A bodybuilding bikini competition involves training to walk on a catwalk and have your physique critiqued by a panel of experts. If you make it through to the final and place in the top three, you have a chance of winning prizes that range from athletic sponsorships to money.
Most bikini competitors don’t do it for the money though. In fact, it’s mainly undertaken by women devoted to fitness who have a competitive spirit. It involves rigorous training and commitment and shouldn’t be entered without proper forethought!
What Do Judges Look for in Bikini Competitions?
Out of the categories, the bikini division typically requires the least amount of muscle. So even though it’s considered a type of bodybuilding, it doesn’t have the same training requirements or goal physique.
But if the judges don’t look for muscle, what are bikini competitors scored on? When judging a bikini competition, judges will be scoring competitors on the following factors:
Balance of physique - Each side is symmetrical and the general form is well balanced, meaning that there is a clear hourglass figure.
Shape - It’s not a ‘physique’ bodybuilding competition, but it’s still bodybuilding! That means that the shape of competitors is still important. Building muscle intentionally to carve out an hourglass, fit figure is what the judges are going to be looking for.
Complexion and skin tone - Much like in other bodybuilding divisions, the complexion of your skin is important. That’s partly why competitors choose to get a tan prior to their debut. In the bikini division, this importance is heightened. It’s vital that your skin looks smooth and glowy, to enhance your overall appearance.
- Poise and presentation - It’s all about posing! Can you wow the judges with your energy and presence? You want to demand attention when you get on stage, without seemingly trying. If you can convey confidence and grace at the same time, you’re in for a good chance.
How to Train for a Bikini Competition
The first phase of training a bikini competitor is the building phase. During this phase, the aim is to build muscle, which will then be revealed later in the prep when you start dropping fat. This phase is essential - without a good amount of muscle mass, your physique won’t look well-developed, just skinny. This isn’t what the judges are looking for!
During the building phase, you’ll be focusing on total body muscle growth, as well as focusing on building out the shoulders and hips to create an hourglass physique. Just to clarify: you can’t change the shape of your hips or shoulders, but you can build your muscle mass in these areas to give the illusion of a changing shape.
What your coach focuses on depends on your natural shape - some competitors have a naturally square body shape, so building out the shoulders and hips is vital to give the illusion of a waist. Whereas some have a naturally hourglass figure but very skinny legs or arms. Working with a bikini prep coach is the best way to train for your specific body type and requirements.
The second phase of training is the cutting phase. Once you have developed your physique enough and you are getting closer to your competition, your training style will change. Instead of focusing on heavy, intense lifts, hitting PRs and overloading the muscle - you will instead begin to lift lighter weights, performing them for high reps, to create metabolic stress.
The reason for this is two-fold: metabolic stress helps the muscles look ‘pumped’ for full, structured muscular development. Secondly, your calories will be in a deficit, so you’ll struggle to have the energy to lift super heavy.
As you get nearer your competition, you will also increase the amount of low intensity steady state cardio (LISS). This type of cardio is in the ‘fat-burning zone’ - 70% of your max heart rate. This will help you drop fat to reveal the muscle you’ve worked so hard for.
How to Diet for a Bikini Competition
Want to win a bikini competition? You need to get a bikini coach. Your coach will have experience and qualifications in sports nutrition, to ensure that you are fueling your body optimally so you can reveal the muscle and tone that you’ve worked hard to achieve.
A common mistake inexperienced bikini competitors make is to eat as little as possible and train as hard as possible. This actually depletes your muscle and can make you hold onto calories, resulting in a ‘skinny fat’ appearance.
It also. causes hormonal issues in women like amenorrhea - the absence of the menstrual cycle - which can have long time implications. Instead, you should slowly and effectively decrease the calories nearing the competition, so as a competitor, you feel energized for as long as possible.
In general, it’s going to involve:
- Timing your carbs around your workouts to refill your glycogen stores when they’re most needed
- Eating high quality protein regularly throughout the day
- Limiting fats
- Tracking macros and calories and adjusting as your body responds
The best way to stay on track of your diet for your bikini competition is to meal prep.