So, you’re thinking about getting on stage and competing as a fitness model/muscle model? Congrats! The journey is certainly a rewarding one but as I learned after my first show, there are a ton of pitfalls and mistakes that you can fall victim to.
Luckily, I corrected these mistakes quite quickly after my first year and was able to turn Pro as a WBFF Fitness Model in my WBFF debut the following year. So here are my top 10 mistakes for the aspiring competitive fitness model that I learned on my journey to becoming a WBFF Pro. If you can avoid these mistakes, you’ll be a few steps ahead of everybody else in this ever competitive game!
1. Multi-Coloured/Crazy Trunks
This one makes me cringe because it is the simplest of things to get right, yet you’d be surprised how many competitors get it horribly wrong. I’ve seen rainbow trunks, Union Jack trunks and trunks with all kinds of diamonte’s all over the place.
I can see where the competitors that do this are coming from – They’ve likely been taught (if they’ve been taught by a good coach) that fitness modelling is about having the X-Factor, making sure you shine like a star and stand out to the judges.
However, the part that they’ve misinterpreted is that judges are looking for your PERSONALITY, CHARISMA and PHYSIQUE to stand out – By wearing crazy trunks, you’ve just detracted from these traits and made it 10x harder for the judges to see all of those things.
Your best bet is to pick trunks that are made up of a single colour or two that compliment your skin tone. Then put all of your efforts into your posing and allowing your personality and charisma to do the work for you.
2. Posing (doing the Beyonce)
We mentioned posing at the close of point number 1 – If this list was in order of the department that competitors get the most frequently wrong, it would be number 1 without a doubt.
Having done all of that hard work in getting prepared for a show for however many months, some people flush it all down the toilet within seconds by getting their posing awfully wrong. It’s the saddest thing to see.
I’ve seen everything from competitors come out doing the Beyonce (“All the single ladies” – Not even joking)all the way to doing backflips.
This isn’t “Britain’s Got Talent” – Fitness modelling is all about displaying poise, confidence and elegance on that stage in how you display your body. Ed White (WBFF Pro Bodybuilder) gave me a great analogy when we spoke about this in Vegas. He said, “It’s how you are serving your food to the table..The food on the plate could be amazing but if you’re serving it to the table without showing any character or any kind of control or poise, then people are not going to be impressed regardless of the quality of the food.”
Some people have had way better physiques than me at the shows that I’ve placed well in, but I out-posed and out-charisma’d (that even a word??) the crap out of them on the night, leaving the judges no choice but to place me above them.
Remember, only 40% of fitness modelling is judged on physique! If you can’t handle that, then Bodybuilding would be a better fit for you.
Be sure to do your homework on posing – It’s tough to explain in a post but watch this video of myself (I start at 0:42) and Reuben Brooks (Reuben starts at 2:20) when we turned Pro in Florida. I felt that we had the best posing on the night. Other great posers to learn from are Ryan John Baptiste and Shaun Stafford (who you can see in action at point 8 of this post).
3. Dehydrating yourself on showday (and/or day before)
Oh gosh – I almost feel bad when I’m backstage chugging my gallon jug of water as other competitors are sitting there with dry lips looking on with sad, puppy dog eyes.
Dehydrating yourself is one of the most pointless and ancient practices in the competitive game whether it be fitness modelling OR bodybuilding. You will NOT “trick” your body into giving up something so damn essential for life – So quit trying! You’ll also look WORSE for it too, ironically. 70% of the muscle is made up of water so what sense does it truly make to remove it?
If you are lean enough and got your carbs right, most of the water will have been shuttled into your muscle cells making you look full and hard, rather than sitting subcutaneously (under your skin).
4. Getting rid of/Manipulating Sodium/Potassium
Not only is this another one of those totally unnecessary practices that have been passed down since ancient times, there are so many anecdotes of how incredibly dangerous this practice can be!
If that isn’t enough to scare you, how about the fact that you’re putting yourself at a massive disadvantage by removing sodium? Enjoy being unable to get a pump backstage and having less vascularity than you otherwise would – Is it any coincidence that people often report that they wish they looked on show day how they did 1 or 2 days later?? Is it also a coincidence that most competitors have post-competition foods that are massively high in carbs and SODIUM?
5. Not being prepared and having a plan on showday
This is a lesson for everyone including myself. At every show I’ve competed at, I’ve been caught faffing around and not being ready when we are being called on stage. The last thing you want is already being nervous (Luckily I handle nerves REALLY well in this situation), not having your tan totally prepped, your hair “did” and not giving yourself enough time to pump up.
I’ve found at a lot of shows they can spring the callouts on you like “Surprise!! You’re up next!”. So be ready for this to happen. If you have everything done, you can stay calm and simply rock up backstage like a boss! Though be aware that pumping up too hard, too soon before your callout could leave you struggling to get a pump again so timing is important.
