“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” - Socrates
Recently, I’ve read a lot of articles from fitness pros urging people to steer clear of bodybuilding competitions. They argue that it’s an ugly sport- full of drugs, big egos, unhealthy practices, and emotionally damaging behavior. To their credit, they’re not totally wrong.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, I would argue that competing has some very distinct advantages. Advantages that extend well beyond the gym. Take a look behind the curtain, and you’ll find that stepping on stage could be exactly what you need.
No, I’m not talking to those of you who are just beginning your fitness journey. Nor you “weekend warriors” who sprinkle a bit of exercise into your schedule to stay healthy (which there’s absolutely nothing wrong with).
I’m talking to you, the guy or girl who has spent 5-6 days a week in the gym consistently for years. You, who has tried every workout program and nutrition plan under the sun. You, my fellow fitness professional. You, who has reached a level of commitment and dedication unmatched by 99% of your peers.
If you’re one of those people, congratulations! You’ve probably already built a body that you should be very proud of. But like the great poet Meek Mill once said, “There’s levels to this shit.” I believe, that at least once in your life, you should take your physique to the highest level, get as ripped as possible, and compete in a show.
Put a Date on the Calendar
It’s definitely possible to reach a high level of fitness without competing. You can get pretty shredded and pretty strong, especially by “normal” standards. But without a date on the calendar, there’s no way you’ll reach your peak potential.
A date on the calendar creates a sense of urgency.
It gives you a deadline.
It provides a purpose for all of the hard work.
If you’ve been hitting the gym consistently for a long time with no date on the calendar, I’m willing to bet you’ve hit a plateau. Unfortunately, it’s very possible that you look exactly the same as you did 6 months ago, a year ago, or even more.
I was stuck in that trap for years- going to the gym almost daily and eating *pretty* good year-round, but my physique never really changed. It was only when I decided to sign up for a competition that I was able to take things to the next level. The very scary, very real thought of standing up on stage being judged is the kick-in-the-ass that can take you from 95% committed to 100%.
Establish a New Level of Discipline
As I mentioned earlier, working out regularly and eating healthy isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of discipline. But the discipline it takes to compete (and win) is on a totally different level.
Prior to competing, I ate right probably 90% of the time. I prepped all of my meals and filled my grocery cart with tons of lean protein and veggies, but I also indulged in treats pretty often.
Anytime someone brought donuts and kolaches to work, I was all over it.
Going out to eat? You can bet I’m knocking down a full basket of tortilla chips and drinking a margarita or two.
But when it’s competition season, those things just won’t cut it.
When you compete, you establish a new level of discipline. Not just in your training and nutrition, but in all aspects of life. You realize how far you can push your mind and body. That dedication truly spills over into every facet of life, if you’re open to it.
Learn More About Your Body
When you’re getting ready to step on stage, your body becomes a science experiment. Every little addition or subtraction has an effect on your appearance. You take your training and nutrition to such an extreme level that you begin to notice which exercises and foods truly work for you. The diet and workout advice handed out by the masses may be great in theory, but as any good trainer will tell you- everybody is different.
As a beginner, the big rocks are really the only thing that matter.
Eat real food.
But as you get to a more advanced level, you have to focus on the small pebbles, too. For example, chicken breasts are “healthy”, but not every single person reacts well to chicken. Some could feel and look better on beef. Some people’s bodies react extremely well to early morning training. Others may be better on afternoons or evenings.
You can’t ever directly apply any other person’s methods and expect them to work the same for you. Instead, you must learn through trial and error. Experiment!
When you compete, you’ll learn a ton about your body that you can apply for the rest of your life. You may find that you should cycle on and off certain foods. Or what body parts respond to training volume faster than others. Or whether you perform better fasted or with 2-3 meals in your body prior to training. At this advanced level, it’s all about the details.
Get As Shredded As Possible
Just once, don’t you want to see what your body looks like at it’s fullest potential? To see how far you can push your physique? The “on stage” look isn’t sustainable year-round. You’ll only have it for a few days, or maybe even a few hours.
But it’s worth it.
It’s worth it to know what you look and feel like at your absolute peak. It’s worth it to push yourself to the limit for a few months. Not to prove anyone wrong or to show others that you have what it takes, but to experience the gratification that comes with hard work, sacrifice, and dedication.
Competing isn’t for everybody.
In fact, it’s not for most people.
But if you’re one of those who I described in the intro- someone who has been itching to take their already “good” physique to the highest possible level- face your fears and get on stage.