Bikini Competition Everything You Need To Know


shutterstock_373715389-2Are you thinking about entering a bikini competition? If so, then you really need to know all the demands involved. We explain all of that and give you the tips you need to succeed.

Bikini competitors have four common traits: Discipline, strength, willpower and confidence. You not only have to be strong of body, but also of mind if you’re going to commit to competing in the bikini division of bodybuilding or physique competition training for that matter. If you’re ready to embark on the next level of your fitness journey, we’re here to help. What follows is everything you need to know about a bikini competition based on commonly asked questions.

What Is The Bikini Division?

Bodybuilding is a subjective sport, and the bikini division may be the most subjective. I say this because you never know what will impress the judges on any given day, and there isn’t one look for the bikini division. However, bikini is very feminine, the softest division.

When it comes to judging the physique during a bikini competition, women are scored on the following items:

  • Muscularity
  • Leanness
  • Conditioning
  • Symmetry
  • Proportion
  • Balance

You should strive to build your body in a way that makes it look elongated, yet curvy and feminine. This involves understanding your body’s strengths and weaknesses and planning your workouts specifically for your physique.

Women are also judged on stage presence, which includes the overall appearance or package you bring to the stage. Your show suit, tanning, posing, hair and make up all matter a great deal. You should look and feel like a queen the day you step on stage, and you need to nail your posing because that’s how you truly display your best features.

Do You Need a Coach?


Beginners hire coaches. Pros hire coaches. If you want to really show up you need a professional on your team.

Before you hire a coach, make sure they have the following credentials:

  • They’ve been on stage (and not just twice)!
  • They’re competent in building meal plans and are knowledgeable about nutrition.
  • They can help you with an exercise plan – meaning it was built for you, not just a blanket workout regimen for every person who walks in the door.
  • They understand supplementation.
  • If this is your first show, use someone local who can meet with you weekly. Online coaches are great, but for your first show, you may want face-to-face time.
  • Most should be able to coach you on posing.

You’ll typically meet with your coach one or two times per week. During that time, they usually assess your progress and put you through a workout so that you understand the pace, as well as to work on areas that need improvement. They may also tweak your diet based on how your body is responding to the previous week’s food intake.

Coaches are also like your personal cheerleader when you start having doubts because doubts will happen. They know just how to motivate you to hang in there, though. They’re also your personal gym boss. They are not going to let you slack or say, “I can’t lift that.” A coach will push you harder than you’ll push yourself.


How Long Does It Take To Get Ready For A Bikini Competition?

This is all dependent on your starting point. A typical timeframe is 12 to 16 weeks. However, some people need longer, and some don’t need the full 12 weeks because they’re already lean.

Your coach can evaluate how long your prep will be once you meet them. At that time, you can try to pick a show to get ready for.

Is Your Diet Super Strict?

If you aren’t already familiar with how a bodybuilder eats for contest prep, you might find the diet rigid. You’ll find that the only foods you’re certain are on the menu are lean white meats and veggies. Anything else seems like a real treat.

Some common foods for a bikini competition diet are:

  • Lean turkey
  • Chicken breast
  • White, flaky varieties of fish
  • Almonds
  • Egg whites
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Green vegetables that are low in starch
  • Clean carbs like sweet potato and brown rice
  • Oatmeal


Once again, your coach will adjust your diet as necessary. It could change every three weeks or every other week depending on how your body is responding to the meal plan. It’s important to be consistent and eat exactly what your trainer prescribes so she or he can assess how certain foods affect your body.


How Long Does It Take You To Meal Prep?

Most bikini competitors spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen every Sunday meal prepping for the entire upcoming week. If you start each week unprepared, you’re likely to have diet fails!

Competitors will spend at least two hours just cooking. That doesn’t include clean up. Over time, you’ll learn tricks that make meal prep quicker, more efficient. One way is to learn to use the crock-pot (or multiple crock-pots), the oven and the stovetop all at once. Make meals, portion them out and freeze them in your meal containers. Measure all snacks, like almonds, at this time, too.

An easy but costly way to meal prep is to locate a meal prep company in your area. Meal prep companies have been springing up all over and some ship anywhere in the U.S. There is only one catch: You must be certain that they’ll follow your meal plans to the letter. There may be a premium for that. You must decide how much your time is worth.

How Much Do You Work Out Each Day?

Oh cardio! If you aren’t a cardio queen, get ready to become one. Most bikini competitors complete 45 minutes to an hour of cardio every day. For my first show, I worked out seven days per week. On the one day that I didn’t lift, I still had to do cardio. Cardio is king for removing fat from the deepest parts of your muscles when coupled with diet. You’ll also be lifting weights.

All time added up, you’re looking at 1.5 to 2 hours of gym time each day. The workouts can be broken up, but it all has to get done. I used to split my cardio and lifting each day. I ran during my lunch hour and lifted after work. You’ll have to set a schedule that meets your needs.

What Do You Do On Stage?

