to get my very own PRO Card and PRO status by 2016, which I am hoping to get at my next show this summer! Watch this space.
I love helping out new competitors. I have created an online coaching company for competitors and non-competitors. I recently built this NEW website for my clients & followers to keep in touch with everyone and pass on the latest research with my TEAM.
I have put together this BLOG as a guide and it’s based on what works for the majority of clients preparing for a Bikini Fitness Show. It includes almost everything you need to know from start to finish, Covering Diet, Training,Tanning, Hair & make-up and some help with Posing.
First thing -Choosing a show?
The first step in preparing for a show is to choose an organization / federation in which to compete. I would recommend attending local shows and research different federations online. Check out results and photos from the shows you are looking to enter to see what the desired look is, and decide which look you prefer and could achieve. Speak to some of the girls who competed too!
I personally recommend and have had great experiences with the following shows:-
For a bikini Fitness competitor you should allow yourself somewhere between 16-24 months of preparation (this can be less depending on the individual). This ensures enough time to take care of all the details, while also focusing on your training and diet, without added stress of being pressured to meet a deadline and wondering if you'll be ready on time. It’s always good to allow for hiccups such as illness or injury for example that can set you back.
It's a good idea to contact the show promoter to sort out any questions you may have at this point. If the show requires traveling, ensure you find a means to get there and make any necessary reservations, for hotels or transport, I recommend you use a professional tanning service the day before the show so please remember to arrive the day before the SHOW!
I am a SHOWTAN ambassador, I recommend them every time. They offer a professional, friendly service with a streak free Stage tan every time Visit: www.showtan.co.uk
16 - 12 Weeks out
At this stage, you should be following the first stages of preparation. They include hiring a professionals experienced coach to assist you and mapping out the first stages of your training and diet.
It is imperative to hiring an experienced coach / Personal Trainer that has prepped people before. Someone who is skilled in this area to support you worth every penny!
A Coach can put together a structured food plan and work out your macros based on height, weight, activity level and also how much weight you need to loose for the show to get the desired look.
One of the hardest parts of the prep is the diet side of things, knowing what and what not to eat, Portion sizes, Food timing and also how to prepare for peak week this area is usually a tricky area and will be different for each competitor also being accountable to a coach really helps you keep your focus.
At 12 weeks out you should be counting calories and starting to eliminate the junk foods from your diet. Eating 5-7 meals per day, each meal containing a protein, carbohydrate, and some fat, and drinking 3 Litres of water per day.
Limit cheat meals to one day on the weekend. Preparing your daily meals, buying and cooking food from scratch as much as possible, and weighing and measuring your portions.
Begin limiting simple sugars to what is found in fruits and complex carbohydrates - no sweets or milk chocolate. Replace any full-fat dairy products with low-fat or fat-free versions. Start increasing your fibre intake.
When it comes to carbohydrates, much is determined by your individual body type. Are you overly sensitive to carbohydrates and tend to store fat easily? You will probably want to keep this number equal with your protein intake. If you are thin-framed, have a fast metabolism, and have a hard time putting on fat or muscle, you can stand to add more carbs in your diet.
Consistency is the key in any successful nutrition program. If you aren't doing the same thing from day to day, how do you know if you are getting enough protein, too many carbs, or not enough water? Eliminate all but one variable (carbs), and use your weight and energy levels to determine if you need more or less calories.
A lot of new competitors hear the inaccurate information that to lean out, they need to increase their reps and decrease their weight to get more of a fat-burning effect. This will increase your heart rate, but it will also allow your body to give up much more of its hard-earned muscle. With the primary goals of contest prep being to lean out and to conserve muscle, you definitely do not want to go this route.
What you should do is continue on the same lifting routine that got you the physique you have right now. Whether it's a 4-day split in the 6-10 range, or an upper/lower split in the 8-12 range, you want to keep the weights as heavy as you can throughout your prep period. It will get difficult; your energy levels and strength both decrease dramatically on reduced calories and lower body fat levels.
