I want to start off by saying that choosing a coach to help you diet down for a contest is not a necessity. Many people prep themselves and look great onstage; however, having someone give you an objective eye, keep you accountable, and teach you about the sport and the process of preparing to compete in it can be a valuable tool. However, one thing I have noticed lately is the fact that nearly everyone seems to be a prep coach these days. I think it is great that so many people are getting into the sport and want to help others achieve their goals; however, like anything there are good coaches, bad coaches, and coaches who fall somewhere in between. Therefore, it is important that anyone considering doing a competition and hiring a contest prep coach do their homework first to make sure they are working with someone who will help them reach their goals. Here are some things I would recommend asking about anyone you plan to work with:
How long has as the person been involved in the sport? Have they competed? If so, how many times? How have they done in their competitions? Winning competitions isn’t necessary to be a good prep coach (in fact there are some highly successful bodybuilders who are terrible prep coaches); however, it is always good to have someone who has been in your shoes, stepped onstage, and lives the lifestyle. It is also generally beneficial to find someone who has been around the sport for a while because they will have a better handle on the in’s and out’s of the sport rather than someone who has just recently.
Does this person have any type of education related to nutrition and/or exercise? Having this isn’t a make or break when it comes to being a good prep coach, but in general having an advanced degree in one of these areas is some indication the person has a solid background in the science related to this sport.
Former & Existing Clients
How have the person’s clients done in their competitions? Can you see any before/afters or client contest pictures? Have any clients written them testimonials? Even better yet, can you get the contact info of some of their current or former clients and talk with them about their experience? I personally think talking to some a coach’s clients is a very good thing to do. If the coach won’t let you talk to any current or former clients that should be a red flag.
What is the coach’s general approach to nutrition, training, cardio, and supplementation? How does this fit in with your approach? If this is different, ask why they chose to do things in a different way than you do them. If they don’t have an answer for why they are doing things in a certain way that is a red flag. Also, if you do not feel comfortable with how a coach approaches an aspect of prep, don’t hire them.
What sanctions do the coach and/or their clients compete in? If the coach and their clients primarily compete in untested contests and you are natural, ask them what their experience is working with naturals (and vice-versa). If they insist you compete in an untested contest as a natural without also pointing out other options for drug-tested shows or at least that drug-tested shows exist where the playing field is level for you, to me that is a red flag. In addition, if they insist you need to take drugs to compete and you don’t want to, that is a red flag.
How quickly are they responding to you after you contact them? Understand that everyone has a life and nobody should be expected to work 24/7, but it should not take a week for them to get back to you. This may be yet another red flag.
How do their rates compare with others who have similar coaching histories, educations, and client success? Being cheap or expensive does not mean one coach is better than another by any means; however, if a coach with very little contest experience themselves, no education, and not a whole lot of success with clients is charging more than someone who is a high-level bodybuilder, highly-educated with a number of accomplished clients, that should be a red flag.
How professional are your interactions with them? Again this may be another red flag if they are not professional.
How well do you feel your personality jives with theirs? Do they have any sort of phone, Skype, in person interactions with you prior to starting so that you can get a handle on this? This isn’t something that necessarily has to be done, but can be helpful in establishing a relationship with someone who you are going to put your trust in for the next several months.
With the number of coaches out there, it is important that every do their homework ahead of time to ensure that they are having a quality prep and coming in at their best show day. I’m not writing this to say “hire me, I’m awesome” and I always tell people who are inquiring with me to do their homework. If they feel I would be a good fit for them, I’m happy to work with them. If not, that is ok too so long as they are doing their homework on whoever they chose to work with so they can ensure they are being put in the best position possible to reach their goals and do it in a safe manner. I hope that at least someone out there finds this article helpful and that it helps prevent them from making a decision on a coach they will later regret working with.