Bikini Competition Prep: What to Expect and How to Rock It


Hey! Welcome! Chances are if you're here, you've considered doing your first bikini show but don't know what exactly goes into it. 

You're in the right place. If you're new to my blog, hi! My name is Emily and I am a national level bikini competitor in the NPC. I have done 5 shows including nationals and prepped other girls for their own bikini shows. 

Bodybuilding prep is a huge commitment so I want to give you a breakdown here of the basics: what it's like, what to focus on, and how to rock your prep. It's important to get a look at the behind the scenes before you get started because there's a lot more that goes into it than that final beautiful moment in a glitzy suit on stage! 

The Diet

This can go differently for everyone. It all depends on what style you prefer and where your metabolism is at. 

I have personally tried several approaches but prefer to use a flexible dieting approach. This means that I count macros (grams consumed of protein, carbs, fats, and fiber) and eat what I choose within the limitations of given macro targets.

This is a fairly new approach to dieting and it is becoming increasingly popular in the bodybuilding community. If you're someone that likes the idea of having freedom to eat what you want, this is the dieting style for you. 

I find that both myself and my training and nutrition clients respond best to this approach. It allows you the most food freedom and helps greatly with managing cravings. 

Other competitors choose to use a meal plan approach. If you're someone who prefers not to have to figure out what to eat throughout each day and track in My Fitness Pal, this is a better option for you.

You do, however, have to be alright with the monotony of eating the same foods over and over. Some people truly prefer this method. I've found that many people, though, start great with this method and then fall off when they grow tired of eating the same things routinely. 

It's also important to note that if you have a previous dieting history or currently have a fairly low calorie intake per day, it's best to reverse diet to a good healthy level of calories before pursuing a competition prep. 

The higher your calorie intake when you start prep, the easier it will be to diet down. This is partly why competitors (including myself currently) take long off or improvement seasons. We use this time to strategically and gradually add calories back into our diet so that our metabolism adjusts to higher intake. The hope is that when prep starts again, we can diet on more food than before. 

If your calories are low right now, know that you will likely need to take them drastically low to lose the body fat needed to be stage lean. I definitely don't recommend this. It's better to wait, get calories back up, and have a healthy prep later on!


In the bikini category, there are a couple key areas of focus when it comes to muscle building. The glutes, the hamstrings, the delts, and back are the most notable. Of course, you want to train the entire body because, ultimately, the sport is all about balance. 

Bikini is not meant to be super shredded or dry. Muscles should look full and striations are not supposed to be visible. Resistance training is meant to build the ideal hour glass bikini shape.

This means you're not going to get extra points for having shredded abs or huge biceps. You could actually get docked points if you have muscles out of balance. 

In general, you're going to see the most effective results training 5-6 days per week. Competition prep is intense. It requires a lot of effort to get your body lean enough to be competitive. 

During my own prep, I train 5-6 days per week and prep itself can last anywhere from 16-24 weeks. 

If you don't have a history with weight lifting you might need a couple of months to build prior to starting a cut. 


It's best to start posing practice right at the start of your prep! At the very least, I recommend starting 8 weeks out from a show. You want to be so well versed in your routine that you can do it in your sleep. Video yourself practicing so you can better see what needs tweaking. 

Posing can absolutely make or break you. There are several different front poses so you will want to plan your routine around emphasizing your strengths and hiding your weaknesses. Plus, confidence and poise while walking in heels and being on stage can only help your placing! 


The final week before your show is completely dependent on how your prep is gone. Ideally, you should already be stage lean and ready to go at this point. Your coach may implement water loading and slight carb depletion/loading to ensure your body doesn't hold any extra water and your muscles look full. 

However, the goal is to not have to make large diet or training changes the final week. Peaking is NOT a time to seriously cut down calories, cut certain foods from your diet, cut salt, cut sugar, etc. 

If your diet has gone the way that it's supposed to, there is absolutely no need to implement these extremes. 

Furthermore, your workouts should actually become lighter, and higher rep. Your final week is not about adding any more muscle to your body. You aren't going to make big changes at this point. It's about getting a pump and ensuring you don't have any inflammation within your last days before the stage. 