Your weight workouts should focus on high intensity. You can make any type of workout a high-intensity one. There are many techniques in which to do this. You can reduce your rest periods between sets and begin super-setting exercises together.
You can throw in a few high-rep sets to really get your heart-rate up, but remember not to sacrifice weight in your other exercises and sets. Negatives, drop sets, and forced reps are other great ways to increase your training intensity. Your heart rate should be soaring, you should be sweating, and your muscles should definitely be burning and fatigued!
It's difficult to recommend a proper cardio regimen for anyone without knowing their training history, body type, and how much fat they need to lose for a show and what stage of prep they are at. In general, I recommend starting with x3 30-minute sessions per week and take it from there. If you are already doing more than that, do not increase your cardio at this point, just maintain where you are.
Always manipulate your diet first, and do it slowly and gradually, before increasing your cardio. I always recommend taking one day out of the week where you rest completely from all weight training, cardio, classes, and practice. Your body needs the rest and it's a nice perk to look forward to at the end of the week, helping rest and recharge you physically and mentally for next week's training and diet.
- Multi Vitamin/Mineral - First and foremost, this is a necessity. I even double the dose and take one each in the morning and evening during contest prep. While on reduced calories and strenuous exercise, you are depleting your body of its necessary vitamins and nutrients, so doubling up on this supplement is a great idea.
- Extra Vitamin C - This is also a necessity for me and all my clients in contest prep mode. The extra vitamin C is needed to help boost the immune system, which is severely weakened from all the rigors of contest prep.
Add to that the fact that most competitors diet through the winter months when colds are rampant, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Take 500 mg in the morning and 500 mg in the evening. Even though there is C in your multi-vitamin, it's not enough.
- Glutamine - While there are many debates as to whether or not supplementing with glutamine is effective in what it promises, I believe in its powers and always add this in pre-contest. Take 5-10 g daily, split into 2 doses. Pre or post-workout is a great time to take glutamine, and also right before bed.
- Glucosamine Complex - This is very important during contest prep. As you lean out, your joints, tendons, and ligaments become more susceptible to injury; there is less fat around the joint to cushion and protect it. In addition, the high volume of weight training and cardio puts a lot of stress on your joints. Adding in glucosamine helps rebuild the cartilage around your joints and prevent injuries.
- BCAA - Are made up of three essential amino, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are essential because the body is unable to make them out of other amino acids, meaning they must be ingested through food or supplements. They are important for muscle protein synthesis. They are metabolized differently than other amino acids, and can be oxidized in the muscles during exercise for energy and protect the body from muscle breakdown.
Water - Don't forget water! Get into that habit now of drinking 3-4 litres per day. It might take you a while to build up to that, but it is definitely a necessity. Water is so important for many bodily functions, and has the added bonus of keeping your skin clear and helping you feel full while dieting
Choosing a Bikini?
Also at this point, you need to begin researching Bikini designers and narrowing down some styles and colours you like, that also fit your budget! Contact 2-3 designers whose work you like, and let them know the date of your show and what category you'll be competing in.
Tell them what you need, and ask them to send you sample photos and fabric examples and colour options. Many designers are booked 3-4 months out, so reserving your spot by 2-3 months is very important to ensure you're getting the designer and the bikini/posing shorts that you want.
If you've never competed, you should begin learning and practicing your poses immediately. These differ as well, so research your show's organization to ensure you are meeting their exact requirements for quarter turns, T-walks, and routines.
You should begin practicing your poses 1-2 times per week, aiming to hold each pose for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. Observe yourself in a full-length mirror, and be sure to practice in the actual shoes you'll be wearing for the show!
Practicing on a hardwood floor, such as your gym's group exercise studio as most competition stages are hardwood. If possible, have someone take photos or a video of you posing so you can assess your poses and make appropriate changes.
8 - 4 Weeks Out
At the 8 weeks stage, you should be well on your way to honing that perfect physique. You shouldn't have more than 8 pounds of body fat to lose at this point.
