This past weekend, I finally got the chance to meet with my trainer in person for a one on one session to train, assess my physique and practice posing for my first competition. As she is about a two hour drive away, we’ve mostly been working together remotely through emails, progress pictures and skype. Although this has been working well, I figured that it would only take me so far and that I would definitely benefit from having my coach assess my physique in person; taking pictures off my phone isn’t exactly clearest image of what I really look like. I can honestly say that I was right and also that posing is way harder than I ever could have imagined.
The first thing that my coach said to me was that I really do look great and that I am progressing very well, so that was great news to hear. She also mentioned that the two muscle groups that I need to work on the most are my shoulders and my calves, which was not what I expected. This whole time, I thought my abs and glutes would be the biggest challenge, but turns out that they’re both shaping up very nicely so I shouldn’t worry too much. With the Bikini division, it’s all about symmetry, balance and curve, so everything needs to be well proportioned to give the illusion of an “S curve” with the body; it doesn’t really matter how many inches your waist is or your chest or hips are, so long as everything is in good proportion with each other. The look of a Bikini competitor is meant to be healthy and fit without the mass, ultra-low body fat level and “cut look” of a Figure competitor.
Regardless of the division that an athlete chooses to compete in, posing is huge and it can make or break how well you place. It is really hard! But it’s also really fun too. The entire process is very detailed in terms of how you position yourself, how you transition between poses during the quarter turns and stage presence. My coach made it look effortless in her monster sized high heel, but then again she is a professional who’s been competing for many years. There are basic poses that everyone has to do based on league rules, but there is some leeway on how you can position yourself to make your body really stand out to show off your best attributes. It’s a lot of twisting the body and placing the feet a certain way to really bring out the natural curves. Depending on how you hold in and slightly flex certain muscles (i.e. abs and glutes) it can make the waist look slightly smaller and make any tiny trace of cellulite magically disappear. The shoulders need to be positioned in a certain way to make your arms look natural instead of stiff and the abs need to be pulled in the entire time, with the exception of back pose when you are facing away from the judges and can take a few regular breaths. With front pose one foot needs to be facing straight and the other needs to be slightly turned out, with one hip slightly off to the side, shoulders down, one hand on the hip, and the upper body twisting forward a bit. With side pose, the body is also slightly twisted and the front foot needs to be perfectly in line with the arch of the foot and the heel of the front foot should be slightly off of the ground so you are more on your toes which makes your glutes stand out. As odd as this may sound, judges do not like seeing both legs during side pose so both legs need to be perfectly aligned so that you only see the outline of the front leg. For back pose, in the past you could lean super forward and arch your back making your butt look huge, but that’s not allowed anymore (at least not in the league that I’m competing in). Also judges hate when competitors squeeze their shoulder blades together or overly flex the back in the Bikini division because it looks forced and unnatural, so the ideal is one foot slightly turned out, one hand on the hip and everything flexed just a bit so that you don’t look soft anywhere. Yes, this is super detailed and intense, but this is what it means to compete in bodybuilding regardless of the division, and yes the judges do look at these tiny details and base your scoring on this.
Another big aspect of posing involves the way that you transition from one pose to the next. Everything needs to be fluid and the movement has to flow. Think of it like dancing or like yoga where you go from one move to the next; it not only looks better overall and far less stiff when one movement follows the next with a bit of rhythm to it, but it also feels better when moving that way. The timing of the movements also plays a role here as well since most leagues only allows for about 10 seconds for a Bikini competitor to complete their quarter turns and posing, meaning that it’s about 2 seconds per pose. If a competitor is rushing through it or feels like they are, it’ll show and there posing won’t be as great and they’ll be marked down. The way you walk also plays a role during the posing routine. According to my coach, judges hate to see a Bikini competitor walk away with their backs to the audience, because you can’t keep the glutes tight making everything look, how shall I put this? Jiggly. So the solution to this is to walk away sideways…yes that’s right. It sounds super odd, but it’s the truth. Now some other coaches and trainers will say that it looks really weird to do this, but that’s only if you don’t practice enough so that it actually looks natural. When my trainer showed me the sideway walk, it looked really good and worked well with the rest of the posing. Of course when I tried it, I looked a lot like a pigeon, but it was my first try so I figure that I’ll get better with time and practice. Finally there’s the smiling … so much smiling. A big toothy grin is what the judges want to see while you stand on stage. Many other competitors have said that the body part that hurts the most the day of the contest is the face, from all that smiling. After just a few minutes of posing, my face was really feeling it.
Keep in mind that athletes not only go through their posing routine individually, but that there are also comparison rounds as well where athletes are called up on stage and lined up to go through the poses once again. This can last up to an hour and then some, and what’s more is that anytime you are on stage, even if you are not posing or called up for the comparison, you still have to hold a front pose. So the abs need to be tight and pulled in, everything else slightly flexed with a big cheesy grin on your face. Posing is hard, after the first few minutes with my coach, I was already sweating and feeling tightness in my muscles, but that’s why it’s so important to start practicing early and often. So going forward, every day I will practice posing for 10 minutes just to get comfortable with the movements and follow that up with another 10 minutes of stretching to increase my flexibility and to help keep everything loose so that all the twisting doesn’t fell quite so intense.
This is a subjective sport where judges can mark you down or up based on almost anything from skin complexion, suit color, how you pose, the heels you wear, makeup, tan, hair style, muscle definition, body fat, etc.; it’s basically a beauty pageant for fitness people. With the Bikini division, there is still a misconception that you’re just some cutesy little woman shaking your goods on stage. Bikini athletes are just that, athletes. We’re not frolicking on stage like some sex-kitten or stripper, we are bodybuilders who hit the gym hard, lift heavy weights and knock out solid cardio sessions six days a week. The focus is to be healthy and fit where we eat to nourish ourselves, we don’t sneak in junk food or drink alcohol during prep. We get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and are in great shape to say the least. It’s discipline, dedication, challenging and it’s great, it’s fun. I love going to the gym, it’s really not a chore, it’s time for myself where I get to work towards my goal and get stronger. It’s a great stress reliever and helps clear the head during an intense day at the office.
I had the best time with my trainer. Posing was great and slightly painful, but she said that’s how you know it’s going well; when you finish up and your lower back hurts. I will definitely need a few more sessions with her before I’m ready, but I also feel like the 10 minute practice each day is helping and making each movement feel more natural. I am 21 weeks out from my first competition and the countdown is on!
Start It, Finish It