Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here Again

This weekend marked the end of the National Physique Committee competition season, with the IFBB Master Olympia and NPC South Beach Classic.

The end of the season means the start of registration for everyone, current and aspiring competitors alike. If you have competed before, you have probably received an envelope with an entry form in the mail to expedite the process; you only need to fill out the entry form if your information has changed, such as your division or your name.

If you are new to competing or have never registered for the National Physique Committee before, this entry should make it very simple.

You can access the registration card here. The form itself is self-explanatory, but here are some pointers:

Pay attention to the year listed on the form. The current form says 2013. To the left of the NPC seal, you will also see red text that reads, “membership expires on December 31, 2013.” When you send this card in, your membership will be for the 2013 season, which is great. This form is not always up-to-date! If you decide in November next year that you want to compete in the 2014 season, make sure you double-check the year on the form before registering, or else you might be paying for a membership that expires the following month.

Your membership is only valid until December 31, regardless of when you register. If you send your form out tomorrow, great. You have a full year of eligibility to compete. If you send your form out in July next year, your membership still expires December 31; it is not valid for one year from your registration date. If your plans are to compete in April 2014, do not assume your membership is valid for one year and register in August 2013. Wait until the calendar year of your competition to register.

Do not procrastinate. Yes, I know I have said this at least three other times in this blog. That’s because it’s important. Competition is expensive, and training is exhausting. Imagine spending all that money on your suit, hotel accommodations, travel, tanning, hair, and make-up, only to show up at check-in and be turned away because they don’t offer registration or you waited too long to register and didn’t receive your card in time. In my experience, it takes approximately four to six weeks to receive your card. If you’re serious about competing, don’t put off your registration; do it as soon as you know you are entering at least one show.

Only check one division. Some contests do allow crossovers, but it is rare (and is never allowed at national-level shows.) Select ONLY the main division you plan on competing in. This will not barre you from crossovers that are permitted by an individual competition; the information is not printed on your card. The NPC uses this to determine the popularity of each division, and bases a lot of their decisions on this statistic, such as how many shows feature that division during the season.

Curious what the card looks like?...


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Caress of Steel

Bulking. Off-season. Improvement season.

There are all phrases that, if you have read anything written by any amateur or professional bodybuilder, you’ve seen at least once. While they don’t necessarily mean the same thing, they often times go hand-in-hand, and with so many people using them interchangeably, it can get confusing. I’m going to break each of these three common statements down, explain what they are, how they relate to each other, and what they mean for you and your training.

“There is no off-season.”

This is probably the most common usage of the term off-season. It stems from people misunderstanding the concept of being off-season and Pros who like to make themselves sound dedicated. Not only is it bullshit, but it is dangerous bullshit.

Even elite Pro athletes who compete four or five times a year have an off-season. This training period usually means a more flexible diet with calories at or above maintenance levels, and it is absolutely necessary to your health; simply put, you cannot be training for competition or in stage shape all the time without very serious consequences, no matter how healthy you believe your cutting cycle is. A simple Internet search will bring up tales abound of Figure competitors who suffered hair loss and menstrual cessation because they believed “there is no off-season.”

Being “off-season” might mean that you are adding mass to your physique. It could also mean that you are addressing asymmetries or other weaknesses. It may also mean that you are simply maintaining your physique, not currently trying to make improvements, or even training for something entirely different - you might be off-season in bodybuilding, but training for a triathlon.

It does not mean that you have stopped training and are sitting on your couch eating Cheetos. That’s called “quitting.”

Improvement season is a term used almost exclusively by women. Just like off-season, this term could mean you are adding mass or addressing asymmetry; however, it does not mean you are simply maintaining, as that does not fall under “improvement.” Training for strength or endurance could still fall into this category as improvements to overall health. It is often a substitution for the term bulking, because many women are still intimidated by the usage of the word “bulk” when it relates to their bodies.

Bulking is likely the most rampant word you’ll find, and for obvious reasons: in traditional men’s bodybuilding, bulking is a crucial training period.

Bulking usually means exactly what it sounds like: you are adding bulk. This is almost exclusively done in the off-season. It requires caloric surplus, and has the exact opposite goal of competition dieting. As a rule, bulking means adding both muscle and fat; most competitors pack on as much as possible during this time so that they remain very large despite the inevitable loss of mass during strict dieting.

All three of these phrases relate to what you are doing while you aren’t in contest prep, and it’s up to you which one best describes your situation. Whether you are bulking or simply maintaining, remember this time is crucial to maintaining your health (and sanity!) as a competitor.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Big Money

Let me be blunt in this introduction: if you’re expecting to make money competing, it’s time to find another interest.

