How To Win Your Next Contest!

I've about as immersed in the bodybuilding culture as one can be. Find out how I turned numerous amateurs into pros using my methods...
A client excitedly asked me at Nancy Andrew's Northeast Classic, "Did you see that guy in the heavyweights? If he were about ten pounds harder, he would of won the whole thing!!" The funny thing is, there is always a handful of people that could be said about at every contest. Some go through an entire career never winning though they could be superstars. I've about as immersed in the bodybuilding culture as one can be.

My Background & Suggestions...

I've judged and promoted contests for almost a decade, I attend most of the WNBF pro shows and many top INBF shows, I've written for several bodybuilding magazines, and I've coached over a dozen clients to pro card wins and pro titles in the last two years alone. Not that I'm trying to impress you with my iron-game resume, but if you know you're not actualizing your potential to win, then take notes; its what I do best.

Your training has to be sound and you have to have a decent amount of muscle to begin with; that's a given. My intent here is to give you a precontest strategy to put you over the top. First, don't let body weight be a stumbling block. We bodybuilders don't seem to be any better at this than the general population. Everyone in the gym wants to have abs like the guy on the cover of the training magazine but, "Well... I don't want to get under 220... I'd look too skinny."

My friend, to see your abs you'd have to be 165. I have this conversation weekly with someone. My clients are often surprised by the same fact. Five of my first place and pro card winners at the Northeast classic last week really questioned and struggled with the fact that they were going to end up much lighter than they thought they would.

I know you know this, but it's hard to believe until you experience it: the leaner you are, the more impressive you look. Even a little softness makes you look smaller, not to mention completely unimpressive. Chose a target bodyweight that you know will leave you as lean as you can possibly be regardless of weight classes. Each week you'll look better than the previous week and it's easy to get caught up in thinking that you're closer than you really are.

Take pictures of yourself and compare your condition to pictures of the WNBF pro contest winners. If you're not that hard, you're not ready. You don't have to look just like them, obviously. Their size, symmetry, and density may take years for you to match, but you can be in the same condition as they are regardless of your level and that's what it will take to place higher and win contests.

WNBF Pro Dave Goodin.

The next step is critically important. You have to start early enough so you can diet slowly enough to spare muscle and reach your target. If you have to crash down you will lose muscle, period. The more aggressively you diet, the more muscle you'll lose. The branch-chain aminos, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, along with glutamine, are the amino acids most critical to muscle size, but they're the ones that get used most for energy if overall calories and carbohydrates are too low.

I've written extensively for NB&F on these topics and you can review those articles in previous issues or on my website ( I have two incredible examples of this, again, just from last weekend. Two clients in particular received a lot of attention because of how drastically they improved from the same show last year. They worked with me throughout the entire year and we kept within easy striking distance of contest weight. That afforded us two very important luxuries. The first was to diet slowly as described so that they had high energy for workouts and spent less time catabolizing muscle.

Perhaps the most important factor in their condition, however, was that we were actually increasing food for the last two to three weeks before the contest. Talk about a perfect scenario!! Being contest hard early and being able to gain fullness while you get even harder; compare that to someone who's depleted, stringy, and still not crisp because they were still crash dieting at the end.

Your appearance on stage is dominated by your condition, of course, but it's not the only consideration. My "Perfect Peaking" clients hire me to design and monitor their nutrition, but I often dole out tips on posing and suits as they start emailing me pictures. Ask any INBF or WNBF judge why you placed a little lower than you thought and they'll always bring up posing flaws in the same conversation as condition. I've seen so many people lose a close call to a competitor they should have beaten just because they can't show the judges how good they really look.

If you don't have mandatory posing down perfectly, you need the Chelo Publishing video, Posing to Win, with World Champions, Dave Goodin and Nancy Andrews. It's very easy to let posing be the one thing not given enough attention to by the time you include cardio, training, and your "real" life. But, it really can cost you placings or even titles. Even your posing suit can be a great detractor or enhancement to your symmetry.

A good strategy to make sure you don't miss an opportunity to be at your best ever, as you try to discover exactly what that is for you individually, is to do a couple back-to-back shows. You may even want to schedule two or three within a four to six week time frame so you have enough time to make significant adjustments. This will help you get harder if that's what you need to do and it will give you more posing practice under pressure. Along the way, you'll discover what it takes to get to a new standard for yourself if you document what you're doing to make those changes.

Last Suggestions...

The last suggestion I can give that will make you a champion is to get help. Just so this doesn't sound like a cheesy sales pitch, let me say that I'm not the only person in the world that prepares competitors for battle, but when the stakes are high, chose well. Having anyone to lend a qualified, objective eye will be a distinct advantage. I personally take every client's goals very seriously and consider it my job to make sure they couldn't be any better then when they walk on the stage. I don't just design a program; I monitor the progress weekly, and sometimes daily, to make adjustments when necessary.

Whoever you chose to help you prepare for a contest, make sure they take your goals as seriously as you do and are qualified to take you to that level. Two of my pro clients made a similar comment to me last week:

"You would be foolish to miss an opportunity to save years of mistakes and frustration by not working with someone who can help you realize your potential."

Winning takes great effort; there are a lot of people out there who want the same title you do. You have to want it more and you have to know how to win!

About The Author

Dr. Joe Klemczewski is a WNBF Pro and has graduate degrees in health and nutrition. From his office in Evansville, Indiana he works with clients all over the country, including top WNBF Pros, using his online consulting program. He can be reached at