Whether you’ve competed before, or you are just thinking about competing, the one question everyone wants to know is “what do the judges want?”
Recently, I went to a seminar led by judges from our region in hopes of finding the answer. Here is what I learned – and what I didn’t.
10 Things A Competitor Should Know
1. Make your first few steps count. First impressions are EVERYTHING. One of the first things the judges said is they can tell if you are winner as soon as you step on stage. So, as soon as you are in view, the judging begins. Your first step should be just as strong and confident as your final one. Your smile should already be on, your posture should already be rocking, and your attitude should already be in play. Many competitors practice all their moves for center stage, but neglect practicing their walk and transitions (moving around in comparisons, etc) – and it shows. Don’t wait to nail your favorite pose, win them over in your first few steps.
2. Pose to look good from 5 feet below. Judges reminded competitors and coaches they are normally 4-5 feet below the stage. What may look symmetrical in front of a mirror, may not look the same from the bottom of the stage. This means, when you face away from the judges and bend over to stretch out your butt crease, you may giving the judges more than they want to see. The judges suggest trainers sit on the floor while coaching their athletes, or competitors practice on a platform to get the most accurate view of each pose.
3. Stand naturally. Judges prefer competitors look natural. They don’t want a bodybuilder lat spread, and stiff hands that look like you are pointing a fake gun at everyone. They want competitors to stand tall and proud, maintaining a tight core while having relaxed arms and soft hands. I admit, it does look a lot better – unless you have a flaw that needs hiding. In that case, I suggest you do what you think makes your body look its best. Some of the most common mistakes were winged arms, flared lats, poor posture, forward shoulders, downward chin (showing insecurity), severe bent-over glute pose, torqued waistlines and awkward stances.
I picked out a few pictures online, from both bikini and figure competitions, to help clarify what they are not wanting – as well as show you what they want, which is demonstrated beautifully above by this woman in the blue suit. Refer to the very first photo in this blog to see how to make corrections.
4. Don’t resort to poses made popular by people who were trying to hide flaws. Some competitors will twist more at the waist to hide width, or bend more at the hips when showing their rear pose to get rid of lose skin. However, if you don’t need to do these poses, then don’t do them. The judges prefer you stand normal with arms down to the side and only lifted slightly. In many ways, posing is smoke and mirrors trickery. But, it is always best to stand and walk as naturally as possible, while posing in a way that flatters you most. This is just my opinion, but based on what the judges said, I’d venture to say the girl with the legs crossed is fit enough to stand normal, as well as the girl with her legs awkwardly spread out wide. Of course, if you need to cross your legs, go for it – but if you’ve got the total package, stand comfortably in it and leave the awkward poses for the people who need it.
Since presentation is everything, a person who well-hides their flaws still have a great chance to beat out a hot body who lacks confidence and is missing other elements, so don’t be discouraged if you have to use the alternative poses. I think their whole point is not to do them if they aren’t necessary.
5. Be original. Just because someone else does something, doesn’t mean you have to. Choose your walk, suit, hair, style, poses and sign-offs that fit your own personality – not someone else’s. The judges love it when a person’s unique personality comes through. Some girls are girlie, some are sassy, some are classy, some are a bit sexy (but be careful on this one), and some are bouncy and fun. The key to your success is choosing what looks best on you, going with your own personal style, and going with it 110%. Remember, they see competitors alllll the time – so give them something fresh and new to look at!
6. Avoid the awkward side glide. No one really enjoys walking away from someone while in a bathing suit, knowing your butt is bouncing all over the place – but what looks even more ridiculous is someone obviously trying to walk away from you while forcing their body to face forward. The same goes with people walking out on stage. Side-gliding across the stage looks funny. It’s natural to point your body in the direction it is going. I only wish I could have found a photo to demonstrate this ridiculous looking walk, but I came up empty handed – so you just get this crazy quarter turn side pose (which I’m sure the judges would hammer by the way).
They key to looking natural is practice, practice, practice! When you are walking on stage, you can still face your head toward the audience, while looking natural walking across the stage. If you want to avoid bouncing your bottom across the stages in front of the judges, you can still limit the time your body may have it’s back to the crowd while walking, but you need to do it in a way where know one notices. So practice how you would get on and off stage, how you would change places in comparisons, and how you will return to the back if asked to step to the side.
7. Bring your attitude – and if you don’t have one, act like you do. Have you ever wondered why the guy or girl that looks like they have enough attitude to go around (even if they appear a little TOO confident) always wins? Well, after this seminar, it was clear the judges want confident competitors. So, while the cockiness may be a complete turn off to me, the judges will take a confident cocky competitor over a pretty, but bashful, one. And, if you lack confidence, they suggest you fake it. This is when acting skills become very valuable. 99% of the crowd has no idea who you are, or what your real personality is, so bring your alter ego to the show and leave Little Miss Shy at home.
8. Your posing suit won’t win the show for you. If you thought you needed to spend $500 on a suit to win, think again. The judges said there is no reason to spend a bunch of money on blinging out your million dollar suit – especially if you aren’t blinging out your body. I’d suggest spending the money on the things that matter most – like good training and a professional tan (the judges highly recommend getting sprayed at the show). As for the suit, its primary purpose is to have the right shape that flatters your physique. All the extra bling is just that – extra. This doesn’t mean you go pick up a bathing suit at Kmart, but it does mean that you shouldn’t let a pricey suit get in the way of competing. While overall presentation is super important, no one will notice that you have 100 less rhinestones than the next person – especially if you have the most rocking body! 2012 Bikini Olympia Champion, Nathalia Melo, (pictured here) proves a simple suit can still look like a million dollars.
9. You’re a bikini athlete, not a victoria secret model. One of the judges actually made a comment in the seminar that they wish they could just pop the heads off and judge their bodies. While I do understand the point they are trying to make (and realize the focus is on the body) the way you style your hair, wear your make-up, and express yourself through facial expressions is also a big part of your appearance and attitude. Although we can’t pop off your heads (sorry, you are stuck with it), what you choose to do with it still matters in my opinion.
What I believe the judges meant was this. When choosing your hair style, you shouldn’t be constantly trying to flip and rearrange your hair, or allow it to cover your body. They same way you don’t want your hair to be a distraction, your makeup should not be distracting either. Your make-up should enhance your natural beauty – not take over your face like a rhinestoned leaper. Most importantly, don’t spend a ton of money and energy on the extras. The judges aren’t judging how natural your extensions look or noticing the stones on your false eyelashes.
10. Be YOUR best. The judges explained that they never know ahead of time what will win a show. What they meant was, if a bunch of hard girls show up, the winner will most likely be hard. If a bunch of soft girls show up, the winner will be most likely soft. This was super frustrating to me. Since I have seen how much judging can fluctuate from show to show, this is what we’ve always told our competitors. Choose ahead of time what YOU want to look like. Personally, I’d rather a competitor lose because they are too lean, than too soft. At least, even if you don’t win, you didn’t lose because you were too fat and deconditioned.
Before you compete, you need to decide WHY you are competing. Are you doing it to force yourself to diet and train hard? Are you doing it as a science experiment, to see what you can do with your physique? Are you doing it to win a trophy or get “discovered”? I would venture to say most competitors are doing it to look their best – and all the rest is the icing on the fat-free high-protein cake. Of course we would all like to look THE best, but that is a bit relative – so I suggest you just focus on looking YOUR best, and if the judges agree…BONUS!