How to become a Professional Bodybuilder

A guide to becoming a Pro Bodybuilder


Dorian Yates, six times Mr. Olympia and IFBB Professional Bodybuilder Most bodybuilding magazines are stuffed full of photos of enormous, amazing looking bodybuilders. More often than not these bodybuilders are professional bodybuilders, members of the IFBB - the International Federation of Bodybuilders. They are the creme de la cream - the very best of the best. It doesn't take long before we the readers start to wonder... How do I too become a professional bodybuilder?

First things first

First things first - the road to becoming a pro bodybuilder is not an easy one. There are many many sports where it is easier, quicker and more likely that you could turn professional at. In all honesty, your chances of becoming a professional bodybuilder are very low. But, if you are seriously committed to bodybuilding and you truly want to become a professional bodybuilder then with god willing and lots of determination, genetics and effort you may achieve your dream - other people do so why not you?

Bodybuilding, the sport

The sport of competitive bodybuilding is where you compete on stage against other bodybuilders, trying to show your body at its best to the judges, who will judge you on many different aspects of your physique, comparing you to your fellow competitors. The bodybuilder deemed to have the 'best' physique wins the competition.

Judges look for size, conditioning (how lean or 'ripped' you are), how proportioned your physique is (i.e. are your legs too small in comparison to the rest of your body), the balance of each muscle group (i.e. is one arm bigger than the other), your posing, your vascularity (how veiny you are) and so on. Each judge has their own preferences on what they look for the most so sometimes the more ripped guy might beat the bigger guy and vice versa. Generally however the best bodybuilder overall should win.

Amateur and Professional contests

As with many sports bodybuilding is split into two types of divisions - amateur and proffesional. Most countries have their own amateur associations, such as the NPC in the States and the UKBFF in the UK. In quite a few countries there is more than one amateur federation so you choose between the contests that they run. Some federations don't like you competing in other federations contests so watch out for this.

Most Amateur bodybuilding contests have several different categories in which you can compete. For novices there are the first timer and intermediate categories so that you can compete against people with similar bodybuilding contest experience. This helps ease you into competing, and hopefully puts you up against people with similar weight training experience. Then there are the weight categories, where you are placed in a category according to how much you weigh. This helps put you up against bodybuilders of a similar size to you - afterall, if you were to compete against someone who weighs fifty pounds more than you the chances of you winning are very slight indeed (unless they're fat or rubbish of course!).

There is really only one main professional bodybuilding federation - the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders), which runs competitions mainly in the USA (except for the annual Grand Prix series of contests that are put on around the world after the Mr. Olympia contest). If you really want to be the best of the best then currently that means becoming an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder. Professional contests do not have weight categories - every pro in the contest competes against the others, tall or short. This can mean that for very short people success is difficult to come by as taller bodybuilders generally compete more successfully due to their sheer size.

UK Amateur Associations:

1. UKBFF. The UKBFF (formally known as the EFBB) are the UK affiliated arm of the IFBB, which is important to know if you wish to become a IFBB Professional Bodybuilder - only the UKBFF can grant UK citizens an IFBB Pro Card (which gives you membership to the IFBB and allows you to compete in their contests). There is no drug testing at these contests so if you are a natural bodybuilder you may wish to compete in another federation.

2. BNBF. The BNBF (British Natural Bodybuilding Federation) is the British affiliate for the OCB/IFPA & the INBA/PNBA. The BNBF adhere to a very stringent drug testing policy. Every Britain finalist is polygraphed and all class winners at every show are urine tested. They also do out of competition Random tests. The BNBF are an excellent federation if you are a natural bodybuilder, though you will not be able to become an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder if you compete for this association.

3. NABBA. NABBA (National Amateur Body-Builder's Association) is the first and original competitive bodybuilding association. They had internal political issues which held them back and allowed the IFBB / EFBB to take a stranglehold on competitive bodybuilding. NABBA stil remains popular with many bodybuilders. NABBA has many affiliated associations around the world, including the USA. You will not be able to become an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder if you compete for this association.

USA Amateur Associations:

1. NPC. The NPC (National Physique Committee) is affiliated with the IFBB and so awards IFBB Pro Cards to the winnners of its Heavyweight and Super Heavyweigh weight category contest winners.

2. NPC. The NANBF (North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation) are similar to the BNBF in that their contests are drug tested, making this an excellent federation for natural bodybuilders but a poor one if you wish to become a pro bodybuilder.

3. ABA. ABA (Amateur Bodybuilding Association) is the premier natural bodybuilding association in the states. It is affiliated with the PNBA (Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association) and the INBA (International Natural Bodybuilding Association). Again, this is great if you want to remain a natural bodybuilder but not if you want to be the best of the best and compete in the IFBB.

Steps to becoming an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder

1. Choose the IFBB affiliated federation for your country. You cannot compete in a federation of another country - you have to compete for your home country, or where you have citizenships.

2. Compete! Start competiting as soon as possible - there is nothing as inspirational as competiting against other bodybuilders win, lose or draw! You will progress as a bodybuilder far quicker if you compete than if you don't. If you keep putting off competiting 'until you are ready' then it is likely you will never compete at all. Start in the First Timer (or equivalent category) and work your way up.

3. Win a regional contest weight class. When you win or place highly (and thus get invited) you earn an invite to compete at your federations National Championships contest for that year. This means that you get to compete in the weight class you qualified in, and if you win at the Nationals then you are the best bodybuilder (the Champion!) in your class in your federation for that year! Quite an achievement. The winners of each weight class will the go head to head in a separate contest to see who is the overall Champion for this year.

4. Earn an IFBB Pro Card. Depending on your federation, the overall Champion will be offered a pro card. Some federations offer Pro Cards to winners of individual weight class champions too (though normally the heavier classes only). This can mean that each year more than one bodybuilder may earn a Pro Card.

There are other ways besides your National Championships contest to win Pro Cards - you can win at the IFBB World Bodybuilding Championships. This is a drug tested event, so only the best natural competitors from each countries IFBB affiliated federation are entered. Ronnie Coleman, 8 times Mr. Olympia won his IFBB Pro Card at the World Bodybuilding Championships, and Dorian Yates once competed in this event too. This is probably the only viable way to win an IFBB Pro Card while natural.

Another way is that sometimes a particular IFBB contest may hold a special amateur contest where the victor wins a Pro Card and gets to compete that same night in the Professional contest.

Conclusions

So there you have it, how to become a professional (IFBB) Professional Bodybuilder. Compete in a IFBB affiliated federation until you win the overall at the National Finals and gain your all-important IFBB Pro Card! Easy!