How to Perfect Your Bodybuilding Posing | Emma Hyndman’s Tips
With us now being on the home straight to being able to get back shooting in full swing and also getting that buzz back of competing on stage, I sat down with Posing Pro Emma Hyndman to find out some top tips to help you nail your bodybuilding competitions this year.
Who is Emma Hyndman the “Posing Pro”?
My good friend and posing coach Emma Hyndman has competed in Figure bodybuilding since 2013 and she always brings the most elite poses to our shoots together.
Emma originally started out as a dancer - from the age of three to be a little more specific - so she had the benefit of already having done a lot of stage competing from a very young age. Her talent portfolio as a dancer is pretty impressive - including a number of different styles - but professionally, Emma is trained in contemporary dance and ballet (graduating from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance). Emma attributes this professional training as to where she got her “really strong foundations from” as a posing pro.
After graduating, Emma moved to New York at age 21 to train at a hip hop dance company under an ex-military teacher for three years. It’s during this period that Emma thinks she learnt the most about herself along with discipline, self-awareness and accountability. Thinking of a few other athletes that I know with an ex-military background (like Toby Richards and David Macintosh), I definitely think that there is a correlation between fitness professionals who have learnt a little more about a disciplined approach and how successful they are in their posing careers.
Emma since went on to become a champion competitor at the NABBA World in 2016 and a superior posing coach too.
How Did Emma Hyndman Become a Toned Figure Competitor?
Posing Pro Emma Hyndman was originally a professional dancer before she decided to get into figure competing, but what was the pivotal moment that led to this change in career direction you might ask? Well, strap in for this one because it’s a little bit different to what you might expect.
Emma trained in New York for three years as a professional dancer and came back to the UK practically bursting with energy and confidence. She was locked in her apartment one night by accident and was late to skates rehearsals and (in her own words) she thought she was “Wonder Woman” so decided to jump out the window! Breaking her foot forced her to seek other income opportunities, leading Emma to get into fitness sometime around 2008 - alongside teaching professional dance classes.
How Does Being a Dancer Give You and Advantage as a Bodybuilder?
“I think that the dance background gives you an advantage on so many levels, not just, you know, feeling the music when you're on stage, but having that Nate understanding of dance, movement, presentation and performance immediately puts you a level above most people. Not a lot of people understand stage presence and performance, plus being able to project onstage as well. I think it definitely played a huge, huge part.”
“I think it also allows me to have even more of a trained eye when it comes to the posing, because - it's just like being a prima ballerina or the best hip hop dancer - you know the attention to detail and what the body needs to do. It's exactly the same thing with posing for me. It's just almost like another style of dance.”
Emma also finds that posing clients with a dance background come to her with a greater foundation because they’re used to picking up direction easily and also have the understanding of how to implement something they’re critiqued on.
There are, however, some potential disadvantages of being a dancer when you’re looking at going into bodybuilding because you’ve spent years being told to “tuck the pelvis under” and “not flare the lats”.
“So it’s a different discipline, but there is the plus side that they understand the presentation and the teaching aspect of it so they can take direction, but then they have to unpick what they would know as a dancer technique wise and learn how to move the body differently. It really does help when people have the mobility there already and flexibility, definitely.”
Why Did Emma Hyndman Choose Figure Competing?
Emma Hyndman’s dance background and love of the Performing Arts definitely drew her towards Toned Figure competing because of the routine element. For the first few shows that Emma did though, she reflects that there was definitely more of a dance influence than there perhaps should have been but she definitely did wow the judges with those back flips, high kicks and splits!
Which Federations did Emma Hyndman Compete in?
Back when Emma first stated out competing, the standard was to either enter as a Figure or a Bikini competitor and she was naturally influenced by the other athletes around her, so chose NABBA.
“In hindsight, I should have done bikini.”
Emma recommends that you don’t just go for what’s local all the time but instead look for bodybuilding shows that are best suited to your physique, especially because the posing styles for female categories can vary so much across each federation.
