The first thing that prospective natural bodybuilders and figure competitors must realize is that you must have already built your base physique before beginning a contest prep.

You cannot begin a successful contest prep campaign without having a real foundation to work with.  For example, you aren’t ready for a true contest prep if you are missing or lacking in full muscle groups like the legs or the back.

Or if you don’t have any muscle or shape to your physique, you must spend more time in the gym building your base physique before you consider stepping on stage.  Stepping on stage when you are nowhere near ready is the recipe for a total disaster.


For veteran natural bodybuilders and figure competitors who compete on a regular basis, 16-24 weeks of contest prep should give most competitors enough time to get lean enough for the stage.

When I won Mr. Natural Philadelphia in 2022, I spent 26 weeks prepping for that competition.  I 100 percent believe that if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.  I’m not the type of dude to leave stones unturned.

But how long your contest prep needs to be is all based on where you currently are and what division you plan to compete in.  Contest prep could take you 6 weeks, or it could take you 32 weeks.  It just depends on your current condition, specifically in terms of your body fat percentage.

If you are a man and you are currently sitting at 15 percent body fat, you’ve got no chance of giving a good showing on stage in just 6 weeks of prep.  You’d have to almost destroy yourself to make an effort to get into that condition and you still wouldn’t be stage ready in 6 weeks.

Now if you were that same man, and you were currently at 9 percent body fat, you could definitely be ready for the stage in 6 weeks.  If you are not ready, there is absolutely no shame in choosing a later show.

Delusions Of Grandeur

contest prep

Many competitors overestimate their current condition and their ability to get lean and what is considered lean for the stage.  I’ll use my iron brothers as an example as I’ve seen natural bodybuilders on stage at 12-15 percent body fat.

12-15 percent body fat is very healthy for a male athlete, but 12-15 percent body fat on stage on the day of the show will have you standing out like a skunk in a perfume factory.

In comparison to a competitor who is ripped, you will appear smooth.  You simply won’t be lean enough to seriously compete.  Muscle definition, symmetry, and size are what the judges are looking for.  A guy who is bigger, much smoother, and has decent symmetry will always lose to a smaller guy who is symmetrical and ripped to the bone.

This is why taking photographs to gauge your progress throughout the year, in the same lighting and location will let you know exactly where you are.


Objectivity should be the ultimate ally for any serious natural bodybuilder.

I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,

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