I thought it might be interesting to give you a behind the scenes glimpse (in words, anyway – no pics were taken) of what happens at these things, and to tell you why you really should go to something similar if you compete.
Why is posing important?
Posing is incredibly important to competitive bodybuilders. It’s how we’re judged on the day. For my category, and in the federations I’ve done and do, we have to do:
quarter turns (the judges score “symmetry” in this round)
compulsory poses (used to judge “muscularity” and “conditioning”)
a free posing routine to music
If you can’t pose – and pose really well – you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. You could be the most genetically gifted bodybuilder with a beautiful structure, you could have trained as hard as you like, and dieted to achieve great condition… but if you then just stand there on stage, unable to pose, or posing badly, the judges can’t judge you. They can only judge what they see, after all.
Isn’t it just… standing there and flexing?
Nope. It’s really hard. Not just hard to learn, but physically hard. It hurts, it makes you out of breath, it makes you sweat. You’ll ache from it the next day. And the most you practice, the easier it is. If I told you right now to spread your lats, would you be able to do it? Can you engage your lats, switch them on, spread them without hunching your shoulders or pinching your scapula or bunching your traps? It’s not all front double biceps 😉 (although we do those, too).
Why do you have to learn it?
Like any skill, there’s an art to it. You need to learn, ideally from someone who can actually see you moving and touch you to help you get it right. You definitely can’t just rock up and hope for the best. Nobody was born knowing how to do bodybuilding poses, and watching Pumping Iron really won’t be enough.
Is it important to practice?
Yes! As often as possible. Not only will practicing your posing help it become second nature, but you’ll be able to find your own style, make those subtle little tweaks which show your physique off and highlight your strengths (and hide your weaknesses, which is what also what it’s about!) Posing practice actually helps tighten you up and “bring you in” (<< quality BB lingo for you right there) during prep. And the more you practice posing, the easier it’ll be on the day. You’ll sweat less under the lights, so your tan won’t run as much.
Surely it’s easy?
It’s really not. I’d like to think I’ve got a decent level of proprioception, but there are still a couple of poses I find very difficult. Not just physically, but mentally. My head just doesn’t know what I mean. And I favour one side on some poses. Ask me to do them on the other side (as can happen on stage) and I fumble and bumble. No bueno!
All of that is a preamble, explaining a little about why I drove up to Leamington Spa to attend a 3-hour posing workshop yesterday. It’s important!
So, what happens at these things?
Yesterday, we were split into two groups – one with Rich, one with Max. This was roughly done by federation. Most of the people I was with are prepping for the UKDFBA UK Open show, the remaining NPA qualifiers (or the Finals if already qualified), or the BNBF British. I was one of two females. But posing with men is no problem for me, as I do exactly the same poses as them.
We started at 9am, changing into bikinis/trunks (no point being shy at posing class!) and went through our quarter turns one by one. I stuck myself front and centre, cos that’s my style 😉 Everyone received individual feedback and critique, positive or negative/where improvements could be made. There are mirrors, as it’s always good to be able to see yourself, but it’s also important (IMO) to *not* look at yourself in the mirror sometimes during poses. After all, there are no mirrors on stage and if you can only hit a pose when you can see your own reflection, you’re going to struggle on the day.
After the 1/4 turns we went through all eight compulsories, and got individual feedback. We were able to learn from each other as well as from “teacher” Richard.
We had a few breaks for water/food if necessary during the couple of hours of posing – it really is hard work. I was sweating more than I do during some of my training sessions.
We then went through everything exactly as it would be called on the day of a comp, without stopping for critique. It’s important to know how the poses “flow”, and to be able to hold them for a reasonable amount of time. You never know how long you’ll have to hold them on stage, it could be quite a long time.
After that, people had the opportunity to run through their free posing routines or to work on putting one together if they haven’t yet done so. I took the chance to just keep on posing, jumping in with some of the guys in the other group. As far as I’m concerned you really can’t practice enough, and should grab every opportunity!
Here are the compulsory poses I have to do as a female bodybuilder with the UKDFBA/INBF (WNBF… one day! 😉 )
Front Double Biceps
Front Lat Spread
Rear Double Biceps (showing one calf)
Rear Lat Spread (showing one calf)
Abs and Thigh Pose
Most Muscular (this is technically “of your choice” but they can call specific ones so you’d better learn ’em!)
After the class? I trained hamstrings and calves with Richard (a WNBF Pro Heavyweight who’s currently off-season) and Troy (a very impressive junior who won his class at NPA and is prepping for more shows). We were training for nearly two hours.
Yeah… suffice to say that I’m pretty tired and sore this morning 😉
Competitors, have you been to a posing club or class? Do you struggle with any particular poses?
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.