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  • Writer's pictureTrae

So, you want to be a bikini competitor? Here’s what you need to know.

Updated: Feb 15

People are drawn to bodybuilding and fitness competitions for many reasons, like bikini competitions, and they're not always to win medals or earn a pro card. Whatever your reasons, there are a few things you need to know before you break into the world of bikini competitions and aesthetic fitness. There's even more preparation and investment for women and even fewer resources available online aside from the hundreds of picture-perfect bikini photos we see on our Instagram feeds. 

The truth is, there's much more to the aesthetic competition world than you might think. 

I competed in the NPC (National Physique Committee) Armed Forces National qualifier event this weekend in Alexandria, Virginia. It was my first show. I didn't have a posing coach or a bikini competition coach, and I had the added challenge of manipulating my musculature and body fat as a vegetarian. But it was amazing! Here are the ten most significant lessons I learned and how YOU can come into YOUR first show better prepared than I was. 

Lesson 1: Bikini Competition Is Expensive

Although I knew there were a lot of different expenses involved in preparing for a show, including bikini, hair, makeup, and more apparent expenses like gym memberships, nutrition costs, and supplements if you need them, I was not prepared for all of them. There are a ton of additional expenses that you may not think about until the week of your show. 

Some expenses are negotiable, but others are not. Because this was my first show, and I knew I'd be coming in unprepared, I paid extra for conveniences, like parking and staying at the hotel, which was also the event venue. Tanning, hair, and makeup are done on-site but will cost more if you use them at the venue on the event day. If you're thrifty, there are ways to cut costs. To break it down, here's a short list of what I had to spend:

  • NPC Competitor registration - $135

  • Contest registration - $160

  • Tanning - $135

  • Makeup - $150

  • Hair - $150**

  • Stage Bikini - $200-$450

  • Stage Heels ~ $50

  • Stage jewelry ~$50

  • Manicure and pedicure ~$145 + tip = $165

  • Hotel room for 2 nights ~$300

  • Hotel parking for 2 nights ~$60

  • Gas to drive to and from the event ~$80

  • Backstage robe ~$45

There are other expenses for some competitors, like childcare, supplements, meals for the weekend, and event tickets or streaming costs for anyone you want to support you. My event cost $20 to stream and $50/person to attend. I also spent $400 for a wig because I have very short hair, and a full head of extensions would have cost nearly $800. Because the judges don't want to see visible musculature in the upper back in my category, most competitors cover at least the upper back with long hair. I also purchased a backup bikini in case (for some reason) I didn't feel comfortable in my stage bikini or the judges said my chosen bikini was too small/out of regulation. That was another $200. I also used that bikini to practice since it wasn't covered in rhinestones.

If you want to go out and enjoy dinner and drinks after your event, budget for that, too!  

bikini contestant Of 2021 NPC Armed Forces Championship, Women's Bikini Open Class A Finals
Bikini Contestant of 2021 Npc Armed Forces Championship (5th Place)

Lesson 2: Most Competitors Are Super Supportive and Happy To Be Competing, Although It's Incredibly Challenging

This is my favorite takeaway from the show. Everyone was so kind, supportive of one another, and psyched to be on the stage. We all worked our butts off to be there, and athletes backstage are generally in good spirits, happy to chat with you, and happy to share their experiences and advice. Despite the long days, even the tanning, makeup, and registration staff at my event were friendly and happy to be in that environment. Athletes are generally pretty grounded and self-aware and want to be supported with kindness as they support and celebrate one another. 

That being said, competition prep requires a huge amount of mental strength and resiliency, which is part of the reason even coaches hire a competition coach. An online coach or personal trainer who can hold you accountable at your weakest is a huge asset. But you need to ensure you're at your strongest mentally and have a stable and balanced support system and work ethic while meeting your fitness goals. Weight training and cardio are some of the easiest parts of bikini competition training. Giving up your social life, feeling isolated, mentally and physically exhausted, and working to your absolute limits daily are other hurdles you'll need to face. Make sure your mental health and environment are stable, and you're ready to add some huge stressors to your plate.

Contest prep includes strict dieting, which can add more stress for the bikini athlete. Comp prep can take anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks, so a 12-week bikini competition diet, at a minimum, is probably necessary for a competitor in an amateur bikini competition.  

Lesson 3: Stage Day Bikini Competition Nutrition and Diet Matters For A Bikini Competitor

I researched this a lot leading up to my event, and I learned a lot about the importance of regulating macros and hydration during your "peak week" and bikini competition day. Bring your favorite snacks, check in with your coach throughout the days prior and the day of your event, and use your carb deprivation and carb-loading to make sure your muscles are swollen (with intercellular fluid) and your body fat levels are low. You'll also want to ensure you have the energy levels you need throughout the day to bring that stage presence the judges are looking for. 

