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Bikini and Bodybuilding Athlete’s Guide to Proper Competitor Etiquette

This information is to help anyone who competes or are interested in competing in NPC bodybuilding, figure, physique, classic physique or bikini competitions. I do not work for NPC, nor is this post affiliated with the NPC in any way. I was not compensated for this post. 

Steve and Bonnie PfiesterIf you are new to competing, the last thing you want is to be called out by the judges and embarrassed on stage for something you simply just didn’t understand or know. I hope to help you avoid this from happening. By the end of this blog, you will be prepared to compete with added confidence.

Good, Bad, Ugly and Stupid

When you’ve been in the fitness business as long as I have, you’ve seen it all. You see the good, bad, ugly and just plain stupid. Sadly, a lot of silly things happen out of pure ignorance and inexperience.

While there is so much information out there about diet and exercise, there really isn’t a lot of information available on etiquette – especially when it comes to competing. However, understanding good etiquette is incredibly important if you want to have a positive experience.

Steve Pfiester Classic PhysiqueAs a bodybuilder’s wife for 22 years, Team Coach for the last 10 years (putting over 100 people on stage) and now a bikini competitor myself, I have spent a lot of time backstage. We’ve heard all the competitor meeting speeches and reprimands. We’ve seen poor conduct and bad sportsmanship, as well as awesome acts of kindness.

Since more and more people are competing for the first time, I wanted to share some of the things we teach our team about competitor etiquette in hopes to spare you embarrassment and any unnecessary conflict or added frustration on competition day.

These little nuggets are not on the NPC competitor rules page, however, they are incredibly important and can completely change your overall experience for the best.

The following tips should not only help your competition go smoother, they should help you have more fun in the process.

Hotel, Travel & Weigh Ins

NPC weigh ins1. Know what to pack.

When I talk about what to pack, I’m not talking about rice cakes and peanut butter. All your competition prep, diet, training and competitor bag info is another topic. What I’m talking about is what a lot of trainers forget to tell you.

If you have never competed before, you may not realize the mess you are about to make in that hotel room if you are not prepared. Most competition tans will rub off on clothing, walls, toilet seats and who knows what. If you leave that hotel a wreck, you are not only destroying a room, you are destroying all the hard work that went into finding a host hotel for the competition. Host hotels are crucial to a good experience and not all hotels are created equal.

white hotel sheets

Competitors need certain amenities like microwaves and refrigerators. They need to be close to the venue and they need to be available on the weekend of the event. However, if you mess up your room, you could be messing it up for everybody.

Bring sheets, blankets, towels and wash cloths to use during your stay. Keep your body covered so you do not get your tan on the couches, chairs, walls and floors. Use your own towels for bathing so not to ruin their white towels with your Oompa Loompa spray tans or be willing to clean what you use.

If you do get tan on something, don’t expect the maids to clean up after you. You likely received a group discount, so don’t make them work more for less money. Treat your room and their staff with respect and gratitude. If you do, they will welcome you back every year. If you don’t, you’ll likely be charged extra for the damage.

Cleaning ProTan NOTE: ProTan (and most tans) rinse out of clothing, towels and bedding with just soap and water.

I only used hot water to rinse out this wash cloth after using it to remove my tan after the show. It was really dark brown right after my shower. Then it turned this beige color after rinsing it out lightly after showering. Then, it returned back to its original white color after running it under hot water and rinsing it out more thoroughly. I was also able to wipe down toilet seats or other areas with just a wet paper towel. However, bleach works well when needed.

(Remember, I have a WHITE suit, so if I can keep that clean, I can sure keep a clean room!).

2. Come to weigh-ins prepared.

Even if you don’t “weigh in”, you must check in and pay. You may also be able to purchase tickets or trainer passes at this time. You must either need your NPC card with you or purchase one when you get there.

Bodybuilders and Classic Physique competitors will actually weigh in wearing their competition suit. Classic physique will also have their height checked. So, if that’s you, be prepared to strip down and take off your shoes for your official weigh in.

