Know the organization’s judging criteria
What are the judges are looking for? Are they looking for symmetry, muscularity, skin tone, or model looks? Believe it or not different organizations are looking for different things and have different expectations. Knowing these guidelines will help you focus your posing on what the judges are ultimately critiquing.
Know your body and genetics.
This may seem obvious, but the more on target you are you with this, the easier it will be to have success with posing within your category. Do you have a more muscular frame and smaller hips? Do you have boxed abdominal muscles? Do you put on muscle fairly easy? Are you able to lean out the bottom half of your body? If so, figure is probably right for you. If you have more of a curvy hour glass physique with rounder shoulders and fuller glutes, then bikini is a good choice. You can search for professionals in each category to determine which you fall best in line with.
Practice months and months in advance.
Yes, you want it to look natural, but there are some poses and transitions you need to perfect to make it look effortless. Let's face it, when you are on stage it's easy to let nerves get the best of you. Without it being second nature, you could rush, forget a mandatory pose or even completely go blank. I recommend starting in front of the mirror but then slowly ween away from it to make sure you don’t get dependent on it. There are no mirrors on the stage. Muscle memory is so very important to attain so that your body just “falls” into the right positions every time. It’s important to practice in a space that’s similar to the size of the stage you will be on. This will help you work on filling your space and cover enough ground for all the judges to see your attributes.
Practice your Angles.
With posing, your body looks best at certain angles and views. If you've only practiced your posing with the assumption that you are posing to the middle judge in the middle of the stage, then you will be unpleasantly surprised when you end up on the very end of the stage in a line up. You must learn how to change your positioning and body according to your position on stage. Your goal is to emphasize a small waist and developed glutes. The best way to do this is to twist at the waist (hips going in the opposite direction) and keep your chest to the judges. It is ideal to have your best angles geared to the middle judge so you must move your stance and shoulders accordingly. It's all about illusions.
Imagine creating "photos”.
I tell my clients to imagine that at any given time there will be a picture taken of you. Whether you are walking, transitioning, or posing, your body should be creating a nice line. Lines are EVERYTHING. I ask my clients, "If I took a photo right now, would you want to keep that photo and put it up on your fridge?” Usually the answer is no. When you hit your poses, give enough time in your poses for an imaginary photo to be taken. The reality is, if you are at a competition there probably will be photos taken if you. Bottom line don't rush. It gives the judges and audience time to take in that statuesque body position.
Practice with other people.
Use other people to play as your competitors. You will not be the only one on stage. It is important to know how to handle yourself when you are lined up in between two people or switching positions.
Practice holding poses for extended periods.
When I was competing as a pro figure competitor, I would set up a kitchen timer and practice holding each pose for minutes on end. Yes, you will cramp, and yes, it will hurt; but that's the muscle memory your body will call upon deep into your competition. Whether you are on stage super long or you have nerves wiggling their way into your head, your body will remain looking like the professional you are. No judge likes to see a competitor readjusting a million times. Basically, if your back doesn’t hurt after posing you are doing it wrong.
Don't copy others.
As a judge, I hated to see a different version of the same person. Have your own unique style and personality. It will look and flow so much more naturally. A good example I’ve noticed is when bikini competitors “fly” or “flap” their arms down 3-4 times before lowering their arm into the position that it is supposed land (in front position). Enough already, it looks ridiculous! Same with the bikini back pose, it looks very bad when you lean too far forward. You should be rotating the hips correctly and just have your back arched as much as possible and shoulders back without leaning forward. If you copy others you might pick up these bad habits and think that you are doing what the judges want but in reality, it looks awkward, rehearsed, and over-done. Bottom line if you have a stellar body you shouldn’t have to do crazy poses or arm movements to get the attention of the judges.
Watch videos and then videotape yourself.
See what looks best and what looks unnatural. You can learn a lot from videos but you can also learn a lot wrong; so be careful. You may also want to go to a show to see what you like and don’t like about other stage presentations. I also recommend videoing yourself so you can get a clearer understanding on what others will see.
Picture yourself as a silhouette.
You know the thing that is the outline of your body. No face, suit, or muscles; just lines. Especially for figure, is your silhouette symmetrical? Is that image worthy of a shirt a logo? I’ve noticed this used to help me focus on my lines and position at all times.
Party in your head.
Make sure you look like you want to be there. SMILE. Over the years of judging, I noticed some girls that looked like they would rather be getting a root canal then up on stage. Look like you want to be there for goodness sake. I tell my clients to try to imagine yourself out dancing and having fun with your friends. It portrays a lightness and effortlessness in your body language and face.
Show confidence over cockiness.
First impression is everything. I can usually tell a winner within the first couple steps on stage. These steps should be strong and confident. You've worked hard for 12 weeks or more on your physique and you should be proud. If you feel proud, it will show in your body language and in your walk. If you are still not as confident as you should be, then “fake it until you make it” and put on a show even if you don’t feel it. No one in the audience knows who you are so live it up it and it will help your overall presentation. It is important to make eye contact with the judges. This shows assertiveness that the judges want in a winner. Lastly, please don't have a scandalous “sexy” walk or facial expression. Fitness competitions are PG-13 events. It feels awkward for the audience and the judges to watch a competitor that is doing that.
Keep nails neutral.
Just because your suit is purple doesn't mean you should paint your nails a beautiful lilac color. Colors on your nails distract the judges’ eyes away from your body. Remember they should be looking at your beautiful face and body rather than being distracted by your hands.
When you are nervous and in front of an audience, your natural tendency is to go faster. I tell my clients to practice slower then you normally would go because you inevitably will go faster on stage whether you realize it or not.
Always keep your chest up.
Whether you are walking, standing off stage, or waiting as others are up, keep your chest up and shoulders back. The area in which I see a lot of competitors hinge forward is when they transition between poses. You must keep your lower back arched the whole time. It shows confidence and looks professional when done correctly. Remember you are always being judged and on display. Don’t forget you are putting on a show. Never let the judges see you relax your body.
I can't stress this enough. Whether you are figure, fitness, physique or bikini, it is super important to keep your hands and fingers natural and soft. There is a way to do it, and when done correctly, it is subtle and elongates your arms from your elbows down. If your wrists are sharp and bent, you will be cutting off your lines.
Hire a Professional.
Enlist someone that has years of experience. Hire someone that has attained a pro card AND competed in actual professional (Pro) events. The more knowledgeable the better. Preferably, hire someone that has been on the other side of the stage and has judged competitions.
In my eyes, your posing and stage presentation are as important as your nutrition and training. I hope these tips can help you have success at your next competition. I am here to answer any questions you might have. Show up the whole package. For in-person or online posing instruction contact me.