That isn’t to say you can’t make money, but rather if you are enough of a novice to be reading this blog for advice, you are not at the level that does. Even IFBB Pros are hard-pressed to actually profit from competing, and you will find that outside of career competitors like Jay Cutler, they all have day jobs. Most athletes earn money from their sponsors to cover the costs involved with competing, and little else.

So what does it cost to compete? Of course the Pro level is far more expensive, so this will only address the National Physique Committee level, and costs will depend on what you need and where you live. This is by no means definitive, but will give you a basic idea of what you can expect to spend.

NPC Membership/Card: $100
In 2009, the fee for National Physique Committee membership was $90. It increased to $100 in 2010, and may increase again in the future. This membership is valid from the time of registration to December 31 of the same year, and must be paid each year you plan on competing.

Suit: $25 - $1200
This is probably the broadest cost aside from travel. Remember: competitors can compete in an off-the-rack suit. The sparkling, rhinestone-studded, custom-fitted suits are not a requirement to compete.
Considering all of the other costs associated with competing, however, if this is something you truly want to do more than once, I recommend investing in a higher-end suit. It is cheaper in the long run to buy one pricier suit that you will be happy with for many shows to come, than to buy a mid-range suit that you will replace with a pricier one later. Another important thing to remember when you look at this cost is that this is not something you have to pay every time you compete.
The absolute minimum, no-frills, made-to-measure suit I have encountered was $78, and featured small crystal connectors on the hips only. From there, you can venture all the way up to a couture suit with an elite fit and Swarovski rhinestones hand-applied to every centimeter by an IFBB Pro Official for $825-$1200, with near-limitless options at every price point in between.
I would estimate most competitors spend $250 to $500 on their suit, which they wear for several shows before retiring.

Jewelry: $0 - $100
Another highly variable component. My first two competitions, I did not wear any jewelry, and if you have to skimp, this would be the place to do it. Going without bracelets will not hurt your score.
That said, as I have mentioned before, it’s all about pageantry. Like every day attire, jewelry can really polish your overall look, and this is another purchase that you will likely only make once every few years. I recommend costume jewelry for this purpose; leave expensive or sentimental pieces (including wedding rings) safe at home. I would estimate $50 to $75 is the average spent on competition jewelry.

Shoes: $40 - $60
Most competitors buy clear stripper heels for the stage because they have a high heel and minimal distraction. The most popular styles are 421-Brook by Ellie Shoes, and the LIP style by Pleaser Shoes. Keep in mind this is another cost that you will only need to make once every so often, especially if you choose clear vinyl shoes; they get more comfortable as you wear them, and you will not want to replace them until you absolutely have to!

Entry Fees: $60 - $200
All competitions have an entry fee, and how much it is depends on the level of contest. As a general rule, levels I through III will be $60. Level IV and IVA range from $60 to $80. Level V national qualifiers are $80 to $100. Level VI national contests are $150 to $200.
A word of caution here: pay attention to entry deadlines. Late entries are subject to a penalty fee, which can be as much as double the original fee; NPC Nationals, for example, has a normal entry fee of $200, but turning your entry in late results in a $400 tab.

Hotel: $200 - $600
Promoters block off rooms for competitors at the host hotel, usually at a discounted rate. You are not required to stay at the host hotel, but it is highly recommended, and the hotels are usually either easy access, close proximity, or even on-site with the competition venue. They are also generally where all of the pre-contest activities occur, from check-in to spray tanning.
Most contests that are not national level feature host hotels at approximately $100/night, and if it is a one-day competition, you will need to stay at least two nights. Nationals often partner with higher-end hotels, and usually span two days, requiring a minimum of three nights. You can expect to pay $150 to $200/night for these hotels.
You can always be on the lookout for better deals. If you know your competition date and host hotel, do your research: one competition I attended, the host hotel’s state resident rate was cheaper than the competitor rate.

Spray Tanning: $125 - $150
This price is for all-inclusive professional application. I do not recommend self-application, so I have not researched this cost. Professional application pricing varies, because you can choose to pay by the coat. It is usually cheaper to book an all-inclusive package with the tanning sponsor, which generally includes as many coats as you need, touch-ups backstage, and glaze application for one price.