If you are in bikini, figure and men’s physique, prepare to slip off your shoes for a height check, as classes are organized by height, not weight. You do not need to come in your suit (at least I have never attended a competition that required the girls come in suits).

Confirm the competitors meeting (place and time) before you leave. If you have any other questions, this is a good time to ask all the questions you need addressed. You can never ask too many questions.

3. Be a good representative for the sport.

dsc_0176You represent fitness every where you go – especially competition time. You will stick out like a sore thumb with that crazy tan alone. Be kind and respectful every where you go, as you represent competitors everywhere. You can be a turn ON, or a turn OFF, to the whole industry.

Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the sport at all. You have a choice. You can act like the dumb “I pick things up and put them down” bodybuilder that people see in the Planet Fitness commercials or you can be a disciplined professional athlete who inspires people to be their best. You decide!

4. Scout out routes and venues in advance.

mapsBefore each event, we map out all of our routes and drive to each location involved in our event. Sometimes weigh-ins are at the host hotel or local gym. Other times they are at the venue. Either way, don’t assume where it is and don’t assume you will not get lost. I remember one time we followed maps to the venue and it led us smack-dab into a residential neighborhood, even though the address entered was correct. Every competitor is stressed out enough as it is, don’t add more stress to your day by not being fully prepared with your travel arrangements.

Bonnie PfiesterBackstage

5. Come ready.

Arrive to the venue with your competition suit on, make up complete and ready to hit the stage. Bodybuilders and masters classes are often first up. Of course this is different for every district, but nine times out of ten, Steve is literally one of the very first competitors called to line up. This means he has to fly backstage after the meeting, finish tan prep, eat and pump up in 30 minutes or less.

Don’t assume you will have plenty of time to get ready once you are there. Come ready, as if you will be the first one on stage. Then, you can primp, touch up or do the extras once you get settled in.

6. Be early.

Tony Curtis  and Bikini CompetitorsAll NPC competitions will have a competitor meeting before each event, which will be posted in advance. It is not enough to just be on time. Plan to be early. Oftentimes, we have had trouble finding the right entrance or meeting room. We’ve had flat tires, bad traffic and parking dilemmas slow us down.

We like to try to arrive 15-30 minutes before the meeting begins. If everything goes smoothly, we arrive early and can get a nice spot backstage. Arriving early also ensures we start our day off relaxed and stress free.

7. Don’t hog precious real estate.

classic physique poseDepending on the venue, backstage space is often an issue. Sometimes there is only one big mirror. Other times, the pump up area or equipment is limited. Don’t be the jerk who sets up camp right in front of the mirror or spreads out all their stuff on valuable pump-up room floor space.

While some trainers may tell their people to find prime real estate and get the best spot available, we preach against the “look out for number one” type of selfish attitude.

Although you will need to find a “home base” for all your stuff, I recommend you find a place that is out of the way, yet still in an earshot of the expeditors (as you will need to be able to hear your number or class when it’s called). Let everyone bash all the other competitors for their inconsideration, but don’t let that inconsiderate selfish competitor be you.

8. Attend the competitor meeting.

NPC competitor meetingThe competitor meetings are a crucial part of the process. Even if you are a veteran competitor, all special instructions, changes or requests will be made during this meeting. This is not just for their benefit. It’s for your benefit too. Attend the meeting. Listen closely and respect the rules. Every single rule is in place so the competition runs smoothly for YOUR benefit. The sooner it is all over, the sooner you can eat! So, it’s best to listen and do all you can to help the whole event run with ease.

bikini competitor robe9. Stay covered up.

Don’t walk around half naked. While you have trained hard for you great physique, it’s unprofessional to walk around the venue (especially in the public areas) in next to nothing. You will appear showy, as well as risk getting your tan on people and things.

