Looking to compete in the Bikini class in 2022? Let me shed some light on the physique of Today’s Bikini Competitor. If you think coming in soft without well developed muscle from lifting a lot of weight, but doing hours and hours of cardio and circuit training will put you in the top spot…think again. A few years ago, maybe. But not so much anymore.
Before you blast me and remind me of what the Judging Criteria is for Bikini, let me remind you…I am an NPC Regional Judge and I keep up with the local trends, as well as trends in each district, national level and pro. And let me tell you, the trends are very different at each level. Rarely will you find that written “criteria” followed. For one, the criteria is subjective. Two, judges see things different and have different perspectives.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying soft won’t win. You will find a few shows here and there that place the more “soft” competitor at the top…but that’s usually only when today’s bikini competitor doesn’t show up.
Sorry if that gives some of you butt hurt or it pisses a few coaches off, but this is an industry where truth and reality is required to get to the next level. Hold that back and you will have even more butt hurt when an underdeveloped/unconditioned competitor expects to win, but gets placed in 3rd call-outs. So save the sugar coating for the drama folks or sports where everyone gets a Participation Trophy.
Let me be the first to tell you, there is a distinct difference between the “judging criteria” and “judging trends.” The written criteria is one thing, but the trends are based on how Regional Judges are actually scoring since they are the ones that are sending competitors to the National shows. lately, that “trend” is fuller muscles, moderate hardness (and probably harder in 2022) with shoulders and arms that have a good amount of “distinction” between the shoulders and triceps. Notice I did not say “seperation” because that is not entirely accurate. But you can tell where the shoulder ends and the tricep begins so the word “distinction” is more accurate. That said, we are still seeing some overall winners that actually have a bit of striations in their shoulders. Just 2 years ago, they would have been marked down. Not any more.
It sounds confusing, I know. But again, judges can only judge based on who shows up, and thats what is showing up more and more at the bigger shows, and someone has to win.
Of course, well conditioned with solid glutes and hamstrings (see Team USA Athlete Valeria Ocano to the left) are still staples for Bikini, as has been the case for awhile, but a little harder now with tie-in’s that slightly show have been scoring better.
Indulge me for a moment and let me try to explain it a different way.
Take the bikini girls on the Olympia stage as a true representation of the Judging Criteria. They are there because in one way or another, they are as close to a perfect based on the judging criteria and every other competitor is missing something. At the national level, most of the time it’s going to be something related to conditioning. If the difference is one competitor being less conditioned and/or too small and the other competitor being more conditioned and/or a little big, who do you think is going to get the call? And keep in mind, this is BODY-BUILDING!
The Bikini Division has finally evolved
Take a step back and look from the outside for a minute. The reality is, Bikini is a part of bodybuilding. We’re not judging models or beauty pageant contestants. And when most of the competitors that appear before head judges Tyler and Sandy at national shows are harder and more conditioned than the criteria, that’s all they and the other judges have to go off of and someone has to win. So bite your tongue if you feel they are not judging based on what the criteria is. Again, that is what is showing up at National Shows these days. Softer athletes may fit the criteria better, but Regional Judges are not sending many to the National Shows. They are the ones setting the trends. And quite frankly, I like the harder look myself. Again, this is BODY-BUILDING!
So, how do you get to the current “trend” and standout among your fellow competitors?
You have to lift, HEAVY…PERIOD!
When I say lift heavy, I mean it. You have to start building your base up. You have to have body curves, and some muscular curves too. You need to hit your shoulders (arms too) just as hard as you hit your glutes. As glutes are the standard from the back, shoulders are becoming the standard from the front.
Light weight, high reps, lots of cardio and circuit style training is now a thing of the past. Get over it. Those who follow this style of training will most likely continue to fall down further and further in the standings.
Don’t get me wrong…cardio and circuit training has its place. But it would be a mistake to make them the foundation of your training program. They are tools…nothing more. Anf if you are doing more cardio than resistance training, you need to re-evaluate your programming.
I recommend lots of big compound movements like squats, deadlifts, barbell Hip Raises, Shoulder press, and throw in a lot of lateral raises too. I recommending building your workout program based on science backed Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) methodology.