Tanning Attire: $50 - $200
Scratching your head at this one? After your spray tan, you need clothing that won’t damage that $150 you just spent. Many tanning sponsors offer short silk robes on-site for around $50. You can also buy silk pajamas for around $200 if you are more comfortable with pants. Silk is recommended because it is lightweight and soft, so you are less likely to sweat or rub your color off.
Note: this is another item you will only purchase once every few years, provided you take care of it.

Tracksuit: $75 - $125
When you attend your first competition, you will probably notice a lot of dark velour tracksuits. They are not mandatory, but take it from me: you will be freezing backstage. This area is kept very, very cold because of the sheer number of people moving and shuffling around, which would otherwise lead to a lot of sweating and melting tans.
You can get a basic suit for around $75 online, and of course you can have it embellished for a pricier piece. You can also pick more expensive brands; a Juicy Couture suit will run you $230 at the lowest. If you belong to a competition team, your team probably offers team wear for purchase so you can show your spirit.
Add this to the list of items you don’t purchase for every competition. With care, this will last you the majority (if not all) of your competition career.

Hair/Make-up: $300 - $800
Hair and make-up artistry will vary depending on your location and needs. States such as New York and California, and cities such as Miami, will be on the higher end. Most artists can also be booked for the entire day, if you want your make-up and hair touched up before finals, and you may have to foot the bill for two days if your contest is large enough.
Whether you book a hair and make-up artist separately, or an artist who is capable of both, most competitors spend $300 to $500 on contest-day beauty.

Manicures/Pedicures: $100
Obviously not a perfect number, because some competitors can paint their own nails, and some go as far as spa manicures, pedicures, and acrylic nails. This is a fair middle-of-the-road.

Hair Removal: $100 - $150
Another imperfect number. As mentioned in my previous post, some competitors do just fine with shaving or hair removal creams, and don’t have to pay anything unusual for hair removal. This price is assuming you wax, and is calculated for underarms, stomach, and Brazilian.

Tickets: $20 - $125
I am willing to bet every single person considering competing has at least one person they would like to attend their show. Depending on who it is, you may not be footing the bill for this, and the cost also depends on the size and level of your contest.
Prejudging is always less expensive than the night show, and in my experience runs around $20 for lower levels, $30 for national qualifiers, and $50 for national contests. The night show is where the awards are given out, and generally ranges from $40 for general seating and $75 for VIP seating at non-national competitions, and $75 for general seating and $125 for VIP seating at national contests.

Prices I cannot estimate here include additional beauty treatments, hair styling such as cuts, color, and extensions, dental procedures such as whitening, gas/tolls, car rental, airfare, and personal trainers/coaches.

As you read through the above list, you will probably notice items you don’t need or want. Some competitors are capable of doing their own make-up, hair, and nails, or have a friend or relative who can. You may not feel any need for a tracksuit. Your friends and family might pay for their own tickets. This is just a guideline to give you an idea of how expensive competing can be. Without these things laid out in front of you, it’s easy to underestimate the bite it can take out of your pocket.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Countdown

For a new competitor, preparing for your first show can be daunting, especially if you’re going it alone. There are so many other factors involved in competing beyond simply training and dieting, from hair and make-up to suit selection, tanning, hair removal, and even paperwork. Deadlines can get confusing and overwhelming, and procrastinating and being unprepared leads to a lot of unnecessary stress.

Below I’ve compiled a list of common milestones and recommendations of when they should be done; many of these are based off questions I see often from new competitors.

6 - 4 months out [24 - 16 weeks]

This depends on when you actually start preparing for your show, but in general, the sooner the better.
Paperwork: Get your NPC membership card. As stated in another post, these cards can take several weeks to arrive, and not all shows support registration at check-in. 
Face: If you have problems with acne, dark spots, redness, or other skin concerns, now is the time to address them. Make-up can only do so much, and if you are breakout prone, stress and diet changes near the end of contest prep will make your skin go haywire. Acne, especially, will be glaringly obvious under stage lights. Remember: Bikini is one part physique, one part pageant. Your skin is important. Start looking for make-up artists if you don't plan on doing your own make-up (recommended if you don’t have experience in stage make-up.) A head-start on this is important if you’re competing in a high-demand month such as June, when many make-up artists will be booking up for weddings.
Hair: Now is the time to experiment if you are considering changing your hair color/cut. It gives you time to problem-solve if things go horribly wrong.
Body: If you’re considering waxing, make an appointment and start now. It is not something you should decide to do a week before your show. If your skin handles it well, starting a waxing regimen (returning for maintenance every 3 - 5 weeks, depending on your hair growth) will guarantee soft, smooth skin come showtime. On the other hand, if your skin does not handle it well or you simply don’t like it, you have time to recover fully and take a different hair removal approach. If you shave well, I recommend this time to start shaving regularly to avoid irritation on competition day. As with your face, if you have body acne, now is the time to address it.
Suit: Start researching competition suits. There are several designers to choose from, and each one has their own time scale as to how long they require to create your suit. Some high-end designers can take up to three months, while others take as little as five weeks.

