Ask anyone who’s experienced the adventure and challenge of Bikini competition and they will tell you that there’s way more to it than throwing on a sparkly suit and a pair of heels and hitting the stage… way more.
There’s a ton of hard work, commitment, and determination that goes in to becoming stage-ready and let’s face it- if you’ve made the decision to do something that will pretty much consume your life for at least several months, chances are likely that you’re one driven chick with an edge to achieve greatness.
Fitness competition has come a long way, baby, from the old days when women’s bodybuilding was the only option for women to compete. It evolved in to the categories of Figure, Physique and as of about 7 years ago, Bikini.
The arrival of Bikini competition on the fitness scene meant that the door was opened for a lot of women to compete. This category is for a softer look than Physique and Figure, and it’s provided a place for women who are in great shape and who can eat clean to get on stage and rock their stuff.
It’s already a win making it to show day and getting on that stage with all the preparation and hard work involved. You’ve trained hard and consistently, you’ve dieted, you’ve sat at the table with your chicken breast and plain, boring veggies and watched longingly while your loved ones scarfed down bread and enjoyed a glass of wine without you…
By show day you’ve:
- Practiced your stage walk and posing over and over and over. And over.
- Achieved a gorgeous tan
- Chosen your suit and made sure it fits the way it’s supposed to in all the right places (don’t forget the glue!)
- Got your stage makeup dialed in and your accessories chosen
- Waxed everywhere you can think of
- Got your nails done
- Put time in to making sure your hairstyle is neat, clean, and not distracting…
Phew. I’m exhausted just writing about it.
And we haven’t even talked about the judges yet. Turns out they’re real, live people and guess what that means? They’re subjective, they have opinions, they may favor some things and not others, and it can be pretty darn hard to predict what they’ll be in to from one show to another.
So, you’re a tough-minded go-getting hard-charging chick and you’ve made the commitment to go the distance and compete and do aaaaaaall the work involved to get there. You know there will be a lot of other ladies on stage who have been on a similar journey, that there isn’t an exact formula to what the judges will be looking for on show day and, in fact, that this part is kind of out of your control.
Well, if you’ve gone that far then chances are you’ve got that inner-tigress that wants to do the best you possibly can, knock it out of the park on show day and maybe even bring home a little hardware.
So how do you stand out and not only catch those judge’s eyes but leave a lasting impression?
What The Rules say
There are a lot of organizations that sponsor Bikini competitions, but the guidelines are pretty similar across the board. Here’s what they’re looking for in competitors:
- An overall healthy appearance and toned body
- Symmetry, balance and proportion
- Presentation including posture, poise and stage presence
- Well-presented hair, makeup, skin tone and complexion
What judges are definitely not looking for are overly muscular competitors with any striations.
These guidelines are a good general starting point, but they leave a lot of room for interpretation and they still don’t answer our questions: How exactly do you stand out as a competitor? What are the top things judges are really looking for?
What the judges and experts say
To find out the answer to this mystery we went straight to the source. OK to some sources, and here’s what they had to say…
Crystal Woods is a pro Bikini and Figure competitor who’s been judging Bikini competitions for the Organization of Competition Bodies, the American Natural Bodybuilding Federation, and the National Gym Association for the last 5 years. She’s the 2016/2017 World Bikini Champion, owner of Quarter Turn Posing Studio, and a public speaker and fitness model. She’s kind of amazing!
When it comes to the top things judges are really looking for in competitors, Crystal says “it’s the total overall package, it’s never just one thing. I’m looking at stage presence, conditioning, muscularity, and yes, I do want to see muscularity in Bikini competitors…it’s posing, I want to see capped shoulders, glute-hamstring tie in, and no striations. Bikini competitors should not have any muscle striations. We look for good makeup, a great tan, hair done nicely… It really does boil down to all the little details.”
Crystal also shared how important it is to find some way to stand out, and used the example of suit color: “Everyone does blue or green. So I do white.”
Stage presence and “refined posing”, as Crystal puts it, are another crucial area to pay attention to and a great way to stand out. “If a girl with a lesser physique knows how to pose she can beat out all the other girls.”
So invest in some coaching and practice practice practice that posing!
We also had the pleasure of chatting with Marjorie Thrash. She’s a pro Figure athlete, an event promoter, and judges Bikini competitions for the Organization of Competition Bodies. Another incredible athlete and woman!