If you think squats and deadlifts make a thicker and blocky waist, think again? That’s rubbish!!! There is absolutely zero scientific evidence that suggest such a thing. That’s just bro-science coming from people who have little to no knowledge of recent scientific research regarding bodybuilding. But, need visual proof? Go look at many of the top figure athletes (they need to maintain tiny waist too) these days…many are powerlifters in the offseason…just saying!
Need proof? Go take a look at Team USA Physique Coach Molly Greer picured at the top. She does a lot of squats, deadlifts and barbell hipthrust…and she lifts heavy. Just missed her procard by one spot at her first Pro Qualifer. How about Team USA Physique Coach Valerie Ocano (again, pictured upper right). Just look at those glutes and tiny waist; all built with heavy compound movements. It’s only her second year competing, and placed third at the NPC USA Championship Pro Qualifer.
Just one more? Sure! Just look those glutes, hamstrings and shoulders on McKay George pictured above. She missed her IFBB Procard by 1 spot at her first pro Qualifier, which just happened to be only the thrid time she every stepped on stage. I built her workout program with a lot of heavy Squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses and barbell hip raises. Got a problem with her waist or frame?
The point I’m trying to make here is that you need to pay attention to the trends from show to show. And in most instances now, you have to work hard, lift HEAVY and have the mindset of a bodybuilder to take it to the next level as today’s Bikini Competitor. If not, those who do will keep raising the bar out of your reach.
Lift hard. Lift Heavy. Lift Often.
For those who compete in Bodybuilding, cardio is a big issue and philosophies are all over the place. We consider ourselves “cardio minimalists”, with respect to offseason and contest prep. Sure, cardio is fantastic for general health purposes and it does well for fat loss, and keeping fat gain in check when used responsibly. However, cardio is not your friend when it comes to building an “optimal physique”, and that’s what we build. Yet on the same token, it will eventually become a necessary evil when it comes to getting stage lean.
I know that sounds confusing, so let me explain.
As a Physique Readiness Coach, our job is to help you reach your genetic potential so that you look your absolute best come stage time. To do this, you must optimize your metabolic rate which is actually quite simple and it starts in the offseason by putting emphasis on increasing your food intake as high as possible (while keeping your body fat gain reasonable) and lowering cardio to an absolute minimum. The reason is based on science, and quite frankly…common sense because the more cardio you do in the offseason, the less effective it is during contest prep. And this is why your offseason will be based on your workout program, nutrition and NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis) and little to no cardio.
There are two sides of this coin. Once you start your prep, calories should be high enough that you have plenty of room to pull from when fat loss stalls, and it will stall often. On the flip side, cardio should be low enough that you have plenty of cardio to add in, over time, without having to rely on hours and hours of it to keep fat loss going. Extreme doses of cardio typically lead to a slower rate of fat loss (and an increased likelihood of an all out fat loss stall), increased rate of muscles loss, slower recovery time, extreme fatigue at the final stages of prep, a less than optimal physique and a horrible rebound after the show is over.
Have you ever seen a competitor in the final weeks (or months) of prep doing hours of cardio multiple times a week? More often than not, progress stalls (a common problem in the lower half for females), the physique starts to show lower muscle mass retention, and they are just plain worn out? We do our best to make sure our competitors avoid this at all cost, and it starts in the offseason, with a strategic plan.
But in full disclosure, there may come a time for some that we have to flirt with the “extreme” in the final stages due to unforeseen circumstances that may arise during prep such as starting a prep without enough time because the competitor sought us out too late but was adamant about a show date, injury, sickness, relationship or work issues, extra travel, etc. Now we do add in extra time in your prep to give yourself a cushion for the “unforeseen” if you have been with us before you start prep, but we haven’t found that crystal ball yet that tells us how long those circumstances will last.
The bottom line is this: we keep cardio at a minimum (and in many cases, none) during the offseason, so it becomes merely a last resort tool during contest prep, instead of the main focus for fat loss.
You’ve just completed the final show of your season, you’ve been living on poverty carbs and fats for weeks on end…but what now?
First, take what I am saying with a grain of salt, because a single post cannot cover it all. Though it is not overly complicated, there is no one size fits all…this is just the basics.
Hopefully you or your coach put a plan together to get you started on the right path AND you were in AT LEAST the 4th Stage of Contest Prep, the Metabolic Building Stage. If so, chances are high that you will continue to lean out a little as you add calories back in.