Be mindful of where you sit, what you lean against or who you brush up against. Just like the hotel, a good venue is hard to find. Be respectful of the facility they are renting to make your competition possible by staying covered up when you can.

When you are backstage and not covered up, be careful. Wipe off toilet seats, lay towels on the floor where you will sit down and clean up behind you.

10. Be careful WHO you touch.

Don’t wrap your freshly tanned arm around your loved ones for a photo. You may be ruining their clothing. It already costs money for your friends to watch you compete, don’t add to the cost by destroying their favorite outfit too.

I don’t know how many times I have had a competitor carelessly rush by me and get their tan on me. Or, I’ve had a female competitor hug and kiss me, smearing their bright red lipstick and makeup all over my shirt and face.

To take it a step further, I recommend your supporters where dark colors. The last thing you want them to do is come in white! LOL Especially if you want pictures with them.

backstage bikini competitor11. Oil and tan in designated areas.

Each competition has a tanning company in charge of tanning. While they will provide tanning services, they will normally have a designated area just for oiling up or applying your own tan. DO NOT apply oil anywhere other than this area. Oils make the floor slick and people will slip and bust their butts (especially the girls in high heels).

Also, if you sit or lay down on the ground to do exercises, make sure you clean all excess oil off the floor or you could be the reason someone has a horrible fall.

12. Know your number and class.

Bikini Competition Suit and NUmberEach competition will have expeditors who will let you know when you will be going on stage. They will normally call you to line up 10-20 minute before you actually get on stage. They will not be calling your name, they will be calling your number and/or your class. You must know you number and know each class you are competing in (ie: women’s figure, masters bikini, classic physique, light-heavy weight bodybuilding, etc).

Most shows will have a printed flow sheet to give you an idea of the class order so you are not taken by surprise. Know your number, listen carefully and be ready.

bikini competitor backstage

13. Don’t run off.

It’s hard to believe people actually leave the venue or go off to some secluded area backstage, but it happens at every show. If you are one of those people that like going off by yourself, not only are you missing out on meeting some great people, you may miss your chance to compete. The judges can’t wait on someone to find you.

People have trained really hard for a really long time, only to be skipped simply because they couldn’t be found.

daytona classic backstage14. Yield to others.

This is something I’ve personally witnessed at many shows. I’ll see one competitor who isn’t going on for another hour ask another competitor preparing to go on in 15 minutes for help. Or, I’ll see people pumping up 1-2 hours before their class is even close to being called.

Yield to those who are competing ahead of you. Offer to help those competitors. You never know! You may need them to help you once it’s your turn to scramble toward the stage.

15. Don’t judge.

You are going to the competition to compete, not to judge. You never know where someone has come from, how much weight they lost or why they are there. Don’t assume you trained harder or deserve anything more than anyone else.

Each competitor has dedicated a lot of time and effort into preparing to compete. Treat others with the same respect you desire. You should be honored to stand there with the most disciplined people on the planet – no matter how they look or act.

16. Prepare to share.

It’s easy to get self-absorbed at these competitions. You are so nervous and worried about yourself, you may miss when others are in need.

I always bring extra jewelry, make-up and supplies in case someone needs something. One time I heard a girl saying she didn’t have her jewelry as she was lining up, so I slipped mine off and gave it to her right before she went out on stage.

Another time, one of our competitors’s suit broke and complete strangers came to the rescue, sewing, fixing and even offering their own suits. This is what makes competitions so special – when people come together and support one another.

Beach Bodies Classic17. Stay until the end.

Don’t be the schmuck that competes and leaves, especially if you are competing with friends or a team.

Believe me! I’ve wanted to leave SO bad after we were done, but you need to support each other. If someone has been there to support you, be there to support them too – even until the end – no matter how tired or hungry you are.

18. Make memories.

If you compete a lot, you may forget what it feels like to compete for the first time. Don’t cut that moment short for someone else. Take the time to take pictures, offer to help make those memories, cheer them on, and go out to eat with them afterwards.