Emma’s Top Tip:
Watch YouTube preview shows to have a good idea of what criteria your chosen federation is looking for.
Emma Hyndman’s Best Moments in Bodybuilding
It took Emma “three long years” (in her words) to win a show but that perseverance has led her to become one of the best posing coaches in the UK. Emma shared some of her best bodybuilding competition memories with me:
Coming first place at the NABBA Worlds 2016 in Brazil.
Emma went into this competition as a total underdog and was just excited to be competing on an international stage with girls from across the world. Emma says she “went with a champion's mindset and the best package” that she’s ever brought - and it’s even a physique that she looks back on now and is really proud of.
Number 2: Getting her PCA Pro Card a PCA Body Power in 2018.
This is a fond accomplishment for Emma because she hadn’t been up on stage in over a year, so it was kind of like a comeback moment for her. I can picture the faces of her fellow competitors when Emma just rocked up backstage! This PCA comp required a totally different physique to what Emma had formed for a competition before and she credits that day as “probably [her] best routine to date”.
“My goal with the routine was to make the auditorium silent and make everyone want to watch what was happening on stage and to be able to hear a pin drop in there - and that’s what I did, I did it! Even now I get messages from people saying, “oh my god, we saw you on stage as we were walking by and we were mesmerised, we couldn’t help but stop and watch. Such a powerful performance!”. And that’s really what I wanted; I wanted to bring my best that wasn’t just a posing routine but really made people feel something. As a performer and a dancer, that’s what my goal is. Especially as a contemporary dancer, that’s what my goal is - it’s very much about making people feel something and resonate with them.”
Number 1: Winning her IFBB Pro card at the 2Bros Show in June 2018.
All bodybuilders aspire to be an IFBB Pro, so the fact that Emma went into this competition as technically an amateur is a huge accomplishment for her. It was as close call between herself and Jane Tingle (who is now also an IFBB figure pro). It was actually also first year of 2Bros, so Emma was the first person they gave a Figure Pro card to in the UK. There’s only one person who can say that!
Will Emma Hyndman be Competing in Toned Figure Again?
Emma and I were discussing the importance of researching your federation to make sure that you enter into a league that’s best suited to your physique, as opposed to just going for what’s local. Emma was telling me that she reckons she would have been better suited as a Bikini competitor and if she were to go back into shows, she would enter in Bikini because she doesn’t “carry the mass and the size for Figure anymore.”
“My business life has taken over a lot since competing (and I’ve probably allowed it to as well). I got the Pro card but I am the sort of person who thinks, “right, what next?”. And I spent five/six years competing, and it was a long time. For the first three years, I didn’t miss a season. Then I did a full year of guest posing so there never really any off time. Then I went straight into an off-season for 2018. I feel like I’ve given a lot to competing and I do truly believe that your heart really has to be in it and at this moment in time, I’m not compelled to go back into a prep. My life is in a different place at the moment and I’m very much focused on being a successful businesswoman.”
How Did Emma Hyndman Become a Posing Coach?
Emma initially got into helping other competitors with their routines whilst she was competing herself. Coaching wasn’t really a thing back in 2013 when Emma started out competing and it all kicked off with Rosanna Harte (“Rosie Rascal”) coming for help with her routine.
“That was my first taste of posing with seeing Rosie kind of doing her thing and combining it with dance. That was quite interesting for me. Then off the back of my own competing and the success of my posing routines and naturally had people start to get in touch for help with their own routines”.
This is where Emma’s combined background as a dancer and a fitness professional really gave her an advantage as a coach because she could spot things immediately that needed tweaking in people’s form.
As a posing coach, Emma focuses on building you from the ground up - you won’t move onto the next stage of posing until you’ve perfected the one before. Emma calls this mastering the “basics and fundamentals” before moving onto looking at all the elements that combine to create a strong stage presence, like: walking, stride and presentation.
Which Bodybuilding Poses are the Hardest?
From experience, Emma Hyndman finds that most of her clients struggle to master side poses simply because there’s so much going on.