3 months out [12 weeks]
Most competitors have started contest prep by this milestone.
Paperwork: If your show’s entry forms are available, consider sending your form and fees now. The earlier you do this, the less you have to stress about later. Make hotel reservations and travel arrangements, if necessary.
Face: If you haven’t already started researching make-up artists, now is the time to do so. Most competitions take place on Saturdays when artists are already in high demand. If your artist requires a deposit, make sure this is placed as soon as possible to guarantee your date and time.
Presentation: Start posing practice. This may seem like an eternity from your show, but many competitors rehearse their posing year-round. You want walking and posing to look as effortless as possible. I recommend already having your heels for this.

2 months out [8 weeks]
Teeth: Now is the time to consider professional whitening. Be honest with yourself about this: some people have naturally whiter teeth than others, and some need a little more help. Some only need one week of whitening, some need several. If you’re worried about your teeth, you can always get a dentist’s opinion; they can give you an estimate of how long it will take you to get a pearly white smile.
Body: If you’re considering building a base tan, in the sun or a bed, start now. I highly advise against this, and recommend anyone considering artificial tanning to research the safety of tanning beds. You will get a spray tan for the show, and it can be applied as darkly as you need it to be. You do not need a base tan. However, if you are determined to tan, this is when you should begin. Tan slowly, because any burn-induced peeling will make spray tanning much more difficult; spray tans do not hold on to newly-developing skin.

1 1/2 months out [6 weeks]
Suit: By now, you should have decided on your suit and should be placing your order (unless you have chosen a designer with a longer processing time; see above.) This gives the suit time to arrive before your competition; it should show up at least one week prior to your show. (It doesn’t hurt if you want it sooner! This is a minimum deadline.)
Accessories: Settle on accessories such as jewelry. Ideally, you should do this after you have confirmed your suit so they coordinate well.

1 month out [4 weeks]
Paperwork: If you haven’t sent your entry form and fees, do so now. Most shows have a deadline for entry without a late fee (generally two weeks prior to the show,) and late fees can be anywhere from $30 to double the original entry fee.
Face: Get your final facial if you have been using them in your skincare regimen; if you haven’t, do not start now. Depending on the treatment, you will need time for your face to recover. Keep in mind that some harsher exfoliation treatments can interfere with how well your skin absorbs your spray tan, and AVOID any kind of acid or chemical peel. Just like peels caused by sunburn, these peels will reveal a layer of skin that is too new to absorb your tan.
Accessories: If you haven’t had your shoes for posing prior to now or have purchased new ones, work on breaking in your shoes. Don’t wait until two days before your show for this! The clear heels that are so popular for these competitions will pinch and rub every single part of your feet if they are not broken in properly ahead of time.

2 weeks out
Hair: Get your final cut and color touch-up. This will eliminate split ends without leaving blunt locks, and give your color time to settle.
Body: Stop using your deodorant and start exfoliating your underarms. This can help curtail the ugly green color that can develop under your arms from deodorants that contain aluminum.

1 week out
Paperwork: Call all vendors and reconfirm your schedules and reservations. This includes hair and make-up artist(s), spray tanning, hotel rooms, rental cars and shuttles, and air transportation. Some of your vendors may prefer e-mail communication; this gives them plenty of time to respond.
Body: All waxing should be done no later than 72 hours prior to your show. I recommend one full week. Waxing removes the top layer of skin, which can lead to patches in your tan if not given enough time to recover. Begin your exfoliation and moisturizing regimen if you haven’t already.

2 days out
Paperwork: Double-check all of your schedules. Make sure you know where check-in for the show is and when it begins and ends, when your tanning appointment is, and when your competitor meeting for show day begins. If you’re traveling, print directions for your hotel and venue and read through them at least once.
Hair: Thoroughly shampoo your hair if you don’t plan on showering prior to your tanning appointment.
Body: Depending on your skin and the type of tanning you use, you might take your final shower tonight. Get all manicures and pedicures done the day before tanning. This will guarantee they have time to dry completely. Get a good night’s sleep.
Accessories: Pack! If you’re traveling for your show, have everything packed the day before. Don’t wait until the morning you leave, when you will be more likely to forget things.

