The Beginners First Step in Bodybuilding
Choosing a Show
There are many factors that can impact your experience at a bodybuilding contest. The experience from one show to the next will vary drastically. You will want to seek out a show that will make you fall in love with bodybuilding!
The Nuts & Bolts
- Federation. There are many federations, however, the NPC is the largest amateur federation in the world and the only federation that allows you to become an IFBB Pro and compete at the Olympia. To put it simply, there are no well know athletes who compete outside of the NPC. We’ll discuss this more below.
- Timing. You should prep for a show for at least 12-18 weeks. This is assuming you are in decent shape and have achieved the muscular development required for your division. If you have significant body fat to lose or muscle to gain, you may need more time. Many athletes find that if they stay on diet after 12 weeks they can continue to improve for several months becoming more and more conditioned, gain lean mass, and better muscle shape. Read more about this HERE.
- National Qualifier. Not all NPC Shows are national qualifiers. If it is your goal to turn pro, it is very important that you chose a national qualifier because if it is not, you will not be able to move to the next level and compete for pro status.
Shows can vary drastically.
- Venue. Bodybuilding shows will take place anywhere from a $20 million dollar theater to an elementary school auditorium. Always go with shows that take place at a theater. Theaters will have superior lighting, sound, and backstage facilities. Many low-quality venues will not have room for pumping up, mirrors, or even bathrooms! Also, avoid shows that are in convention center ballrooms. These events use temporary stages and audio-visual equipment resulting in poor photos, video, and your appearance to the judges.
- Destination. You are more than likely taking the weekend off and traveling for a show so it may be worth it to travel a little further and make a mini-vacation out of your trip. See if the venue is in a nice neighborhood that offers good restaurants for your post-show meal. You may also want a nearby gym or shopping. Of course, the best options are fantastic destinations like Lake Tahoe or Long Beach, CA where you get a full-on vacation!
CTN CEO & Coach Marques Caudle discusses what he looks for in a show.
Learn how to become a pro and what to look for in a show.
- Price. The minimum a promoter is allowed to charge for registration at an NPC show is $100. But check the price of registration before you commit. There are shows where registration starts at $175 per class and can go MUCH higher with late fees.
- Proximity of Hotel to the Venue, Check-ins, and Tanning. The last thing you need want to do when you are depleted is get lost in a new city or get stuck in traffic. Choose a show where everything takes place at one location.
- Promotion. The quality of the promotion will directly reflect the quality of the production. You should also review the show’s website, social media, videos, graphics, and photos.
- Competitor Perks. What do you get for your registration fee? It should be a great venue, but also look for perks like athlete gift bags, an after-party, donuts, snacks, bottled water, or special promotions.
- Coaches Pass. Some shows allow your coach to purchase a pass to go backstage. Some prohibit coaches from going backstage.
- Livestream. There is nothing like watching the show in person, but if some of your friends or family can’t make it, they can still support you from afar. Plus, you can stream the show on your phone while you relax backstage to make sure you never miss your class.
- Social Media. Social media is one of the main forms of communication these days. Check your promoter’s social media. Is it up to date? Does it provide useful information and tips? Do they answer questions from followers? Do they have a good following?
- Customer Service. Send questions on the show’s social media or website contact page. Are they engaged, polite, and supportive? Did they even respond?
- Sponsors. Shows with lots of sponsors are more fun. You can visit with companies, get free samples, and learn about the latest fitness products. Plus, if a show doesn’t have many good sponsors, you can bet that the sponsors already know that it is not a great show.
- Size of the show. There are few consistencies from show to show. Some may be small with just 100 competitors, some may be large with over 300. In a small show, you will have an easier chance to win a medal, but does that medal feel earned if there were only 2 people in your class? Earning a national qualification at a small show has very little value at a pro qualifier. If an athlete has become nationally qualified at a small show, it is likely that they don’t have what it takes to win at a Pro Qualifier. Remember, at a pro qualifier, you will compete against overall winners from the largest shows in the country. Small shows can often be much less organized. They are small because they are new or may not have a great reputation. Review previous shows from the same promoter, look at photos and ask former competitors if they had a good experience. A rule of thumb: if a show has a lot of bodybuilders it is a good show. Why? The bodybuilding division takes the most time and experience, therefore these athletes will know the most about the shows and support the shows that they feel are the best run.
- Post Show Media. You are the star of the show and even if you don’t win, you will see yourself in countless videos, posts and promotions from the promoter. At a minimum, you should be able to see your photos in a the show’s photo gallery.
- We are proud to offer all of these attributes at Center Podium. You can view Center Podium Contest Dates HERE
- We recently wrote a detailed BLOG on the subject. Check it out HERE
NPC & IFBB Pro League
The first step in choosing a bodybuilding contest is choosing a federation. There are many bodybuilding federations. These are the organizations that determine the rules, standards, and judging practices for their sanctioned contests. Of all of the federations, Center Podium is associated with the National Physique Committee (NPC) and the IFBB Pro League.
