Bodybuilding presentation should be routine

Bodybuilding presentation should be routine

In the sport of bodybuilding, presentation is one of the components of judging criteria (including symmetry, muscularity and conditioning.)  I am defining presentation as how one displays their physique.  This obviously includes posing but other aspects such as skin color, grooming, etc.  In the same topic of posing is the free posing routine, which is an aspect that is being overlooked more and more by competitors.


Often termed “the golden age” of bodybuilding, in the 60’s to 80’s when bodybuilding came on the scene, the images and videos you would see where individuals doing either their individual posing routines or photo shoots of individuals outside in various poses.  These poses were based on the “mandatories” usually (mandatory poses are those the judges call out for the class to do as a whole) with slight modifications to make them unique.  



The current trend is that competitors do not focus on their posing, let alone a routine.  This is taking away from their competitiveness as even though someone doesn’t need to be able to do a fancy posing routine, a competitor DOES need to display themselves the the manner that best shows their strengths and hide their weakness.  In order to do this, it takes deliberate practice as Anders Ericsson details, which is practicing the right way.  For bodybuilding, this means not just posing until it’s comfortable, but making adjustments and improving until it’s the best it can be.


Routine practice

Let me preface the next section by saying I don’t think I am an amazing poser, there are many who I am in awe of, but I do think I’m decent and I know that I have improved greatly over the past two decades for competing by practicing, reviewing and adjusting as I go.  The routine is part of the competition where a competitor can do whatever poses they want in order to show their best aspects, express themselves (through the music, lyrics, props or motions) and honestly, entertain the spectators.  This is something that sadly is starting to become less common due to some contest promoters not requiring it and competitors not opting in.  


Lost art

In my opinion, the individual free posing routine is part of the sport.  It is the component where the competitor is required to put more work into the display and art of bodybuilding.  While it isn’t usually judged, this is when the audience gets the opportunity to just focus on that single competitor on the stage.  This give the judges a chance to write down feedback they can give the competitor to improve on.  The routine is for the family, friends and fans to show their support through applause and just by watching it.  Perhaps an analogy would be the posing routine is the dessert of the meal.  Certainly one needs to eat the meat and potatoes but having the cake after just makes the meal a better experience.  


Draw like a 1st grader

A routine doesn’t have to be super fancy and you don’t need to have a dance background.  That said, the way I come up with routines is by drawing stick figures.  I do this by listening to the music over and over (until I hear and know all the beats) while trying different posing combinations to see what works well.  This exercise alone will tremendously improve your posing.  As I come up with something that works, I draw a stick figure so that I can remember the pose.  The drawings below are the notes for the routine you see it the video above.  I have found that the hardest part is coming up with the music but if you find some that really speaks to you and you enjoy posing to, the routine practically puts itself together.  

Typical posing routine notes

Keep it real

Certainly while a solid routine could just simply going through the mandatories, adding more charismatic poses and/or props can make it that much more impactful.  Make sure you keep things classy and be careful not to offend or be obnoxious.  I always say that adding sunglasses and a hat as props are never a bad move.  Also be mindful of lyrics and make sure there are no offensive words.  I have found soundtracks without lyrics are a great source of dramatic quality music.  


Have fun

No matter what your experience level, style or ability, I would challenge you to always do a posing routine.  It will make you a better competitor, the spectators appreciate it and I believe it is good for the growth of the sport.  Don’t try to out-pose your abilities, but absolutely do make sure that you have fun while doing it.  Keep up the consistency and I’ll see you onstage!

-Ryan Irwin


Ryan’s background is drawn from over 20 years of bodybuilding, wrestling and powerlifting. Having a degree in Exercise and Sports Science, in addition to being certified in both sports nutrition and personal training, Ryan’s experience is backed by continuous education. He is a professional natural bodybuilder, winning titles without the use of performance enhancing drugs and has competed in 20+ contests over the past two decades. Ryan also is a competitive powerlifter and holds national records in powerlifting as well. A specialist in adding size and strength, Ryan has helped hundreds of clients reach their goals and continues to help many individuals add quality mass with strength, in addition to helping many lean up while sculpting their physiques. He also has spoke to many audiences regarding health, nutrition, personal development and motivation.  Contact him only if you want some serious results! Contact Ryan at