1 day out [day before]
Paperwork: Triple-check all of your schedules! Check-in is a great time to ask show staff if there have been any changes you should be aware of.
Hair: If you didn’t do this earlier, thoroughly shampoo your hair. You will not be able to shower after spray tanning, and the oils that will naturally build in your hair overnight will make styling your hair much easier.
Body: Depending on your skin and tanning application, you might be advised to take your final shower the morning before your tanning appointment. If you have been shaving, do this no later than 6 hours prior to your tanning appointment. Try your best to sleep. This might be hard with the anxiety that comes along with competing, and if you find yourself restless, find relaxing ways to pass the time (I recommend avoiding TVs, computers, tablets, iPhones, etc. They will only make your insomnia worse!)

Competition day
Be proud of yourself: you’ve made it this far, and that is awesome. Chat it up with your fellow competitors, take pictures, smile, and HAVE FUN.

These are general guidelines that may vary from competitor to competitor, and even show to show. Some will only apply to your first competition. I have tried to make this list as comprehensive as possible, but please feel free to direct any additional questions or suggestions to the comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Afterimage

Throughout the course of this blog, I’m going to delve into the various aspects of competition. I plan to make this as complete a guide as I can. Competing is exhilarating, stressful, strange, and amazing all at once, and it can be a very scary world to walk into blind. I know this because I did it firsthand. These are lessons I’ve learned through extensive research as well as personal experience, and I hope it helps those of you starting off on this wild adventure.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself, if you plan on competing regularly, is branding. Your brand should leave an impression once you’ve scuttled offstage.

Take a glance at IFBB Pro competitors. Hop on Google and search for people like Nicole Nagrani, Nathalia Melo, Jaime Baird, and India Paulino. Notice anything? I’ll give you a hint: look at the backgrounds. Then look back at the competitors. Different competitions, and yet they always look the same. Nicole and Nathalia are always in red, Jaime in emerald green, India in yellow. Their hair is styled the same way, make-up always identical, jewelry always the same. This isn’t a resistance to change: it’s branding, and it is crucial to their careers as competitors.

There was a Pro show a few years ago where one of these big names showed up in an entirely different suit color, and styled her make-up and hair completely different. It was an attempt to give her a fresh look, and while she was beautiful, it failed miserably; the judges called her “unrecognizable,” and her scores reflected their opinions.

The lesson here is simple: competitors are a brand, just like models and actors, and to perform well, you have to stay true to your brand.

So how do you go about branding yourself?

Personality
I discussed the importance of personality in a previous post. It can make the difference between first and second place. It also plays an important part in your brand. The persona you bring to the stage should be consistent (this should go without saying that it should also be true to you, just a little bigger). Amplify who you are, then deliver that message every time you step onstage. Spectators (including the judges) want to feel like they know the person walking across that stage, so own it.

Suit
There are literally thousands of options for your suit, and we’ll go into that subject more in-depth later, but remember this word: color. Color, color, color. This can take some trial and error; I am currently in the process of changing suit colors to something more fitting to my stage persona. Once you’ve found that color that just makes you sparkle like a star, stick to it. You can always upgrade and change your suit, but stay in your color.

Hair
One of the best aspects of competition is the pageantry. And just like a pageant, you want to have beautiful hair for the stage, but again, this plays into your look and brand. If you’re a girl who loves changing her hair all the time, you probably will not enjoy competing. My best recommendation is to have a hairstylist design your stage style for you (like a trial run) and take front, back, and side photos. Bring these photos to any artist styling your hair, and they should be able to recreate it (especially helpful if you can’t have the same stylist every time). This is also not the time to decide to go from platinum blonde to raven-tressed, or long layers to a bob. Once again, trial and error is fine initially, but once you’ve found a style that suits you onstage, commit to it.

Make-up
Just like hair, you will notice the Pros always have the same make-up look. This isn’t an accident. Think about your everyday make-up: one change can make you look like a completely different person. This is not something you want happening onstage. Again, I recommend having a make-up artist design a look for you, then take several pictures and bring those to any artist who might do your make-up later. (If you do this prior to competition, make sure you take your tan into consideration!)

Accessories
It seems nit-picky to go this far, but jewelry is another piece of your style puzzle. Regular competitors have “competition jewelry” that is specifically for this purpose, and they always wear the same pieces - some even go so far as to always wear them the same way, on the same hand/arm, for example.