“You're essentially trying to twist the body in two opposite ways. I mean, for example, the bikini side pose that you would see in IFBB, Elite Pro or PCA, that's that standard style of quarter turns. For a girl, you’re standing on one leg, you're trying to tuck your toe under, you’re trying to stick your butt out, you’re trying to lift and rotate around to the front whilst trying to smile - it’s not easy. That's probably the most difficult pose to nail, but I would say that initially most people really struggle overall with flaring their lats. That’s the most common problem.”
What Mistakes Should You Avoid Before a Bodybuilding Competition?
Competing in an aesthetics based world is bound to come with a fair few mistakes that you can make in the lead up to a bodybuilding competition, but Emma Hyndman’s biggest mistake to avoid mostly comes down to attitude problems.
“You’ve kind of got two opposite ends of the spectrum. You’ve got someone who maybe overthinks it and they start to make mistakes because they’re just trying too hard almost. Then you’ve got the opposite end of the spectrum where people start to get complacent and lazy in their posing and they have stopped being accountable because they’re just going through the motions and they’re just running the posing, not critiquing it.”
We also talked a lot about the demands on the body that being on a bodybuilding show stage can have. This is a more extreme version of what can happen on a shoot because you’re obviously having to hold an isometric contraction for a pose over a period of time - whether that’s to flex for the judges or for the camera. Facially, Emma talked about how fatigued you can get from all the necessary smiles on stage and gives the tip to make sure that you relax your face when you’re at the back of the stage to give yourself a momentary break.
How Long Should You Prepare for a Posing Competition for?
Preparation for any type of competition, show or photoshoot is always going to be key. Obviously for a bodybuilding competition it’s twofold because you need to grow and define those muscles whilst also working on your posing craft. Posing Pro Emma Hyndman quotes 12 months as your time period for preparation leading up to a show.
How Long Should You Hold Bodybuilding Poses for When Practising?
When you’re on stage in a bodybuilding competition, you’re obviously going to be holding poses for an extended period of time (and without a mirror). Sometimes when I shoot, we’ll add in some classic mirror shots but when we work together, you have the benefit that I’m there to direct (meaning you can nail your poses even without a mirror). But when you’re up on stage, it’s essential that you know both how to move the body without a mirror and that you can hold that pose too until you’re moved on. Emma recommends that you should have been practicing holding your poses for 3 minutes once you’re comfortable with it.
“My advice is always to practice your poses as much as you're training, because you should start to think of your posing as the third part of your competition prep. So your food, your nutrition and your posing - they all fall under the same umbrella.”
When Should You Practice Bodybuilding and Competition Poses?
I’ve often wondered this myself, whether competitors should practice posing at the start of the workout when they’re more fresh, or at the end when they’ve got more of a pump. Emma thinks that athletes tend to prefer practising their poses after they’re trained because their muscles are more activated and switched on. There is no right or wrong answer on this though and it entirely comes down to how well you can move your body (and also if you prefer seeing yourself posed with a pump on or not!).
What Tools Does Emma Hyndman Recommend for Posing Practice?
Mirrors are obviously an essential tool when practising your posing for a bodybuilding competition, but that also includes using your phone to record your routine practices. Emma also reckons you need a pair of posing socks to really practice like a pro (and you’re in luck because we’re giving away a pair of posing socks as part of our competition!).
Here are Emma’s tips on how to pose with a mirror:
“Once you become comfortable with that start to take the mirror out and switch it for your phone and record. When you record, watch it back and really try and be, self critical. You need to be able to know what you're looking for. It's hard to critique yourself when you're just watching in the mirror, because I think when we watch ourselves in a mirror we’re just drawn to certain parts of ourselves and rather than look at what we really like, we look at what we really hate. Now we need to step outside of that and look at the overall picture.
Once you are confident with recording and then you feel like you're hitting it every time, take screenshots of that pose done perfectly and keep comparing it on a weekly basis. So it's almost like you're doing progression pictures, but not for your physique, but for your posing.”
