Posted 3 weeks ago

Posing: when, why and how

If you have never stepped on stage but would like to do so one day, you probably already know that posing is something you’re going to have to do. It can be quite the task to get your head around, and in my coaching journey, I’ve repeatedly seen that the first time an athlete attempts this, it can be quite off-putting.

This is because poses feel awkward and are very hard to do! Think of the bikini side shot, where the glutes and hips are lifted, and the upper body is twisted. It sounds hard because it is hard. In fact, poses are far from any position we’d be in on a day-to-day basis, and nobody walks around looking like that, and you are probably going to feel very silly the first time you give it a go.

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to discuss when you should start your posing practice, why you need to do it (consistently!) and how often to do it.

When to start
Although this may seem like stating the obvious, the sooner you learn the poses for your category, the better. I’ve seen so many shows where a competitor walks out with great conditioning, looks like they could potentially win, but then doesn’t even place because their posing wasn’t up to scratch.

This is usually down to not learning the poses early enough and also not putting in the time to practice like you need to. With this in mind, if your show is two years away, then give yourself an advantage and learn the poses two years beforehand! I’ve seen so many athletes wait until they start dieting before doing any sort of posing, and by the time they step on stage, it shows.

By learning your poses early on, it will also allow you and your coach to make adjustments to your program so that it helps you make improvements in the key areas you’re trying to showcase. Is your current rotation bringing up the right areas? Are these growing in size, shape and density? Are other body parts starting to lag behind? At the end of the day, if you’re stepping on stage, you want to look good in your poses – nobody cares what you look like backstage!

These are questions you may have not asked yourself yet, but they’re certainly things that you should be thinking about each week. Given that posing is simply an illusion, you’re going to need to get good at creating that illusion if you want to do well. Of course, you can only create the illusion if you have enough tissue – so learn your poses, assess your weaknesses, and get to work.

Why start early
If you take the bikini IFBB side shot as an example (Figure 1) you can see how Clara’s hip is hitched up, hips are offset to the side and she twists from her upper back to face the front. This shows of the glutes and makes her waist look smaller, creating that illusion that I mentioned before. Although this looks fairly natural, I’m sure she will be the first to tell you that it most certainly doesn’t feel that way.

Figure 1

If she checked in standing facing toward the side unflexed, and did this right up until we started dieting, from a coaching standpoint it’d be difficult to tell if she had the necessary tissue required for stage. Therefore, you can see the importance of why you should learn your poses early. I always say that if we are working towards presenting the physique in a certain way, then we should be preparing with this in mind and work on presenting it throughout the whole bodybuilding process.

Another reason to start early is that if you are actively looking to add tissue in the glutes, for example, then how these will look in the side shots will change over time. Because of this change, you will have to tweak your positioning i.e., alter how you twist or how you hitch the hip up. The same will go for when you are dieting – as you get smaller it often becomes that little bit easier to do this, and some lines become more visible in certain tweaked positions that favour your shape. Therefore, practice is essential.

Another reason to start early is building confidence. Confidence can often be overlooked in competing, but when there are two competitors of similar conditioning, size, and shape, the one thing that will separate the two is how they pose, and how confidently they do so. If you have been practising for months or years, you will have confidence in hitting the necessary poses, nailing the transitions, and will therefore have an edge over your fellow competitors on stage. Competing is quite intense as it is, so would you rather feel confident and sassy, or terrified, unsure if you’re doing it right, and scared of falling over?

How often should you practice?
If you are in a gaining phase, I feel it is important to practice for at least 10 minutes or so 2-3 times a week. You could do this post workout, first thing in the morning or whenever you have the spare time. In these off-season phases, many athletes can get lazy or complacent, but if you have a look at the ones who improve year in year out, they will be practicing in their off-season. This is because practicing in the offseason feels 10x harder, so nailing it when you have more body fat will mean it will look seamless on stage.

If you have entered a dieting phase or a prep for a show, I suggest that this becomes incorporated into your daily routine and that you do so for at least 10-15 minutes; the duration will increase closer to the show. Not only will it improve your confidence and allow you to tweak your positioning as you get leaner but there is another added benefit: it burns calories.

Believe it or not, tensing every muscle in your body whilst trying to look natural (Figure 2) is extremely difficult. You might be used to contracting muscles in a gym, but not every single muscle, all at once. Try this and within 10 seconds or so you might notice you begin to shake. After a minute or two you might be breathless and fatigued. Not many first timers know this, but you will spend 20-25minutes on stage on show day, and if you’re only used to practicing posing for 5minutes sporadically, you won’t be able to hold condition on stage.

Figure 2

The more you practice, the easier the poses are to hold. But as we know it burns calories, it actually helps drive you further into a calorie deficit, aiding in fat loss. I also have noticed a crossover to training, in that the tension created when lifting gets that little bit more intensified, and it’s directly correlated with our posing. Spend 15 minutes each day contracting your glutes, it becomes second nature to do so on a hip thruster.

Personal experience
I still remember learning to pose for the first time back in 2016. At the time, my posing coach was Joe Parish. In our first session we spent 45 minutes trying to nail a simple lat spread, and by the end of it, I still couldn’t really grasp it. However, this didn’t take too long to nail and by the time it came to competing (Summer 2017), posing was second nature.

I was always told to “learn the poses early” and that’s exactly what I did. The importance of this was then reaffirmed later in my career, when I began posing for classic physique in April 2019 with Steff Noble and learned my routine the next month. I then competed the following year in March 2020. Once again, by the time I stepped on stage, posing came naturally to me.

The point I am trying to make here is that I learned early and worked with a posing coach from the start. Only in doing so did it give me the confidence and knowledge on how to present my physique as best as I could when the time came to step on stage. Having now worked with hundreds of men and women over the years and getting them to do the same, I now swear by its importance: the earlier you can learn, the better.

Booking in sessions monthly, doing online zoom session, videoing yourself and sending it to your coach: it all helps!

In summary, the earlier you can start to learn your posing the better. It’s important to start early and stick with it even if you are in a gaining phase. Doing so will allow you to make alterations to your program based on how the physique is responding. As your physique changes over time, you’ll be able to tweak your poses to create that illusion and through daily practice, your confidence will sky-rocket.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons