Competition Articles

Inside Scoop – What the Judges Are Looking For This Season


© Mark BradfieldIf working out has become a huge part of your lifestyle, then making the next step and deciding to compete in a competitive Bikini show will be one of the most exciting moments in your life. The competitive Bikini division in the IFBB is a relatively new category that has emerged over the last few years and its popularity grows by leaps and bounds almost on a daily basis.  The opportunity for a fit female that holds considerably less muscle than their Physique or Figure counterparts entices many more women to step on stage in hopes of earning that coveted Pro Card and being part of the ranks among the biggest names in fitness.

The Bikini division is judged similarly to Bodybuilding.  When a female uses progressive resistance exercise to develop her musculature, then diets down using contest prep techniques, that individual is judged based on her symmetry, feminine muscularity, conditioning, posing, and stage presence.  I am personally happy to see the competition world embrace fitness aficionados of all shapes and sizes with the expansion of Bikini and Men’s Physique.  © Mark BradfieldUnfortunately, these new divisions are much more difficult to judge than traditional bodybuilding.  So if you feel that you’re ready to compete, you may be wondering if there is more that the judges are looking for than the presumed common knowledge associated with taking to the stage. I will do my best to dissect the judges’ decisions and help guide you toward success in the Bikini division.

Obviously, the most important thing to have before you even consider competing is THE BODY.  If you are a “workout maniac” and keep in decent condition, you might have what it takes to step up on stage.  I have always believed that if you want to do something well, you must look to the very best to get yourself started on the right foot.  When it comes to the competitive Bikini world, you don’t have to look further than IFBB Pros Nathalia Melo, Nicole Nagrani, India Paulino, and Canada’s own Leigh Brandt and Justine Munro.  These gorgeous ladies are at the top of the food chain and their physiques are the gold standard when it comes to Bikini, so every effort must be made to ensure your body is chiseled in the same manner – musculature balance, symmetry, and, when it comes to the day of your show, conditioning!  I suggest taking the time to build a foundation with your body.  Strategize an “off season” before even attempting to diet down – build your shoulders if they are lacking, bring up legs (both quads and hamstrings) if they are not balanced with your body, and don’t forget your calves – they play an important part too.  I’ve seen too many overly skinny women on stage that look like they’re starving- that is NOT competitive Bikini!

© Mark BradfieldLet’s say you’ve got your body ready.  Your contest prep strategy is set and you’re ready to execute it.  Is that all there is to competitive bikini contests?  Absolutely not!  I’ve also seen countless women bring wonderful physiques to the stage, but show absolutely no stage presence.  I always tell competitors “you need to look like you OWN THE STAGE” when you come out and show the judges what you’ve worked so hard at.  What good is a great body if you’re too shy to show it off?  Do your homework and spend as much time on your posing and your stage presence as you would your training and dieting.  Knowing the mandatory poses is paramount if you hope to go home from your show with a decent placing. I suggest hiring an experienced Posing Coach to work with you in learning the poses and sharing best practices based on their experience.  The slightest hint of insecurity on stage is so easy to see from a judge’s point of view.  Fidgety hands, walking with your chin down, not smiling enough, and not engaging the crowd are surefire ways to not get an early call out.  I’ll say it again – do your homework and own the stage.

So what else is there?  You’ve got the body, you’ve got the poise, and you’ve got the swag.  There are just a few other important things to make sure of when contest day arrives – the intangibles of the judges’ scorecard.

The Bikini:  Please ensure your bikini has some bling, but not too much.  Make sure it fits and is not too small or too big as a suit that fits awkwardly can often detract attention from a competitor’s physique.  I advise you to have your bikini made from an OPA, NPC, or IFBB experienced bikini designer to ensure it meets the rules.  This is a “Bikini” contest after all.  Your bikini is just as important as your body.

Hair and Make-up:  I don’t think I need to get into this too much with all of you gorgeous ladies that are cognizant of your appearance.  Your hair and make-up need to be presentable and glamorous as the judges are actually scoring the overall appearance of the competitor. Work with a seasoned hair stylist and a make-up artist who have numerous competition clients under their belts so you don’t over or under do it.

The Tan:  In the worst cases, I’ve seen Bikini competitors come out in the most hideous of colours -greenish, gold, and no tan. The purpose of tanning is to accentuate definition in the muscles that may disappear under the stage lights if not dark enough. You need to come out with a tan presentable for physique shows. Make sure your tan is dry too.  Some organizations have strict guidelines on approved tanning products so it will be important to check with the competition organizers or book your tan with the official tanner for the event. What good is a great body, with great stage presence, on a gorgeous female, with an extremely marketable aura…accompanied by tanning streaks that make the competitor look like they’re melting?

Nails:  Make sure your manicure and pedicure is intact.  I probably don’t have to say this but having “chippy” nails isn’t going to help you with your placing if the judges can see it.  Take care of everything from your head to your toes as even your nails will influence the judges’ overall impression of you as a competitor.

I hope this is helpful for all of you Bikini contest hopefuls and seasoned competitors looking to improve in your future placing.  In most cases, it’s not solely about your body when it comes to having your physique judged, so make sure you are bringing your best overall package to the stage.

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