So you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin preparing for your first bodybuilding show. While you could go at it alone (and there are some that are successful with this approach), you may feel more comfortable with an expert guiding you along the way. Ideally, your coach has a good sense of the judging criteria for your division and can shape you to fit that aesthetic, customizes your diet and workout program to best suit your physical attributes, and keeps you accountable. Your coach serves as a set of objective eyes – they’ve been through this process before with numerous clients, so they can accurately assess whether you’re on target. They know what “12 weeks out” or “8 weeks out” looks like, and how to adjust your plan to ‘dial you in’ during peak week, the week leading up to competition day.
If you’re reading this, chances are that Google has failed you. I know when I first began my search in 2016, I looked up “[location] NPC bikini coaches” and found a handful of websites. Most of these coaches weren’t even in my area. The coaches that were nearby were way out of my budget. Most of the time, when I contacted these remote coaches, they didn’t even bother responding to my email inquiry. I also had no idea of knowing who was “good.”
It turns out all of the contest prep coaches are on Instagram, and many coaches are remote. They have accounts dedicated to showing off client progress. It took some trial and error, but I found my prep coaches through word-of-mouth. I found competitors on Instagram that placed well in competitions and were aesthetic, and then asked them who their coach was and why they liked them (search #npc[your state] and #npc[division] if you have no leads on current competitors). I asked a lot of questions. For example:
- How often do you communicate with your coach (text, email, phone)? Do you feel comfortable being honest about how the week went?
- Does your coach stick to a strict meal plan, or do they recommend macro-based approach?
- Are they exclusively keto/low-carb?
- How often does your coach re-evaluate your progress?
- Does your coach know about your short term and long term goals? How does s/he help you reach them?
- Is your coach willing to be realistic with you about your progress and what needs to be done to reach your goals? Does s/he sugar coat things?
- Do they only offer 12/16 week packages, or are they month-to-month?
- Is your coach’s approach backed by science?
- Does your coach push supplementation – both legal and illegal?
- Does your coach care about your long-term health, ensuring that you don’t rebound post-show?
(This list is pretty comprehensive, but please do let me know in the comments if you think of anything else that should be asked!)
As I’ve found out, there are many “cookie cutter” coaches out there that are just in it for the money and get complacent – they don’t get to know their clients’ bodies or minds, and put everyone on a similar protocol. Sure, there might be a common beginning point for training and coaching new competitors, but you and your coach should ideally learn how your body responds to certain stimuli, and then adjust accordingly. For example, depending on your starting physique, a rigid, set period like 12 weeks may not be enough time to bring a competitive package to the stage.
Also, everybody is different and may respond better to one approach than another. The coaches you may be looking at may have impressive resumes and clients – a tremendous amount of Pro Cards, for example – but that same coach may not work for you for a litany of reasons. And that’s perfectly okay! The coach-client relationship is that requires some sort of connection; your coach will be there for you when you’re in the absolute depths of prep and emotionally vulnerable, wondering why you chose to put yourself through this hell in the first place. As sappy as it sounds, you deserve a coach that cares about you and your well-being. You deserve open and honest communication about how you’re progressing. Yes, your coach is a professional and their knowledge should be respected, but remember that s/he is working for you so that you can meet your goals – that’s a non-negotiable.
Got a topic you want me to discuss? Drop it in the comments below.