Do You Have the Fire to Compete?


As the NPC and IFBB have added new divisions, it’s been exciting to watch each in turn grow faster than a Chia Pet’s hair. In fact, there are more new-pro status changes on Facebook each year than there were pro cards given out in the entire decade of the 1990s. Is yours destined to be one of them? More to the point, do you really have what it takes to compete in a physique show?

Back in the day, I wanted to do figure. Several weeks into my competition diet for my first figure show, I was driving in Vegas, traveling east down Sahara Avenue toward Las Vegas Boulevard and trying not to think about how much I wanted a Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger, when I stopped for an ambulance that was coming through. Now, driving laws are very strict for school zones and ambulances in Vegas—stricter than anywhere I have ever driven in the USA.  I stopped for the ambulance, but, unfortunately, the truck behind me did not stop. Instead, it slammed into me at full speed, pushing my car into the oncoming ambulance. My car was tossed around and hit on every side except the driver’s side.  Ironically, the ambulance that I had stopped for ended up transporting me and my fractured back to the hospital.

I was four weeks out from my show, and my initial thought was, “Yes! Now I can eat whatever I want!” It was certainly not the response of a true competitor, someone who really wanted to win. That’s when I knew that competing was not for me. Everything else that I had achieved in my life I’d gone after with passion and drive. I did not feel that way about the diet or have a vision in my mind of me taking the stage. To this day, I have no regrets. I never look back and wonder what would have happened if I had competed.

Once you have started training and finding your passion in an exercise routine, you may very well find yourself thinking about taking that passion and drive to the competition level. How will you know if you’ve really got the bug? You shouldn’t need a horrible car accident to figure it out. If the idea of getting onstage at a physique contest is gnawing at your brain, you want to start by finding out as much about it as you can.


Learn About the Different NPC Divisions

With so many divisions available, you have your choice of size and physique styles, and it’s easier than ever to find a perfect fit. Go to and click on the “Rules” tab to review all the different divisions and requirements for each. You’ll also find photos from many contests on the website. Study them to get an idea of how the competitors look. This is a perfect way to start thinking about which division is right for you. 

Attend a Local Competition

Start with a local amateur show to get a feel for what it’s all about, and attend as many shows as you can. There is a big difference between amateur- and pro-level competitions. Watching people onstage at all different levels is a great way to learn about what you need to do to get started.

For a beginner attending your first show, it’s a lot to take in. Putting aside that you may see some of your favorite IFBB pros along with your favorite supplement brands at the sponsors’ booths that are outside the venue, there are so many people running around putting in the werk, werk, werk, that it can be confusing!

Here’s a list of things to pay attention to:

  • Watch how the show runs, the way the competitors are called out onstage, and the pace of the show.
  • Look at the competitors’ tans and the way they appear onstage. Notice who looks streaky, who looks too light or too dark, who did not do her face, and who did her face really well. Take notes. If you like someone’s tan, don’t be afraid to ask her who did it.
  • Study the posing suits—the colors, the fit, the stones or lack of stones decorating them.
  • Note what kind of shoes the competitors are wearing or not wearing. That identifies the different divisions. Women’s physique athletes and bodybuilders do not wear shoes. If you like those Lucite heels, you may want to compete in a division where the ladies wear them.
  • Also note how they wear their hair and how they move their hair onstage, how they move and walk on and off the stage, whether they are smiling, where they put the numbers on their suits—and how the judges speak to them.
  • Watch what’s going on offstage as well—the way the competitors wait around until their division is called, what they’re carrying with them as they move around the venue, how they bring their things to the venue, what they’re bringing, and what they’re wearing while they wait.


There is so much to learn, and it’s a process that goes on and on. There is no insta-pro formula—just add water, and, poof, you’re a pro athlete. – Know what you’re getting into.


Do You Have the Competition Mind-set?

While you are attending these shows, sitting in the audience and walking around the venue, you should be thinking, “I can do that,” and, “I really want to do that.” You should have a vision of yourself on that stage, and it should be igniting a fire inside you to find out more about how you can make it happen. That is the mind of a person who wants to compete. If you’re not sparked and inspired to get more information, then competition probably is not for you at this time. That’s important to remember because everything in life is timing. Though competition may not be right for you now, it may be a good fit later on. In any event, if you’re interested, it can’t hurt to keep taking notes and gathering information.

Next time, I’ll talk about what happens when you do have the true desire to get onstage—how to get started, including mapping out a budget and a plan.  Visit my main page here at Digital Muscle by clicking here!! 

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Nancy Noreman has been immersed in the fitness industry for more than 25 years.
Her unique perspectives, coming from her experiences as a supplement maker, media host, fitness model, trainer, designer, author and wife to one of the brightest minds in the sport, has made her a keen observer of all facets of the fitness lifestyle. Formerly the owner of Nuclear Nutrition, Nancy is also a judge for the United States Pole Dance Federation (USPDF), as well as a trusted insider on the bodybuilding scene.