front double biceps

Posted 1 year ago

Competing in multiple shows

When I look back on my first ever season, I realise that put everything into one show, and when it didn’t go the way I wanted, I was heartbroken. Fast forward to now, 4 years later, and I’ll be doing 5 shows over the course of 5 weeks. This is fairly common for 2nd-3rd time competitors but not so much for first timers.

If I could go back, I would have 100% done multiple shows across different federations in my first season, but just never got around to it for many reasons. Therefore, the aim of this article is to discuss why I would have done so, the benefits of doing multiple shows in one season, as well as the potential drawbacks. It should then allow you to make your own decisions as to what you might do in your upcoming season.

Why should you do multiple shows in one season? Pros:

Whether or not you are in your first or second season, or are a seasoned competitor, my advice will always be the same: compete in as many shows as you can without burning out! Why? Well, firstly it would be a shame to put in all that hard work only to compete once.

In fact, if we were to compare what we do as athletes to what a football team do, it would seem daft for them to just complete the pre-season training, play one game, and then be done for the year. Obviously, teams may play in a tournament, which requires the first-round match, second round match, semi-finals and then finals – and that’s just to begin with! Importantly, with each match, the football team has to learn to play better, learn from their previous performance on how to improve, and as such, get better at going up against tougher competition. Do you see where I’m going here?

We can extrapolate this analogy and compare it to a bodybuilder who approaches their season with the aim of doing one show and finishing up for the year: it seems quite silly, right? Just imagine that it’s your first ever show, you’re incredibly nervous at the side of the stage, you walk on, rush your routine a little and don’t quite get some poses right. On the same day, three seasoned veterans show up to compete who are just better. The show is over in the blink of an eye, and you’re left feeling unsatisfied, annoyed and perhaps frustrated. Why would you end your season there?

If you knew you had another show coming up, you may feel motivated to go into your next competition, inspired by your fellow competitors, and be excited to improve on your posing. Let’s say that you do just that, you’re at the side of the stage, they call your name, you walk out and smash your routine and hit every pose. It is also a different federation that want a slightly different look, you fit the criteria well and end up placing 2nd. How would that feel?

I’m sure that you can agree that it would feel incredible to have come back with a better package, smashed it, and grabbed a placing. This would also increase your confidence to go into the next show, perhaps this one being the last. To be honest, I’d usually recommend an athlete does 3-4 shows max before calling the season a day.

To reiterate my point, there are many benefits to competing in multiple shows in one season:

Firstly, to touch on what I said earlier about different federations looking for a different look, this is something that many competitors overlook. One federation may prefer a softer look, the other one a little more of a harder look but it can also come down to the average of the people on stage. Imagine you’re a bikini competitor, you go on stage with 9 other girls, all of whom are a little softer than you are. Because the average look is now what you’re presenting, it is unlikely that you’ll do well because judges tend to favour the average. This is where this really is outside of your control and you have to rely on your coach helping you bring the best look to the right federation. However, if you turn up to a different show and you are within the average, you might do incredibly well. Therefore, you probably wouldn’t feel like all your efforts had been in vain.

Secondly, another benefit of doing multiple shows is that it gives you more opportunities to nail the final few days to help present a better look each time. For example, male bodybuilders will need to carb load going into a show and dry out, and it is likely that you won’t always nail it the 1st time you give it a shot. Don’t get me wrong, you might get very close, but with each show you do, you’ll learn valuable information about what works, what doesn’t work and how you can manipulate things going into the next show to present a better look.

Lastly, you’ve more than likely put 16-20 weeks into this process, have completely changed your lifestyle, have had to give up on attending social occasions, meals out, and have had to implement some form of restriction for an extended period of time. But if it has all paid off and you look the best you have ever looked, then you want to enjoy all that hard work. Give yourself the chance to show it off and be proud of what you’ve achieved and watch your confidence skyrocket. I can definitely say, hand on heart, that with each show that I’ve done, I’ve felt less nervous and more confident, and now I’m at the point where I’m very relaxed when I step on stage.

Why shouldn’t you do multiple shows in one season? Cons:

With every argument favouring a long competitive season will also come an argument against it. If you haven’t competed yet, and it’s your first season, you might not be aware of how expensive it can be to just do one show. If you total up the cost of food, coaching, supplements, PEDs, travel, accommodation, entry fees, tan and photography, it can quickly add up. Not only that, but if you are a female, you may have the heels, jewellery, hair and make-up to add on top of that! You can get into the thousands very quickly if you aren’t very careful.

But there are some ways to work around it: book everything far in advance so that you get all travel costs etc for the cheapest rate. When buying supplements or such, buy them in bulk and take advantage of discount codes, and the same goes with your food. Ladies, you can look for second-hand bikinis, or even rent one from some companies, get practise sessions with make-up online and then do it yourself on show day along with your hair. If you are part of a team, such as VW Physique we have a group chat where all our athletes share where they are sourcing all of the above.

One other reason not to do multiple shows can be the risk of “burn out”. What I mean by this is that sometimes if you try and maintain a very lean physique for an extended period of time, the body can actually begin to look worse. If not managed correctly, you can begin to lose muscle mass and look fairly stringy. This is just a build up a fatigue caused by months of dieting. It can be detrimental to your physique (as well as your health) to continue to compete, because once you’ve reached that point, no matter what you do, you won’t be able to present that “best look” you presented last month.

However, if you have a good coach, who you check in with frequently, you should be able to avoid this, or to keep it as minimal as possible. Personally, when clients get towards the end of a dieting phase, they will check in with me daily and we make micro manipulations to food, fluid and training based on what we see and how they feel. This ensures we bring the absolute best to each show without them burning the candle at both ends.

Doing multiple shows simply extends your dieting phase and might add another 3-5 weeks on top of the time you spent preparing for your first show. This obviously means that you’ll have to continue to miss out on nights out, take-aways and what not, and if you have a family/partner who are being affected by your prep, then you might want to call it a day early. It’s no secret that prep is incredibly selfish – it needs to be to ensure you get lean! So if managing your relationship isn’t cutting it (and you have tried all the advice outlined in my article on ‘Prep and partners’ , you might want to stop prep and create some more you time as a couple.

Lastly, if you didn’t know already, getting the tan off from week to week and having to shave your entire body can be a pain! Combine that with some federations wanting slightly different poses it might mean having to tweak things from week to week to suit that federation. These are somewhat null points and something I’d say you just have to “put up with” if you’re wanting to do multiple shows.

In summary, there are strong arguments for competing in multiple shows whether you are in your first season or not. It’s always my recommendation, as I believe that the benefits of doing so will far outweigh the drawbacks of doing so; and I believe that if you do, you will have a happier, and more successful prep. One should consider the cost of competing and plan ahead if they are looking to extend their season, and ensure they have a good coach so they don’t burn out towards the end of prep.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons