Your First Bikini Competition: A Complete Guide for Beginners

If you’re considering taking the awesome plunge into the world of bikini competition, you should totally do it!

I know, I know… trust me I know that getting over that initial hurdle of deciding to compete and just going for it can be overwhelming. There’s so much to figure out, right? But here’s the thing: At Kids vs Bikini, we’re big fans of making fitness fun and challenging yourself. When preparing for my first comp, here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head:

  • Am I fit enough?
  • How/ what should I eat?
  • How long will it take to really be “stage ready”?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How should I train?
  • How do I prep for the stage part of competing?
  • Where do I find the stuff I need like a competition suit and shoes?
  • What about hair and makeup?
  • What actually happens on competition day? What can I expect?

Phew! Most competitors totally get the training aspect of competition prep… it almost ends up being the ‘easy part’ when you start putting all of the other pieces of Bikini competition together!

I dove in feet (or maybe it was head) first into fitness competition and pretty much made it a full-time job for a couple of years, and I’ve also worked with other competitors. This guide will save you some time and overwhelm so you can get going on rocking out your first competition!

Six Things That Are Essential to Your First Competition

Here’s a list of resources you’ll need to follow this guide and to do your best preparation for competition. Some of them are ‘physical’ resources, others come from within, and where there are alternatives there are some options listed.

Motivation, Discipline, Focus and Perseverance

These are some of those ‘from within’ resources I just mentioned and really, having the right mindset will be your bedrock foundation for competition prep! There will be days when these waiver, but keeping your focus and your eye on the prize will keep you going through this process.

A Support Team

The support of those around you is really important during competition prep. As it goes with anything you pursue, if you’re surrounded by naysayers it’s time to take inventory of who you’re spending your time with.

A Coach or Personal Trainer

Is this an absolute ‘must’? No. You can go it alone when preparing for your first competition but it’s highly advisable to have a trainer on your side who knows their stuff, including competition diet planning.

Some alternatives are: Doing internet research on your own — as in reading up and watching videos; talking with others who compete and getting their advice; and or consulting with an online coach.

I really recommend working in-person with a trainer who’s competed themselves and is knowledgeable in all aspects of competition prep. A good trainer is… priceless! This is your go-to when things get tough (and they will) and there’s just something about having that face-to-face connection with someone who’s seeing you through the good, the bad and the ugly of competition prep.

A Gym Where You Can Train

Another ‘must’? Well, no. You can totally train at a home gym. Training at a gym often offers a bigger variety of workout options equipment-wise though so you can keep your training fresh.

A gym also often offers a sense of community when it comes to competition prep. People are watching your ‘process’ and progress and gyms offer an awesome source of support and cheerleading for Bikini competitors.

Shoes to Practice In

You’ll definitely want to get your shoes so you can wear them a TON before show day!

A Posing Coach

While you don’t absolutely need a posing coach- you can watch videos and practice on your own or with the input of a friend- it’s highly advisable that you meet with a posing coach at least once before your first show.

A good posing coach will be able to offer you unbiased feedback and working with one, even once, will boost your confidence about 1000% before getting on the stage for the first time. In this case, it really pays to be prepared.

Personal Resources

Competition is a commitment — of time, effort and money. Before you get too far down the road take informed inventory of your budget and whether you’ll be able to pay for all the things you’ll need for competition day, like your suit and tan for example.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Kicking Ass in Your Bikini Competition

Below you’ll find all the steps necessary to prepare you for your first bikini competition! These steps are a result of my own experiences competing, my time spent in the fitness industry and working with other competitors.

Follow these steps, use this guide as a resource, and you’ll walk in to your first competition feeling confident and glad that you made the effort to do things right. That’s already a win!

Decide That You Want to Compete

This may sound kind of silly and simple, but there’s a little more to this first step. It’s really a commitment to seeing it all the way through. The decision you make to really go for it needs to be a firm one, there is no half-stepping it when it comes to competition prep.

Pro-tip: Create some accountability for yourself by ‘announcing’ it to others once you’ve made a firm decision to compete… even consider using social media! While you’re ultimately doing this for yourself, saying that you’re going to do something to the world adds a layer of commitment and accountability.

Get Yourself a Personal Trainer

Once again, you can train for your first competition on your own, but it’s not advisable.

As you’ll read on, there’s a lot to put together for competition and all your mental and physical focus is going to be poured in to preparing your body. It’s really, really helpful to have someone who will keep you focused during the tough times.

You also need someone you can trust when you just need to be told what to do because you’re so dang tired that you don’t have the time or energy to figure it out yourself.

Pro-tip: Attend a Bikini competition in your area and spend some time chatting with competitors, vendors and judges. This can be an awesome way to find a coach who’s ‘in the know’ when it comes to competition prep.

Create a Realistic Timeline and Commit to a Long Term Effort

This is different for everyone and it really depends on where you’re starting from. This is also where having an experienced and trustworthy coach who will tell it to you straight can make all the difference in the world.