If you have less, just stay on track and still keep your weekend cheat meal in. If you're right on track or a bit behind, you should definitely eliminate your cheat meals at this point.
You should be keeping your training heavy and intense, and hitting your diet ratios nearly to perfection every day. It should be getting easier and becoming more of a habit at this point.
Your diet should only be changing based on the quickness of your fat loss. If you started on time, you shouldn't be trying to lose more than about a pound per week.
If you are on track or find that you are ready early, add in a little more food every few days to prevent further weight loss. If you are behind schedule, drop your carbs a little lower for 2-3 days and have a higher day once or twice per week.
Remember to still stay consistent with everything.
Training & Cardio
Your training shouldn't be changing at all at this point. You may have lost a little strength and energy from lower calories and reduced body fat, but the changes should only be minor. Keep training hard and heavy as long as you can!
Cardio should be steady but slowly increasing in duration, only as needed! Do not increase your cardio for the sake of it. Only increase once you've plateaued for a week, dropped calories a bit, and you're still not losing body fat. Remember, if you increase too much too fast, you will risk overtraining and muscle loss. Cardio should be supplementary in your fat loss goals to diet and training, in that order.
In addition to the supplements I suggested earlier, many competitors benefit from adding in a fat burner between eight and four weeks out.
Why not add it sooner? You can, but the body will build up a tolerance to most fat-burners, rendering them ineffective without going above and beyond the recommended dosage.
In addition, you shouldn't need one prior to 8 weeks, as you are not yet holding an extremely low body fat level until after this point. In order to know exactly when to add in a fat-burner, listen to your body.
When you notice a severe drop in energy, moodiness, and hunger, it's probably time to add one in. I suggest taking a dose upon waking and in the early afternoon. Be careful not to take it too late in the day, or it can interfere with sleep.
You should also book your tan I recommend Show Tan www.showtan.co.uk they are fantastic and really friendly professional team that ensure the perfect streak free dark stage tan. They even offer touch ups and glazing on the day of the show to give you the finished look for stage.
Book your Make-Up and Hair with a Professional on the day! It is so stressful doing your own sometimes that it is worth the extra cost to relax and let someone else do this for you while you sit back and relax with your rice cakes!
The last 4 weeks
The final month of contest prep is the most gruelling and difficult. You are tired, underfed and usually pretty moody, and ready to be done with all this pre-contest stuff already! Biding your time and pressing on until the day of the show is probably the most difficult thing at this point, Motivation and energy levels can also drop, so it's important to do everything you can to stay on track with workouts and diet and push yourself to keep your training intensity high!
There is not much to do differently at this point, except coast on in to show day knowing that you've done everything in your power to come in at 100%. If you do this, you will not have any disappointments on show day!
- Post Pictures of your favourite competitors & inspirational quotes.
- Read bodybuilding & fitness magazines and look online for articles to inspire you
- Watch fitness/figure videos.
- Attend a local competition just before the show
- Visit motivating fitness web sites.
- Call your Partner, best friend or family member for support (a good support team is essential!).
- Treat yourself to a day at the spa.
- Visualize how you want to look on show day.
- Pray for mental and physical strength.
- Schedule a photo shoot (seeing your photos can give you a true view of how good you really look!).
Time your complex carb meals and supplements to give you the ultimate energy right when you need it - pre-workout. You may be up to two training sessions per day at this point, which is very common.
To fuel your workouts, avoid muscle-wasting, and recovery quickly. Make sure you are ingesting complex carbohydrates at breakfast and pre-workout. If you have extra carbs to add in, do so post-workout.
These are your three most important meals and should be structured first in your meal planning. Your other 3-5 meals should be "filler" meals, where you are getting a variety of lean proteins and fibrous vegetables to give yourself a varying array of amino acid profiles, vitamins and minerals
Make A Packing/Shopping List
You should make your packing list now, so that you can purchase any items you are short on or forgot you needed. This will save you the stress of arriving without the necessary items and conveniences, and having to run around to get them or do without them.