Marjorie pointed out that a lot of people look at photos of winners from previous shows to try and figure out what judges are looking for. A hard look? A softer body? What athletes don’t realize and can easily misinterpret though, says Marjorie, is that the winner of a show is relative to who showed up that day. Judges are looking at “who is the best athlete out of who showed up on that particular day.”
“If you’ve got a hard Figure competitor competing in Bikini, and a bunch of girls show up at 20% body fat, the Figure competitor is going to win it.”
Since you really can’t control who’s going to show up on your show day, this is where you need to walk in to that competition with the confidence that you did everything you possibly could to prepare. You can only control you, right?
Marjorie shared that there are two key times on stage for catching the judges’ eyes- when the athletes are first coming out and then during turning and moving to the back of the stage.
“When the athletes come out on stage, who is your eye drawn to? We look for confidence. If someone doesn’t know how to pose, then they didn’t prepare for that day.”
When competitors turn and move toward the back of the stage, Marjorie says this is a time when judges can really begin to place women. “Are they walking slowly to keep things from moving that shouldn’t be? A body in motion is a whole lot different than a body in a pose.”
Marjorie says that as a judge she also looks at whether a competitor is “trying too hard” to bring out certain features (ahem). “They need to keep it tasteful, shows are a family environment. You shouldn’t have to bend over too far to make your body look right.”
Marjorie also shared how important it is to pay attention to your suit. Aside from great hair and makeup, “make sure your suit fits properly and the color should bring out your skin tone. A lot of girls order their suit too early and don’t take in to account that they will be smaller on show day. Some girls also order their suits too big because they’re self-conscious about their glutes.”
Marjorie adds that “hair should be put together and doesn’t have to be long. You don’t need hair extensions or anything. Just be yourself and let your personality come through.” Great advice!
Finally, we got to talk with Steph Dorworth of Beautiful to the Core. Steph is a Women’s Health and Fitness Coach, creator of the Bikini Competition Prep Guide, an internationally published fitness model and a Bikini competitor. She’s another incredible woman and athlete, a doctor of physical therapy and also a certified pilates instructor.
Says Steph: “Judges are looking for the total package. Think of it as a checklist. Judges are looking for an overall muscular balance and shape, tanned skin, glowing complexion, graceful posing, and how you present yourself.
“If a competitor only checks off the tanned skin and glowing complexion boxes but lacks a solid posing routine, lacks confidence, and is top heavy they are not going to win. If a competitor has the best balance and muscle shape but her tan is messed up and her posing is basic she is not going to win. They are looking for the absolute best total package which means girls who can check off every single box. Those are the girls who are going to place in the top five.”
Steph also adds: “Confidence is everything and it’s what will determine who places first out of the top five. At any given show, there may be several girls who are the top contenders physically: Hair, makeup, physique, heels, jewelry, nails, and everything are on point.
“So what sets competitors apart and allows one competitor to out-rank the others? Confidence. It all comes down to how you pose and the confidence you display. A competitor who sticks a smile on their face and goes through the motions is great. However a Bikini competitor who gazes into the judges’ eyes, varies her smiles and facial expressions, keeps her head up, and acts like she owns the stage is likely going to win over the judges.”
Well said, right?
Putting it all together…
Okay, so what were those top 3 things that judges are really looking for again? Here we go:
- The total, overall package with attention paid to ALL the details… as in all the boxes checked! According to our awesome experts, this includes hair, makeup, nails, suit fit and color, tan, physical conditioning, and definitely stage presence
- Excellent posing
That last one is so important… If you’ve checked all your boxes coming in to the morning of your show, you’ve prepared by posing your you-know-what off every day, maybe even practiced some visualization of supreme awesomeness up on that stage, then guess what? You’re going to walk in to your competition experience with this piece nailed and it will absolutely make a difference.
Now go get ‘em Tigress!
You’re an athlete, you’re a competitor, and you’re most likely in love with the idea of being the best you you can be. Taking up the challenge to compete and pulling together all of the details that make for the total overall package is an incredible race to run and so worth the adventure.
“The way you do anything is the way you do everything” ~Tom Waits
If you’re going to run that race and go the distance, you owe it to yourself to honor your hard work and commitment by walking in to show day knowing you’ve done everything you possibly can to prepare. The confidence that you take away from that effort and experience is your hard-won reward and you will carry it with you in to anything you do.