Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

We all want to achieve something important in our lifetime. Something of significance: a trophy, a certificate, a prize. For those of us who compete, most often the goal is to turn Pro.

I compete in Figure in the NPC (National Physique Committee), which is the amateur division of the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding). In order to move from the NPC into the IFBB, you must either earn your Pro card at a show, or petition the IFBB to receive it (yep - it's true. Some of those Pros out there didn't earn their Pro card at a show. Fair? Well, that's another story for another day). In order to earn your Pro card, you need to meet certain criteria and progress through different levels of shows.

Local / Regional Level: These shows are usually small, with fewer than 200 competitors. There are usually 2-4 Figure classes, with anywhere from 2-10 competitors in each class. There are no eligibility requirements to compete at this level. Some, but not all, shows are National Qualifiers.

National Level: These shows are usually very large, with upwards of 400 competitors and big name guest posers. There are 6 Figure classes, with up to 40 competitors in some classes. In order to be eligible to compete in these shows, Figure competitors must place in the top 3 of a National Qualifying (NQ) show. Team Universe and the Jr. USA's require a top 5 finish in an NQ show. The National Qualification is good for the remainder of the year in which it is earned, and the next full calendar year. For example, since I earned my NQ this year, I'm qualified to do all National shows this year and next year. If I don't place in the top 5 of a National show during that time frame, I'll need to re-earn my NQ for 2012.

Pro Level: These shows are large, with a smaller number of competitors than National shows, as there are no height classes; all athletes compete in the same class for Figure. In order to be eligible to compete in these shows, Figure competitors must win the National show Overall or meet other requirements (each National show has different Pro eligibility).

Although the Local shows are smaller, there are many of them offered throughout the year, which gives competitors lots of opportunities to earn their National Qualification. There are only 7 National shows in which competitors can earn their Pro card. And as I mentioned above, the competition at National shows is very tough.

In my opinion, just because you earned your NQ doesn't mean you should compete at a National show that year.

Now before anyone gets their posing suit in a bunch, let me explain why I feel that way.

National shows are a big deal. Plain and simple. The best of the best amateurs are there, all vying for very few Pro cards. Very rarely does anyone show up out of shape (unlike Local shows where there's often varying levels of conditioning), so the competition is very fierce.

I competed at Jr. Nationals in 2009 just for the experience. I knew I wasn't going to place in the top 5; all I wanted to do was to not tie for 16th. And I achieved my goal! (I placed 15th! LOL) Would I have liked to have placed higher? Absolutely! But I recognized the weaknesses in my physique, and used it as motivation to work even harder in my off-season.

Before someone decides to compete in a National show, I think they need to take an honest assessment of themselves. NQ ladies should ask themselves the following questions before booking their plane tickets to Nationals:
  • How do I look compared to the Pros?
  • When I compare my show photos next to the photos of the Pros, do I see a big difference between their physiques and mine?
  • Are my muscle bellies thick enough already or do I need to take some time to put on more size?
  • Is there a good balance between my upper and lower body?
  • What was the quality like at the show in which I earned my NQ?
  • Were most ladies in good condition with good balance, or was there significant variation in each class?
  • How large were the classes? Placing 2nd in a class of 2 or 3 is not the same as placing 2nd in a class of 15.
All too often I see ladies win a trophy at a small Local show, immediately plan to compete in a large, highly competitive National show, and then end up tying for 16th place along with 25 other ladies in their class.

Don't get me wrong - winning a trophy at a show is a huge accomplishment! And there should definitely be a strong sense of pride in that achievement. However, winning a trophy and earning the NQ doesn't automatically mean that a physique is ready to be competitive at the National level.

By no means am I trying to discourage anyone from doing a National show! I'm merely encouraging competitors to really consider whether they're ready to be competitive at that level. I understand that everyone has different reasons for competing, and that some ladies may want to do a National show just for the experience (like I did).

That being said, I actually earned my NQ back in 2006, and could've competed in a National show several years ago. I did an honest evaluation of my physique, however, and realized I still had a long ways to go before I would be any kind of threat at a National show. I'm still working on developing my physique, and like I've mentioned before, I feel I need more size in order to be competitive. (Whether or not I actually do put on any more size is another story. I don't really want to be any bigger.)

On the other hand, I can name a handful of ladies who achieved immediate success at the National and then at the Pro level. Their physiques were clearly National/Pro quality when they earned their NQ.

I have the utmost respect for everyone who competes, regardless of their placing. Competing is not easy, it's not always fun, and it takes a certain kind of person to complete a 12-15 week (sometimes longer) prep and then to stand on stage wearing items smaller than my grandma's underwear in front of hundreds of people. It takes guts, courage, dedication, motivation, hard work, and just plain stubbornness. So be proud of your accomplishments, admire your trophies, and do an honest self-assessment before signing up for that National show.


  1. thanks so much for this post...very clear information...i love reading your posts.
    you are a very good writer, btw!

  2. this was great - thanks for sharing this info!

  3. Excellent post. Thanks, Kari!

  4. wow, I had no idea you could petition a pro card!