A Physique Athlete’s Guide To Using The Mirror For Posing Practice

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For physique athletes – bodybuilders, fitness competitors, muscle models – the mirror can be either a valuable tool or a dangerous trap.


Yep.  Bodybuilders are often accused of being narcissistic.  This comes from the Greek legend of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection and was so enamored that he wouldn’t leave it… and stayed there until he died.


So if you can avoid the trap of falling in love with your own reflection :) the mirror can be a good way to compare yourself with yourself.

Consider this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger: “You do look at your body in a mirror, not because you are narcissistic, but because you are trying to check your progress.  It has nothing to do with being in love with yourself.  She would never have told one of the track stars he was in love with himself because he had someone check his speed with a stopwatch.  It just happens that the mirror, the scales, and the tape measure are the only tools a bodybuilder has for determining his progress.

The tips below will help you progress with using a mirror while avoiding the pitfalls:

A Mirror Will Help You Overcome Shyness

Whether on stage or in front of a camera, shyness shows itself as hesitation and uncertainty, both of which will detract from your physique.

For all sorts of reasons, many physique athletes find it hard to face a mirror while checking out their bodies or practicing their posing.

Sometimes it’s a fear of being seen as a narcissist, sometimes it’s hesitation to see flaws, sometimes it just seems like a lot of work to practice posing (when it really makes all the difference!).

Find somewhere private with a mirror and fight your inner demons until you can comfortably practice posing.

arnold biceps blaster bodybuilding

Avoid Becoming Mirror Dependent

Posing is much easier in front of a mirror than without one – you can make sure you’re flexing every muscle and presenting yourself to best advantage.

The problem is that you won’t always be in front of the mirror.  On stage or at a photoshoot, you’re flying solo and need to know how to flex and pose yourself without mirror feedback.

Practice your poses (and competition routine) away from the mirror.  Maybe video record these sessions so you can spot any bad habits (examples: rushing, not smiling, leaving some muscles loose) and fix them before they become engrained.

Don’t Get Down On Yourself

Don’t worry that your body isn’t perfect yet… no one’s is!

Everyone can improve on size, definition, symmetry, something.  Don’t get down on yourself because you aren’t perfect yet.

The mirror is there so you can accurately judge yourself, it’s hard to be objective, but you must.

Focus on the value of improving your posing with each session and congratulate yourself on your progress.  Whip up motivation and desire before each practice session.

difference between women and men in the mirror posing

Practice In Private

A private posing room complete with perfect lighting and mirrors is a rare luxury.  All too often physique athletes just have an empty aerobics studio or a full length mirror in their bedroom.

Whatever you have, do most of your posing sessions in private or just with your coach.  You don’t need the distraction of other people around you and the subconscious awareness of their judgement affecting you.

A private area to practice your posing is essential.

spiderman posing in mirror

The Essentials: Mirrors, Lights, And Space

A full length mirror is mandatory for your practice.  I always joke that fat people only have mirrors from the neck up in their houses.  A small mirror won’t allow you to accurately assess your whole body.

An angled mirror to help with your side and back poses is a great tool to have.  Many professionals have special posing practice mirrors set up in their home gyms.

You need enough space to move and practice the transitions in your posing routine.  Never forget that you need to present yourself at your best between poses as well.

If you’re in a cramped space with a small mirror (like a bathroom), you’ll feel and be inhibited and cut your movements short.  And if that’s how you practice, that’s how you’ll perform.

Lighting is another issue.  An overhead spotlight that lights both your torso and legs is the minimum.

Don’t use too harsh of light as it will cause your bodyfat to appear magnified, and too diffuse of light will cause you to seem smaller and less muscular.

bodybuilder in front of mirror

In conclusion, use these tips to help keep your ego in check, shed your posing shyness, and prepare you to show your physique like a champion.

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