When I was prepping for my first show, I struggled to find a free resource that taught me everything. It's like the competition world was trying to keep everything a secret...shhh...

That is why I have created the most comprehensive Bikini Competition Prep Guide!

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Let's take all your stress and toss it to the wind. Instead, the secrets are out for good!!!

During my first contest prep, I got wrapped up in the the "hangry" struggles and the low-carb confusion of not knowing what to do. So I kept a journal of what I learned throughout my entire contest prep and then created this guide for you in 2012. I want to make the contest prep process easier for you so you can enjoy it as much as possible.

In the eighteen lessons below, you will learn about bikini competition nutrition, bikini competition training, bikini competition preparation steps, and you'll get my bikini competition prep list!

Read this completely free guide, save it as a bookmark to reference later, become informed, and then you can focus your time on what truly matters: sculpting your beautiful to the core body.

bikini competition coach



First things first: Decide which league to compete in.

Below, I list 13 of the most popular leagues.

The majority of the leagues require only a bikini posing presentation. Details will follow of the leagues that require more presentations than just bikini (ie club wear, theme wear, workout wear, etc).

Some of them do drug testing and some don't. We recommend you remain all-natural.​


1) ABA/INBA/PNBA - Amateur/International/Professional Bodybuilding Associations

  • This league allows you to progress from amateur (ABA) or international (INBA) to professional (PNBA).
  • There are 4 bikini-related categories you may compete in with them: 
  • #1 Bikini Diva (pose in a bikini)

    #2 Bikini Mamas (1-3yr post-pregnancy mothers who pose in a bikini​)

    #3 Bathing Suit Beauties (pose in a one-piece suit instead of a bikini)

    #4 Fitness Model (pose in workout clothing and give a thirty second speech)​

2) ANBF - American Natural Bodybuilding Federation

3) DFAC - Drug Free Athletes Coalition

4) Fitness America Tour -

  • This league offers 4 bikini-related categories:

#1 Ms. Fitness America (pose in a bikini, give a fitness performance, and do an interview)

                               #2 Ms. Bikini America (pose in a bikini, pose in themed sportswear)

                               #3 Ms. Model America - Fashion (pose in a bikini, sportswear, and clubwear)

                               #4 Ms. Model America - Fitness (pose in a bikini, sportswear, and clubwear)

5) IFPA – International Fitness & Physique Association

6) INBF / WNBF- International/World Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness

7) NANBF – North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation

8) NPC- National Physique Committee

  • This league has three tiers of competing: amateur, national, and IFBB Professional.
  • You begin as an amateur. If you place well in a “national qualifier” amateur contest you become “nationally qualified” and may compete in a National NPC show.
  • If you place well in a National show, you become an IFBB Pro and can compete in IFBB shows around the world.
  • For more details on how to advance from NPC to IFBB, read our in-depth article.

9) OCB – Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders

10) SNBF – Super Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness

11) UNBA - United Natural Bodybuilding Association

12) USBF – United States Bodybuilding Federation

13) WBFF - World Beauty Fitness & Fashion www.wb

  • This league allows you to compete in 3 bikini-related categories:
  • #1 Diva Fitness Model (pose in a bikini, pose in themewear)
    #2 Diva Bikini Model (pose in a bikini, pose in a long evening gown)
    #3 Commercial Model (pose in a one-piece swimsuit, pose in fashion attire)

Out of those 13 leagues, the most popular for beginners (and the one I did) is the NPC (which was #8 above).

NPC shows are for beginners/novices and are the largest. If you place well in a NPC show that is categorized as a national qualifier, you can go on to compete in a National Qualifer to possibly win your "Pro card". Once you are a Pro, then you can compete in IFBB shows which are for Pro's only. [See Related: How to go from NPC to IFBB]

When deciding on which show to choose, consider the date, requirements, costs, and location. It is much more convenient to compete in a show in your home town so you can get ready from home and have friends/family go watch you. However, if you want to make a vacation out of it, it may be fun to compete out of state for that reason! Keep in mind you'll have to pack a whole lot more though.



For Females, there are 5 different categories you can compete in: Bodybuilding, Physique, Figure, Fitness, or Bikini.



Bodybuilding is for the women who are very very muscular. They compete barefoot, with a posing routine to music. They are the most muscular of all the categories.

The routine involves 7 poses and competitors are expected to have muscle striations.

The 7 poses are front double biceps, front lat spread, side chest, side tricep, rear double bicep, rear lat spread, and abdomen with one thigh.


The routine involves 5 poses and competitors are expected to be lean, muscular, and barefoot.

The 5 poses are front double biceps, back double biceps, side triceps, side chest, and front abdomen with one thigh.



