Over the last few weeks, I guess you could say that I have developed a small amount of notoriety. The exposure from this column alone has doubled my Twitter followers, and I am frequently receiving messages of support or requests for advice. Of all the connections I have made in recent weeks, one stands out above the rest. This particular individual contacted me with very flattering words of admiration, and through the course of a small exchange I ended up offering to share some of my hints and tips. My hints and tips quickly turned into a complete diet and workout routine.

I could tell from the beginning that I had met someone special. His excitement and dedication to transform his body was just so intense. I am now working daily with this particular individual to get him stage ready by May 2013. His name is Luke Aubin, and I strongly recommend that you give him a follow on Twitter
as he begins his journey towards the Heart of America Natural Classic in Washington, IL to be held on May 4, 2013. By special request from Luke, today’s column will address what one can expect to experience at a natural bodybuilding competition.

Bypassing all of the work that is required to actually prepare you for the show, we will jump straight to registration. Registration or check-in is done the day before the show. Depending on the size of the show it will either be open all day or just limited to a few hours. Either way, the date, time, and duration of the check-in is at the discretion of the promoter. This is where you will register your attendance for the show. You are required to be a member of the organization in which you will be competing. If you have purchased membership prior to registration, proof is required to compete. If you have not, membership can be purchased on the spot by completing the required form. This usually runs fifty dollars. The actual membership card will follow in the mail within the next couple of weeks. After you register your attendance, you are typically provided with your stage number and goody bag. The goody bag usually contains supplement samples from sponsors and other show memorabilia such as a tee-shirt or shaker cup.

At this time, you are typically required to take a polygraph examination and sometimes submit urine for a drug test. Both tests are administered to determine the use of banned substances in preparation of the show. Most organizations require that you be seven years drug free. The standard polygraph questions, simplified for this column, are:

– Did you use growth hormone to prepare for this show?
– Did you use testosterone to prepare for this show?
– Did you use any anabolic steroid to prepare for this show?
– Did you cheat in any way to prepare for this show?
– Are you telling the truth?

A few base questions will also be asked such as clarification of your name, age, and residence, etc. You are responsible for the cost of the polygraph, which is usually $30-50, required in cash up front.

Depending on your plans for stage color, your next move may vary a little. If you prefer to go the route of a spray tan, your color will go on the day before the show. I prefer to be sprayed in the evening so I can limit how much moving around I do once I am painted. The tanning process itself is relatively short, taking only about twenty minutes.

Modesty will have to be checked at the door. You guessed it, this is done naked. I have been sprayed by both male and female technicians, and trust me, neither one was more comfortable than the other. In fact, it wasn’t even really that uncomfortable. For the Pro Universe, Jason and I were in the same room together while we got sprayed by a male technician. Picture that! Three dudes in a hotel room, two of them completely naked, just watching TV.

Since you will have to sleep in your color, some will be lost on clothing and bed linens. Touch ups are done prior to the show. Be warned – a spray tan is not a guarantee it will be perfect. This picture is proof of that. Not only was the spray tan blotchy, but it was incredibly (and embarrassingly) dark.

On the day of the show you will undoubtedly be up early, regardless of what time the show starts. Nerves, final preparation, color touch up, and meal timing will have you a jittery mess. Show start times vary, usually anywhere from 9:00am to 11:00am. Most promoters ask that you arrive an hour before the show starts in order to participate in a mandatory meeting. The meeting is where attendance is taken and the plan for the show is outlined. This is a very casual and very informal deal. A lot of people are already starting to get their pre-show meals in at this time so there is often a lot of rustling of food packaging. After the meeting it is time to head backstage to start pumping up in preparation of pre-judging.

Any decent show promoter will have a few pieces of weight equipment backstage for you to pump up with. This typically includes a bench or two, some lightweight dumbbells, and maybe even a bar and a couple of plates. The idea behind the pump up is to get the blood flowing and prepare your body to be displayed. You don’t want to do a complete workout and exhaust the muscle. You just want to warm the muscles up and get them ready to be flexed.

