Estimated reading time: 10 mins
A quick look into my background as a competitive bodybuilding
I've been heavily involved in bodybuilding for 10 years. As a competitor, prep coach, posing coach and a judge on various federation panels. Over this time span, I've seen the same issues and mistakes while working with competitors leading up to their show and while observing them on stage (men and women in all divisions). I want to share some pointers with you so you can present the absolute best physique possible on stage.
First, understand what the judges are looking for
This will vary between federations and of course divisions but there is one key point that every judging panel wants in their champions:
Symmetry - the ever desirable 'X-shape'. The letter 'X' portrays – a big upper body, tiny waistline and thick legs. From the biggest of male bodybuilders to the most curvaceous and petite female bikini competitors, this particular shape is a priority on stage.
Stage presence is a performance and the poses are an art of twisting and contorting the physique to force perfection and a ridiculously small waistline to create curves and shape. While you might have amazing big quads or enormous coconut boulder shoulders, if the rest of you doesn't match those awesome assets and show good proportions, it doesn't matter.
Good posing will hide your flaws and create beautiful shapes and symmetry from all angles.
The ‘X shape’ and a body with evenly distributed muscle mass is ultimately what the judges are looking for. Combine this with good posing and stage presence will put you in a good position to achieve on stage.
Do your research on your chosen federation
You need to be crystal clear on what your chosen federations requires in their poses and stage presence. Every federation is different so it’s important you know the standards, the stage layout and what happens over the course of the day eg: how many rounds you do. I highly recommended attending a show to see what it’s all about and see if this particular federation is right for you.
Prep your body from day one
One of the biggest mistake competitors make is neglecting their body. A lot of bodybuilders (or people in general) just train to get a pump or sweat. Form goes out the window and I can tell you this as a fact because I’ve worked and trained in gyms for over 10 years and have observed this in the majority of people.
To perform well and grow, you need good mobility
Good mobility means your body can function well with a full range of motion without pain or restrictions. Most people have mobility issues, totally normal. However, it’s imperative you take action and work on improving your mobility to a) avoid injury and b) achieve a better range of motion for better performance.
The better your range of motion, the better you can execute the exercise, the more weight you can shift or pump out reps, the more muscle you can build!
I'll give you a classic example: If you have internally rotated shoulders, your range of motion in A LOT of exercises will be limited (lat pulldown, shoulder press, pushups, pullups... plus many more).
The execution of the exercise will be poor because the correct muscle groups are physically unable to engage due to restrictions. You are missing out on all the major benefits these exercises can give you.
Most people I know have poor shoulder mobility due to their everyday lives (working at a desk, driving long hours, looking at their phone 24/7). Every human on the planet needs to work on mobility to keep injury free but it's super important for bodybuilders to achieve their best potential building muscle.
Spending some time working on improving your mobility, range of motion and flexibility will play a major role in helping you to perfect your posing routine and technique.
If your flexibility is poor, your posing will outright suck
This is brutally true. It doesn't matter how jacked you are, if you can’t pose to show your muscles, you're in trouble.
Stage poses for men and women in any division all require good flexibility, range of motion, body awareness and the ability to activate muscles on demand. This requires a diligent focus on mobility and mind-muscle connection during training. This means thorough warm up and cool downs, finding where you can improve your mobility and then working on it with specific drills or treatment (physiotherapist/chiropractor/remedial massage) to address the issue and provide treatment (deep tissue massage, dry needling etc.)
To further assist in optimal mobility, incorporate Bulk Nutrients Joint Complex Powder to assist in recovery and to build and maintain healthy joints.
List of the most common issues I see amongst competitors
Inability to activate glutes and hamstrings
Required in back poses to show glute and hamstring development. You can’t just “stand there” and hope they show. You need to activate both muscle groups so they engage and “pop”.
Internally rotated shoulders and overactive traps
You need to be able to externally rotate the shoulders to make them appear big and round, flare the lats and create fullness in the upper body to taper into a small waistline.
