Bodybuilding Competition Checklist
by Justin Leonard
Last Updated: 5/19/2012


What is the best way to train for a bodybuilding competition? What is the best way to diet for a bodybuilding competition? What do judges look for? Which supplements will help me to retain size? What is the easiest and safest way to manipulate body water?

These are all questions that cross the minds of competitive bodybuilders in preparation for the big day. The answers to these questions and more are revealed on this website! It will cover everything you need to know to be successful in your next bodybuilding competition. I'll begin by going over some essential precontest checklist items.

The first item that may be required in order for you to compete is a federation card. Note: Not all federations require a membership. If required, these cards range in cost from $30 - $50. Different memberships are good for different lengths of time. Some are yearly and some are lifetime.

Posing Music

Another item you will need is posing music. I recommend bringing at least 2 copies for backup purposes. Posing music should be done on a high bias recording cassette tape and labeled with your name and competitor number if possible. The label on the tape should also indicate which side to play. For example, PLAY THIS SIDE! Don't take any chances with DJs. I've seen some bad things happen!

Try to make playing your music as easy as possible for the DJ. Music should begin at the beginning of the tape on side A. Do not try to queue a song on an actual store bought tape. DJs don't like that. Most shows only allow about 90 seconds for posing routines. Some are even less than 90 seconds (60 sec). Be sure you are aware of the posing music time limit and plan your routine accordingly.

Tanning Products

Be sure to use an artificial skin bronzer, tanning spray, or dark cream for skin complexion. Natural suntans are not dark enough for competition stage lights. Regardless of what nationality you are, artificial bronzers are still needed.

The function of the dark tan is to enhance overall muscularity under bright stage lighting. Without it you're hopeless. Many television actors, actresses, and models use artificial spray or rub-on tans because of the bright lights they use for movies or photo shoots. Without the tan, they would appear extremely pale on TV due to the bright stage lights.

There are only two types of tanning skin tanning products I recommend using: Pro Tan or Dream Tan. I prefer a combination of both. I've gotten good results by applying Pro Tan about 2 days before a show, then using Dream Tan the day of the show. The Pro Tan is a spray-on application. The Dream Tan is a rub-on application. Both tanning products require the help of a partner to ensure even distribution throughout the body, including hard to reach areas such as the back.

Posing Oil

Posing oil is definitely an item you'll need to have in your bag the day of competition. Posing oil is basically used to enhance overall muscularity under bright stage lights.

When it comes time to apply posing oil, use a trustworthy partner or someone who appears to know what they are doing to assist you. Once applied, find a lighted area so that you can check on how different poses appear under lights at different angles. You may find that you need more oil or even forgot to apply some in certain areas.

Is it okay to use baby oil? I'll be honest: I've seen people use everything from baby oil, to butter flavored Pam cooking spray.

The problem some people have with these oils is that they may be too shinny or not shinny enough. Posing oil is specifically designed to enhance a dark tan. There's usually a darkening ingredient in posing oil, which makes it look better when applied to already dark skin. You may find that baby oil or Pam works better than posing oil. Experiment with different option and be sure to get a second opinion from an experienced person.

Posing Suits

Another very important item required for competition is a posing suit. Whatever color suit you choose, make sure it's a solid color. Most shows don't allow multi-colored posing suits because they can be a distraction to the judges and effect ranking or placing.

Posing suits must be worn during weigh-ins. It's best to already have them on the day of competition.

Posing trunks are made specifically for bodybuilding and fitness competitors. They are designed to give the body an enhanced look, mainly around the waistline. Thick-sided posing trunks are a thing of the past and create a blocky waistline appearance. Posing suits range in price from $20 - $40.


Food is definitely needed on the day of the show. Most bodybuilding competitions require waiting around for whatever the reason may be. I've competed in some shows which required check in at 9:00am, but the prejudging didn't take place until 3:00pm. This time gap can really hurt you if you are not prepared. Your body will go low on much needed calories. Without the proper amount of calories, it will be hard to pump the muscles. It's important to have a food supply ready just in case.


The last item I recommend bringing to the show is money. This is basically a backup for surprise expenses. I once did a show where I flew from Anchorage, Alaska to Los Angeles, California. The registration fee was for the show was $75 if it was paid in advance. The cost was $100 if you paid after the assigned deadline. I got there to check in and process and they told me they had not received my payment.

This is the last thing a dieting bodybuilder wants to hear. They said that without the check number (proof), they would have to collect the money if I planned on competing. How ironic it was that I just so happened to have $300 travel money on me at the time. I paid up and walked away extremely angry (I never could find proof of payment).

Another reason to bring money: At many shows they have several vendors who sell discounted sports supplements, videos of the show, custom photography, contestant souvenirs (i.e. T-shirts), and more. That should be reason enough to bring money, but the main point is to be prepared for surprise expenses.



Copyright 2012 Leonard Fitness, Inc. All rights reserved.