As you prepare for a bodybuilding contest, you must have a firm grasp of which things are under your control, and which are not. First and foremost, understand that you have no control over who else you will be competing with and how they will look. Many of us have wasted untold amounts of mental energy worrying about our competition, both real and imagined. This is utterly pointless as it serves no possible productive purpose. All you can and should focus on is yourself.
With that understood, we next move on to which aspects you are in control of. How you present yourself is something anyone can improve through posing practice. Some of us have a natural knack for it, others may need to find someone to help coach them. What about your actual physique?
I like to give credit where it's due, and this topic was originally something I heard Dave Palumbo discuss in a seminar in New Hampshire around ten years ago. Dave said that as you start your prep, your physique 'is what it is' in terms of size and shape. You're not going to be getting any bigger as you diet, and your structure, muscle shapes, and proportions at this point are not going to change. The first two are entirely genetic anyway. When you get down to it, the only thing 100% in your control now is your condition. Will you be ripped, or off your mark? And as Dave stressed, since all you really have control over is your condition, why on earth would you not make sure you come in at your best?
When Flex Lewis was in town last week, he briefly asked me what show I was getting ready for. I told him, then he asked, "so are you going to be in condition?" I almost laughed, because that's a foregone conclusion.
Now that I have been competing at the national level in pro qualifiers only since 2009, I am up against the genetic cream of the crop. I know my strengths and weaknesses intimately. I have some good size, but I will never be the biggest guy up there. My shape is decent, but I will never have the best shape up there either. What does that leave? You got it, condition. That's the one aspect I am in control of. Others may match my condition, but it's up to me to make sure no one beats it. I know from experience that it's one way I can get past a lot of guys who otherwise I would have no prayer of beating. They blow me away on size, shape, or both - but for whatever reason they just don't show up in shape. Too bad for them, but great for me!
What's always puzzled me is seeing some guys show up off not once, but over and over again. If you don't place as well as you wanted to and you know you should have been leaner, why would you keep repeating the same mistake? I can only guess the reasons. Some of them might have only 'yes men' and cheerleaders around them who tell them they are shredded when they still have a good amount of fat to lose. Others are delusional and think the bodyfat they haven't lost is only water, and they will be ripped to shreds as soon as they lose that water over the final day or two. They typically go nuts on diuretics and show up still smooth, but now also flat as a pancake. Still others rely on extreme last-minute manipulations of carbs, water, and sodium that usually backfire more often than they improve a physique's appearance. Finally, there are those who simply can't deal with losing any more size/bodyweight after a certain point, and essentially half the fat-loss process when they should keep pushing forward.
In any case, I have my work cut out for me for the Team Universe on July 7 and the Masters Nationals on July 21. I will be up against some incredible competitors, and my only chance to do well is to nail my condition - and so I shall!