It all began as a journey to become more active and shed a few pounds. Listen as Amy Okammor lets you in on what she has figured out about competing!
I started off pretty slowly incorporating cardio multiple times a week. Eventually I ventured out into weight training and haven’t stopped lifting since! After about a year in the gym I was introduced to the world of bodybuilding! Previously I was only aware of the male bodybuilding, however while viewing my first show I realized that there was a female side to bodybuilding. If you are anything like me then you are wondering what exactly female bodybuilding consist of. In the world of body building there are various categories. The female categories include bikini, figure, fitness, physique, and female bodybuilding. Each category embodies different levels of muscular development, posing, and style of suits. In a competition women of all categories have a comparison round where they are put up on-stage in groups and instructed to perform mandatory poses to display their muscular definition and balance.
"Competition preparation requires extreme discipline
and dedication. Much of the prep is mental."
The first category within the women’s competition is bikini. Within the bikini category competitors wear a two piece swim suit and display a toned, fit, bikini body. Women in this category display a lean appearance, and are not aiming for the muscular definition of bodybuilders, fitness and figure competitors. Judges compare contestants based on shape, showmanship, poise, and overall physical appearance.
Next is the figure category, which requires a toned build with some muscular definition. Within this category competitors are presented, take to the stage and perform their poses competitors complete quarter turns which highlight specific poses including front relax, side model, and back. Figure competitors wear what is referred to as a figure competition or posing suit. These are usually two piece suits and can range from basic to extravagant jeweled designs.
The fitness category requires a toned build with muscular definition as well however also includes a fitness routine. These fitness routines include music, gymnastics, dance, and costumes. The goal of the routine is to display their strength, flexibility, personality and overall physical fitness.
Physique is a relatively new category for women bodybuilders. Competitors should display a more toned, athletic physique exhibiting femininity, muscle tone, beauty/flow of physique.
The final category is female bodybuilding. Within this category competitors are judged on muscular definition, symmetry, and a lean appearance. Much like male bodybuilders, Female bodybuilders try to add lean muscle mass with minimal body fat. There is also a round where they perform a posing routine set to music. In this round competitors can show off their physique and personality.
As a current figure competitor I have learned many new aspects of the sport. With each competition I pick up new tips to improve myself as a competitive athlete. With any competitive sport there is preparation and training involved. Competition preparation requires extreme discipline and dedication. Much of the prep is mental. During this time a competitor must focus on optimizing their training and diet in order to put their best foot forward on stage.
An average “competition prep” is about twelve weeks. The twelve week diet is usually a time of clean eating. Some of what this clean eating entails is a minimal to no sodium diet, lean meats such as fish and chicken, and mainly complex carbohydrates. During this twelve week process all meal times are scheduled. A large part of the diet is ensuring that your meals are prepared and packed prior. This helps make it easier for a competitor as the food is readily available. There are also some competitors who take particular days within their diets to have cheat meals.
In the final week of the competition prep some of competitors partake in a peak week, to ensure that their bodies reach their maximum potential. There are others however that follow through with their average twelve week diet right up until the competition date. Prior to stepping on stage many competitors of all ethnicities get a tan. Regardless of skin complexion tanning is suggested. This is largely due to the lighting on stage. With a tan it allows the judges to better assess a competitors conditioning and muscular development.
As a figure competitor, I’ve learned quickly that there are many differences between the categories of bikini, figure, bodybuilding, and the new physique category. A figure competitor must bring the perfect amount of muscle and shapeliness to be considered successful. Other aspects play a major role such as conditioning and muscle definition but here’s the hard part, there must be balance. Too much muscle and you look like a female bodybuilder, too much hardness and condition and you look like a physique competitor, not enough of either and you look like a bikini competitor. Balance. When working your butt off and getting deeper and deeper into your prep, often times balance gets overlooked. This is why it is important to keep people around you that understand the sport and who can monitor your progress. All competitors need that support. It’s very hard to notice and make note of these things for yourself while in prep. We may not feel it but contest prep will not only change your body but it often changes our perception of ourselves. Making it hard to make judgments for yourself based on what you see in the mirror. Often what we see in the mirror is a reflection of how we feel and not how we look. Many competitors hire a fitness coach or join a competition squad to aid in the process.
"Everything I do is to get me one step closer to the win."
Personally, contest prep is one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. The sacrifice for success is not easy, and, for the most part, it separates me from most external stimuli. No partying, no laziness, no wasting time, everything I do is to get me one step closer to the win. I often feel as if I’m in a walking meditation, with all my thoughts and actions fixed on the end result. Contest prep for me is much more than low carb diets and hours of cardio, it’s a journey to the unveiling of many things about yourself that you didn’t believe you were capable of…