If you're advised to go hard or go home your last week of prep, I highly suggest selecting a competition a bit further down the road and just taking some extra time to get ready. It's healthier and your body will look better than if you try to implement some sort of last minute witchcraft to get leaner. There will always be another show you can enter! 

For me, the ideal peak week came from being more aggressive earlier in prep and getting stage lean 2 to 3 weeks in advance of the show. This essentially allowed me to reverse diet into my show, meaning once I hit my stage look, we gradually added more food into my diet and decreased my cardio. 

This allowed me to feel rested, energized, and confident going into my show. 

Show Day!

This is perhaps the most important section for the competition newbies. This was the stuff I didn't necessarily know going into my first show. 

First off, the tan.

This isn't like a normal spray tan where you're supposed to take a shower after to reveal that natural, pretty golden glow. You're not meant to shower after it's done. As you can see in the picture below, it's going to be DARK and any water touching it is going to cause runny lines in it. 

You're going to look a little crazy but don't freak out! It looks wild when you're off stage but under the stage lights, it will do its job - to enhance your muscle definition. Without that darkness, you'll end up looking washed out under the lights and nobody will be able to see the nice lines you've been working on all prep.

Make sure you exfoliate the week before your show to remove any dead and dry skin. This will help your tan go on evenly. You will also want to stop using deodorant at least the day before the show. Deodorant can send your pH off balance and give you green arm pits post tan! Not cute in pictures. 

You're going to want to buy some paper or solo cups to bring with you to the hotel and to the venue. When you use the bathroom, you can cause your tan to run. Pee into the cup and dump it. It's the safest way to ensure your tan stays put. 

Make sure to bring a towel as well. You'll need it to sit on backstage as you wait to go on. This will also prevent you from ruining the tan. Bring headphones so you have something to entertain you in the mean time as well. 

Lastly, you'll want to bring a pump up food and some resistance bands for 10-20 minutes before you go on. I like to bring a Reeses peanut butter cup. It needs to be something high in sugar or sodium. Chocolate is good and so are pop tarts or a bag of potato chips. Eat your pump up food and then get started using your bands to get the muscles looking as full as possible for stage time. 

Money Saving Tips

If I could go back, I would do my own hair right from the get go. Honestly, I don't feel like there's a huge different between what the hair stylist is going to do for you and what you can do for yourself.

Plus, the hair stylists on site for the show are usually servicing a large group of competitors and often run behind schedule. It can add stress to the day and cause them to rush the job. Both myself and friends have had bad experiences with late services and poor styling... I've had to redo my hair myself after paying $100-125 for them to do it. 

Basically, if you do it yourself, you will feel a lot more in control of your schedule and can take your time to make sure it looks right. I suggest picking a style that you know will hold on you and do it on your own. Although I love curled hair, my thick wavy locks hold a straight look a lot better than they hold the spirals from a curling iron so I reduce needed touch ups by sticking to straight hair. 

I also recommend doing your own nails if you really want to stick to a budget. Especially if you plan to do a couple of shows, costs add up quickly. Many competitors buy the press on nails you can get at the drugstore and use those. Nobody can see the difference from the stage, they will look just as good in pictures, and you will save major cash in the long run. 

If this is your first show and you're unsure of whether or not you will continue to compete after, I suggest renting a suit before buying one. Suits cost hundreds of dollars to have made! You can usually find one on Instagram, Facebook, or Amazon for a lot less to rent or buy used. 

Ready to Train for Your First Bikini Competition?

I hope this was helpful to you! These are all things I think every girl should know prior to her first competition. If you're serious about competing, I would absolutely love to be a part of your journey to the stage! You can apply for 1:1 prep coaching HERE

Not convinced? Check out some of these amazing success stories from women JUST LIKE YOU. Stop telling yourself you're too old, too far off, too busy, too tired. You are NONE of these things! 

No more waiting for the perfect time. There will never be a perfect moment. The time to make a change is always RIGHT NOW! Let me show you how much you're capable of!

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