- Jewellery (earrings & bracelet)
- Stage makeup/applicators & cosmetic bag
- Hair styling items & products
- Large cool bag for 2 days of food
- Small cool bag to take on show day
- Safety pins, scissors, crazy glue (for bikini mishaps)
- Hooded, zippered front, drawstring waist, loose-fitting tracksuit
- Flip-flops to wear on show day
- Small rolling suitcase to bring to the show
Choose Your Hair & Make-Up
Decide how you want to do your hair for both rounds of prejudging and finals. Do a little research and try out your hairstyles 1-2 times before the day of the show to avoid complications.
Clean and relatively simple hairstyles are always the best option. Whether you are curly or straight-haired, make sure your hair is shiny, healthy and smooth (frizz-free) to present your best package to the judges. I also suggest a colouring touch-up and/or deep conditioning 2-3 weeks out.
Choose make-up that flatters your palette (warm or cool) and coordinates with your suits. This doesn't mean it has to match your bikini colour, just compliment it. Buy your make-up no later than 2 weeks out, and practice several different application techniques and colours to find the best match for your skin tone, remember that you will be 3-4 shades darker than normal!
Do a mock competition run-through
They say that practice makes perfect, and this is preached so often for good reason - it's true, especially when it comes to bikini fitness competitions. If you lack the experience of some of the seasoned competitors, you can make up for it by doing a mock competition run-through.
Do this run-through 2-3 weeks out so that you can change anything needed before the final week, when you'll be too busy. Get honest feedback from your "judges" and have them take pictures so you can review your posing and presentation as well.
The Final Week
Your last week of contest prep will be unlike any other. During this week you will manipulate your diet for maximum muscle fullness and minimal water retention.
You will cut back on training so your body can recover for the demands of the competition day. And you will tie up any loose ends with buying and packing items needed and finalizing travel and hotel arrangements.
Many people try extreme methods of peaking for a contest, often leaving them looking worse than they did before they started peak week!
Severe carb depletion early in the week, carb loading and water cutting 2-3 days before the show, and little to no sodium with potassium loading are common peak week mishaps.
What you need to realize is that your goal for peak week is to come in full and hard with no water under the skin. You do, however, want the water in your muscles so you don't appear flat and soft.
I tell competitors is to not try anything extreme. A 2-3 day carb depletion with a moderate increase the day before or of the competition, coupled with moderately-low sodium intake and high water intake, will result in the hardness and fullness they are going for.
The day of the show
Wake up early enough so that you can fix your make-up & hair if you are doing your own!! pack your show day bag and food, and arrive 30 minutes before the competitor meeting is set to begin. There is nothing wrong with being early, and this alleviates a lot of stress.
Arrive at the show ready to step on stage, other than a few minor touch ups with hair and makeup, since you never know what will be available once you arrive at the venue.
You don't have to wear your bikini, but have it readily available at check-in. Pay attention at the athletes meeting so you know what time you have to be on stage.
Treat everyone and everything with kindness and respect - this will help make your day a positive experience.
Eating and drinking on show day aren't going to suddenly make you fat after 12 weeks of dieting, and your body needs the food and water for energy and a strong performance.
Finally, I want to leave you with some personal pointers I've come to learn after 2 years of competing. I hope you have an enjoyable experience and find the journey to competition as rewarding as I have. Good luck!
- Be 100% prepared
- Be friendly to the other competitors
- Have fun!
“The overall feeling of well-being is what drives me to stick to my training and dieting day after day, and competing in Fitness shows motivates me to push harder and out of my comfort zone”.
Jo is a busy working Mum, Personal Trainer & Fitness Model who runs her own Online Fitness Coaching Company called JoPro Fitness.
Jo is currently prepping 11 clients for various Shows this year such as Pure Elite, Glifting & UKUP as well as herself.
She also designs Nutrition and Training plans for Non-competitive clients.
NEW Website www.joprofitness.co.uk
Instagram: joprofitness_online coach
Facebook: jo Prosser / JoPro Fitness