Figure competes in heels with specific poses in quarter-turns only.

The routine involves quarter turns only with no flexing and competitors are expected to have only a small degree of muscle separation but no muscle striations. They are expected to wear high heels.

The poses are front, side, and back.



Fitness competitors have two routines.

One is posing similar to that of Figure competitors in a suit and heels.

The other is a gymnastic/dance 2 minute routine that is scored based on strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular abilities.



Lastly, bikini is strictly posing in heels. The judges look for a curvier body and body fat is higher than the others- around 10-12%.

The routine involves just two poses: front and back.

Competitors are expected to lean forward during the back pose so an emphasis is put on the glutes.

Competitors wear a two-piece bikini and high heels.

This is the quickest routine of them all and typically lasts under 20 seconds since there are only two poses.

For first-time competitors, most women start in the bikini category to get their toes wet. Once you get more muscular and have more experience, then you may want to consider moving up to fitness, figure, or bodybuilding. Personally, I think Bikini is best!

Once you pick a class and show up for show registration, you are then split up into smaller groups based on height. So when you check-in they will measure your height. Most shows have Class A-F in each category; A being the shortest and F being the tallest.

andrea bikini competition coaching


Now that you have learned about the league and category options, it is time to register for a show.

#1 Register for your league’s annual membership.

The NPC membership card is $120/year (as of 2014).

All rates are subject to change each year.

#2 Sign-up for your specific show date.

This may be online or by mail. Prices will vary.

bikini competition coach



Now that you have a show date, the contest prep process begins. Contest prep does not have to be miserable.

If you have a well-written training program that challenges you and helps you hit new goals and compound exercise personal records, it should keep you motivated! Your training should focus on maintaining your muscle and losing body fat. You do not have to do hours of steady-state cardio each day to be stage ready. Strength training > Cardio. Cardio should involve HIIT for the most part.

If you have a Flexible Dieting macro nutrition program that keeps you eating healthy most of the time (80%) and allows treats sometimes (20%) you will be able to stick to the program without binges or cheats. Flexible dieting keeps eating enjoyable and satisfying. You do not have to eat just plain chicken, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and veggies during your contest prep. Macros are macros.

For more info on Flexible Dieting and how to track macros, take our free four week online course to learn the basics!​

Here at Beautiful to the Core, our Training & Nutrition principles are effective and sustainable for bikini competitor clients. We do not cut out carbs, we do not tell you what foods you must eat, and we do not make you live half your life on the treadmill. Learn more about our successful Coaching programs at and hear success stories from our past online coaching clients!

beautiful to the core coaching



Competing is an investment. However it is great motivation to get healthier. If you are passionate about this then go for it! It is such a wonderful learning and growing experience. Here some of the big costs (on average). You can do this on a lower budget if you make smart decisions.

Are you following me on Instagram yet?


Follow me for motivation!

beautiful to the core stephanie dorworth


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Here are some tips on buying your Suit, Heels, and Jewelry


Buying a competition bikini can be difficult if you don't have a local store to try them on. Know that competition suits are different than your ordinary suit. They are typically cut smaller in the butt and have diamond straps. The cheaper suits are less detailed and "bling bling" however they work just fine if you are a first time competitor. I bought my first suit from Suits You Swimwear for $90 but they can go up to around $600 max.

Buying a competition bikini is usually done online since there are not many storefronts. Luckily it is very easy to take your own measurements and have a custom suit made online. They can typically make them in as little as 4 weeks notice however I recommend you order one 6-8 weeks out. Take your body circumferential measurements and then subtract about .5-1 inch from each as you will be leaning out even more before show day.

When deciding on a suit color, consider your hair color. Which color would make you stand out from the other girls? By far, red is the most popular color suit. Blondes tend to look good in yellow, black, and blue. Brunettes tend to look good in red, green, or purple. But it is totally up to you! I would avoid white because the spray tan will ruin it unless you are super careful. For more information on how to choose a suit and step-by-step guide on how to create your own suit. [See Related: How to Choose a Competition Suit]

You'll need to buy Bikini Bite glue to glue your bottoms down so your butt crack doesn't eat your suit while you walk! (sorry for the visual). Get yours by clicking the image below (<$9).

A great company for your bikini competition suit is Suits You Swimwear.

They have great quality products & affordable options as well. Get your suit and heels from them!

Get 10% off in stock suits using code "beautifultothecore"

Get 5% off custom orders​ using code: "beautifultothecore"

plus free shipping on orders over $99!​

Another great bikini company is Angel Competition Bikinis. Get a free competition jewelry set with the purchase of a bikini by using the code "beautifultothecore".