With this information in mind, start considering the image you want to bring to the stage. I will cover all of the aesthetic subjects in further detail throughout this blog.

The physique is the core of these competitions, but pageantry and individuality makes them marketable to spectators; a strong brand and knowledge of the persona you want to portray can make the difference between you and another competitor taking home the hardware.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grand Designs

What role does working out play in your life? Is it a hobby or a commitment? This is something I think becomes important regardless of your goals; whether you’re a competitor, considering competing, or someone just trying to improve their health.

So many people consider going to the gym an extracurricular activity. I think this is already a shaky foundation asking for failure.

Consider your job. This is an obligation. A commitment. You may have a few “sick” days you can use, but as a whole, you can’t wake up and decide you don’t “feel” like going to work today. And as a general rule, skipping work has undesirable consequences.

Finding and landing your job took several months of searching, applying, and interviewing. Advancing in your workplace took time as well; you weren’t promoted to CEO of your company three weeks after you began working there. Your first promotion took months at least, and it took hard work and endless dedication.

So why do so many people insist on treating fitness differently?

If you are truly serious about improving your health, consider the gym a second job. It isn’t something you can decide you don’t “feel” like going to today. Sick time is only for when you are genuinely ill. And just like that promotion, changes take time. You might not be CEO of your body today, but you’ll get there, and you’ll only earn that promotion when you put in the work for it.


(progress photo after the jump)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Show Don't Tell

Today’s post is on a crucial subject for competitors: judging.

NPC/IFBB Bikini is a new division. It was inaugurated in 2009, and the first competitors to be awarded Pro cards in Bikini were Shelsea Montes and Stacey Oster at the Junior USA Championships.

With any new division comes some debate and confusion. The judges are still not exactly sure what they are looking for in Bikini as a whole. I attended a seminar in 2010, hosted by NPC/IFBB Head Judge Sandy Williamson, and the first words out of her mouth to the Bikini competitors were, “we don’t really know what we’re looking for out of you yet.”

There are a few things I have learned simply through competing, and these are about the only points you can count on.

1. It’s all about personality. I have seen lesser physiques win simply because they knew how to portray themselves best. They may not have turned Pro, but they qualified nationally because they knew how to project their attitude. In the Pro division, it can come straight down to personality, especially when there are two competitors who are head-to-head for a placing.

2. Every competition is different. I’ve watched girls place fifth in one competition, go to their next competition and take first, then go on to Nationals and not even clear top ten, despite having a physique right on par every show. The judging panel is always different, and results are the sum of all of the judges’ scores. Don’t beat yourself up over this.

3. What you see in pictures is not always what shows up onstage, and seeing it in motion is different than still photos. Anyone can look amazing when they are standing still and flexing. Photographers at these competitions are not seated in the same area as the judges, and it is amazing the difference a few degrees makes in a view. Also see number one above: you can’t see personality in a still photo.

As for the written rules, you can find them at npcnewsonline.com. Briefly:

1. You must be a member of the NPC. You can register by printing the form from the NPC News website. Some contests also give you the option of registering at check-in; when a particular contest does, it will state that on the entry form. (I don’t recommend relying on this. Receiving your card can take several weeks, and if you have your heart set on a show that doesn't offer NPC registration on-site, you’re in for a let-down.)
2. A two-piece suit is required. This might seem obvious, but some Figure competitions allow one-piece suits, so it must be said. You can compete in an off-the-rack suit.
3. The suit must be in good taste, and no thongs are permitted.
4. You must wear high heels. You may wear jewelry.
5. National contests do not allow crossovers into any other division. Other contests that are not professional qualifiers may choose to allow competitors to cross over into other divisions, and each one will state on the entry form how many crossovers are permitted.
6. Each competitor must walk and perform their posing routine solo. Posing routines include a front pose, a half-turn to back pose, and a final half-turn to return to the front pose.
7. The comparison round (“callouts”) consists of front and back comparisons between competitors using half-turns. Judges are not allowed to request quarter-turns or compare profiles.

Additionally, top five placement in a contest designated as a national qualifier will qualify the competitor for MOST national competitions for one year. You must read the fine print for each national competition, as some of them only allow the top three. Likewise, top five placement at most national contests qualifies the competitor for five years.

One last word: the IFBB and NPC are NOT the same. Competing in NPC contests does not make you an IFBB competitor, and NPC contests are not IFBB contests. They are completely separate governing bodies, so ladies, please stop using them interchangeably!