When it comes to preparing for a competitive bodybuilding or figure event, probably the last thing to cross any novice’s mind is, “what organization should I compete in?” There are many competitive organizations out there, and believe it or not, they all come with their own sets of rules, regulations, and practices. From drug testing polices to competition color, you need to be sure that the organization you will be competing in is the right fit for you.
When I chose to compete for the first time, I knew nothing about the many organizations that existed. I thought it was as simple as signing up for a show and attending. A quick Google search brought me to some random website that advertised an ABA/INBA show about 2 hours from my house. I didn’t even know what the ABA/INBA was (Amateur Bodybuilding Association and the International Natural Bodybuilding Association).
Well after I had made the commitment to compete in this show, I discovered www.naturalbodybuildingevents.com. It was then that I realized bodybuilding shows came in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors – and many were a lot closer to me than I thought. Still paying no attention to the organizations that sanctioned the events, I began a list of shows that I wanted to compete in. Keep in mind, with each show hosted by a different organization I was required to pay organization membership of $50 each.
To my surprise I stumbled across an NGA (National Gym Association) show that was within a month of my first show and only 45 minutes from my house. I had never heard of the NGA, and I did very little research into the organization before competing. I just signed up because it was so close to my house. To make a long story short, I competed and did exceptionally well – taking first in my class for Novice, Open, and Overall Novice. I have told this story before, so I won’t go into detail, but this was where my win would have qualified me for Pro status if there had only been one more competitor in my class.
I bring this up again because this is where I finally started to pay attention to the various organizations. Comparing the results of my first two shows, and the comments received by the judges and others, it was evident there were some major differences.
The judges at my first show agreed that I had superb conditioning. They also agreed that I needed to gain a lot more muscle and needed to wear a smaller posing suit. The judges at my second show said nothing directly regarding my muscularity, but instead made glowing remarks on my conditioning, posing and symmetry. With only a four-week gap between the two shows, I was essentially the same person on both of those stages.
After the show I was met by the promoter, John Abraham, and he congratulated me on my win. He too commented on my conditioning, adding that he always enjoys seeing the” little guy take the show.” He pointed out that size is not everything in bodybuilding, adding “The NGA loves lean.”
The NGA loves lean! Music to my ears. It was then that I realized that the NGA was going to be the only place an aspiring bodybuilder of my stature would gain any ground. With my eye on Jason Kaiman’s approaching show, I set off to become the ultimate in lean. As I prepped for Jason’s show, I learned of another local show about 30 minute from my house. It was an NANBF show (North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation) and it wasn’t a pro-qualifier. Being only a few weeks before Jason’s show, I decided I would test out “my lean” just to see where I would place. I did really well, taking first in my class, but I lost the show to the tall-class winner.
There were mixed feeling amongst the crowd that day, as some agreed with the judge’s ruling while others disagreed, saying my conditioning made up for where size was lacking. This did help support my earlier realization though. As most of you know by now, I continued on to Jason’s NGA show and earned my pro-card.
Since earning my pro card I have had no desire to compete in any other organization, despite the option to through the rules of the NBA (Natural Bodybuilding Alliance). It is not just because I feel I can do well in NGA shows, but I have come to grow quite fond of the NGA. I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with the president, Andrew Bostinto. He has shared his love of the sport and many inspiring stories with me. I love everything the NGA stands for and I am proud to be a representative for the NGA.
So, to get back on track with the true point of this writing, how do you choose the organization that is right for you? You could close your eyes and throw a dart like I did and hope for the best, or, you can do the following:
- Set Goals
- Define your values
- Determine locality of events
- Evaluate the cost
- Research reputation
In no particular order of importance, these factors will ultimately determine when and where you will compete. Where do you plan to go with this? Do you plan to stay natural? Do you mind taking drug tests? Are you willing to compete against untested individuals? Are you willing to travel? Can you afford the added expense of travel and drug tests? Do certain organizations or federations have good/bad reputations?
You will also be surprised to learn which organizations are affiliates. For example, the IFPA is affiliated with the NANBF (North American Bodybuilding Federation), NOBA (Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Association), OCB (Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders), and UNBA (United Natural Bodybuilding Federation). They also have affiliates in Canada, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.
With the formation of the Natural Bodybuilding Alliance, the natural bodybuilding network is only going to get bigger; having already brought together many fine organizations such as OCB, NANBF, IFPA, ABA, INBA, PNBA (Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association), and FAME world Tour.