 Your competition heels must be clear heels (except for the WBFF league). So unfortunately, they are stripper-esque. You can pick any style as long as they are clear. The average height is 4-5 inches. I recommend heels with straps on them so you are less likely to stumble or trip while wearing them. Make sure you practice walking in them... wear them to vacuum! They have lots of options at Suits You Swimwear


​click the image above to shop heels


For jewelry, you are allowed to wear earrings, bracelets, and rings. Necklaces and hair accessories are not allowed. You don't want to over do it either. So one bracelet, earrings, and one ring. 

Stores to shop for competition jewelry are:

-Charming Charlies



PS- Don't forget, if the league you chose has other attire requirements like workout wear, club wear, theme wear, or evening gown you will have to shop for jewelry for those too!

Click an image below to shop our favorite competition jewelry


You may wonder why a tan is necessary. It shows clearer muscle definition and it looks best under the stage lights. So two layers of spray tan are recommended. Most competitions have a spray tan company sponsoring it that are on-site the day before and the day of the show. You look super dark in normal lighting, but just perfect when on stage! Looks weird here huh...


A few tanning pointers...

Before your show, you will receive two layers of spray tan. If your show is 1-day long you will get one the day before and the morning of the show. If your show is 2-days long you will get one the day before and both days of the show (this may vary depending on which company you use though).

It is very, very dark. So whether you tan in tanning beds prior to the show is up to you. If you are health conscious and want to protect your skin, you will get by just fine with the spray tan only.

When asked if you want your face sprayed, it is optional. Consider a light coat but nothing too dark or else your face may look dirty on stage. Then you can top it off with a dark makeup foundation and bronzer (makeup tips are covered in the next lesson).

Most competitions sponsor an on-site tanning company, which I highly recommend you use for convenience.

If you are African American or have a darker complexion, you may be able to skip the spray tans and simply get a glaze right before going out on stage. Although some people still get one layer of tan. I recommend you consult the spray tan company regarding this decision.

If you have tattoo’s you can leave them visible or you can have the spray tan company cover them up with makeup.

Pre-Tanning Tips

1. Exfoliate really well all 3 days before the tan with an oil-free body wash.

2. Do not use deodorant the day before or the day of the show or else it will make your armpits green.

3. Do not shave within 24 hours of your spray tan or else the hair follicles won’t close and you will get black dots.

4. You need to be completely naked for the spray tan so you do not have tan lines.

5. Wash your hair before the first spray tan. Then wear a shower cap to protect your hair during the spray tan since you will not be able to wash your hair again before the show.

Post-Tanning Tips

1. You stand in a tent in front of a cold fan to dry for 10 minutes, most likely next to other naked women (just a heads up).

2. If you are staying in a hotel, bring your own set of dark/black sheets so they do not charge you for staining theirs.

3. Also consider bringing your own dark/black towels for the same reason.

4. Sleep in all black, long sleeve, loose-fitting sweats to protect the tan. Be sure to wash them first if you bought a new sweat suit for the occasion so you do not get little black fuzzies or black stained skin.

5. You have to be super careful when urinating. I recommend bringing some Styrofoam cups. Punch out the bottom so you can squat pee thru it. This will avoid the nightmare of pee dripping onto your leg and messing up your spray tan. Sounds silly, but it works. Whatever you do, do not sit on the toilet seat: squat!




The judges want to see your hair down and styled. It should not look messy. It should either be pin-straight or with nice and even waves. No fancy up-do.

Hair accessories like flowers and clips are not usually allowed.

You can do your own hair if you want to save money. If so, be sure to use extra hair spray since it has to stay looking good all day long. And try to add some volume.

You can wear hair extensions if desired, however make sure they look natural.


The judges want to see natural looking makeup. If you walk out there with blue eye shadow and rosy cheeks you will most likely be deducted of points. Your goal is to look like a golden goddess. So focus on the bronzer, smoky eyes, neutral or light pink/neutral lips, and fake lashes. Stay away from glitter.

You can hire a makeup artist or do it on your own. If you do your own makeup, you will need to buy darker foundation and bronzer so your face matches your dark body. Your normal makeup shades will be extremely too pale. So it is imperative to get a dark shade that is close to the color of the tan (color recommendations below).

Also, don't forget to whiten your teeth!!​

Makeup Recommendations (click the photo to buy it)

MAC Studio Fix Fluid: NW 43-45

MAC Mineralize Skin Finish Natural Bronzer: Dark Deep

MAC Lash: 2, 34, or 36

MAC Lipglass: Angel, Snob, Cultured, or Viva Glam VI



Contest prep typically begins 12-16 weeks out, depending on your current physical state and body fat level. Once prep begins you must start decreasing calories (caloric deficit) in order to see weight and body fat loss. This can be a confusing process, so checkout my coaching services for macro nutritional guidance.