Bikini Competitors Championship Stage makeup for bodybuilding competition
Stage Day Makeup for Bikini Competition

Lesson 4: Add These Items To Your Packing List

The show I attended ran about an hour late (maybe more, I'm not sure), so you should assume that can also happen at your show. Bring a blanket for backstage (you'll be sitting on the floor), slippers for the few hours leading up to the show, and flip-flops you can wear to and from your tanning appointments. Don't forget a water bottle, headphones if music helps calm your nerves, a book if you're a reader, etc. If you need snacks, make sure they're accessible and don't need heating or refrigeration while you wait. Some competitors also bring a sheet, pillow, and a towel. Some hotels charge incidentals for the tanning residue you'll inevitably leave on their linens.

Lesson 5: No Showers After The First Coat

Once you get your first round of spray tan, you can't shower. Not only can you, not shower, but you also can't wear deodorant or perfume because they will react to the tanning spray and change colors. Your first coat will be the day before the event, and the second coat will be hours before your stage time. That means no showering for about a day and a half. Expect to stink a little bit. Sorry.

There are a couple of other points to note about the spray tan. If you're someone who has a tendency to touch your own skin, face, wrists, etc., try to break yourself of those habits. Just a few seconds of skin-to-skin contact can ruin your tan. There will always be folks nearby who can do on-the-spot corrections, but the tan will look better if you let it set in without touching it. Also, be prepared to be fully nude with your butt in someone's face getting your cheeks painted with a little roller. The tanning folks will also apply your bikini glue (oh yes) and an oil sheen before you step on stage.

Lesson 6: Gluing The Bikini To Your Butt

As mentioned, you will need a little spray of strong fabric adhesive to apply your bikini bottoms firmly to your butt and lady parts. Your tanning expert will apply a "bikini bite" and check your coverage before you step out in front of a live audience and potentially the entire streaming internet. Understand that this is to protect what little dignity you still have under the fabric, and say thank you. 

bikini competition poses on the championship stage
My Posing Was Terrible. So, Hire a Posing Coach.

Lesson 7: You Won't Know Who You're Competing Against Until the Bikini Stage Time

Try not to psych yourself out by comparing yourself to competitors in the room. Some competitors wait in different venue areas or their hotel rooms until immediately before the event. Get comfortable walking around in your suit; you worked hard and earned it! Yes, everyone is judging your looks, but in a good way. Athletes are not judgmental and are not there to discourage you from competing. You might look around the room and see dozens of gorgeous, super-toned babes in bikinis only to find out they're competing in another category, like wellness or figure. Just be kind, keep calm, and carry on, sis. I promise it'll be fun, and today is a day to be proud and celebrate your hard work.

Lesson 8: The Stage Is Labeled So You'll Know Where To Go

You probably already know a box or an "x" on the stage where you'll perform your routine or poses. There are lines on the stage for your diagonal lineup (when winners are announced) and other competitor lineups. The folks off-stage will clearly explain where to be and when, and if you don't understand something, ask! Also, other ladies competing know precisely what's happening and when and can be an excellent resource for newbies. 

Lesson 9: You'll Want To Rush Your Bikini Competition Poses. Slow Down!

There's one secret to great posing: practice, practice, practice. I completely bombed on my transitions because I misread some pre-judging emails that I thought said there would only be a front and back pose, so I stopped practicing transitions in the last few days. Practice your transitions and go slow! You'll be nervous and want to rush through it; resist that urge and take your time. 

That being said, you should also practice standing and walking in your heels for prolonged periods. There was a lot more waiting around than I expected, and between my adrenaline pumping, my low-calorie intake those last few days, and those painful (and ugly) clear plastic heels, my legs were shaking. Practice walking on all surfaces so you're well prepared for whatever the stage feels like underfoot. If your shoes need a little stretch or you want to practice posing and walking without foot pain, wear socks with the heels and walk around your house in them as often as you can.

Lesson 10: Some Things Are Out Of Your Control

I competed at around 16 percent body fat this week. For me, that means I still get my period. I was on the stage in front of a live internet stream, all of my fellow competitors, the judges, and a live audience on day 2 of my period. Know what that might mean for your body and what you can do to prepare for it. Luckily, I felt great and didn't have any mishaps!

This likely won't be a factor at 8-13% body fat (essential and highly unsustainable). I would guess the girls I competed against mainly were between 14 and 18 percent body fat, with balanced physiques and zero visible striations. In this category, judges value abs over glutes, so you'll need a well-conditioned core but not necessarily the glute mass of a wellness competitor.

Like an amatuer bikini pictures, I took a selfie before the Championship stage show
I Took a Selfie as the Bikini Contestant

Remember, this day is about YOU and your hard work!! Don't forget to smile like it's the happiest day of your life, because it should be! If you put in the work, stuck to your diet, and prepared well, take this day to show that off. Bikini contests can be exhilarating experiences, and if bikini competition training and strict diets are something you can handle, I encourage you to answer the call that brought you to this blog post.

I hit the stage not expecting to place but coming to the competition with the best complete package I could offer. Have a great time, and if you need a personal trainer, bikini competition coach, or more training tips, contact me at Sanjana Fitness. We offer Free Consultation and Training programs. I'm here to support you, bikini babe!

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