For some it may be a matter of months, for others it could take up to a year. Bottom line- it’s best to be crystal-clear regarding your expectations going in to this experience so you can fully commit and go for it.

Pro-tip: Find a show you want to do and commit to that date. Consider registering for it as soon as you can to really cement your commitment to competing. Extra-Pro-Tip: Once you’ve chosen a show to do print out the flyer for it and put it where you’ll see it frequently to keep focused on your goal.

Understand the True Cost of Competing

There’s a lot of stuff involved with competing! Again, this is where an experienced trainer can help with some information and guidance. Here are some costs to consider:

  • Your trainer
  • A posing coach
  • Registering for your show
  • If you’re competing in a show sanctioned by a ‘bigger’ organization, like the National Physique Committee (NPC) you’ll need to pay to become a member before registering for one of their competitions.
  • Your competition suit: This can range from the hundreds and way on up if you’d like. There are also sites like where you can find great deals on gently used competition wear.
  • Your shoes
  • Your tan- whether you do it yourself with products like Jan Tana or pay someone to do it.
  • Any products you may need for your hair and makeup
  • Accessories like earrings
  • Photography (if you decide to go that route). Most shows have professional photographers hanging around that you can make arrangements with on competition day.

You can find a more detailed post that covers an itemized breakdown of the expenses for my first competition. Your actual expenses will vary and there are certainly areas where you can be a little more budget-conscious.

Plan For When Things Get Tough

And they will. While this is where a great trainer can really make or break things, it also pays to be prepared for getting yourself through times when you might question your decision to compete.

Maybe it’s a certain friend who knows just the right thing to say, looking at a vision board you’ve created with pictures of your ‘ideal physique’ or reading a letter you wrote to yourself when you first made the decision to embark on this crazy awesome journey.

Pro-tip: Many pros offer phone consultations and coaching. Talking with a Bikini competitor who’s gone pro can be super inspiring and encouraging! During my days of Figure competition I did some phone consults with Ms. Olympia winner Jenny Lynn and always came away re-charged and extra motivated.

Train Like a She-Beast

Not much needs to be said about this, right? If you’ve decided to go for it, then really go for it. Find those thoughts that motivate you and dig deep with your training.

Listen to your coach, keep things fresh, and remember that you are taking your body to a place that many people will never experience. It’s absolutely worth the effort, you are worth the effort, and you will never regret the effort you put in.

Pro-tip: Consider documenting your progress with weekly photos. Seeing how far you’ve come can be really motivating!

Eat Clean and Stay Hydrated

This step is… CRUCIAL. You absolutely can not prepare for a show without the right competition prep diet and drinking a lot of water is part of this. This is, again, where a skilled train is important.

This really can be the most psychologically challenging part of competition prep, but the most important also. If you’re going to put in all that effort to train and prepare your body, it’s really just silly not to diet properly so you can look your absolute best on show day!

Pick Your Competition Suit

Spend some time looking at photos of competitors and get some ideas about what you like regarding style and color. Your competition suit is like the fine coat of paint you put on your bad-ass car so spend some time finding the right one.

You can typically find suits online or at shows. You can also find people who make competition suits which is a great option as it will be tailored to your body.

Pro-tip #1: Remember when choosing your suit size to account for being smaller on show day. A baggy saggy suit is just… unfortunate. Don’t do what everyone else does! Certain colors are really popular, like blue. Consider choosing a suit that’s ‘different’ in regards to color and texture to stand out from the crowd. Consult with other people about what colors compliment your skin tone and hair color.

Pro-tip #2: Don’t forget the glue for show day! There are glues specifically made for competition to keep your suit in place on stage like Bikini Bite.

Find a Pair of Heels

Get these babies early on in your competition prep journey so you can practice walking around in them- a lot. These shoes are usually a 4 to 5-inch heel, made of clear plastic material, and there are some variations in style.

If you live in a bigger city that has a store that caters to… dancers, you can usually find these shoes there. You can also find them online pretty easily at a site like

Learn How to Pose

You may be able to get some coaching on stage-readiness from your trainer, but it’s also worthwhile to get some specified posing coaching.

The ‘stage part’ of competition is often what first-time competitors find the most challenging- you don’t get to actually do it until you’re on that stage and you’re nervous as heck!

This step is like dieting though- if you’re going to do all that work training your body you really want to prepare yourself to present it to the judges. Getting some coaching from someone in-the-know will cut down on the nervousness and help you find that poise that will really stand out on stage.

Pro-Tip: Don’t spend all your time practicing in front of a mirror! There are no mirrors on stage and if you do all your practicing in front of one you won’t develop that ‘natural feel’ for stage walking and posing. Have someone watch you or set up your phone to video yourself so you can establish good stage habits.

Practice Your Posing Routine

Don’t skip this step or leave it until just before show day! Wear your shoes around the house and set aside dedicated time to practice your stage walk and posing. You should consider this part of your training regimen and you’ll be really glad you did once you’re on that stage.