  • ​13 weeks before: Do your research, register for a league, sign-up for a show, and hire the help you will need for training/nutrition coaching.
  • 12 weeks before: Typically this is when you would start your official prep.
  • 8 weeks before: Begin posing practice once a week, tanning bed twice a week (if desired; not required), and schedule your hair/makeup/tanning for show day (unless you're doing it on your own).
  • 4 weeks before: Start whitening teeth daily & schedule a photoshoot session for before or after your show (if you want some photos taken at your best physique). For tips on fitness modeling, checkout my free fitness modeling guide. For the cutest workout clothes ever for your shoot, shop at Carbon38 and use code "stephaniedor50" for 25% off! [See Related: How to become a Fitness Model]
  • 1 week before: Get your nails done French manicure style, get a bikini wax (if desired), get your hair done (if you are dying or cutting it), and practice hair/makeup (if you are doing it on your own on show day).
  • 5 days before the show: Last leg workout before the show (the rest of the week is light upper body workouts and light steady-state cardio, cut down water (if desired; not required).
  • 3 days before the show: Exfoliate well everyday until the show, Nair/shave entire body (last time), & Pack (reference our amazingly awesome packing list below)
  • The day before the show: Check-in, last shower/exfoliation, first layer of spray tan, and no gym today!
how to become a fitness model

Get Workout Clothes and Photoshoot Outfits at Carbon38 below and use code "stephaniedor50" for 25% off!



click an image below to shop some of the items listed above

bikini competitor hoodie
bikini competitor tank



Most shows have one photographer who shoots the entire show (preliminaries and finals). You only get shot if you pay for it. So if you want professional photos you can buy it at check-in.

Photos and video can be purchased individually.

If you want to hire your own photographer, check your show’s rules first. Some shows do not allow outside photographers.

If you want your friends and family to take pictures of you, then make sure they buy tickets ahead of time and arrive over 1-2 hours early. Unless they are in the first couple rows, the lights will be too bright to get good shots of you.

checkout us youngins at our 1st show together :)​



So you are prepared and ready to go right!? Well guess what. Reality sets in...and once you walk into the building on show day nerves set in. So if it is going to be your first show, here is a peak into what show day is like so you know what to expect.

The day before the show, you usually check-in. They take your height which places you in your height class. They give you your pin which has your number on it. This is the number they will call while you're on stage if they want you to switch places with another girl.​  If your show does drug testing, it will be done now as well.

The morning of the show, they usually have a meeting for everyone. They will explain the schedule, the stage, posing rules, and answer questions. For my show, they called up all the bikini competitors and showed us the marks on stage so we understood where to walk and hold our poses at. Once the meeting is over, everyone scatters! Depending on what time you take the stage, you have a few main things to do. You need your hair/makeup done. Remember it should be bigger and way more than you would wear on an ordinary day because the judges see you from a distance. You also need to get your last layer of tan. Then use Bikini Bite on your suit bottoms. Put on your jewelry. Put on your heels. And put on your smile. You are ready girl!

Unfortunately there is a lot of sitting and waiting around so have your ipod or something to do. It is going to be a long day. So most girls wear black sweats or robes all day until it is their turn (so the tan does not ruin their clothes).


I made this Beautiful to the Core Bikini Competitor Hoodie that is perfect for competition day. It is black and super comfy. Get yours today in the SHOP!


I also have these cute tanks available!


People will be around giving you updates on the schedule and when your class is suppose to line up. About 30 minutes before taking the stage, grab a bite to eat. I eat Goop on a plain rice cake (equal honey + protein powder + peanut butter). Then about 15 minutes before taking the stage, use a resistance band or light weights to pump up and get some blood flowing to your muscles (mainly shoulders, biceps, triceps). Also, if you are super nervous or have stage fright, secretly sip a little wine to calm your nerves.



First off, get your FREE Grocery List by subscribing to Beautiful to the Core HERE. You'll get my free "Back to the Basics" ebook to teach you the basics on nutrition, training, my healthy eating grocery list.

free fit guide back to the basics

Nutrition is THE most important aspect of show prep. With that said, here are some general recommendations...

