How to become a Professional Bodybuilder
A guide to becoming a Pro 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
in the States and the
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:
. 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.
. 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.
. 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:
. 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.
. 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.
(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.
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!