Looking back over my competitive history I can say with certainty that one of the greatest advantages I had over my competitors was having my contest preparation completed in all the details, well in advance of the day of the show. Like everyone else, I trained hard and dieted correctly; that goes without saying. What I am referring to is attention to the details. For example, making sure that I had practiced my posing routine so that I could do it with my eyes closed if necessary and having my competition tan applied perfectly.
Paying attention to the details allowed me to create a high degree of confidence on stage at the Mr.Universe, Mr.Olympia, and other high level pro bodybuilding shows in which I competed. When you come prepared to your show, it lessens your internal level of tension, and that increases your confidence. Simply put, you have less to worry about. If you are a competitive physique athlete, you can benefit from these 10 tips for improving your performance and increasing your confidence at your next physique show:
1. Everybody gets nervous sometime. It is normal to feel nervous about your show, so don’t worry if you do. However, your goal should be to keep that nervousness from becoming debilitating. In other words, you want to turn that nervousness into positive action, and not let it freeze you into inaction. Once you realize that it’s OK to be nervous, and that you’re going to turn that nervousness into something positive, you are setting the stage mentally for a positive outcome.
2. Practice your posing routine in the weeks leading up to the show, until you can do it in your sleep. Practice your posing routine to music. Practice it without music. Practice it in your head with your eyes closed. Get to where you can do it without thinking about what the next pose is. It should just come naturally. That way, when you get on stage, you won’t have to think about it.
3. Carefully prepare the items you will need at your show well in advance and place them in your gym bag, so that you don’t forget anything that you will need for your performance. Take an extra pair of clean back up trunks and an extra copy of your posing music. Bring food, water, posing oil, a towel and an MP3 player or iPod with your music on it so that you can quietly practice backstage. Remember the “3P Rule” : Preparation Prevents Panic!
4. If something unexpected happens while you’re on stage, ignore the distraction and keep posing. To practice, pretend that you are posing and your music dies out due to an operator error. Hint: keep going as if nothing happened! Smile and the crowd will applaud your effort and composure. I once had my number card fall off my trunks in the middle of my routine. I just kept going. Don’t let anything distract you. Ditto if you slip or get off balance during a difficult pose or transition.
5. When you are on stage performing, do not fidget with your hands in between poses, when standing relaxed for comparisons with other athletes, or at any other time for that matter. Do not sway, look down and wipe your sweat and oil, or engage in any other movement repetitively and unnecessarily. Excess motion betrays nervousness and looks amateurish.
6. Smile and keep your composure, regardless of what you are feeling inside. Smiling helps you to exude confidence. If you can’t or don’t feel like you can smile, at least relax your face and think confident thoughts. Your face muscles will relay your feelings!
7. Be a showman. As you look out at the audience from the stage, the lights will be bright and you will see a lot of silhouettes. Don’t squint. Don’t wave to your friends or take your attention away from the judges. Look from side to side. Look at the judges and be prepared to take direction from them during the comparison rounds.
8. Don’t let other competitors distract you or discourage you. Most competitors behave in a professional and civil manner, so it’s unlikely that you will run into trash talk, but if you do, ignore it. Also avoid assessing other competitors and comparing yourself to them. You have bigger things to attend to, like winning your show. You can’t focus on yourself if you are concerned about everybody else.
9. Mentally focus on empowering thoughts and words. Think positive. I used to repeat a mantra to myself when I was competing: “Power on.” Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have and it controls the body. Exude the positive of a winner and it will draw attention to you.
10. Keep your physique “tight” when you are on stage, even during the “relaxed” phases between poses. Don’t relax your abdomen so that your belly hangs out. Keep your legs flexed, your chest high, and your abs tight and lats spread. Judges will be looking at your physique at all times. In the weeks leading up to your show, practice staying flexed in a “relaxed” pose, for several minutes at a time, to increase your endurance. This practice will give you the additional benefit of hardening your physique. Even many top pro bodybuilders do not do this, so imagine the advantage you will have when you do!