  1. Drink at least 1 gallon of water every day.
  2. Make sure your meals are well balanced: Carbs vs Protein vs Fats.

There are many different approaches to the cutting phase of your preparation. Some people believe in Carb cycling, some in Ketosis cycling, and others in simply decreasing caloric intake. There are pros and cons to each. So do some research and decide which diet seems right for you. Please be cautious about damaging your metabolism though. Anyone that has you starving and doing hours of cardio is not educated. That can be very unsafe and set you up for failure later in life. So keep your diet healthy and be good to your body. Read more about how serious Metabolic Damage can be here. It's scary!

We believe simply going into a caloric deficit is the way to go, while keeping balance proteins, carbs, and fats. We believe you can  practice Flexible Dieting (80% healthy choices + 20% treats) and actually enjoy a contest prep. So if you want to prep the enjoyable and effective way, checkout our Coaching Services.

bikini competition coach



In order to get show ready, the intensity of your workouts should remain high. You cannot let the diet wear you down because you need to maintain the muscle you have built up. In addition, you should add in more high intensity exercises like plyometrics, sprinting, and HIIT (high intensity interval training). [See Related: HIIT] As far as how to put together a training schedule, here are some basic tips:

  • Train 5-6 days a week so you have 1-2 rest days; workouts should focus on the big 3 compound lifts [See Related: The Big Three]
  • Do high-intensity cardio 1-3 days a week, at the end of your workout [See Related: Weight Training Before Cardio]
  • Alternate lower body days with upper body days
  • Minimize rest breaks between sets to <1 minute, unless you're doing heavy compound exercises then you should rest 2-3 minutes
  • Avoid steady state low intensity cardio except for the week before
  • Have a friend spot you while lifting so you can push yourself to the limits
  • Be prepared for the gym by putting together a bomb gym bag [See Related: The Ultimate Gym Bag List]

Get my monthly Training Program by signing up HERE. (prices range from $19-199/mo)




Even if your body isn't as perfect as you want it to be, you could still win if your posing rocks. The most important thing is to smile, have fun, and act super confident. You will want to watch videos of how the Professionals pose to get ideas. Then practice practice practice! Whenever you are in front of a mirror, stop and do your poses. (Don't worry if someone catches you practicing while you're happens to the best of us haha). If it is your first time, I recommend getting a posing coach to teach you. I took 6 classes with an IFBB pro and I don't know what I would have done without her help.

NPC League Posing Sequence

  • Walk out on stage with a smile
  • Strike your front pose for 3sec
  • Turn 180 degrees to the right for a back pose for 3sec
  • Turn 180 degrees to the right for a front pose for 3sec
  • Wave and walk off to line up with the other girls

Posing Tips:

* Make eye contact with the judges

*Angle your hips so your waist appears smaller

* Maintain good posture

*Toes turned out

*Hand on one hip

*Your legs can be apart or crossed together 

*The emphasis is on your glutes so hinge forward at the hips in the back pose

*It is not necessary to pull your hair to the front for bikini- optional

*Look back over your shoulder at the judges in back pose

Here is a great video that outlines the basics of NPC/IFBB bikini posing.


I have created a page that shares Posing Coaches around the USA. You usually pay per session and they can be done 1-on-1 or group. If there is no one in your area, you can also find professional bikini competitors who do posing sessions online thru Skype.




The majority of the criteria is physical: your hair, makeup, jewelry, tan, bikini, smile, muscle development, body shape, posing, etc.  But notice that one portion is based on poise, elegance, and grace. So the way you walk, how you transition between poses, and how you portray yourself on stage is also important. Try to be the complete package.



In order to track your progress, you can try a few different methods. Keep a journal of how you feel, your weight, your inch measurements, your body fat measurements, etc. I have created a chart for you to keep track here that can be copy/pasted or downloaded. However the best way to track progress is to take pictures! It may seem vain and a little self-absorbed. But honestly, it allows you to see what areas have gotten better and what areas you need to spend more time on. I highly recommend taking progress pictures about every 2 weeks. Plus, it is so rewarding to look back to how you were when you started compared to the end result. [See Related: How to Measure Progress]

Here are my progress pictures from my first NPC Bikini competition in April 2013.

PicMonkey Collage of progress compete



I know what you're thinking.... geez Stephanie! Is this over yet?

I know this was a long one... but my desire was to provide as much helpful information as possible to make your life easier. And trust me, I could have written even more!  Once you begin your competition prep, I am positive you will think of additional questions I did not cover here. So I have created a safe place to ask those questions. It is a Facebook group for you to ask hundreds of other members any contest-related questions, at any time. Please join! 


and use this hashtag on social media during your competition prep #B2Ccompetitionprep

bikini competition prep

Some of the ladies in our FB group rocking the stage!

bikini competitors
bikini competitor support group

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flex with steph beautiful to the core

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Would you please leave a comment below?  Let me know what you learned and/or if you have any questions!

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