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Competing in bodybuilding shows is not for the faint of heart.   There are many costs that go into competing those of which are not all monetary.   In this multi-part series, I am going to give an overview on the different costs of competing.  My goal is to help people who are considering getting on the stage and give them a look into what they need to consider before they make that decision and if the “costs” are worth it to them. 

While I am sure everyone understands there are financial costs to participating in a bodybuilding show, I am not sure if they have considered there are also mental, physical, and relationship costs.  I will be providing as much in-depth information as I can to help you make the best and most appropriate decision. 

I want to start with the most obvious costs, financial costs.  Competing is not a cheap hobby. I say hobby because most people who venture into the world of competing do not make money.  The sport has been traditionally dominated by males. Interestingly enough they have the highest monetary rewards, but do not have to spend the same amount of money to get on stage as women do.  

As I said previously, competing is not cheap. Before making the decision to jump into prep to compete it is important to first consider do you have discretionary funds to finance this hobby. 

The financial costs to compete do not just include paying for entry into the show. There is far more monetary costs to consider. I have outlined the financial costs of a new competitor to consider when reviewing finances to see if prepping for a show is even feasible. 

Coaching

Coaching packages can vary depending on what your needs are as a future competitor.  Prep coaches are skilled at helping you with nutrition, training, posing, etc. You might be looking at paying upwards of $1000 for 6 months of coaching if not more.  However, an experienced contest prep coach is invaluable to helping you get to the stage. They have developed the skills to help you get stage lean. They have developed an eye for what the right leanness is to compete. They are your voice of reason when you have been dieting for a while.  Your coach will create the best peak week protocols for you to show your best physique on competition day. He/She will give you guidance with everything you need to get on the stage. If your plans or goals are to compete, it would be in your best interest and success if you worked with an experienced prep coach.  

Posing Coach/Classes

If your coaching package does not include posing you might have to pay someone else to help you learn how to pose.  Classes could start around $25 per session. You should consider meeting with a posing coach 4-8 times to prepare for a show and make tweaks as you get leaner.
 

Choreography Coach

Some divisions have posing routines or performance routines.  Working with a choreography coach to help develop a routine and put it to music is another consideration.

Supplements

While this is not a guaranteed cost you will have many people will use supplementation to help get ready. This could include pre-workout, vitamins and minerals, creatine, protein powders and etc.

Food

It doesn’t seem like food is a consideration when preparing for a show because well you are eating anyway. But consider you might be eating more protein than previously and that is a higher cost or you might be eating more in general than you were previously.  Some people find they need to utilize meal prep services to create their meals to keep them on track especially when traveling. If you are an individual that meal preps, add in the cost of meal prep containers.

Self-care/health care:  You are beating your body up during prep and need to make sure you are taking some precautions to stay healthy.  You might start going to the chiropractor, getting massages, acupuncture, getting tests done for issues for example hormone and digestive issues.
 

Clothing:  As you lean out your clothes begin to get looser and you might need to purchase new clothes.

Here are the 3 main costs you are going to occur just to even be able to compete. 

  • Federation Membership Card: To compete in a federation, you have to purchase a membership card. These can run you 65-120 per year.  If you are a PRO, the costs are higher up to $250.

  • Registration: There is a registration fee for the show you want to compete in.  They can vary from show to show and state to state.

  • Division Costs:  If you plan on competing in more than one division in a show there are extra costs to enter those divisions.  These costs also vary from show to show and state to state.

You have prepped for the show and now you have to factor in all the things you are going to have to pay for to be able to get to the show and get on stage with a complete package.

  • Travel:  While there are shows all over the world there might not be one close to where you live so you must consider the cost of travel.  Airfare, rental cars or Lyft/Uber services, gas money if you drive yourself.

  • Lodging:  You need to consider where you will be staying. Hotel, AirBNB, with a friend or family.  * You will need to bring your own linens and towels so you do not ruin the lodgings linens with tanning products.

  • Posing Suit/Costume: Each division has a certain suit you must wear.  For men, they might be looking at $20 board shorts up to maybe $100 for posing trunks. Women, have all the glitz and the glamour to consider you could get by with a less flashy suit around a couple hundred dollars all the way up to a thousand dollars. There are places online where you can rent suits to cut down on the costs. If you are in a division such as fitness you will need to also factor in an outfit for your routine. Personally, my suit costs around $500 and I made it myself.

  • Tanning/Hair/Makeup
    • Tanning: Each venue has tanners they have approved.  You can use the tanners they recommend or use your own.  You want to have a good tanner who can use for stage tanning because you do not want to stand out because of a bad tan. The cost is around $150

    • Hair and Makeup: While you can do your hair and make up yourself, if you have never done stage make up it is entirely different than everyday makeup.  Venues will have someone they recommend. These costs vary.

    • Waxing:  When you get tanned the recommendation is for you to remove your body hair. Some people shave but many people get wax. For women, this might also include a bikini wax because the suits are cut differently than everyday swimsuits.

  • Accessories: 
    • Shoes: There are specific shoes required for female competitors to wear on stage.  These can run you around $40 dollars.

    • Jewelry: Completely your appearance comes down to the right bracelets, earrings and rings you choose. Some competitors have custom jewelry created to match their suits. 

The last thing you have to consider is if you plan on having your coach at your show you may have to pay for a membership card, back stage access, entry into the show and possible travel expensive.

As you can see, competing can be a very expensive hobby that will require a substantial amount of discretionary finances to fund.  Finding the money to participate in bodybuilding competitions can be a struggle. 

In the next part of the series I will be discussing the mental and physical costs of competing in bodybuilding. 

Read Part 2: Beyond the Bodybuilding Stage: The Mental and Physical Costs of Competition
Read Part 3: Beyond the Bodybuilding Stage: The Relationship Costs Of Competition

Post Author: Traci Canfield

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