Women, their husbands, boyfriends and their coaches constantly ask me during events and contests about how they can excel on stage. I always answer first that since the judges and promoters at local levels are always different, the main focus needs to be on working hard on stage presence while keeping it fun.
There does not seem to be as much information for Fitness, Figure and Bikini contest criteria available at the local level as there is for Female Bodybuilding. In fact, there are many "grey" areas on what is expected of the women on stage.
Not only does the judging of the winning physiques seem to vary widely from show to show, many times different promoters are asking the contestants to do different things in a different way even within the same organizations.
I myself have experienced many promoters making up their own formats entirely. A good example is Steve McAdams and Monica Brant's Body Rock in Fairfax, VA at: Bodyrock.com. I have hosted this show along with Monica and Bob Cicherillo compliments of Bodybuilding.com for 3 years and I must say it is one of the most beautifully produced shows I have ever seen.
They have their own format for the figure portion and it is spectacular as well as fun for the audience to watch. This shows me there is nothing wrong in creating something new if you can keep your perspective. On the other hand, one of my favorite promoters, Jon Lindsay at: www.musclecontest.com can be counted on to always go by the book.
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Jon Lindsay - Bodybuilding's Backstage Ambassador with two of the industry's hottest commodities, Sherri and Brenda.
Here in LA Jon has textbook NPC judging and keeps it simple, straightforward and clear. There is something comforting to athletes when things can be predicable like this. Jon is also personally always available for his athletes. He invites them to call or E-mail him directly with any concerns or questions and is a tremendous help.
I have found most promoters feel this way so do not be nervous about contacting them and asking questions about what is expected of you. They are happy to have you participating and will do everything they can to put you at ease and help.
Just so you know, once an athlete gets past the local level into the National contest circuit there are usually very clear cut and defined rules and regulations to follow.
The stage criteria for the many different organizations may have anyone a bit confused and flustered. As if the stress and sacrifice of training, dieting, hair and make up choices while finding the right suit(s) isn't enough!
So what is best to do?
First of all, try to see if your hometown has choices of different types of contests to choose from for your body type. It would be best if you can work on the one that most suits your physique. If you have no choice, then just go with whatever is offered closest to you that fits into your schedule.
If you find you really want to pursue moving forward on improving on your stage presence, you must first just get on stage as much as possible no matter what the organization or category. Research this by going to your local gym and asking or get a fitness publication and look in the back. Many have the contest schedules listed for the year.
Here are 4 different types of physique contests for women athletes:
If you enjoy lifting weights and have a muscular physique Women's Bodybuilding would be a good choice. Women's Bodybuilding has many web sites and books dedicated to showing the mandatory poses.
There are some slight differences in the Men's Bodybuilding mandatory poses so make sure you research the Women's Bodybuilding if this is what you will be doing.
Get a coach to show you the mandatory poses. No high heels required. You will apply a self-tanning product and oil before your contest. You will have a pre-judging in the morning and perform mandatory poses in a plain black two-piece suit alone. You will line up with the other competitors and the judges will call out side-by-side comparisons.
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Iris Kyle (1st), Dayana Cadeau (2nd), Yaxeni Oriquen (3rd).
You will have a routine to music and a two-piece suit that can have decorations on it for the awards show in the evening. Get a choreographer for your routine if necessary. You will also need music on a CD in the correct length with an ending. Sometimes there are two lengths of music. One for the morning pre-judge and one longer one for the awards show in the evening. Ask.
Judging is on muscularity, definition, symmetry and leanness. Women's Bodybuilding requires fewer than 10 percent body fat.
If you are athletic, have some talent in gymnastics or dance and like to also lift weights, Fitness contests requiring a routine or a type of obstacle course would be a good choice. There are more training hours required since there would be separate training for the physical round as well as a physique round.
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2006 Arnold Classic Fitness:
Adela Garcia (1st), Kim Klein (2nd), Jenny Hendershott (3rd).
Some contests have just one physique round with a two-piece swimsuit; others have both a one piece and a two-piece swimsuit round. High heels are required during the swimsuit rounds. You will apply a self-tanning product before your contest. You will walk in your high heels and do model turns or quarter turns alone.
Get a coach to show you the quarter turns as well as a modeling walk. You will line up with the other contestants and the judges may call for side-by-side comparisons.
You will also have a routine outfit, a choreographed routine to music, or workout apparel for any type of obstacle course. Get a coach to help choreograph your routine if needed. You will also need music at the proper length on CD with an ending.
Judging is on showmanship, athletic ability and ease of execution for the routine and stopwatch time on the obstacle course for the physical round. You will have a pre-judge in the morning and an awards show in the evening.
You may have to do your routine for both morning and evening shows with swimsuit rounds for both. I was a Fitness Pro and it is a quick change for hair and make-up from the routine round into the swimsuit round. It really pays to plan ahead!
The physique round is judged for lightly muscled tone, complexion, symmetry and overall stage presentation. Fitness physiques require about 10-12 percent body fat.
If a routine isn't for you and you have the desire to lift weights and prepare for a toned and slightly muscular shape, Figure is perfect for you. You will wear a one-piece and two-piece swimsuit with high heels. You will apply a self-tanning product before your contest.
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2006 Arnold Classic Figure:
Mary Elizabeth Lado (1st), Monica Brant (2nd), Amanda Savell (3rd).
You will walk in your high heels and do model turns or quarter turns alone. Get a coach to show you the quarter turns and modeling walk. You will line up with the other contestants and the judges may call out for side-by-side comparisons. There is a pre-judge in the morning and an awards show in the evening.
Judging is on lightly muscled body tone, complexion, symmetry and overall stage presentation. Figure physiques require 10-12 percent body fat.
Bikini/swimsuit contests have a less muscular physique. You will wear a two-piece swimsuit and high heels. You will apply a self-tanning product before your contest. You will walk in your high heels and do model turns alone. Get a coach to show you the modeling walk and turns.
You will line up with the other competitors and the judges will ask for side-by-side comparisons. Sometimes there is a pre-judge in the morning. There are contests that also add a sportswear modeling round as well. Sometimes you will be asked a question to answer for the judging on stage.
Judging is on tone, complexion, attitude and stage presence. Body fat for Bikini/swimsuit contests can be 12-15 percent.
For outstanding stage presence, the key is to let us see how your personality can come through so you can stand out. The last thing you want to portray is a cookie cutter of everyone else so no one can tell you apart from the rest. I have competed in and seen shows with well over a hundred contestants!
It is easy to get overlooked if you are too stiff, shy or nervous. You are not a robot. Make the judges remember you by your confidence and polish. To look like a champion, you must loosen up so you look natural - even if doesn't feel natural. To tell you the truth, many positions and poses feel anything but natural however, you must be able to act like it is easier than it feels. This will take practice. Make sure you do!
If you need high heels, you must look comfortable in them—not like they are foreign for you to stand and walk in. Heels are 4-5 inches with no more than a one-inch platform in the front. Practice!
I hope you have more of an idea on what to expect as this will help calm some of your stage jitters so you can present yourself by letting your unique personality shine through. You are a beautiful, fit role model for many people who have seen your dedication and transformation from the gym to the stage. Stand and walk proud and if you are having fun up there, it will show. We are watching you!
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."