From time to time I see bodybuilders posing faux pas – facial expressions, gestures, and acrobatics, in particular – that either detract from their routine or add nothing to it which begs the question of why they do it in the first place.

One of the most common gaffes occurs almost exclusively among male competitors. I don’t think I have ever seen it with a female competitor, so it must be some kind of macho, hard-ass kind of thing – usually when they are doing the crab most muscular pose. They lean forward at the waist, press their hands together, flair their traps – so far, so good. But then they grimace or purse their lips together as if they are constipated or attempting a 1000 pound squat. Sometimes they hold their breath until their face becomes beet-red, the veins in their forehead start to bulge, and they look like they are going to explode.

Relax, guys. Unbelievably, you can flex without making faces. It’s called muscle control. Trust me, if you can flex your biceps without looking like you are in pain, you can do a crab most muscular without all the facial contortions. It isn’t necessary and does absolutely nothing to enhance the pose. In some cases, it might even cause the audience (and the judges) to focus on your face rather than your physique waiting to see if you pass out.

Another faux pas – but not as common – is when contestants transition from one pose to the next and lose their balance. This usually happens when they haven’t practiced their routine, attempted an awkward or unorthodox pose, or trying to transition too quickly. Their legs get tangled up as they move from one pose to the next, and they stumble around the stage like a drunken sailor trying to right themselves. Sometimes they even fall.

I remember judging a contest in Cincinnati, OH, in the late 1960s when the contestants were posing on the top level of an old set of wooden bleachers during the prejudging for their individual routines. Everything was going fine until one of the novice bodybuilders – a slender, long-legged fellow – spun around about 180 degrees from a front double biceps to a back double biceps pose, lost his balance on the narrow plank and fell about 6 feet to the ground. He jumped right back to his feet, shaken and embarrassed but unhurt, and climbed back up on the bleachers with a stupid grin on his face. It was funny at the time (once he got back up, of course), but I don’t think the promoter used bleachers again after that.

And, speaking of awkward or unorthodox poses, the top pros usually don’t do them – period. The same goes for handstands, cartwheels, backflips, pushups, and other gymnastic moves. It might demonstrate your athleticism, but so what? What does it have to do with bodybuilding? The audience is there to look at your physique and, unlike the old days (and I mean OLD days) when the AAU awarded athletic points as part of your overall score, it won’t influence the judges anyway. If you decide to add something athletic to your individual routine anyway for the purpose of entertainment, think twice about it and be careful you don’t break your neck. Despite the best intentions of contest promoters to keep the stage wiped down, it can still be slippery from perspiration and other body oils, and the landing can be hard, painful – and embarrassing.

Remember, it’s the little things that count. You have just one chance to make a favorable impression on the judges, and everything you do contributes to that impression, good or bad. Make it count.