In previous articles about contest prep, I have stressed why there is a need to get a really good prep coach. Delving into that a little more, here are some guidelines to separate good vs bad coaches when considering which prep coach to use.
Track Record: Before selecting a coach, ask them about their track record with their own competitions and clients they have prepared. A good coach will have a list of referrals. If they competed themselves, they should be able to demonstrate they were successful in achieving the proper conditioning required. If the coach cannot get into shape for a his or her own show, that coach is not likely to get a client into shape.
Prep Program: Although there is a lot of tried-and-true approaches to a contest prep, everybody is unique due to their genetics, age, conditioning they are starting with, etc. A good coach is going to design and adjust a personalized program along the way. A bad coach is often going to just send their client a “cookie cutter” program. In some cases, there are prep coaches that hired a coach for themselves in order to compete and then recycle the program they got.
Questions: A clear differentiator between a solid coach and a poor one is the ability to happily answer questions. If they prescribe a certain meal plan or approach, they should be able to explain why they have chosen that course. If they cannot answer that question – or are defensive about being asked – that is a red flag. An excellent coach invites questions from their clients — for one thing, it means you are paying attention.
Availability: A good coach will need to be easily accessible. For much of the prep, a weekly check-in on progress and program modification based on the back progress is a given. In the final weeks and in the days right before and of the competition, they should be even more available to answer questions and make adjustments. That being said, there is a responsibility on the client end to not abuse that.
Natural/Enhanced: There are many competitions where there are no rules against, nor testing for, performance enhancing drugs. It is evident that many competitors in those competitions are taking such substances. As well, there are competitions that do test aimed at competitors who want to compete naturally. If you are natural, a good coach should be able to work with – and respect — that. People take PEDs since they have powerful side effects – and those effects make holding onto muscle while dieting, for example, easier. Competing naturally is often going to require someone who has experience prepping natural competitors.
On the flip side, if you have gone to the “dark side,” you should not be dabbling with powerful pharmaceuticals based on the advice from someone who has no experience on how to use them in ways that minimize the negative effects on health (cholesterol, liver function, etc.). Note: I am not endorsing the use of these substances; I just recognize some people use them. In some countries, the use of them is legal and they are available over the counter. Even in such cases, they need to be respected for the power agents they are. See my blog on that for some advice if you have decided on that path.
Progress Pictures: Taking pictures each week is the norm. This allows the coach to look at what progress has been made week over week by comparing pictures from the current week to the last week. Believe it or not, there have been reports – particularly by female clients – of a coach asking for those pics in the nude. Common sense says that is wildly inappropriate. Pictures of a client in a suit that they will wear on stage is all any coach needs to see. If asked otherwise, run.
Post Show: Any good prep plan should complete with at least a strategy and advice on what to do post-show. Prepping is an extreme activity to achieve an extreme result. Dieting out of a show properly is a must to avoid dangerous massive water retention right after a show or a large, unwanted fat gain in the weeks after a show.