How Often Should you Practice Bodybuilding Posing Without a Mirror?
Emma Hyndman used to drill her poses every single morning in the final 12 week lead-up to a competition - but without a mirror, using only her phone to record. She would watch her poses back to check for micro form adjustments that needed to be perfected. After Emma made those micro adjustments, she would run the cycle again and critique it.
“That's when I think you kind of start to ingrain it into the body a little bit more. You’ve got to be able to feel it because if you don't practice without a mirror and you go on stage having maybe done only a couple of run-throughs without a mirror, you're going to feel all over the place because you've got no mind muscle connection.”
How Does Mobility and Flexibility Improve Bodybuilding Posing?
Emma Hyndman builds mobility and flexibility work into her programmes available on her website and YouTube.
“You need to have mobility and that’s not necessarily being flexible, but it’s range of motion, it’s having mobility through the hips, the glutes, the lower back, the thoracic spine, so there’s a lot of additional and supplementary work that goes into the posing to make it even more impressive.”
Emma finds that her clients that focus on flexibility and mobility work have progressed a lot quicker as well because it really helps them to understand the mechanics of the body (which essentially is posing).
“The flexibility should go hand-in-hand with your lifting as well, because it makes such a difference.”
What Are Some Good Recovery Tools for Bodybuilders?
Rehabilitation, rest and recovery is obviously an essential part of training as a bodybuilder, especially with all that high volume work you’ll be doing. Emma recommends that you find yourself a physio or professional who can help you with your mobility, focusing particularly on the lats, shoulders and lower calves as common areas of tightness.
Alongside this, Emma recommends that you have deep tissue work done (like cupping, needling, dry-needling) to make sure you’re releasing out all of the muscles (mainly the lats).
“So work with a physio for mobility, someone who does mechanical rehabilitation and then deep tissue work as well. And obviously foam rolling - all of that kind of stuff really, really helps.”
“If someone’s tight in the hips, they’re not gonna be able to externally rotate so well so that’s gonna affect their posing. If you want to be successful now, you cannot afford to neglect something, because there’s too much talent out there.
How to Choose a Bodybuilding Show Bikini
There are a few do’s and don’ts when choosing a bodybuilding show bikini. Here are Emma Hyndman’s:
- “Make sure you pick a bikini that accentuates and flatters your figure.”
- “Make sure you don’t choose a bikini that’s too small on the top and the bottom - never a good look when you’re falling out of it.”
- “Make sure you go to an accredited retailer too and do your research not only on your bikini manufacturer but also the federation and what style of bikini they like. Certain federations have rules on it so make sure you’re clued up on that so you don’t end up standing out for the wrong reasons on stage.”
Should You Make Eye Contact in a Bodybuilding Show?
Making eye contact when you’re on stage is an important momentary thing to do to flash your self confidence and be present in the moment. Emma was laughing though telling me of a time she was a judge at a show and someone really gave her intense eye contact for a prologed period of time and she found it a little awkward. So, if you don’t want to freak your judges out, make sure you break eye contact first!
What’s Next for Posing Pro Emma Hyndman?
Emma has been busy working on updating her existing tutorials along with putting content together for some new Wellness tutorials. There will be new standard Bikini tutorials which apply to PCA, NABBA, UKUP.
Something that’s really exciting though is that Emma is offering a stage coaching workshop (starting from 9th May) that’ll be hosted in an auditorium. It’s designed for athletes that are ready to go on stage, or have been on stage before, but need to master their craft a bit more. It’s not a posing workshop, it’s purely to perfect and be confident on stage. I would really recommend that you look into attending this if you haven’t had much stage experience yourself.
Emma Hyndman’s Top Tips:
- Download a tutorial
- Practice your lat activation
- Do your research to understand the criteria of your category and know the federation that you’re going into and what they expect.
- Watch past shows. Emma says, “there’s plenty of content out there now so people should really be educating themselves before they get in the studio.”
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