Competing in bodybuilding shows is one of the most misunderstood things we’ve come across in our professional careers: from preparing your physique, choosing a show, cost, putting together your stage look, you name it. Below, you will learn about the cost of bodybuilding competitions alongside a handful of tips heading into your first show.
Written by Coach Makenzie Montano
The Physique Development coaching staff has competed in shows spanning across the bikini, figure, and men’s physique categories, both on an amateur and professional level. We’ve also coached and prepared many for the stage spanning across the respective divisions in multiple organizations, both drug-tested and non-tested. Onlookers see the glitz and glam of show day, but they often don’t understand the effort, time commitment, and price it takes to put it all together — physically, emotionally, and financially.
For the sake of this article, we will be narrowing in on the cost of competing in the National Physique Committee (NPC). That said, everything we discuss below will be relevant for you regardless of the federation you choose.
There are two types of shows: regional level and national level. They differ in price because of the stakes at hand.
Regional Bodybuilding Shows
A regional show is where you will start. You don’t need any prerequisites to enter them. With the popularity of bodybuilding growing worldwide, you can usually find one in your hometown or somewhere within driving distance. We recommend that your first show is close to where you live — this helps lower travel costs and removes a lot of the stress created by long travel.
National Bodybuilding Shows
A national-level show requires a qualification. You can obtain this by placing 1st or 2nd in your Open Division class at a regional level show. At the national level, all competitors have qualified and are battling for a Pro Card. The Pro Card is what will turn you into a professional bodybuilder. It takes you from the National Physique Committee (NPC) to the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB).
The Cost of Bodybuilding Competitions
As you may have guessed, the cost to compete can change depending on your gender, division, and level of the show. Below, you will find some of the most costly items that people often forget about when considering a competition. All prices given below are in US Dollars (USD). There will also be a table down below for easier reference.
You are required to have an NPC card to register for a competition. Your NPC card must be renewed every calendar year. The price usually increases every few years, but that’s just the name of the game. So, if you compete in December, you will have to get a new card for the following year, even if your next show is in January. The current cost in 2022 is $135.
Additional Show Fees
Registration fees are mandatory for everyone. At the regional level, entry fees are around $125 for each class. If you want to do multiple classes, you will pay $125 per class. For national level
shows the entry fee is $250/class.
Hiring a Coach
Although not a requirement, we recommend hiring a professional to help you prepare for your show. Your coach’s fee can range from $200-500+/month. Some coaches offer prep packages for a certain number of weeks, which can help. However, you should look to budget around $2,000+ for coaching.
Hotel & Travel
The price of your travel and stay will depend on where the show is being hosted. This cost can vary significantly depending on regional and national-level shows. Ultimately, it will depend on how far you travel to and from the show and how many nights you plan to stay. It’s common for the show to have a host hotel. The host hotel is most commonly close to the venue you will be at for the show. You should budget about $150-$200/night for the hotel, plus the cost of getting to the hotel (whether you are driving or flying).
You have to eat, right? You obviously can’t compete without food and need to budget accordingly for how often you grocery shop. You can expect to spend a minimum of $100-$150/week on groceries during your contest prep.
Posing Suit, Heels, Jewelry
Like anything, the cost of these items can be pretty variable. Men, you have it easy. Choose the appropriate posing trunks for your division. Women, a posing suit — whether you buy your suit customized or rent it — could be anywhere from $150 to $700. The type of suit will also depend on your specific division. Heels can range from $30 to $150. Jewelry can range from $20 to $100. Your look on show day is a big deal. In the video below, Coach Sue outlines everything you need to know heading into your show date.
TAN, HAIR, MAKEUP
You have options in this category. However, if you don’t feel like you are well versed in these areas, it’s suggested not to cut corners. Remember, presentation is everything. Spray tanning is in the range of $125 to $150. The tan is scheduled through the show’s preferred company: Liquid Sun Rayz, ProTan, etc. Your tan can make or break your physique on show day. We highly advise that you invest — especially after you’ve made it this far in your contest prep. Also, here’s some information on how to prepare your skin for your professional spray tan.
Hair and makeup can range from $75 to $135 for each. Depending on the show, they will offer a hair and makeup package, which could save you some money and ensure you have someone who knows what they’re doing. Again, presentation is everything.
This charge will vary between coaching companies and individual coaches.
Federation Card $135
NPC Card, 2022
Registration (classes/ divisions) $100-250
National shows will sometimes run higher. It also depends on how many classes you are entering and if you are crossing over into another division.
Pro Tan and Liquid Sun Rayz are the companies we suggest. Also, factor in supplies for tanning prep.
Earrings, bracelets, and rings.
The Shoe Fairy is our recommendation.
Bikini/ Posing Suit $150-700
Angel Competition Bikinis and Toxic Angelz Competition Bikinis are our recommendations.
This can be more if it’s a two day show. You can also do it yourself, but you will have to buy new makeup to match your skin tone and if you don’t normally do your makeup - it can add stress to your show day.
If there is a blowout bar/dry bar near your show? Easy, beautiful, and cost effective. Price can go up if two day show. Also can do yourself - but be responsible with your time.
Travel Costs Variable
Travel costs can depend on how far you travel - and can vary wildly show to show. We would strongly suggest staying in the host hotel if you can. Even if you live close by. Also factor in gas, uber, car rentals, flights, checked bags, etc.
You will want to get there 3 days or more before if you are flying, especially if you are prone to swelling. Also you will want to stay the night after the show. You never know how late they will go.
Suit Adhesive $10
Bikini bite - most shows have it, but if not it’s nice to have on hand.
Suit Stuffing $5
If you need to balance out your physique by adding boobs - some stuffed animal stuffing from hobby lobby or rice does the trick.
PEDs and/or normal supplementation. If using PEDs - budget a few thousand more and also for post-cycle therapy and the needed blood tests. For normal supplementation like protein powder, pre-workout, probiotics, etc - add up what you use monthly and factor it into the budget!
Posing Classes $20-200
We would highly suggest getting someone to look over your posing routine. We offer Skype calls, but will also recommend other we trust.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Moral of the story: budget. You will be looking to spend about $2000 to $5000 throughout the entirety of prep. But, of course, this will all change depending on how many shows you decide to do, travel expenses involved, and additional posing classes you may add on towards the show. Your coaching service may offer posing instruction as an add-on.
Competing is fun, but it can be an expensive hobby. The good thing is, the stage will always be there, and you should not be in a rush to compete — especially if you are not financially stable. Be smart and do your research on all aspects. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and embrace the process!