Pumping up will also get your veins to pop, a big bonus when on stage. Depending on your order to hit the stage, you could be backstage a while. You don’t want to pump up too soon, so you may be back there just hanging out. If you find you have a lot of time before you hit the stage, take the extra time to focus and get yourself mentally ready. Calm your nerves, focus on the goal, and get in the zone.

Pre-judging is the first part of the show. This is where you go before the judges and they run you through the mandatory poses. Despite what the name might suggest, you are actually judged at this time. The judges will run you through all of your poses, shuffle you around on stage, and grade you. All of your hard work and preparation comes down to this defining moment, so bring your A Game.

There are no words to describe the thoughts and feelings that race through your mind as you start to walk on stage. My legs seem to take me there with ease, but my mind has the brakes on, and I almost feel as though I am being pulled by a chain. Once out there everything changes, and all of a sudden it’s more an attitude of “Let’s do this!” The audience is actually barely visible, if at all, from on the stage. The lighting prevents you from seeing much further than the judges. I get so into my posing that if it weren’t for the shouting from the audience I wouldn’t even know they were there.

It will seem like you are on stage forever, and if it is a competitive class, you will be on stage forever. The Pro Universe Masters class was on stage for forty-five minutes. The open class that I was in went for about thirty minutes. You will sweat a lot. Depending on the tan you used, it may even run like a horrible paint job. The stage will get wet and panting will be audible down the line. By the end of it you will be exhausted.

Once you have competed in your class(es), you are free to leave. It’s that simple. The judges already have what they need to make a decision. Depending on how many classes you entered and the order in which they hit the stage, you can be done in as little as thirty minutes after start time or as late as two hours after start time.

The break between pre-judging and the evening show is horrible. You will have several hours to replay pre-judging in your mind, make predictions, second guess yourself, worry, doubt yourself, and just stress in general. It’s totally unhealthy. I take the opportunity to go eat. I don’t go too crazy, but I eat whatever I want. My favorite thing to do is run by Steak and Shake and sit down to a few a burgers. It may look and sound like a total binge, but it’s not that bad. I don’t experience any discomfort and do not eat beyond satisfaction. The way my body responds to that type of food after dieting for so long is just amazing. Everything pops all over again and vascularity is phenomenal. I don’t eat anything else until I am ready to go back to the show. If there is a Dairy Queen nearby, I grab a mini Blizzard on the way in.

Don’t follow my protocol on inter-show dieting. I am familiar with my body and how it responds to foods. A lot of guys won’t touch any “dirty” food until the show is over. Jason and I went to Boston Market in between the two shows at the Pro Universe. I ate a respectable turkey platter with some sort of oily potatoes and a veggie casserole. Jason ate a whole chicken.

The evening show is next. This usually starts around 5:00pm and this is a bigger production than prejudging. The evening show is when awards are handed out. The posing aspect of the competition is essentially over. As the classes are arranged to come back on stage, each individual competitor is introduced to the audience and he performs an individual routine. Depending on show rules, the routine will last anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. This is a posing routine of your creation, set to music of your choosing. You are not judged on your routine.

Once every competitor in the class has performed his routine, the top five, as determined by the results of prejudging, are called back out onto the stage. Sometimes, just for show, the judges will run you through the poses again for the audience. Unless there is a tie that needs to be broken, this posing will not count for anything. It is for this reason that you should not let yourself go in between pre-judging and evening show. The awards are then handed out. Yes, all five competitors leave with something!

The bonus to this rule is that you are guaranteed a placing if there are five or fewer competitors. If this is the case, don’t be discouraged or feel as though your award is any less significant. I once competed in a novice class where it was me and another guy. At the very least I was guaranteed second place. I took first anyway, but that’s not the point. The point is that regardless of class size, you got up on that stage and gave it your all. That is worthy of a prize in itself. I did not place at the Pro universe but I left with a medallion.

After the awards for your class have been handed out, you are again free to leave at your leisure. As far as you are involved, the show is over and your presence will no longer be required on stage.

All that’s left to do now is eat…and eat you will…

Happy Lifting!

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