It’s your first time competing or your relatively new to the fitness competition game. It can be difficult to figure out where to start and even more difficult to find all of the information you need. We feel you, we were there once too!
In addition to hard work, dedication, and discipline there is also a fair amount of strategy. The strategy will vary a bit based on your goals but at the end of the day, everyone wants to be their best, beat the competition, and have a fantastic time.
We often hear about new NPC competitors looking for the easy show, these are usually small shows with not a lot of production. It seems intuitive that a small show means fewer competitors and a better chance that you come home with a medal. But the reality is that when you understand the show structure, it doesn’t always pan out. Plus, you may find there is a reason the show is small; it lacks the experience.
Masters & Novice Classes
The myth that a trophy will be easier won, doesn’t always pan out because smaller shows also have fewer classes. Many of these small shows will have just two bodybuilding classes where the classes are Lightweight (below 177) and heavyweight (177 pounds and up). Can you imagine that you’ve dieted and sacrificed for 12 weeks to find out you are going to be competing with a guy who weighs 75 pounds more than you!
The same can happen with women’s classes, for example, if there are just two figure classes, this can put a competitor who is 5’ 4” against a competitor who is 5’10’!
Smaller shows may also be missing an array of True Novice, Novice, and Masters Classes. If you are 50 years old, do you want to compete with a 35-year-old?
If you are a first time NPC competitor, you may want to compete in True Novice, the division for those who have never competed. This is a great way to start. It helps reduce the anxiety of facing a seasoned athlete who is a show or two away from turning pro.
A very common occurrence is that a show will have very large masters and novice classes because they do not have height classes within these classes. You may sign up for Masters Bikini 35+ and find out there is one height class and 20 other women who had the same idea that you had.
If you are new to competing or a seasoned veteran, the organization of the event can mean the difference between a great weekend and a horrible one. In fact, the stress that a poorly organized event can inflict will translate into a cortisol spike and water retention transforming your hard-earned cuts into a smooth and watery presentation.
Start by reviewing the promoter’s website, the organization of a promoter’s website will tell you a lot about the organization of the show. Consider these website questions:
- Is it clean and easy to follow?
- Is it mobile friendly?
- Does it specify locations, a schedule, and order of classes?
- Can all of your services like tanning, make-up, and photos be booked from one location?
- Do you see images and video of the show?
- Are the results from the previous year posted and easy to find?
Also review the promoter’s social media. It should be updated regularly and include important details and information. It should also include tips, advice, entertainment, humor, and athlete features.
All of these considerations will translate to how prepared the promoter will be on the day of the show. You can expect that if these items are not articulated on the website and social, then the promoter hasn’t planned them. This will translate to a weekend of confusion and frustration. You’ve worked so hard; the promoter should work as hard as you!
All NPC shows will have a great head judge. These will be national-level judges who are interested in the quality of the show and consistent judging. But what will the rest of the panel look like? Great shows will bring in top tier judges that often cannot be sourced locally. Local judges will often not participate in national shows or even leave the region. They may not be familiar with the judging trends on the national level while you and your coach probably are. In non-NPC federations, it is not uncommon to see that some of the local judges are also local coaches creating a conflict of interest.
After the show you should always seek feedback from the judges. Again, if a judge is not actively participating in the bodybuilding scene or may not be qualified to judge a national level event, this is not the judge you want giving you feedback. You want feedback from the judges who are setting the standard. These again will be national level, IFBB Pro level, or judges who are IFBB Pros.
Most NPC contests will have 40 – 60 classes. As mentioned earlier, if masters and novice classes don’t have height classes, they may be very crowded. In other divisions, you may also find you will stand all alone on stage. Did you really work that hard to have no competition? When you are the only person in your class, the judge will still walk you through the mandatories poses… alone. It feels a bit silly, pretending you have some competition as you are being turned on the stage all by yourself. But hey, you can get on Instagram and tell everyone you got a first-place which is cool until they realize you had no competition. #participationtrophy
An athlete earns a National Qualification when they place in the top 2 of an open class. This allows them to compete for pro status at a national level event. At a typical NPC competition, about 64 National Qualifications will be awarded. This means that nearly everyone in a small show will receive a national qualification. At a small show, these qualifications were awarded by default, not based on the athlete’s readiness to turn pro. The National stage is the best of the best. The reality of the National Stage is that the overall winner’s from small show will place 16th at a Pro Qualifier. They never had a chance or even understood what the competition would look like. If you feel like you are ready to chase that pro card, compete in a large show. If you can get an overall than you are ready! If not, give yourself the time to keep learning and building before you invest the time and thousands of dollars to compete at a Pro Qualifier.
It Should be Fun!
You’ve worked so hard, you’ve sacrificed, you spent a ton of money and now is the time for you to reap the rewards! Things that you should expect:
- Competitor gift bags
- Welcoming and friendly atmosphere
- Great communication and organization
- An incredible stage, sound, lights, and venue
- Live webstream
- An entertaining show with IFBB Pros and Fitness celebrities
- Incredible photography both of the stage and behind the scenes
- Great judging and judges with a supportive helpful attitude
- Lots of vendors
- An engaged, friendly, and passionate promoter and staff
- Tons of videos, photos, and posters featuring the athletes from the event
At center Podium we work hard to hit every bullet point. We also choose destinations that are incredible vacation spots like Lake Tahoe, fun cities with lots of shopping and restaurants like Long Beach, or places with fun activities like the Grand Sierra Resort and the Route 66 Casino. We believe should have a blast and so should your family and friends who came to support you.
Remember, you are the customer and should have a fantastic experience!
You can learn more about preparing for the stage by checking out our contest prep guide here: centerpodium.com/bodybuilding-program. Also, be sure to checkout our free guide to what to expect for the show here: centerpodium.com/showtime
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