7 Tips for the Stage

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The first time under bright stage lights can be tough for any competitor. These 7 fitness tips will help you make a perfect transition to competition.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to compete. I was a 39-year-old mother of one struggling to lose my excess weight. I was unhappy with my body & health issues. I felt somewhat lost and reluctantly accepted that my daily life would consist of childcare, keeping house, supporting my partner while he pursued his career, and I struggling to lose weight.

I actually learned about fitness competitions through the internet and magazines!,” I saw pages with mothers who had undergone physical transformations and achieved competition-worthy physiques. I knew I found my next challenge after years of motivating others to get fit and healthy, I wanted to achieve something for me to be proud of and for my daughter to be proud of her mum too.

1. First steps

In photos, competing looked fun, easy, and glamorous, but when the day came for me to slip into a tiny suit and sky-high heels, and stand in front of judges—I was a complete wreck. I quickly understood the importance of stage presence and posing.

I remember posing in the studio, embarrassed that my fellow colleagues & gym buddies were watching me posing in 5-inch heels.

My first posing session didn’t go as I’d imagined. There wasn’t any music or glitz; it was just me in the studio which was covered in mirrors. I remember thinking: What am I doing? If I’m this nervous now, how can I do this in front of a huge audience?

I’d seen the strengths and weaknesses of my physique and learned what poses work best for my body. Put my experience to work for you! Follow these five insider competition tips and you’ll be ready to tackle your first show in no time at all.


2. Hire a reputable coach

As a competitor, you go through months of strenuous training and dieting to get your body stage-ready. Despite being physically ready, you have to know how to present your individual physique to showcase your strengths and conceal your weaknesses. While there are mandatory poses within each division, many details can be adjusted to make your presentation stronger. A great posing coach can evaluate your physique and—with the subtle switch of foot position, twist of the torso, or tilt of the pelvis—create lines and shape to emphasize muscles that can mean the difference between placing and being stuck in the crowd.

Every competitor should have at least one session with a posing coach. However, I recommend continued sessions throughout competition prep as your physique changes. If you want my help with this, then you can get in touch with me here.

In my case, my legs were too big and muscular in the beginning, so I needed to pose in a variation of the basic front pose in order to downplay their size and give the illusion of a more balanced physique. Had I only seen a posing coach during the beginning of my prep, I would have gone on stage with stances that did not present my physique in the best possible way.

3. Record your sessions 

Mirrors are nice, but video is your best friend. How you present yourself on stage can have a huge influence on your placing. Do you smile and move gracefully through your poses, or do you look like a deer caught in headlights? Stage presence is as much confidence as it is grace. Every competitor on stage has a remarkable physique, but placing in the top positions means bringing a complete package. This is where consistently practicing and taping your routines can make all the difference.

First, pose with mirrors to see how each pose looks and feels. Once you consistently hit your poses without much correction, trade in your mirror for a video camera. Why? You won’t become dependent on looking at your reflection while posing, and video playback will still allow you to check your form. Eventually you’ll learn how to adjust your body based on how poses feel, not how they look.

The first time I videotaped my routine, I had a preconceived idea of how I looked.  The way I walked looked completely different than it felt; I made facial expressions I didn’t even know I could make; and certain stances I thought were perfect revealed my skin folds, which is not aesthetically pleasing. Finally, I saw what the judges would see. Videotaping made all the difference. Here’s a tip: Watch tapes of competitors’ presentations, compare them to yours, and mimic those you like. Small details can make a big difference!

4. Focus on timing – and breathe! 

Practicing your routine as much as possible will allow you to perform it on stage without hesitation. Efficiently transitioning between the mandatory poses not only creates a polished and flawless presentation, it also allows more time to hold each mandatory pose. This becomes extremely important when considering the limited window you have to present months of hard work and training.

For this reason, it’s so important to time your routine. Most competitions will only allot you a certain time to complete your presentation. When you’re on stage, you need to be able to get into your poses and “feel” how long you hold them so you don’t run the risk of falling short on time and failing your routine.

A great trick to keep track of timing during your presentation, without having to count, is through breathing. Taking a deep breath in takes roughly one second to complete, while breathing out takes about two seconds. When holding a mandatory pose, I simply breathe out for two seconds, transition while taking a quick breath, and then hit my next mandatory pose while breathing out. In addition to helping keep time, the deep breath out ensures I tighten my core. It also prevents me from holding my breath—a move many competitors resort to that causes them to appear miserable.

Jo on stage portrait

5. Simulate the big day

The saying “knowledge is power” could not be truer on competition day. Learn as much as you can about the competition venue. Attend a competition at the location beforehand to allow you to see how large the stage and audience are if possible, you will know what to expect when you first walk out. If you anticipate a small stage and audience but walk out onto a long stage with an open audience, it can be intimidating.

Also, think about what will be beneath your feet. Know whether the floor you present on is wood or carpet; that will give you a leg up. Routines which use pivots to turn can work well on hardwood floors but spell disaster on carpet. Regardless of the flooring, be sure to rehearse your routine in your shoes and suit.

The first time I competed, I’d only worn my heels during short practices. The day of the competition, I had to wear them significantly longer. Before I even stepped on stage, my feet hurt and I walked differently because of the pain and fatigue. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Now, several weeks prior to competition, I begin wearing my heels around the house and add padding to alleviate pain. The less discomfort I feel on stage, the less I worry about wobbling, losing my balance, or tripping.

Also, be sure to tune in. Practicing to your music—or the type of music that will be played for your division—will get you used to the energy level created by the tempo of a song. If you practice in silence, the sudden energy of competition day and the upbeat music can result in overcompensating and adding too much flare and movement to your routine.

Finally, nothing boosts confidence like having friends in the audience cheer you on, although I didn’t have much of this in my 1st show – which was tough but hearing the roar of familiar voices as you walk across the stage can quiet any negative thoughts in your head, lead to a genuine smile, and make you an eye-catching, confident competitor.

6. Buy your posing suit early

Choosing the perfect posing suit seems like an exciting prospect, after all you’re getting in greater shape each day, and your dream is finally coming into a reality. But getting the clothing just right can be extremely tricky, and the closer you come to competition day, the less options you have available.

Because of this it’s important to buy your outfit several weeks ahead. In my case this is usually when I’m about 8 weeks out, as my overall shape won’t change too much, but it still leaves me with enough time to send it back and get adjustments made (should I need it!). The last thing you want is all your hard work spoilt down to wardrobe malfunction!

On this point it’s really important to know your designer, and get an understanding of the type of garments they’ve produced for competitors in the past.  These people have a great eye for detail and can help you make the right choice. Babet from Divas Fitwear produced my posing suit and has been extremely helpful in making alterations so the fit is spot on for my physique. It pays dividends to get the right designer for you, so ask for their advice if you feel you need it, and speak up & ask for help if something doesn’t fit right.

Diva Monica

7. Know your judges 

Know who will be judging at your event, and who the head judge will be; this can be an invaluable tool. Judging can be entirely subjective. While one judge may prefer a softer more feminine physique with a more flirtatious look and more movement, another judge may prefer a harder physique with slightly more visible musculature and a more professional routine. If you’re serious about competing, know your judges and their preferences. Ask via word-of-mouth, or view the galleries and videos of past winners to give you a hint.

Enjoy the journey and the big day you have worked so hard towards because it really is over in a blink of an eye! Take lots of photos backstage as that is where a lot of the fun happens.

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  • Adele

    thanks for the tips !! I’m doing miami pro fit mum .. I’m very nervous as I have a very different body to others I’m curvy and big boobed and 47 !! See you there .. Adele ️xx

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