NPC Path to IFBB Pro

To start, each and every federation has their own rules.  This is about the NPC Path to IFBB Pro.

So what exactly is going Pro? 

See people posting Pro Card Chasing, Road to Pro?  Depending on the National NPC Show you compete in, if you place in the top 2, top 1 or even top x out of the top x (ex: top 4 of the top 8) of some shows, you will earn a opportunity to join the elite team of professional bodybuilding and compete against the best in the entire world.

The IFBB (short for International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness)  is the professional league for all categories of bodybuilding. You can not compete in the IFBB without earning a Pro Card from the NPC in the USA.  You can however, enter into the IFBB from other countries, with their rules.  This article will focus on the USA.

So how do you get there:

In a nutshell:

  • Compete in a National Qualifier and place top 2 (Open Categories)
  • Compete in a Pro Qualifier and place in the qualifying winning position
  • Become an IFBB PRO

The National Qualifiers:

These are shows regionally (in your state or other states) that are advertised as a National Qualifier. You must place in the top 5 in Masters, or top 3 in an Open category to earn a national qualification. Once you earn a national qualification, you can compete in a Pro Qualifier show. You have to put on your application for the pro qualifier which place you won and what show it was in. The application process for the pro qualifier includes verifying your placing at that show you listed.

The cost for National Qualifiers are anywhere from $100 to $175 on the West coast. The entry fees in my experience, goes up every year a few dollars.  You must read the rules for each show. I sat down and spoke with a regional judge for a while backstage at a show I did in the previous year. He confirmed that if you place in the year of 2017, you can compete in a pro qualifier for the rest of 2017 and the full year of 2018. If you competed in 2016 and earned a national qualification, you can compete through the year of 2017. But you MUST earn another qualification in either 2017 or 2018, to compete in any pro qualification show in the year of 2018.

Your national qualification last for the rest of the year you earned it, through the next full year. So it’s always good to compete and place in at least 1, national qualifier each year, until you earn your pro status.

All official rules are here:

Who Qualifies for National Level Competitions?

Taken from
A competitor must place in the top two (2)  in their open weight class of the Men’s Open or in the top three (3)  in their     open weight class of the Women’s open division in a contest that has been sanctioned as a national qualifier.
–  First overall in an area championship of the open division.
–  Top two (2) in a open weight class from an area level national qualifier
–  Overall winner in a district level competition designated as a national qualifier.
–  Winner of the open weight class in a regional competition designated as a national qualifier.
–  Weight class winners from the Armed Forces.
1.This qualifies the competitor for competition on the national level for a period of one (1) full calendar year after the year that the qualification took place
2.Only if a competitor’s one (1) year qualification has expired can an athlete enter a state or higher level national qualifying competition even if they have already won the overall title.

The Pro Qualifiers: (There are 11 – for the 2018 year)


The Show/Month & City ~ Pro Card Winners
   * Arnold Amateur @ Arnold Sports Festival USA
(March / Columbus, OH)
Overall Winners of each class; Top 2 Overall in Men’s Physique & Bikini
National Wheelchair Championships
(March / West Palm Beach, FL)
Overall Winner of each class
*  Jr USA Championships
(May /Charleston, NC)
Top 4 Winners of all the 1st place winners
*  Jr National Championships
(June / Chicago, IL)
Top 1 of each class; Top 2 -Men’s Classic
Universe Championships 
(June / Teaneck, NJ)
Top 2 Winners of each class
*  Teen Collegiate & Masters National Championships
(July / Pittsburg, GA)
Top 1 Winner of each class
*  USA Championships
(July / Las Vegas, NV)
Top 2 winners of each class
*  North American Championships
(Aug/Sep / Pittsburg, PA)
Top 1 Winner of each class
*  Olympia Amateur @ Olympia USA
(September / Las Vegas, NV)
Top 2 winners of all the 1st place winners
*  Ben Weider Legacy Cup
(October / Edmonton, Canada)
Overall Winners of each class
*  National Championships
(November / Miami, FL)
Top 2 Winners of each class

Although it seems simple, for some, it’s a long road to pro.  The sport is gaining more and more popularity so that means more competitors, more competition and more development and overall symmetry.

To start the path, my advice would be plan out your year. First choose a Pro Qualifier show that you would like to shoot for your pro card. Then select which should be the first National Qualifier show you want to do before that show as to prepare you to ace the Pro Qualifier. For example, if you choose, the Jr USA Championship as your Pro Qualifier which is in May. You would want to choose a national qualifying show before that one to help you prepare. And depending on if you need a national qualification for that year, you may want two opportunities to earn a national qualification.

Tip 1With guidance (a trainer or well connected competitor) it’s a good idea to choose a competition in front of the same judges that will be at the national show.  It’s good to get feedback from the same judges that will be judging you in a national show.  At a national show, there are so many competitors, you may or may not receive feedback from any judges.

Tip 2: You can also go pro, if you come in 3rd?  HOW???  Well if you are in 3rd at a Pro Qualifier and the winners they picked for 1st and 2nd place, has already won a Pro Card in another category.  You will win yours because they have already won one.  You can only win one pro card! 

What you need to win to compete in a Pro Qualifier:

(some shows have more possibilities, but this is the least you need to compete)

For Bikini/Figure/Fitness/Men and Women’s Physique/Men and Women’s Bodybuilding Competitors:

Be among the top 5 in an OPEN NPC-sanctioned physique event designated as a national qualifying contest (no longer applies)

2018 rules say that you must be among the top 2 in an Open Class Men/ top 3 Women

You must be registered with the National Physique Committee

You must not be currently under suspension by the NPC

You must be a US Citizen or Legal Resident Alien


Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to compete in a national show.  It’s good to experience it to see where you stand against others with the same goals in mind.  I have seen first timers win, and bodybuilding veterans win after years of trying.  Whatever your goal or outcome, enjoy the journey and keep being an advocate for healthy living.

Tamara ~ MuscleBling

Visit MuscleBling!





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