A Guide to Bodybuilding Posing

Updated on February 12, 2019
Purches Power profile image

Purches Power is a competitive, drug-free bodybuilder and a qualified gym instructor with a diploma in Sports Psychology.



Bodybuilding posing needs to be practiced as much as the other components of your competition plan such as, gym work, diet and your individual posing routine.

Holding the poses in a competition environment is an exhausting affair. It becomes immediately obvious which competitors haven't practiced, they soon become out of breath and unable to hold the poses for long periods.

Practice Is Key

Practice every day you can leading up to the contest. Ten minutes a day is fine in the weeks furthest from the competition. You may want to increase this as the competition gets closer dependent on your experience and desire to improve. I have found one of the best times is in between sets at the gym or at the end of your workout when the muscles are still pumped and full of blood. This may be difficult after a heavy leg session when your legs are exhausted and don't feel able to hold you up.

Incremental Increases

Start by holding each pose for around ten to fifteen seconds. As you progress you should be able to hold each pose for around a minute. There will be times on stage when your class may have too many competitors to line up together. You may be asked to stand to the rear of the stage whilst the other half of your class poses. This is not a time to switch off, you may be there for ten minutes or more. Stand in the Front Relaxed Position (not fully flexed, conserve as much energy as possible), you never know when the judges may be watching. You want to appear composed and professional at all times. If your competitors decide this is a time to slouch and switch off the better you will appear.

Outside Influences

On stage you will experience outside influences such as high temperatures under the lights, the audience, fellow competitors and the eyes of the judges. All of which can affect your performance, so the more posing you do the more accomplished you will be and outside influences will have little detrimental effect.

I practice in the middle of the gym where people are moving around me, music is blaring out and equipment is being used. I find this helps me practice blocking out distractions.

If you think posing is easy give it a try, flex and hold every muscle you have from head to toe while maintaining a smile and breathing naturally. You will soon find its harder than you imagine The competitors who make it look easy are probably those that have practiced the hardest. After some competitions I have had delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as much as if I had had a tough gym session.

Mirror Mirror

Start off by practicing in front of a mirror, practice to the point that you no longer need it. Remember on stage there will be no mirrors to check your positioning, it will be all down to feel.

The judges can only judge what you show them on stage. So the more time you put into refining the poses the better chance you have of displaying the physique you have worked very hard to achieve.


Symmetry and Muscularity

In bodybuilding contests there are two rounds of compulsory posing, symmetry and muscularity. The symmetry round involves what are called “relaxed” poses (they are far from relaxed to perform). The muscularity round involves the poses most lay people outside of bodybuilding would recognize such as the double biceps pose.

Bodybuilders have more of a chance to present their physique during the muscularity round. It is also a chance to try and disguise any weaknesses they may have.

Magazines, Youtube videos and attending bodybuilding contests are all useful tools in your posing education. As is hiring a coach who has competed (recommended) they will give you advice of the slight adjustments you may have to make to your poses stand out. A slight adjustment to a leg, arm or body position can make a good pose a great pose. These adjustments can also help hide any weaknesses as well as accentuate an asset.

Keep your adjustments within the confines of the required pose. Remember they are compulsory and the judges are using them to judge you against your fellow competitors. Any outlandish variation will detract from your pose and ultimately your final score.

Key Points

Key points to utilize and help increase your chances of winning are:

A. There will be six or seven judges at the contest and they will be sitting across the width of the stage. You must be able to rotate every pose slightly so the judges sitting on each end of the judging table can see you from the front on.

Start doing this during your practice time in front of the mirror. Strike a pose and then practice twisting slightly toward the corners of the room.

B. Stage heights will vary but most are around one meter, when a judge is seated their eye-level will be somewhere around the level of your toes. Direct your poses downward toward the judges and audience but not so far forward you lose the lighting and you become lost in shadow. When performing rear poses (back to the judges), arch your lower back and lean backward slightly, again not to far so as to distort the pose or lose the light.

C. Start all poses by flexing the legs first. Start from the toes up, set the foot positioning first. Build the pose by contracting your muscles upwards.

D. Select your best side for the side chest and side triceps poses first. Practice each pose from both sides because a judge may request either side in the event of a close contest.

