Swimsuit Competition Tips: How to build a winning body


Tips to develop a figure that can win a pageant swimsuit competition

swimsuit competition

How can a contestant develop a figure that can win the swimsuit competition? Exercise. And lots of it.

When it comes to the swimsuit competition, most pageant trainers agree that today’s pageant judges prefer a physique that is in top physical condition, exactly what does that mean? “A fit, tight body of average muscle,” answers Mike Fifrick, founder of Fitness from Fifrick and a 1991 Miss World Pageant judge and an expert on pageant swimsuit competition training, “not over-muscled, not bulky, not stocky, not under-muscled, not skinny, not waifish. I think that a good goal for a pageant contestant is a low-fat body with average muscle.”

How can a contestant develop such a winning body? Exercise. And lots of it. Indeed, the majority of entrants’ figures require an effective, consistent exercise program to reach their potential. “The underlying factor is predisposed genetics,” explains Joseph Christiano, owner of Body Redesigning by Joseph Christiano, and a renowned personal trainer to both celebrities and contestants training for pageant swimsuit competition. “In other words, it’s whatever amount of clay you have to work with and how well you take care of the clay. There are a few girls who ‘bloom from the womb,”’ he quips, ”but I haven’t met many. Most of them were either a major or minor overhaul. Now and then I’d get one who needed a fine-tuning, but for the most part it was a major overhaul.”

Since transforming a body can be a daunting undertaking, many contestants turn to physical fitness experts for help.  Mike Fifrick, personal trainer to Miss World 1990 and the first runners-up at the 1992 and 1993 Miss USA pageants, shares an example of how proper training can improve a contestant’s chances.  “When Erin Nance won the [1993] Miss Georgia-USA title, she was a gorgeous girl but she wasn’t at her best at that point.  Since her body fat was above twenty percent, in the twenty-two percent range, through cardiovascular exercise we reduced her body fat to fourteen or fifteen percent before the nationals.  She was somewhat under-muscled, so she also did an intense strength-training program every other day to add a little muscle to her body.  I think we did forty-three workouts in twelve weeks in preparation for the nationals.”  The grueling routine paid off, Fifrick reports. “Erin became the first runner-up to Miss USA and won the Catalina swimsuit award.”

As Erin’s transformation demonstrates, you can make impressive changes in a surprisingly short period of time if you approach training with the right mental attitude. “It depends on her personal motivation,” asserts Sharon Turrentine, founder of Shape Up With Sharon and a top pageant fitness specialist. “It depends on the importance that she puts on the program, if she is motivated, how hard she is willing to work, and if she is willing to spend the time. With a young woman between eighteen and twenty-two who has never had children, who is willing to work, within six weeks she’ll be looking in the mirror saying, ‘Why didn’t I do this years ago?’”

swimsuit competition, shawn weatherly, mis universe 1980

Shawn Weatherly, the eventual Miss Universe of 1980, showed a winning figure, even as a local titleholder.

Build a Winning Swimsuit Competition Figure

Some girls’ figures are more challenging and require more time to correct flaws. Contestants with problem figures need to work within a realistic time-frame. “It depends on the condition they are in when they start,” says Christiano. “You need to look at where you’re at physically and line it up with the pageant. It’s all in your peaking within the time-frame you have.”

When there simply isn’t as much time to prepare as a competitor would like, Cheryl Prewitt-Salem recommends an intense program to Jump-start e contestant s progress. “For a pageant girl who may not have time, I recommend that she literally go into a two-hour weight-training program every day.”

Whatever the specific training program, it should meet the needs of the girl physically and financially. “She doesn’t have to be on a weight program at a gym,” advises Cheryl, star of several exercise videos. “It depends on the person and the amount of money she has. Sometimes gyms and trainers can be very expensive. I recommend to girls on a tight budget-which is the majority of girls-that they get sound advice. Many times you can get that by going to see somebody one time. You can also get good advice out of books and exercise videos.”

How the Pageant Winners Exercised

Possible exercise programs include working out at a private gym, college weight room, or YMCA. Girls can also get in shape at home using free weights, exercising to aerobic/body-toning videos, and training on a stationary bike, stair-stepper, or treadmill. Be creative, and remember, no two training programs are identical:

  • Miss Universe 1980: weights, running, swimming, dance
  • Miss America 1980: jogging, stationary biking, sit-ups
  • Miss America 1983: Weight lifting, jogging with leg weights
  • Miss America 1986: 45-minute jogs up Mt. Olympus
  • Miss Teen-USA 1991: soccer, basketball, softball
  • Miss USA 1991: aerobics, step machine, floor exercises

Whatever training program you choose to get yourself in shape, remember that developing a winning figure doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen without commitment and dedication. “You can’t wait until the last minute to train,” warns Christiano. “The last thing [you] want to do is the thing [you] need most. You have to challenge yourself to the very day of competition to look your very best.”

More in Pageantry...