Natural Bodybuilding: I can do that! (Or can I?)
So you want to compete in a Natural Bodybuilding Show. But do you have any idea what that involves? It means not going out with your friends for drinks at the local bar. Packing your meals in ‘Tupperware’ containers everywhere you go. Going to the gym 5 days a week. Eating every 2-3 hours. These are just a few of the sacrifices that you will have to make. If you feel that you can do this then read on.
First off, you will need to know how to ‘eat to compete,’ because the contest diet is crucial. If you don’t get your nutrition and eating habits right, you will not look your best come show time. I have seen many competitors go into their first show and get a wake up call. They realized too late that all is not well. There is no getting around it: you have to be ripped to compete at any competitive level. Many bodybuilders show up looking like they still need 4-6 more weeks of planned dieting to be ready. Don’t let this happen to you!
Okay, now what about the gym? Most people think this is the easy part. They think all they need to do is show up, pump out a few reps, and walk away. What a mistake! Even after reaching Pro status in natural bodybuilding, I am still improving on my training to this day. Maximize your gains and limit the risks of injury, get the proper guidance. Train to add size in the off-season, and ‘train to maintain’ during contest training. You build all the muscle you can during most of the year. Then during the contest diet, your workouts and eating strategy changes quite a bit because you need to maximize fat loss while holding on to the muscle you worked so hard for. It is a tricky balancing act to keep from even losing some muscle mass as well, during this time. So it is important to learn the proper techniques from someone who knows how to maintain that balance.
So now after the dieting and training let’s presume you are looking great. Now you will need to learn how to display your physique the best way possible. Pose to win! Have you ever been at a show and said to yourself, “If only he/she could pose their lats better.” Or “What kind of pose is that?” Posing is a crucial aspect of competing. If you don’t pose well you may not place well. This is no joke! I once stood on stage beside a guy whom I thought was a sure bet to beat me. He looked great while pumping up. When I won, I was shocked! On-stage, you don’t watch your competitors closely because you are too busy posing yourself. But looking back on the photos, it was clear he was a terrible poser. I may not be huge, but I do know how to display myself in the best light. It is how you look on stage.
I haven’t even touched on achieving the right contest colour. I will save that for another time.
I am a firm believer in making a game plan and following it out. I record everything I eat, all my workouts, how often I tan, etc. Without using a journal I would be lost come the next show. By the time the next one comes around, who remembers how they ate last show and what they did getting ready? In fact, I have all my journals for all my shows and you better believe I refer to them!
A final piece of advice. Don’t get so caught up in your weight or body fat percentage that you don’t look at the overall picture. Use the mirror when getting ready for the show. People always ask “what was your bodyfat percentage on the day of the show?” To tell you the truth I have no idea! How much you weigh or how low your body fat percentage reading is doesn’t mean anything if you don’t look ready for the stage. If you weigh 205 lbs and you aren’t looking ready, don’t get an ego and say “I can’t go below 200”. Get ripped, and then if you weigh 192 then so be it. 192 lbs in ‘show shape’ is better then 200 lbs in ‘could-of-should-of shape’. I can guarantee you one thing; I will always be ripped and ready with no excuses. Do your homework.
Being onstage showing everyone what you have accomplished is an awesome experience. Proving to yourself you can accomplish such a goal is a reward in itself. There will be challenging times during the contest prep phase, but when it is all said and done you will forget all about them and start working on what needs to be improved for next time. You can take pride in knowing you did this all Natural!
If you decide to compete, learn from experienced natural bodybuilders. Better yet, hire a qualified trainer of natural bodybuilders to get you ready. This will be an expense that will be invaluable in the long run. There’s nothing more valuable than time, and the little bit you spend on hiring a trainer is cheap compared to the wasted time and money of eating and training improperly. Why go through the trial and error for the next 2-4 contests until you figure it out? I am not saying you can’t do it on your own. Many can and do. But one thing is for sure you will learn what to do faster and more effectively with a qualified coach.