These muscles are required in every single pose
The following is a list of muscles that you use in every pose and the most common issue associated with that muscle group.
Limited mobility in the shoulders will display poor posture giving a “hunched” look projecting lack of confidence on stage.
It will also make your traps look over dominant and give the illusion of a long neck (throwing off symmetry) from the front and a rounded back in the back pose.
Poor thoracic rotation
The ability to twist the midsection is needed for all side poses to create the small waistline and make the obliques pop. When you can twist your torso, you will create a beautiful X-shape that many competitors cannot achieve purely to lack of flexibility.
Lack of thoracic extension
Good thoracic extension will allow you to lift your chest creating beautiful posture and confidence on stage. Lifting the chest is needed in every pose.
This also allows you to flare the lats and open the chest and shoulders creating a big upper body to make the waistline appear smaller.
Lack of mobility through the spine
Needed in all poses to tilt the hips (forced anterior pelvic tilt), create a beautiful shape with a small waistline (X) and the illusion of bigger glutes.
These are the common issue that most competitors have and need to address in the early days. I’ve helped people improve their posing, simply by incorporating mobility exercises into their programming.
Not only does it improve their posing and chances of doing well on stage, it improves their performance and reduces pain.
How to fix these issues
Stretch, mobilise and incorporate activation drills into your training. Not only will your posing improve, but your training will also take a step up due to enhancing your movement patterns.
Also, pay attention to what your muscles feel like when you train. Mind muscle connection is required in posing as you won’t have a mirror in front of you to gauge your positions, you need to rely on feel so get that brain firing when you train.
Identifying and addressing these common issues early is the best way to help improve your posing and performance in the gym.
Try our Bulk Nutrients ZMA supplement to assist in muscle recovery. The better you recover, the less chance of injury and better your ability to grow.
Lastly – practise, practise, practice!
I want to shout this from a mountain! Start posing no later than three months out and practise every single day.
You want to stand out on stage? Then perfect your posing. I can’t tell you how many people leave this last minute and panic when they discover it's harder than they expected. Beautiful posing (both male and female) is mesmerising and when done right, the judges cannot take their eyes off you. This can be you if you put the time in.
Here are a few ways you can squeeze practise into your week:
Set aside one long 20-30min session a week to practise your quarters, walking, long holds, transitions, stage entrances, multiple rounds etc. Schedule this in your calendar like an appointment and commit to it.
5 mins in the shower every night – practise one pose and focus on what you feel
2 mins in front of the mirror before you shower
30 seconds in between sets in front of the mirror at the gym
5 min short session in front of the mirror every day at the gym after your session
What you need to practise
Every individual pose
Transitions into each pose
Stage entrance (T-walk, Spotlight walk etc)
Static holds to build the ability to hold your poses for minutes at a time (this will be very hard at first but you will improve)
Add your own flare. Stick to the posing guidelines and the classic poses but add your personal touch so you showcase your unique self on stage
Practise facial expressions, smiling and where you look
Posing in different outfits: theme wear, bikini, trunks, one-piece, gown, sportswear etc
What to do with your hair during. Do you sweep it off your back to show a back pose or flick it over your shoulder as you turn? You need to know these minor details.
Be familiar with the stage layout so you know what to expect on the day.
Preparation is key
You can see there is far more involved than just showing up. Put the time, love and effort into your posing and you’ll blow the judges away on stage. I can tell you from my experience as a judge when someone walks out with grace, a smile and like they know what they’re doing, you cannot take your eyes off them. It’s beautiful. It’s an art.
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About the author
Tammie is a WBFF Pro, Sports Nutritionist and Coach who always delivers 110% - so she was a natural fit in our fam. Tammie’s love for everything health and fitness also show in her coaching. Over the last decade, she has coached countless women worldwide, helping them to move better, feel stronger, unlock their inner potential, and create confidence they didn’t know they had. Tammie is also a fully qualified Sports Nutritionist adding to her already extensive repertoire of coaching skills and services. Go check her out and give her a follow to see what she gets up to.
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Tammie's website: tammiesarkozy.com.au