Some of us dream about standing in a spotlight in front of a crowd of people showing off all the hard work we’ve put in at the gym (and in the kitchen).

Every year, more and more women are drawn to fitness competitions, each with her own unique reasons for getting up onstage.

For some, it’s the culmination of a long journey into fitness that started with trying to lose weight and be healthier. For others, it’s the chance to prove to themselves that they are as strong inside as outside, while some people just like a fresh challenge.

No matter what the reason, you may be contemplating entering a fitness competition in the coming months, and we’re here to help you get there!

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We enlisted the aid of Shannon Dey and Gennifer Strobo, the brains behind Bombshell Fitness. Dey, a health and fitness specialist with an M.S. in exercise science and a Ph.D. candidate in sports psychology, founded Team Bombshell in 2007 as a fitness-focused platform for women.

She quickly realized the need for a comprehensive training program that helped women pursue their lifestyle and fitness goals, including fitness competitions. Strobo, a nine-time IFBB figure champion and nine-time Olympia competitor, is one of Team Bombshell’s most popular coaches and a certified nutritionist. (Find more information about Bombshell Fitness at bombshellfitness.com.)

Although this guide can help you get started with any fitness competition goal, it’s tailored for women who want to compete in the bikini division, which is a good starting point for many females, says Dey. In addition to a comprehensive workout and diet plan, you’ll also find tips and advice on everything from what to pack for the show to how to pick a suit that will show off your best assets.

The program is designed to start a minimum of 12 weeks before a show. You may want a little more time to clean up your diet and build up your fitness, depending on your needs. It’s definitely not an easy task ahead, so it’s important to get yourself mentally prepared, says Dey. But ultimately you’ll find out exactly how powerful you are. “You learn dedication, discipline and an inner strength that you can apply to almost any other part of your life,” she adds. “And you will learn a lot about yourself along the way.”

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