The goal is simple, start reintroducing more food without putting on a ton a weight. To do this successfully, you must have the right mindset. You must be willing to eventually accept a reasonable amount of weight gain, including an acceptable amount of body fat, while eating as much food as possible to stay within that scope.
So, how do you do that?
First, look at your daily calorie intake at the end of prep…BEFORE you started Peak Week. Let’s say you were consuming 1500 calories a day. Next, determine how much weight you were losing per week, at that calorie range. Let’s say you were losing .5lb weekly.
Now, we all know the general rule of thumb is that it takes a 500 calorie deficit a day to lose 1lb per week. So, if you were losing .5lb a week, you were in a 250 calorie deficit.
Now, we calculate your maintenance. Its very simple, add 250 calories (your deficit) to the amount you were eating while losing .5lbs, (1500), you come up with 1750 calories. By calculation, that means your maintenance level would be around 1750 calories.
That would be a good place to start the first week or two after your last competition. It will give you some time to see if you are on track with your calculated caloric maintenance.
Next, if your weight stays fairly stable, then it’s time to start your reverse. A good place to start would be to add 5% to 7% to your caloric maintenance. If you want to focus on a more “Lean Gain” stick to the lower range. If you are ok with a little more body fat because you want to eat a little more food at a quicker pace, start at the higher end.
Your range would then be 1827 – 1872 calories a day. Again, this depends on how much weight (muscle and bodyfat) you are willing to accept. The more body fat you are ok with, the more muscle you will add…to a degree. (There comes a point where body fat starts to accumulate at a faster pace…this is where an experienced prep coach comes into play).
From here, there are many paths you can take. There are many variables to take into consideration as you continue your reverse diet. For example, the amount of cardio you do, whether you will be reducing the amount of time you are working out or not, the macronutrient ratios should be using, and more.
Regardless, this should at least give you a vision of the right path…and it’s never too late to start either. But, the longer you hold off, the harder your next prep is likely to be.
Online Training has taken the Prep Coach career to a new level. How it works differ from coach to coach. Many coaches only allow check-ins once a week, and may even ask you to hold all questions until then, and there are a few that allow for 24hr communication. Some will give you a workout program that is shared by others, and some will customize them for you.
When you are looking for a coach, you should do your homework. Look at it like you are conducting an interview and be prepared to have your list of questions ready. Below are a few questions you should ask every coach you interview.
- How does the Online Training work? What will I get? We have partnered with Trainerize and have a software program that houses everything we do, all from an app on your phone. Workout Programs, Nutrition Plans, Progress Pictures, Internal Communication, Notifications, volume and PR tracking, Check-ins, the works. We are able to monitor everything, every day of the week if necessary (like the final stages of Contest Prep). We also sync My Fitness Pal with our tracking software so you don’t have to report your nutrition to us…we see it everyday. We see your macros, calories, even things like sodium and fiber. If you record it, we see it. We are also in the process of syncing with the iWatch as well. We also see your weight everyday so we can analyze, based on trends, if you are progressing appropriately. So, there is no need for you to perform check-ins, other than progress pics once a week (in clothing you are comfortable in), because we are checking on everything already about 3-4 days a week. And it’s all done from the convenience of your phone.
- Will my workout program be customized for me individually, or do you have several pre-written ones you chose from? Every single program we build is customized for the individual based on their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the program will change as you progress. But here is how we do it. The foundation of our programs are somewhat the same for everyone. We start with 3 or 4 main compound lifts depending on what your goal is (squats, deadlifts, benchpress, barbell overhead press, barbell hip thrust, etc.). The part that is similar to all is that you will be performing each lift twice a week. One day will be strength training, the 2nd day will be hypertrophy training. However, that is where the similarities end. From there, the additional exercises are based on your needs, strengths, weaknesses, goals and health. As you progress, we modify your workout in the form of sets, reps, tools (super sets, drop sets, FST7, Blood Flow Restriction, High Volume sets, etc.) and can change the density, intensity and volume of the lifts as well. I guess you could say that your workout program grows as you do. No two workouts are ever a like…cookie-cutter doesn’t exist in our vocabulary.