The stage is your time to shine. It’s time to display all the discipline and hard work that will be reflected through your physique.

When you get on stage, you’ll have an allotted amount of time to do an individual posing routine displaying the body that you’ve worked months for followed by comparison rounds alongside your competitors.

How Often Should You Pose?

Don’t pass a mirror without practicing. Don’t hesitate to strut your stage walk in empty hallways when leaving work. Get in front pose between sets in the weight room.

You shouldn’t be worried if people look at you. Hundreds are about to see you on the stage in a tiny little bikini that your father wouldn’t approve of on a public beach. Get over your fears now!

The coach you hire should be able to teach you all bikini poses and multiple routines for the bikini division and tell you which poses work best for showing off your best assets. If she or he doesn’t know the poses, they should guide you in finding someone who can help.

There are YouTube videos that are helpful. I love Lisette Howard’s series because she breaks down everything including when to smile, what to do with your hands and all of the poses.

You also have the option of attending clinics in your area hosted by bikini pros, or you could do all three. You’ll learn something new from each experience you have.


How Much Does It Cost To Compete?

The cost will be different for everyone. Your big-ticket items are your coach and your swimsuit.


This cost can vary greatly. My first coach cost me nearly $300 a month. The second time around, my coaches cost me $150 a month. It all depends on whom you train with.

Your Fabulous Bikini

For most of us, this is the most fun and exciting part of the process, picking the bikini. Women love to shop! However, this teensy bikini that uses less than a dollar’s worth of material can really break the bank. A plain suit with no rhinestones usually runs about $125. Start adding the sparkly stuff and the bill can rack up to $1,000. The average cost for a blinged up new suit is around $350. To save money, you can buy a used suit, but cutting corners and getting a suit that doesn’t truly fit can lead to lower scoring. The bikini is important. You can wear it to more than one show, so start saving money now.

Entry Fees

You’ll be required to join a federation. There are many out there, and all their fees are different. Then you’ll pay for the show entry fees. Expect over $100. Membership fees are collected annually, so it’s wise to compete more than once in any given season.

Stage Tan

Your stage tan is an important part of your overall appearance. It looks very dark in person and when you see regular cell phone pics of a competitor. But, when you’re on stage, you look a normal color. That’s due to the lighting. Everyone tans no matter their skin color. Everyone! There will be professional tanning companies for your stage tan. Don’t run out to your local tanning salon. They can’t create this tan for you. The cost is usually over $100.

Stage Heels

Bikini competition girls must compete in standard clear heels. There are a few options that have a strip of bling, but they’re all standard since you aren’t being judged on your shoe choice, but rather on your physique. The standard heels run about $50.

Hair and Makeup

Presentation is part of your score. With that said, you’ll have to have your hair and makeup done. You can do it yourself, but you must have the right makeup pallet for blending your foundation with your stage tan. I didn’t want to worry about it and elected to pay someone the day of the show. These professional services cost $200 to $300.

Lie Detector Test

If you elect to compete in a natural show, you’ll undergo a lie detector test before you get on stage. This is an out of pocket cost of about $40.

Add It All Up

Just know that your total cost is going to be near $1,000, minimum, or more, and this doesn’t include food or supplements.

What Is Peak Week?

Peak week is often viewed as hell week. Your body and mind are tired. You are probably feeling ready to be done with the whole thing and eat a hamburger or, better yet, pizza. You may even want it covered in peanut butter. The cravings are real!

The final week before the stage, you’ll be void of carbs. You will also be tampering with your salt and water intake as you trick your body into drying out. This means you’ll be shedding most of the water from your body by manipulating your salt and water intake and taking a diuretic. You’ll also sit and sweat in the sauna.

Peak week is one more reason to have a great coach. They know the process. They’ll be asking for pictures of you daily on the days they don’t see you in person. They will make necessary diet or water adjustments to ensure you bring your best package to the stage! Mess up on peak week and you could blow your whole show.

Do You Win Money?

Amateurs don’t win money. Prize money only comes at the professional level in almost every federation that I am aware of. So, you must make it to the pro level.

If you win or place, you’ll receive a medal, trophy, sword, some type of tangible award, but the biggest reward is your achievement. Take pictures and have a professional photo shoot done before you go off diet, because who knows if you’ll ever look that good again!

Flex Banner


You may be thinking: Why would anyone prep for a bikini competition?

At your gym, you are the local fit chick who went all the way to the stage. You gain a small celebrity status in your home gym. You suddenly go from “Why would you do that?” to “What are you doing because you look amazing.”

Words cannot describe the pride you feel after you conquer the stage. You’ve tested yourself in every manner of discipline and feel like you can do anything after you will yourself onto the stage. Best of luck to you on your journey!

By Sarah Chadwell, CPT


  1. I really like Lisette Howard’s videos too! Just did my first competition (INBF all natural) and everything in your article was true for me. Lie detector test, bikini costs, prep. Thanks for a great article!


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