The goal of most competitors is to one day achieve the title of “IFBB Pro” and compete at the Mr. Olympia contests and vie for the coveted title of Mr. or Ms. Olympia. The NPC is the only federation in the United States that is associated with the IFBB Pro League and the Mr. Olympia contests. Overseas, competitors may compete in the “NPC Worldwide” or an “IFBB Pro League” show to earn IFBB Pro Status. The NPC is the largest bodybuilding organization as such earning pro status is more highly regarded than pro status in other organizations.
National Physique Committee (NPC)
There are many federations, however, the NPC is the largest amateur federation in the world and the only federation that allows you to become an IFBB Pro and compete at the Olympia.
To become a pro, an athlete will need to place in the top 2 in an open class at a National Qualifier. All Center Podium NPC shows are national qualifiers. Once nationally qualified, the athlete can compete for pro status at a National event such as NPC Nationals. Awarding of Pro Status varies from show to show, so you will want to visit the show of choice to review its rules for awarding IFBB Pro status.
Alternatively, an athlete can compete for pro status at an NPC Worldwide event such as the NPC Worldwide International Russia Championship. Currently, no qualification is required and IFBB Pro Status will be awarded to the overall winner of each division.
The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion who is still president of the NPC and was appointed president of the IFBB Pro League by the Weiders, the founding family of the IFBB. Key management at the NPC is is Vice President, Tyler Manion, Chief Photographer of NPC News Online, J.M. Manion, and Robin Chang Director of NPC Worldwide.
IFBB Pro League
The IFBB Professional League is the professional league for bodybuilding athletes and the sanctioning body for the world’s largest professional contests such as the Mr. Olympia, Arnold Sports Fest, and Legion Sports Fest.
Prior to 2017, the IFBB Pro League and the IFBB International were associated. The IFBB International acted as the amateur federation for the IFBB Pro League for contests outside of the United States. In 2017 the organizations split and the IFBB Pro League and NPC Worldwide (they are the pro and amateur arms of the same organization) became the only international amateur federation associated with the Mr. Olympia contest. Additionally, the IFBB International can no longer award IFBB Pro status. As the names of the two federations are similar, it is important that you assure that you are competing in an NPC or IFBB Pro League event and not an IFBB International event.
Also note, that the IFBB International will ban athletes who compete outside of their organization. The IFBB Pro League and NPC welcome athletes from any organization.
Be cautious, as some overseas federations will claim an affiliation in an attempt to trick competitors to compete at their events. In this VIDEO, Center Podium owner, Chris Minnes and NPC News Online Chief photographer (and son of IFBB Pro League and NPC President, Jim Manion) explain in detail the differences between the federations. This video was produced due to a league in Russia intentionally causing confusion and claiming to be associated with the NPC.
Know Your Logos
IFBB Pro League Logo
(NPC USA Contests)
NPC Worldwide Logo
(NPC International Contests)
IFBB International Logo
NOT AFFILIATED or RECOMMENDED
How to become an IFBB Pro, earn your IFBB Pro Card, & Competing at the Olympia
As mentioned earlier, the only way to become an IFBB Pro and compete at the Mr. Olympia is to start competing as an amateur in the NPC or NPC Worldwide.
Compete in an NPC National Qualifier. Place Top 2 in an open class at a NPC National Qualifier to be qualified for any NPC National contest. All athletes that qualified in 2019 for a NPC National contest are eligible to compete in a NPC National Contest in 2020. Also, athletes that place 3rd, 4th or 5th place at the NPC USA or NPC Nationals are also qualified for one year. This qualifies the competitor for competition on the NPC national level for a period of one (1) full calendar year after the year that the qualification took place. Example: If a competitor enters an NPC contest in October 2021, they are qualified through December 31, 2022.
Just because you are qualified does not mean you are ready to compete for your pro card. If you got second, you probably are not ready. The athletes who will do well are the athletes who won an “OVERALL” at a big show. The overall winner is the athlete who beat all of the winners in all of the classes in their division. Our recommendation is don’t waste your time and money going for your pro card until you have won an overall at a big show. Again, if there were only 3 people in your class and you got 2nd place, you are not ready.
In the United States, you will need to compete at a Pro Qualifier. You must be an American Citizen or have a Green Card. IFBB Pro cards are awarded differently at each of the pro qualifiers. At some, it is top 2 overall winners, some it is top 2 per class who will turn pro. You can see the full breakdown of these events by visiting NPC News Online.
Once you earn your pro card, you are ready to compete at an IFBB Pro League contest where you can earn money, Olympia Qualifications, and points for the Olympia.
The NPC Worldwide Trick – You can compete at an NPC Worldwide Pro Qualifier overseas and earn a pro card without having to qualify first. Most NPC Worldwide Pro Qualifiers are open to everyone. At each of these events, the overall winner turns pro. You can learn more about the Center Podium NPC Worldwide competition in Moscow, Russia here. See the full NPC Worldwide schedule here.
You can get to the Olympia in two ways. The first way is to simply win an IFBB Pro League Olympia Qualifier. The second way is to accumulate points. Depending on your division, the Top 3 or Top 5 in points for the year will qualify for the Olympia. Note that some shows offer more points than others such as the Legion Sports Fest which is a Tier 3
You can see who has already qualified and who has the most points in the 2020 Olympia Qualification Series here.