6. Screwing up your tan
Ideally you should have your tan plan (ß there’s a new word) sorted out well in advance. Don’t leave such an important part of the contest to the last minute!
Decide whether you will get a spray tan or whether you will apply your tan manually. Whatever you decide to do, check your product for application instructions and I would also check for best practices on various forums from people with experience.
If you’re worried about screwing this part up, it’d be an idea to pay for a professional show spray tan in advance. However, if you’re interested in my protocol :-
4 -5 coats of Protan applied manually the week of the competition and then a coat of Dream Tan #2 applied manually the night before the contest. I would then reapply the Dream Tan before getting a pump. I found this practice to get me the best colour.
TIP :- Don’t underestimate how dark you need to go! The stage lights are STRONG and WILL wash you out if you’re not dark enough. Just make sure you don’t look “muddy or dirty”. Keep it even.
7. Doing a “depletion” during “Peak Week”
So let me get this straight : You’ve been depleting yourself for 12-24 weeks (or however long your prep was) by being in a calorie/carb deficit and now you want to dig an even bigger hole for yourself by doing crazy depletion workouts on the week that is aptly named “Peak Week”??
The picture above shows me at my lowest of 150 grams of carbs. Flat as a pancake even after 3 days of moderate carbing-up! I only finally filled out for the night show after pounding down carbs every day until the show.
Yet I still hear people going zero carb on peak week?
The clue should be in the name : PEAK WEEK. Not “Weak Week” – Ever wondered why you turned up on stage looking flat and then amazing the day or two after? Besides the sodium that I mentioned before, you probably made the big mistake of digging yourself a hole so big that you couldn’t fill it up with enough carbs in time!
Most competitors leave it 2 days before the competition to start carbing up. Usually nowhere near enough time to fill the hole you created through your extra depletion routine! Not enough carbs = Flat muscles.
8. Rushing when you’re on stage
Guys and girls – You have trained and dieted your asses off. Some sacrifices were obviously made..this is YOUR TIME that you earned and worked hard for.
The saddest thing to see is competitors rushing through their routine – I totally understand because the same thing happened to me at the WBFF 2013 World Championships. My posing which is usually my strongest asset turned into my weakness as the adrenaline rushed through me. I hit all 3 of my poses faster than the MC could call the next competitors name!
Take your time – enjoy yourself and SHINE. That is your moment!
With that said, here’s a video of me showing you how NOT to do it at the Worlds (at the 2:15 mark) and Reuben and Shaun Stafford (at the very start of the video) showing you how it should be done. Especially take a look at Reuben here at the 4:55 point in the video – For me, he was the very best poser that night. Watch his transitions, his flow and just all out swag. While Reuben had that routine scripted in his mind, it looked absolutely effortless and natural which is what the judges are looking for.
9. Not smiling/Having a good time
It’s painfully obvious when somebody is really (understandably) nervous and awkward on stage – I get it, it’s nerve wracking being on stage, judged not only by the judges but by the crowd, your family and friends. The pressure is high but something I realised is that the biggest pressure comes from ourselves.
The amount of people you’ve likely inspired on the way, including your friends and family means that they really won’t care whether you take first or last place. What I found was that people are proud of you regardless and so should you be of yourself.
Enjoy yourself, smile and have a great time because it will show to everyone in attendance including the judges. I would not stop smiling when I turned Pro in Florida and I truly believe that played a part in my placing above some athletes who had a better physique than I did.
10. Not being lean enough
This was the mistake I made for my first two shows in the U.K – Most athletes seem to think that a 8-12 week diet for contest prep is enough. It might be if you have certain drugs in play and/or are lean enough to begin with but if you’re a natural athlete and have a higher percentage of bodyfat (i.e. your abs are not visible already), then 16-32 weeks is more like it, depending.
It took me 21 weeks of contest prep to turn pro and we had to be more aggressive than my coach would have liked in those 21 weeks. The slower you do it, the more muscle you can retain and the leaner you can get because the less extreme measures you need to take. Especially if you don’t have the assistance of exogenous hormones that can counter the negative effects of taking extreme measures.
2 hour cardio days, zero carbs, extremely low calories are all things that should really have no place in a natural athletes contest prep (remember that we don’t have the extra assistance to counter the negative effects of these extreme practices!). 16-32 weeks seems like a long time for most people but it’s worth it when you step on stage lean AND full.
Not sacrificing one for the other that is so often the case when we have to take extreme measures.
As always I hope this post was helpful and showed you some of the potential pitfalls that you might face on your journey to, and also on the competitive stage! If this info was helpful please don’t forget to use the social buttons below or to your left to SHARE + LIKE this post. Also let me hear your COMMENTS below..If you’re a competitor, do you agree or disagree with any of the points? Why?