Generation Iron Phil Heath Become a Bodybuilder

Beyond the weightlifting and onto the road towards pro status.

The IFBB and NPC have been wonderful organizations that not only host but promote bodybuilding competitions across the nation and the world. It provides the framework that eventually inspires young hopefuls to pick up the weights and start their journey towards a life of bodybuilding.

But what does it take to actually become a pro bodybuilder? Hard work of course – but what about the road beyond personal improvement? What is the process that takes you from a newbie at local shows to a pro standing on an IFBB pro stage? There can’t be a champion without humble beginnings – and so today we are going to the trace the path towards pro status and all the twists and turns every bodybuilder has to take.

Before You Start

Let’s start off with a fair warning. We do not mean to discourage – but to become a pro you need to have the genetics to go all the way. While hard work pays off, to reach that elite few one must have the perfect combination of hard work, talent, and genetics. But we aren’t here to tell you whether you are naturally good enough or not – so let’s move forward.

Getting That Pro Card

In order to become an IFBB Pro, a bodybuilder must earn an IFBB Pro card. In order to get the card, a bodybuilder has to win a regional contest weight class. This will earn them an invite into a national championship. Depending on the federation, if you win overall champion at the contest you will earn an IFBB Pro card.

So How Do You Get There?

Okay, so you think you have the genetics, the work ethic, and the drive – and now you know that you need a pro card. Where do you start? Experience is the key word here. You can work out in the gym more than anyone else in the world – but you need to get up on amateur and local stages to start building first hand experience with posing and judging. Not to mention it’s a great way to network with other competitors and sponsors.

This experience will help you develop skills on the less glamorous side of bodybuilding – shaving your body, oiling up, and tanning evenly. The kind of stuff you might not have thought about when you’re pumping iron in the gym. You will also slowly start to understand how your body reacts to dieting and stress in relation with the competitions themselves. You’ll start to look like you know what you’re doing. You’ll gain confidence. You’ll get other people to gain confidence in you.

Where Does the NPC Come In?

The NPC is a United States organization that is affiliated with the IFBB and can award pro cards to winners in the heavyweight and super heavyweight categories. There are three contests held by NPC where you can earn a pro card: The National Championships, North American Championships, and the USA Championships.

In order to enter in one of these three events you must do one of two things: place top five at a National Qualifier contest (This gets you an invitation into the North American Championship) or place top three at a National Qualifier (This gets you into the USA and National contests).

Almost There…

Alright, so now you are in the top three NPC competitions and hungry for that pro card. You can practically see it right in front of you. So how exactly do you get that card at one of these championships? For today, we are only focusing on the Men’s Bodybuilding division. Here’s an easy breakdown:

Who Gets a Pro Card

USA Championships:
Men’s Bodybuilding – Winners in all 7 weight classes.

North American Championships:
Overall winners of Masters Men Bodybuilding Over 35, Over 40, and Over 50.
Top 3 placers in the Overall of Open Men’s Bodybuilding and Masters Figure Over 35

National Championships:
Men’s Bodybuilding – Top 2 in each of the 7 weight classes

Competing Against the Best in the World

Congrats. You did it. You are now officially a pro bodybuilder. You now have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. Now that you hit pro, you can of course compete in pro events. If you place first in any of the IFBB Pro contests you automatically qualify to compete in Mr. Olympia. If you place between 2nd and 5th at a pro contest you will be rewarded points. At the end of the season, the top 5 athletes with the most points qualify to compete in Mr. Olympia. On top of that, the top 5 at last year’s Olympia automatically are qualified to compete the next year.

Here is a breakdown of the points you can earn at pro contests:


2nd – 8 Points
3rd – 7 Points
4th – 6 Points
5th – 5 Points


2nd – 6 Points
3rd – 5 Points
4th – 4 Points
5th – 3 Points


2nd – 5 Points
3rd – 4 Points
4th – 3 Points
5th – 2 Points


2nd – 4 Points
3rd – 3 Points
4th – 2 Points
5th – 1 Point

If you get into the top 5 for points, you are now officially in the Mr. Olympia competition. One of the best in the world. As you can see, it’s a long and bumpy road. You have to pay your dues – over and over again. The road to pro status isn’t a highway, a road you can cruise down and quickly get off whenever you want. This can’t be stressed enough – bodybuilding is a lifestyle. In order to get pro status this has to be your life. It’s like rising to the top at any job – you can’t have sick days; you can’t just do the expected; you have to stand out – appear perfect.


It’s a tough road but an exciting one. Do you think that you can walk down that road? Pump your way up to the top? Let us know in the comments section or share your inspiring stories on Facebook and Twitter. Good luck and stay pumped.

GI Team
The GI Team is here to provide top news and original content for the new generation. The generation of bodybuilders who are pushing the sport to bigger and better places. Join The Movement. Become a part of Generation Iron!