What You’ll Need For Your First Competition

So, you’ve decided you want to do your first physique competition. Congratulations! Competing is a process that is unlike anything else physically, and mentally. But after the excitement of starting prep wears off, you’re often faced with the reality of wait, what-where-how am I going to do this? Don’t worry, we have you covered!


First, let’s cover a few general important points.

You will need to pick an organization and get registered within that organization. If you’re in the states, the largest federation is the NPC and IFBB. They have competitions in virtually every state for most of the year! The NPC is the amateur organization, whereas the IFBB is the professional organization. There are many other federations in the states to choose from and internationally as well.

Some shows have mandatory drug testing, while others are not. As the athlete, you need to make the decision where you feel comfortable competing based on that.

The best way to determine what organization you’d like to compete in is to look at previous winners of the biggest shows. See what the standard for each organization and division looks like, respectively, and go from there! Once you’ve decided, you will need to register within that organization. Most organizations have a yearly registration fee, that varies in price.

Once you’ve decided what organization to compete within, you can then start to look into shows! For example, if you’re competing in the NPC you’ll want to type in “NPC [enter state name] 2021 schedule” to pull up the shows in your area, or the area(s) you plan on traveling to. They are constantly updating show schedules, so be sure to check often! As a general rule, April through October is when most shows are happening, but there are virtually shows year-round within most organizations. Knowing ahead of time when are where shows are is crucial to planning your offseason and competition prep.

Now, you don’t need to pick a show before you prep and generally, we actually advise against that as coaches! It can have you unnecessarily boxed into a date that you might not be ready for; and ultimately, the most important aspect of competing is that you are physically ready. But, having a general idea of when shows are happening is useful information.

Lastly, you’ll need to pick a division. There are a handful of clients over the years we’ve worked with who have body types that fit into multiple categories but for the most part, there’s a pretty clear distinction. Again, if you’re not sure look at the amateurs and pros in each division in the federation you plan on competing in to get an idea of where your body will fit best. If you’re working with a coach, they can help guide you in this process, too!


Second, let’s cover what you’ll need to buy. 

For bikini, wellness and figure divisions, you will need to wear clear, high heels. Yes, clear heels. There are some companies like Shoe Fairy who specialize in competition heels or you can order from companies like Pleaser that have a variety of options. We recommend 5” heels with the 3/4” platform. Too high of a platform is distracting. The same goes for heels with crystals. Yes, they look cute, but they are often distracting, and a lot of judging feedback suggests to stick with clear! For physique and bodybuilding, you compete barefoot.

The biggest purchase by far is the competition suit, regardless of the division. There are tons of amazing suit companies online, like Angel Competition Bikinis, or if you’re lucky you can find a local suit designer!


Here are the most important aspects to consider when buying a suit:

  • Color: Typically, primary colors look best on a wide range of skin tones, hair colors and stage lights. You can’t control the stage lights, so it can be hard to plan but as a general rule, suits that are too light can wash out underneath the stage lights. (It’s also super easy to get tan smeared everywhere). Choosing darker or lighter colors will depend on your skin tone and hair color. When in doubt, pick a color that you typically like to wear and feel confident in!


  • Cut: Some federations require specific bottom cuts so check with each organization and division rules to see. For most organizations, pro cut bottoms for the bikini division are within the rules and look the best. Too small and too big are both equally unflattering. But as always, double check before you purchase!


  • Cup size: If you have larger natural breasts or implants, we’d suggest sticking with your normal bra size. If you’re on the smaller side (or would like to add a bit of fullness since it’s normal to lose that when dieting) and would like to add inserts and stuffing to your top, we suggest sizing up. As an example, if you’re an A cup, we’d suggest ordering a B cup so you have more room to stuff.


  • When to buy: The million dollar question! There is no perfect time to buy however, you will need to order this early enough so that you do have it in time for your show. Companies get busy during the summer especially so it’s not uncommon for there to be a 8+ week wait time after you purchase a suit. So, plan ahead but don’t feel the need to get it a year out; especially if you’re going to make large body composition changes before then.


  • How to tailor: Typically, the bottoms will need to be altered by either tightening or loosening the connectors. This is something local seamstresses can do if they have the right machine, or you might be able to send it back to where you ordered the suit. It’s very simple but it does require a specific sewing machine so plan for this.


Next, you’re going to need some jewelry! You’ll want to stick with clear rhinestones. We suggest big earrings, 1-2 rings and 1-2 bracelets. Companies like Glam Competition Jewelry specialize in competition jewelry, and some suit and/or shoe companies also sell jewelry.

There are a few other extraneous things that are useful on show day. Having a silk robe and slide on sandals for backstage is perfect to wear so you don’t mess up your tan. It’s also a good idea to bring loose cotton or silk pajamas to wear to sleep. Again, not messing up the tan is crucial!

If you have thin and/or short hair, many competitors opt to add in extensions for fullness or length. Now, you can certainly have more permanent extensions added, but clip ins work great, too! They are also really easy to wash, style and reuse.

Last but not least… don’t forget a pee funnel. Yes, this is a real thing! When you have 3+ coats of tan on, it’s very easy to mess it up so any streak or splash that can avoided will save you a lot of time and stress. You can punch a hole in of a paper cup or buy something like this.


Lastly, let’s cover booking appointments!

To get on stage, you’re going to need a full face of makeup, a very dark competition tan and styled hair. You can do all of these yourself, or book all of these professionally.

From years of personal and coaching experience, we’d highly recommend getting your makeup professionally done as well as using the host tanner the first few shows that you compete in. Many clients feel confident styling their own hair but if you don’t, then we recommend leaving it to the professionals! The entire “package” as it’s commonly referred to in the competition world is very important, so we want to make sure that no detail goes unnoticed.

Laurin and Gillian recorded an entire podcast (Episode 154) on what you need for you first competition this week, too! Follow this link to listen where they cover these topics in even more detail.

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