Pro-Tip: Add visualization to your routine. Picture being on that stage, walking, posing and really ‘owning it’. Play out in your head how you’d like it to go including what you’ll be thinking about and how you’ll be feeling including all your senses.

Get Your Hair and Makeup Sorted

Competition is about presentation, your “total package”. Hair, makeup and how you accessorize are a big part of this.

Stage makeup is definitely different than “everyday” makeup- the lights on stage are very bright and you need to really pile it on so that you don’t look washed out.

You can either pay someone to do your makeup for you on show day or do it yourself. If you decide to do your own makeup just make sure you spend time practicing before your competition… and don’t forget the fake eyelashes!

Your hair should be neat and well-presented but not distracting. Again, either pay someone who knows what they’re doing or invest some time in finding a style that compliments you and practice getting it ready so you’re not freaking out on show day.

Accessories shouldn’t be too distracting either but are a nice way to set off your overall presentation. Earrings and a simple, sparkly bracelet are a great accent.

Start Thinking About a Tan

There are some options when it comes to getting dark enough for the stage and you’ll definitely need to have this figured out prior to show day.

Again, because the stage lights are so bright you need to be really dark so that you don’t look washed out on stage. There’s nothing more tragic than having done all that hard work and getting scored down because you aren’t the right shade of super dark!

You can:

  • Buy tanning products like Jan Tana and do it yourself (although you really need to have help with this) the night before and the morning of your show
  • Pay someone to apply tanning products for you
  • Get a spray tan

Pro-Tip: Really, tanning can be a headache when it comes to show day and it’s worth it to pay someone to do it for you. Make sure they’re available later in the day for touch-ups to account for any streaking as a result of sweating, etc. And don’t wear deodorant! It’ll turn your armpits green. Awkward.

Plan for Pictures (hire a professional).

You don’t want to forget to capture your big day! As I mentioned, most shows have at least one professional photographer you can make arrangements with the day of your show. Some shows also offer the photographer’s information when you register so you can make arrangements ahead of time.

If getting professional photos isn’t your thing then ask a family member or friend in the crowd to get some good shots for you. It’s great feedback for later to see how you looked on stage and of course it’s awesome to see the results of all your hard work and preparation.

Get Serious About What  Happens on Competition Day

Once again, this is where an experienced trainer can really make a big difference and knowing what to expect will help you feel less nervous.

Some things to consider:

  • Check-ins are typically on the morning of the show but are also sometimes the day before.
  • During check-in your suit will usually be looked at to make sure it’s appropriate for the stage (no thongs!).
  • There is a lot of standing around and waiting. Don’t show up in your suit, wear something comfortable and be prepared to change later.
  • Usually (but not always) there’s some kind of “athlete meeting” where the show sponsors go over what to expect for the day, the schedule and hopefully the expectations for stage walking and posing.
  • Often there is an early show and a late show. The early show is usually for pre-judging and the late show is when most spectators arrive.
  • While you’re waiting backstage there will typically be weights and bands for you to prep with right before you go on- this helps bring your muscle tone out.

Pack Your Competition Bag Like a Pro

It pays to be prepared!

Here are some must-haves for your competition day bag:

  • Your bikini, shoes and accessories
  • Loose-fitting, comfortable clothing (so you don’t mess up your tan). It’s also smart to wear something that opens in the front (versus going over your head) so you don’t mess up your hair and makeup changing.
  • Flip flops or some other comfortable slip-on shoe
  • Bikini Bite (glue)
  • A small sewing kit and glue if you have rhinestones or crystals on your suit
  • A shower cap to protect your hair during spray tanning
  • Your hair and makeup kit including extra eyelashes just in case
  • Food- small, easy snacks are a good way to go
  • A mirror- it can get crowded backstage and hard to get to a mirror so it’s worth having your own for last-minute touch-ups
  • Tanning gel or oil (also called glaze) to put on just before going out on stage
  • Celebration food for after
post competition celebration food

Pro-tip: A lot of competitors bring wine with them to show day to help cut down on nerves. If you decide to go this route just make sure you don’t over-do it! You want to look poised and graceful, not sloppy and silly.

Show up and Have Fun

You made it! Try and relax, take it all in, and most of all remember to enjoy it. You’ve just poured everything you’ve got into preparing for this day and it’s an experience that you’ll carry with you into anything you do.

Reward your hard work with some indulging, and also consider following a reverse dieting plan post-show to preserve your achievements as much as possible.

Pulling it all together

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Are you psyched to get going on your competition prep journey?

I hope so. As a former competitor, I know how exciting and overwhelming the whole process can be. I also know that if you’ve made the decision to compete, or are even just thinking about it, you’ve got a special kind of drive and motivation that sets you apart from the crowd.

A lot of people just don’t realize how much goes into competing. Being prepared with the right information can mean the difference between doing it right and seeing it through, or getting discouraged and throwing in the towel before you even give yourself a chance.

Let us know your thoughts about competing in the comments below, and if you liked this guide go ahead and share it!

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