- Will I get a Meal Plan or is your nutrition plan based on Macro Counting: We typically do not do meal plans, nor do we recommend them. Current scientific research tells us that Restrictive Dieting (meal plans) are not sustainable and have a higher risk associated with eating disorders than Flexible Dieting. That is not to say that meal plans do not work, they do…and for many people. But the data shows us that that there is a high correlation between Restrictive Dieting and binge eating, and even self regurgitation which can lead to eating disorders. Anytime food choices are limited, the risk increase. In addition, meal plans are not sustainable. We prefer Flexible Dieting which allows you to control the types of food you eat, as long as you hit your Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat and Fiber goals. It’s much more sustainable and more pleasant. We will set your Macro goals for you, and modify them as needed depending on your goal (fatloss, muscle gain, contest prep, etc). No need for guess work, no restrictions, just eat the food you like and we will tell you how/when to adjust as much as needed. You can even use the style of diet you like. Want to stick with “clean eating”, “Keto”,” Snake Diet”,”Vegan” etc..have at it. Again, just chose the food you want and hit your goals and you are compliant. Our Nutrition Plans are just like our workout plans. Completely individualized and are modified as you progress.
- Do you recommend a lot of cardio? If so, how much do you typically recommend? Cardio recommendations are actually include in the nutrition plan. The reason…we don’t base your Workout Plan on cardio. Cardio should be used as a tool, not as the bases of a workout program. Too often we see other coaches loading up clients with a lot of cardio…this is not recommended…especially during the offseason. Granted, some cardio is necessary and of course healthy. However, you don’t need to do it. Just think about it from a logical perspective. The more cardio you do in the offseason, the less effective it will be during Contest Prep because your body is already adapted to it. This is precisely why so many competitors end up doing hours and hours and hours of cardio when they need their energy the most. So we keep cardio to a minimum and only use it as a tool when needed.
- How often can do I check in with you? You can check-in, communicate with us all you like. It’s 24/7. For example, you can wake up in the middle of the night with a question, message us (we have our own internal messaging system, so no outside interference) then go back to bed. Weekends, day, night, holidays, whenever. And no, we are not just going to let them build up and only answer certain days, times the week. Granted, if we are with clients, in a meeting, it’s is family night, we are sleeping, have company, etc…we will have the system on silent. But anytime we are free, we will constantly be checking. Rarely will a question go unanswered within the same day (weekends included) unless it’s really late when you message us and we have gone to bed. Even then, we usually check our messages before bed as we like all messages clear at the end of the day. Not too mention, we don’t like a bunch of messages building up….it’s not good for time management.
- I want to learn as I am being coached, can I ask questions like “why do you have me doing xyz?” First off, I can tell you from personal experience that these types of questions typically generate the “trust the process response.” We DESPISE that phrase. Look, you are paying us for service as a coach, and a coach is also a type of “teacher” if the coach is performing their duty correctly. You will NEVER get the “trust the process” response from us unless it is immediately followed by “and here is why…” We see to it as our job to teach you as you move along. One, the more you understand the reason you are doing something, the more effort you will put into it. The less you understand the “why” the more likely enthusiasm will not be there, and effort decreases. It’s just human nature. Why would you put in 100% effort if you don’t know/understand the return on your effort is optimal? Not too mention, we don’t plan on being your coach for life. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to the point where you had to ability to build your own program and know how to adjust your own nutrition plan by yourself? I think the answer to that is yes. Now, that’s doesn’t mean we are going to sit down with you and have “school”. But if you have questions…ask. It’s what we are here for.
- Will you be my coach or will somebody else do it for you? We (husband and wife team) do all of our own work. Nobody does it for us. Nobody answers the questions but us. We do it all.
- How much does it your Online Training cost? We have three plans that you can find here. The one that is most typically used is the Off Season, because most competitors who come to us have building to do on their physiques and with their metabolism, that runs $199 a month. None of the plans have a set-up fee, contract or initiation fee. Just a flat rate on a month to month basis. You can cancel anytime, but you must do so 7 days before your next due date (the system sets it up on automatic payments).
- How do I get started, whats next? Just send an email to Coach Chet or Coach Natalie. Tell us what you are interested in and give us a couple of days/times you are available for a free consultation (by phone if you are not in the local Boise area). We will respond back with an email invitation to set up a temporary account (don’t worry, there is no obligation and no payment information needed) so you can fill out our online questionnaire. In addition, we will load your account up with a sample workout program (it’s basic, but will allow you to see how we work) and a sample nutrition plan. This will allow you to try things out a bit before we talk. It will also give us a little bit more information about you (the questionnaire) and allow you to come up with questions yourself.