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You've lifted heavy, dialed in your nutrition, and stuck to your supp schedule. You're so close to stepping onstage you can almost taste it—no, wait, that's just chicken.

After working so hard for months, the last thing you want to do is leave those last few weeks of prep to chance. Here are the most important tips you need to know before you set foot onstage.

1. Start Prepping Your Skin Early

First and foremost, you must prepare your skin in advance before you apply your tan. You can have the best physique in the world, but if you have a poor tan, it's just not going to look right. Start prepping your skin about two weeks out from the show by exfoliating. The more you can remove that dead skin, the better it's going to accept that tan.

As you get closer to the show, it all comes down to shaving. Every part of your body has to be shaved—and I mean every part of your body! I've had competitors try to say, "the inside of my arm doesn't have hair." Trust me, it does. Shave it. Your skin will not accept that tan if you don't shave. And you must use a blade razor. An electric razor just can't cut the hair short enough.

Stage tan

2. If You're Overwhelmed, Use a Pro

If the idea of doing a self-tan seems too stressful, pay for the professional tan application at the show. It's worth the money. They are at the venue and can do touch-ups anytime, which is really important. It's just one less thing to worry about.

3. Keep Clothing Lightweight, But Dark

I always encourage people to wear very loose, lightweight clothing that's darker in color. A black jacket and dark pants or shorts aren't going to look nasty when they get tan on them, whereas a white T-shirt will just get destroyed. Sandals or flip-flops are also a good idea since they're easy to slide on and off. Try to avoid any heavy materials that might make you sweat. Silky garments tend to work very, very well.

BCAAs are a must-have for any competition prep to prevent muscle loss and give your body the amino acids it needs to build, repair, and retain mass, even in a calorie deficit.

4. No Lotion, Sprays, or Deodorant

This is the biggest mistake first-time competitors make. You cannot have any lotion, deodorant, or cologne on your skin. These products will cause your tan to discolor. Also, be very careful backstage, because some competitors are spraying hairspray and if it gets on your skin, your tan will turn green, orange, or yellow. I've seen it happen and it's devastating. Yes, you're going to stink that day. Just accept that that's OK.

5. Pack for Anything and Everything

There are a lot of things that you'll need the day of the show, and you're going to be there all day. Bring a duffel bag that can hold everything. There are several sources for what to bring on competition day. I always tell people to bring a gallon of water, even if you don't plan on drinking a lot. Things can happen, and you want to make sure you stay hydrated.

It's also a good idea to have some kind of electrolyte drink. Bring a banana for some extra potassium, as well, and at least one towel. Baby wipes are also really nice to have for cleaning off excess tan on your hands or your face after you get offstage. The final thing I like to have in my bag is just some kind of sugar or candy. People underestimate how exhausting a show is, and the main benefit of quick sugar is to keep your energy up. If nothing else, it's better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.

Duffel bag and BCAAs

Feel better on show day and keep your muscles happy with an electrolyte mix.

6. Start Posing 4 Weeks Out

Posing is extremely important in bodybuilding shows. I've seen physiques that should have beat me by a long shot, but I end up winning due to posing. Posing and tan are the biggest things that people mess up and it's really sad to see somebody who's put a lot of work into building a physique and just doesn't know how to display it.

I have my competitors start posing daily a minimum of four weeks before a show. The only reason I hesitate to do a lot of posing prior to that is because posing can be a real challenge mentally, and if you start too early it can be frustrating if you're not in good condition yet.

7. Hold Poses Longer

Whether you're doing physique, classic physique, or bodybuilding, start by holding each pose for 10 seconds, then the next week go up to 20 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 40. The likelihood you'll have to hold it for that long onstage is very low, but if you can hold a pose for 30 seconds and they only make you hold it for 5, it will feel easy.

Holding a bodybuilding pose

8. Practice Without Mirrors

A lot of people only pose in front of a mirror. Then, when they get onstage and they don't have a mirror, they realize how much they relied on that feedback to adjust their physique. When you pose without a mirror, it helps you learn what posing correctly feels like.

I recommend videotaping yourself. There's a lot you can learn just by watching yourself. What does your face look like while you're posing? Are you flexing your muscles properly? You'll find you don't need a coach to tell you to change something once you can see it for yourself. Taking a video can also be really helpful for getting feedback from your coach.

Eat Like a Winner!

Eat Like a Winner!
Whether you're new to competitions or you're a pro, understanding what to eat and when is crucial for building your physique. Learn the secrets to building size and techniques for cutting down so you can step onstage looking your best!

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