To all fitness competitors, and those who would like to compete in a show for the first time, I have a recommendation for you that I think is worthwhile for you to consider. What I am about to share is not to create controversy with judges or any bodybuilding organization at all, but I believe it’s a good idea for any fitness competitor to keep this in mind. As someone who has competed in over 20 shows personally, collectively as an amateur and a pro, in addition to coaching clients through more than that many, I believe it’s a good idea to consider competing in more than one show in a season. The reason why I believe that’s the case is because of what I would call the 70/30 rule. Let me explain…

I have experienced this personally and with my own clients. When you are prepared to the best of your ability: your level of conditioning is top notch, your muscularity is great and appropriate for the class you signed up for, your posing and tanning are on point, 70% of the time you will likely place very well and in accordance to where you should be placed in your category. The other 30% of the time, you will likely get a “What the heck just happened!?” moment with your placement. I have personally seen many competitors not placed where I would have expected them to be placed and almost anyone with any experience in bodybuilding shows can very likely say the same thing. Once again, I’m saying this to not be critical of the judges, but more to be an advocate for doing more than one competition and to also consider doing competitions in more than one organization.

Placements that you would not expect to happen within a fitness competition can happen for a variety of reasons. For example: The lighting could affect what the judges are seeing, where you come out in your lineup may not put you in a good position to show the judges your best features right away, the class may be so large that you get overlooked, etc. I could go on and on for the reasons why you didn’t get the placement that you really deserved. I know it’s unfair sometimes, but then again, we are all human and not without flaws. For this reason, my recommendation to any new competitor is to consider doing more than one show in a season and consider competing in different organizations if you can because each organization will have slightly different characteristics that they may focus on first (i.e. conditioning over muscle size or posing first, etc).

As a fitness competitor, you work way too hard to base all of your experience of fitness competitions on just one show! I have done this myself in the past. I used to train for a year or longer to do just one show. Then, I may not have placed that well at that show and then I find out afterwards that if I had just used more tanning product, I probably would have placed higher! Don’t make that same mistake. I would personally recommend trying to align at least 3 competitions to do within a season. Try to make sure they are not too far away from each other in time too. A good 2-3 week separation can often work well and give you a little bit of time to make small corrections if there are any to be made. If you do 3 shows and find out that your results are similar in each show, especially with different organizations, you will likely have a lot of good feedback for you to work on over the next year or longer before you compete again. However, if you just do one show, and that show happens to fall into the 30% by the judges, you may not get a lot of helpful feedback at all.

The way I look at competitions is as a checkpoint in time over a long competitive fitness career. I want to get as much helpful information about myself as I can, and doing multiple shows within a season is an extremely helpful way of doing that. I have been able to make some significant progress over the years by doing this and I would strongly recommend that you do the same, especially if you are just getting started. Make the most out of your fitness journey!


Jon Arnold
Owner and CEO of Integrated Fitness of Dover LLC
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM CES, B.S. Nutrition