The bodybuilding stage... What is regarded as the pinnacle of physique development, mental resilience, and self-progression. The stage has made, praised, helped, hindered, humbled, and driven many a person. So, what is the reasoning for this blog? It has seemingly become a new trend within the fitness game to get on the bodybuilding stage. To push your physique and condition to stage level position.
There seems to be a spike in this novel idea, that stage competition is an end goal for even the most novice of gym goer. There are some problems that come from this for me, and I would say I’m safely speaking on behalf of most coaches or athletes; it's dangerous to perceive bodybuilding this way. It is an extreme, full of outliers that shouldn’t be looked at as the 'normality' and achievable for everyone. To get to the brass tax of bodybuilding, it is essentially a subjective appearance-based pageantry competition where you are judged on specific criteria comparatively to the persons next to you regarding muscularity, dryness, shape, proportions, balance, flow, and so on. You are picked apart from top to bottom and then compared to those around you. It is not something one simply journeys down without being prepared.
There can only be one winner...
The unfortunate side that people struggle to contend with is, that there can only be 1 winner in every category. For some reason though, people let smoke-blowing, and ego get in the way of honest reflection and self-criticism. If you can’t handle or give self-criticism, then I would suggest off the cusp that this isn’t the sport for you. YOU WILL BE CRITICISED AT EVERY TURN. We see it time after time, someone is told they are the biggest based on their Instagram posts, they are so lean, big, pretty, and strong. The problem is everyone is doing these things in isolation on Instagram. The question becomes, do you look like that on stage against others? Sadly, a lot of us don’t.
What starts out as a super high, positive experience of being ego fed by followers and friends who don’t know the game, ends with someone developing a negative association with the field because they received the honest feedback no one gave them at 20 weeks out. One must be truly prepared mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, socially, and financially, to go down this road and sustain it. You aren’t going to win on your first go, you might not win on your 10th go, you aren’t as big as your mother says you are, you aren’t as socially desirable as partners say you are, you aren’t as lean as your best friends’ mother thinks you are. Honesty and humility is the key to psychologically sustaining the craft. If you don’t have it, you will be humbled by it. That isn’t the fault of the sport, the ownership must be on the individual who entered having not prepared themselves for this outcome.
Coaches fluff for profit
The other side may be coaches who aren’t preparing their clients or athlete for this level of outcome. Wanting money over morality, and saying yes to someone going to stage who needs months of time to even get ready to consider stage. As much as I love this sport, you don’t need to get on stage.
We don’t need people getting on stage for the wrong reasons who then end up bouncing off and out of it with terrible self-criticism and triggers of underlying psychological issues they assumed would be solved by feeling leaner and dolled up for 5 minutes of the spotlight. Trust me, it doesn’t do that. Another helpful tip before we dive into some skills that will assist you in your bodybuilding journey is not to get on stage just because you’ve lost some weight. If you haven’t spent a long time building the foundational lifestyle to handle a prep/show and you just lost some fat mass or overall weight, then I’m sorry but please consider why you want to be on stage. A post snap fitness 12-week challenge is not the right reason to get up there and be criticised by random strangers.
If you enjoyed building the habits and creating the lifestyle, then keep fostering this outcome, and keep building, growing, cutting, and shaping. It takes time to do this and enjoy it. If you simply just like training and eating well, you also DON’T have to compete to validate that! I know more jacked guys who don’t get on stage because it's not for them but leave me for dust in shape and condition. Just enjoy the lifestyle!!
If you do want to compete
Ok, so after this little rant, if you do feel that bodybuilding is for you and you know how great I think it is, and the lifestyle improvements it will create if done properly (performance goals, progression goals, self-development, mental focus, etc) then follow through for skills and tips I have found useful in my experience to stage and continued prep progression.
1- Acceptance: There are a lot of things during a prep one must accept and be accepting of. People’s problems aren’t yours, the result is out of your control, genetics. Accept things out of your control
2- Self-critical: One thing that blows my mind is every man and his dog expects to win because “granny says I looked the best”. If you aren’t critical of yourself and overshoot expectations, you are destined for setbacks and a reality shock.
3- Set performance metrics as success: There is absolutely no point basing your whole identity and sense of self-worth on a placing you can’t control. Instead, focus on how well you come in compared to your last effort, to your last showing, to your prior self. This is all you can truly control and overcome, so that’s where the primary goal must lay. Work to win, but work to beat your previous best as well!
4- Time management: Get good at being pedantic with time and scheduling. Prep is about routine, repeated action, and efficiency.
5- Hunger: the term starving drives me mad; we aren’t in the battle of Stalingrad in 1944. Managing hunger, and being mindful of it is a skill, gradually experiencing greater degrees of hunger pre-prep is important to prep success.
6- Psychological flexibility: This is the premise of ACT (acceptance & commitment therapy) and it’s something to work on. Being able to bring one's self back to being present when needed, to recognise negative thoughts and let them go, to be aware of choice points and goal-based actions.
7- Monotony: This game is all about mundane simplicity executed repeatedly, get good at enjoying it, and you’ll change the whole game for yourself.
8- Earn it: The stage is not your first point of contact for training. Life changing shouldn’t start with the most extreme outcome you can reach for and strive towards. Earn the stage by working on your physique before deciding the stage is what you want to do.
9- Humility: One needs to be very VERY humble in their endeavor to the stage. As I stated earlier, your friends, sisters, uncles, wife, or partners' view doesn’t hold a single ounce of weight in your position on stage. Stop inflating your sense of self based on opinions from those who can't comprehend or even know of the sport beforehand. This will prevent a very sharp decline in self-worth when you don’t place how you may have expected.
10- Enjoy all of it! I’m so fed up with seeing people crying over the fact they hated prep and it was the worst thing and they only get 5 mins of stage time to show it all off. The stage is the last thing on your mind, the journey to the stage and to your look is the point. Learn to enjoy the suck even when it hurts.
To finish up...
One last thing I must get off my chest as I love this game, and truly believe I will do this for decades to come, stop doing this for a simple "experience". If you have never dieted before, never been judged before, never worn next to nothing in Infront of hundreds of strangers before; stop looking at the most extremes of fitness endeavors as an “experience”. Without the right goals, lifestyle, mindset, psychological health, physical health, and life health; you are setting yourself up for a very heavy comedown when the smoke clears and the dust has settled.
One does not kick the footy in a park and then go on to “experience” the NRL at full pelt. Sometimes it’s important to remember, that just because you ‘can’ doesn’t mean you ‘should’. If after reading this you feel the love for bodybuilding is there, and you have what it takes, then you can now say you know the potential and are more than willing/excited to take on this life-changing challenge. It comes with many highs, many lows, many risks, and many rewards. It is a builder of fortitude, strength, resilience, and purpose. It shows you what you are truly capable of if you wish to sustain it. Do it, but do it for the right reasons!!
Founder Matter Athletica