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The Compulsory Poses

For most bodybuilding organizations there are seven compulsory poses to be judged:

  1. Side Chest
  2. Front Double Biceps
  3. Front Lateral Spread
  4. Side Triceps
  5. Abdominal & Thigh
  6. Rear Double Biceps
  7. Rear Lateral Spread

In the event of a close contest the judges may ask for further poses to try and separate competitors to find a winner, such as:

  1. Most Muscular (Three variations)
  2. Side abdominals

Front Relaxed Pose

  • Feet turned out. Toes at ten to two (clock position)
  • Press your feet into the floor in order to flex your legs as best you can.
  • Relax the legs slightly (straight legs are to be avoided)
  • Pull up your lats, spreading them as wide as you can. Avoid going too high as this will make your shoulders shrug.
  • Arms by your sides in a flare, with elbows turned out slightly.
  • Rotate to allow all the judges the same view.
  • Smile.

Front Relaxed Pose
Front Relaxed Pose | Source

Side Relaxed Pose

  • Feet close together but the rear foot staggered slightly, you want your rear hamstring to be visible.
  • Rotate your body to display your abdominals.
  • Press the arm farthest from the judges across your body to squeeze your chest.
  • Legs should be tight, sit down slightly to flex the hamstrings.
  • This pose is slightly harder to rotate but don't worry too much as you will be asked to perform this from both sides.
  • Turn your head to face the judges and smile.

Side Relaxed Pose
Side Relaxed Pose | Source

Back Relaxed Pose

  • Performed the same as the Front Relaxed Pose but with your back to the judges.
  • Lean back slightly, remember the judges are sat below you and a slight lean will help show of your physique better.
  • No need to smile but still keep your head held high.

Front Lat Spread Pose

  • Make fists with both hands and place them on the widest part of your hips.
  • Spread your lats. Raise your chest and hold a vacuum with your abs, this will make your lats appear bigger.
  • Tighten your chest and arms.
  • Legs should be slightly relaxed but still tight, no straight legs.
  • Keep your chin up and smile.

Front Lat Spread
Front Lat Spread | Source

Side Chest Pose

  • Raise the heel that is closest to the judges and place the toes in the arch of your rear foot.
  • Bring the arm farthest from the judges around your waist and hold the wrist of the other arm.
  • Tighten the furthest chest muscle, pressing it against the other and squeeze the closest bicep.
  • Sit down slightly and tighten the legs, pressing the front toes into the floor.
  • Lean slightly toward the judges.
  • Smile.

Side Chest Pose
Side Chest Pose | Source

Side Triceps Pose

  • Foot placement: see side chest pose.
  • Reach behind your body to grab your hand or wrist, straighten the lead arm and flex your triceps.
  • Sit down slightly and tighten the legs
  • Lean the nearest shoulder down slightly toward the judges
  • Rotate as much as possible as the furthest judges may not see this pose too well.
  • Smile.

Side Triceps Pose
Side Triceps Pose | Source

Rear Double Biceps Pose

  • Stand with your back to the judges.
  • Step one leg back, Raise the heel, flexing the calf and hamstrings.
  • Try and create a V taper from the waist to the elbows.
  • Flex your biceps and lean back.
  • Don't squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Spread your lats as wide as possible.

Rear Double Biceps Pose
Rear Double Biceps Pose | Source

Rear Lat Spread Pose

  • Foot position as the rear double biceps pose. You may wish to use the other leg to avoid cramp in the calf.
  • Place your thumbs on the thickest part of your waist and spread your back, leaning back slightly.
  • Fill your chest with air to make your back as wide as possible.

Abs and Thigh Pose

  • Place your hands behind your head, fingers interlocked or hands cupped together.
  • Extend one leg and pull the toes back.
  • Flex down on your abs, blowing out as much air as possible.
  • Keep your upraised elbows in close to your head.
  • Smile.

Abs and Thigh Pose
Abs and Thigh Pose | Source

Most Muscular Pose

  • There are three options when the judge calls for the Most Muscular pose. The aim is to flex as much of your body as possible. Your choice will depend on what body parts you wish to accentuate or hide. Practice all three as you may be asked to perform any of them.
  • The first option is the hands on hips most muscular pose. (see picture below)
  • The second posing option is the hands clasped Most Muscular.
  • The third Most Muscular option is the crab.

Most Muscular Hands on Hips Option
Most Muscular Hands on Hips Option | Source

The Best Bodybuilders Posing

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • Will there ever be nude posing in a competition, so as to see all the symmetry of muscle?

    I don’t think so, there’s other things you could watch for that.

© 2017 Purches Power


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    • zesqcpa profile image


      18 months ago

      Thank you for sharing this detailed information. Very inspiring and do-able. Happy New Year.


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