If it’s your first time competing, express your needs to your loved ones. If you want a picture on stage, take it – even if you are embarrassed. This may be a one-and-done thing or a regular event, but the one thing that will last forever are photos and memories.

On Stage

Team Max Bikini Athletes19. You are an athlete. Act like one.

One of the things Central Florida district chairman and NPC judge, Pete Fancher, always drives home in his competitor meetings (especially to the bikini competitors) is that we are athletes so “act like it”.

Whether you are a bikini competitor or a bodybuilder, you train hard, you diet hard and you have worked long and hard to compete with the best of the best. With this in mind, we should be respectful and professional to our fellow competitors, expeditors (who are donating their time to help you by the way), judges, promoters and staff.

Well respected athletes don’t throw temper tantrums when they lose and they shouldn’t act inappropriately in public either (unless you want to be the next Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan of the NPC.

img_934120. Know your number.

I know I already mentioned this when it comes to backstage, but you also need to know your number while you are on stage because that is what they will reference when giving instructions. I am no longer Bonnie. I am 91 on stage.

Judges will address your number when giving commands like “square up” (face front),  turn to “your other left” LOL (low calories makes it difficult to follow directions) or “switch places”.

If a judge addresses your number, look at the judge and acknowledge you heard them. If a judge calls out your number to switch places with another competitor, raise your hand so the other competitor can find you quickly.

bikini prejudging

21. Walk behind the line.

Judges will often switch competitors around during judging so each judge can see all the competitors. If you are called out to switch with another competitor, it is good etiquette to raise your hand until the other competitor sees you, and then step back out of the line and walk behind all the other competitors until you return in line.

22. Win and lose gracefully.

NPC Bikini WinnersI have seen the worst sportsmanship, as well as the best sportsmanship, displayed on stage. I’ve seen high fives and complete foot-stomping temper tantrums. Always, always, always, congratulate the winners and your fellow competitors no matter how they placed. Be quick to compliment and slow to critique.

There have been many times Steve has won when he didn’t feel like he deserved to win, as well as times he lost when he didn’t feel he deserved to lose. It really is a subjective sport and while you should train to win, you shouldn’t compete to win.

If you go only to bring home a trophy, you will go home with so much less. However, if you compete to improve, grow, meet people and learn something, you will come home with great riches no matter if you bring home a trophy or not.

bikini competitor abs23. Leave it at the venue.

You know that saying “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? Pete Fancher always encourages people to leave all the competition talk at the competition and he’s so right. Most people don’t want to hear about your body fat percentage woes. They don’t want to be inconvenienced by your ridiculous eating schedule nor do they really care to see your daily iphone selfies. While it’s OK to let people know you are competing, you can’t let it dominate your life and conversation.

If you have to sneak off to get a few bites of chicken in, do it, but don’t complain about it. If you have to cut something short to run back to the gym to get your second cardio in, leave that to yourself. And, if you still “feel fat” at below average body fat percentages, keep that to yourself as much as possible too. Save that type of conversation for your teammates or people who truly get it or keep it to yourself – or you’ll lose friends as fast as you can say “workout”.

typical gym rat bodybuilder

Wrap It Up

bikini competitor flex funMost of the above tips are just things I’ve observed over years of listening to what the judges complain about or witnessing awkward moments. Judges can disqualify you for being late, acting up, ruining property or being disrespectful. They can also embarrass you to high heaven if you aren’t listening.

While it’s a known fact that competitors are often a little loopy and one fry short of a happy meal from being carb-depleted and dehydrated, these tips should make the whole experience so much better for you and everyone participating in this special day with you.

1 comment

  1. Sam

    WOW! I didn’t realise there was so much to a Bikini comp!
    Im an awe at how beautiful these women are! You always see photos or articles about super duper bulky fitness models but you guys look GREAT! I;m very jealous, i hope that i can have the dedication to do this one day!

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