Perfecting your posing never ends. Although I’m now heading into my seventh year of competing and still going through the trial and error process, I can share with you what I’ve learned so far. Practicing posing is just as important as training and nutrition, and should be implemented often into your weekly schedule. Posing can 100% make or break a placing for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bodybuilder or a bikini competitor, posing can mean the difference between walking away with a pro card or placing second and only walking away with a trophy. My posing in the past has absolutely hurt my placing and it was a tough lesson to learn. This was an outcome I could control, but I faltered and paid the price. A posing coach will show you how to go through your required mandatories depending on what division you compete in. A good posing coach will show you how to pose for your body type—a great posing coach will show you all of that plus all the small details that can ultimately influence a judge’s opinion in your favor.
Too often people learn the basic components of posing and how to pose for their body, but they forget the small details. These small details can give you that “it factor,” that something special that makes you stand out. When there is a class of 40+ people and everyone looks amazing, you must find a way to stand out and force the judges to keep their eyes on you for all the right reasons. Make them know that there is no doubt you are the clear, undisputed winner.
The “it factor” is different for everyone and can only be learned through experience. I, for one, don’t have a flashy look-at-me personality, but since I compete in the bikini division, I have to bring some fire to the stage. I have to go out of my comfort zone to bring a character to the stage and perform. With my type of personality, I try to go with an enhanced version of myself. Trying too hard comes off to the judges as looking fake and not genuine. If you have a naturally flashy personality, bring that to the stage. Show that diva sass and hair flip because that is just an enhanced version of you. If you are naturally more quiet, bring a big smile to the stage and try to be more flowing like a ballet dancer or ice skater. Both personalities are beautiful to watch on stage and both come from professional competitors who are being true to themselves.
I’ve also had the opportunity to be in the front row as a judge and see exactly what they see. One of the biggest and easiest elements to fix is your connection with the judges. Time after time and class after class, competitors would walk in and not look at the judges until they made it to the center of the stage and hit their first pose. When it’s show time, you have to be “on” from the time you walk on the stage to the time you walk off the stage. This means looking at the judges in the eye and strutting your stuff as you take center stage. You have to command the stage, but you’ve lost your edge and no longer have the judges’ full attention if you’ve literally ignored them for however long it took you to walk to your spot. At this point, you are now in make up mode and you better bring one heck of an amazing physique to overcome your rocky start. This also ties into your walk off the stage. Don’t just hit your last pose, drop your gaze to the floor, then walk off. Your physique won’t look as impressive because you’re no longer engaging your muscles and once again you disconnected with the judges. When walking on or off the stage, you should be at half contractions, if not more. That way your physique stays tight and will be ready for you to nail that first pose.
Another easily fixed problem is letting your stomach distend when you hit your back pose. The panel of judges isn’t just sitting directly behind you—sometimes, they span out almost the whole length of the stage. So when you hit your back pose with your stomach relaxed the judges can see that. Also watch your stomach in your turns and don’t let the contraction go, keep it tight the whole time. There is nothing worse than stepping off the stage to hear a judge tell you that you had the best physique, but your lack of stomach discipline cost you a placing or first call out.
Breathing is also a key factor that can hurt your placing. You need to learn to breathe from your diaphragm on stage and not through your stomach. Take short and shallow breaths. This will help you to control your stomach distention better. Everyone gets nervous on stage, which elevates our heart rate, causing our breathing to increase. This is a normal response, but the outcome is our stomach goes in and out. It looks like we are gasping for air.
Practice posing and then practice it more. You can easily spot competitors who have polished their posing and those who still need some refinement. Practice holding your pose for at least a minute, as you need to condition your muscle to be able to hold that contraction for an extended period of time. I have seen many competitors start to shake on stage because the muscle can no longer hold the contraction and is starting to spasm. Or you simply see competitors no longer contracting on stage and the muscle is completely flat. Lifting weights is not the same thing as holding a contraction on stage and you need to condition your muscles to be able to do both.
Last, but not least, smile. You’d be surprised by how how many do not. Yes, it is a competition and everyone is serious about the work they put in to be there, but the judges don’t owe you money so get rid of the resting gym face and stop snarling at them. Invite the judges in and engage with them. You have to sell yourself on stage and looking like you’re mad at the world is not the way to do it. I always encourage people to watch video of themselves so they can see what the judges are seeing. Are you committing one of the errors I mentioned above? If so, it’s in your power to control and fix it.
More importantly, have fun on stage. It will be over before you know it so live in that moment. You won’t be perfect your first time out or probably even your tenth time. No posing is ever perfect, but control what you can and know that you gave your best. I have seen competitors out-pose better physiques many times simply because the other person didn’t know how to showcase their physique or they committed one of the mistakes I described earlier. Posing can be one of your greatest assets on stage—don’t neglect it while you’re training for your next show. A great physique is nothing without a solid and polished posing routine, so move with a purpose and blast that swag.