What it’s like to compete in a bodybuilding competition.


Here’s a quick exercise to give you just a taste. Take off all of your clothes, except for your underwear. Now go stand in front of a full length mirror. Pose in a way that is most flattering to your body. Smile, look confident, happy and PROUD of your body. Now take a selfie with your phone.

Now…how did that feel? How do you feel about the way you look? My bet is that you probably felt a little anxious and self conscious of your so-called flaws. Take your discomfort level and multiply it by roughly one million and that gives you an idea of what it’s like standing up on stage in a competition.

I have competed in a total of 11 body building competitions since November of 2012. I’ve even traveled to shows in New York and have even done a National show in New Jersey. So, I feel that I am experienced enough to give a good description of the road leading to standing up on the competition stage.

The week before a competition I call “hell week”. I’ve cut out carbs, salt, gum, and even protein powders. I’m bordering on the verge of insanity or ketosis….or both. The night before a show I go to get my airbrushed orange tan to cover my very white skin. Once I let that air dry, I have to put on black, loose clothing and sleep on extra sheets as to not mess up my good ones. The tan is sticky and gross. I can’t wash my hands and I can’t sit on the toilet. I have to pee in a cup since urine is so acidic it will mess up the tan on the most unflattering of places. Yeah, GROSS! Show day I cake on the makeup, fluff up my hair. I slip on a very expensive and delicate jeweled bikini. There’s not much to it and it has to be put on very carefully so none of the straps break or jewels fall off. I spend my morning in a hotel room practicing my posing and answering texts that say “have you gone on yet?” On show day, to say I am anxious doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m feeling. At this point I’m running on pure adrenaline…and caffeine. Caffeine helps too. Yet the majority of the day is spent….waiting….and waiting. I’m only taking tiny sips of water. I don’t want a water belly on stage. But I’m thirsty. When I finally line up in my height class for what we call pre judging I’m so nervous I swear I’m about to piss all over myself (but have never actually done BTW). I’m sweating so much from nerves I carry a towel with me to dab at my underarms. I can’t wear deodorant since that will mess up the tan also. Standing in line I replay all the encouraging comments to myself. “You CAN do this” “all you need is to BELIEVE in yourself” “Accept your every flaw. Know what you are and who you are”. All the competitors are told to walk out and you’ve got 15 seconds to do your routine. You train for 12 weeks, every hour, every workout, every bite of food for 12 weeks to get 15 seconds to show ’em what you got. So then I walk out on stage to some popular pop song at the time. Bright lights are almost blinding me but I can see the panel of 5 judges clearly. They are the only people I see or even pay attention to. To me, they are the only ones that matter. These are real NPC judges, usually 3 men 2 women. This is my 15 seconds of fame to show off all of the HARD WORK that I’ve put into my body in hopes that it will land me the respect I want so desperately. When I walk out on stage I have to go out there thinking that I am jaw-dropping GORGEOUS! I have to have the daring wildness and confidence of Lady Gaga, the fun flirtyness of Taylor Swift but also the class and poise of Princess Kate. Trust me, it’s not like you think. I’ve seen girls walk out and try to sex it up and pose in stripperesque poses. Those girls DO NOT place well. The judges are not amused and not impressed. I’m so nervous that my smile shakes and even my legs shake a little bit, and my entire body is so tense. I am hoping the tension is showing off some muscle tone. I keep constant eye contact LOCKED with the judges. I hit my poses with as much grace as possible given that I’m wearing 5 inch heels. When I’m done I head to the blue line while I stand there STARING down the judges, sucking in my stomach and shifting my weight, trading hand on hip sides, all with my most beautiful, happiest smile on my face.

Bodybuilding is so much more than being able to look good naked. Besides, remember the Seinfeld episode, and Jerry tells George about how there’s “good naked” and “bad naked”. It’s all smoking mirrors. You have to present yourself in just the right way. You CANNOT walk out on stage with the mentality that you have a BETTER body than the other competitors. NO! NO! NO! You will lose if that’s your thought process. There will always be someone else out there to humble you. Really, it is just as much your mind you are putting out there as it is your body. I think anyone that’s competed knows that. You may be wondering why I do this, why I put myself through this? What kind of example am I being to young girls out there with body image? Why type of mom am I being to my children by chasing this kind of dream? You see, I want to compete like I want to breathe. I do it because it pushes me to a new level of physical and mental toughness others only dream about. It has made me realize I am 1000X more amazing and capable than 16 year old skinny Leanna ever thought possible. It has helped me to ACCEPT myself the way God made me. To love my every flaw and realize that those flaws are what make me different and special. There will always be a girl that’s prettier than me, a girl with a tinier waistline, a girl with better quad definition, but there will NEVER EVER be another Leanna Baucum on stage. I focus on being the fittest and most beautiful version of ME possible. It has taught me to feel enormous amounts of compassion for others and anyone trying to make a change with their body. I want others to look at me and realize their true potential, especially my children! I am a bodybuilder. This is my art, my craft. My body is the canvas and I mold it and sculpt it with my diet and my workouts. I can tell you when it’s over, yes the high is worth the pain. Again, it is the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but when you step out on that stage, give the judges your absolute best, stand on the blue line and wait……..then you hear your number called out by the judges in the first round. In that moment…that feeling…..there’s nothing like it.IN.THE.WHOLE.ENTIRE.WORLD!

Side note: as for the attached picture, sorry I’m not sorry. When training for a comp you take constant selfies & belfies. You send them to your coach and use them to track progress. It’s part of the process. I win the award for worst selfie taker ever, I either look like a total snob, or have some bewildered look on my face. #likeagirl


Forever yours crazy, healthy and happy!
Leanna JB

About the Author:

I'm Leanna Jensen. I'm a NPC Bikini Competitor, Personal trainer, fitness writer and mother of two. I am on a mission to help and serve others by sharing my knowledge of all things health and fitness.


  1. Loanemu.com October 14, 2015 at 4:20 am - Reply

    As I sit here after reading your article, I could only wish to be able to produce such a well-written document as you. I am no where near your caliber.

    • Leanna JB October 28, 2015 at 6:23 am - Reply

      Thank you.

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