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We have all heard them before. The contest prep horror stories people have told about their prep experience and their coach. There are a lot of good coaches out there, but unfortunately there are a lot of bad ones, too. Some coaches out there, even those that are well known, do not necessarily have the most ethical or even intelligent coaching practices. If someone has never competed before and are new to the industry, how are they supposed to know what to expect from their coach? Although this article is not a full inclusive list, these are the top three expectations every client should have of their prep coach.


This expectation, as obvious as it may sound, is huge when it comes to hiring a prep coach. Assuming a client has never competed before or is fairly new at competing, they aren’t going to understand a damn thing about the nutrition and training process and what it takes to compete. And guess what? A lot of coaches take full advantage of that ignorance. Below are some aspects of your prep that a coach should be completely transparent about.

Nutrition Plans

As a client paying for services, you have every right to ask your coach the WHY of everything. This is especially important when it comes to nutrition. Unfortunately, some coaches prefer their clients to follow everything blindly and not ask questions. This is doing the client a huge disservice in education and growth as a competitor. When a client receives their nutrition plan, it should state the macronutrients and calories of everything, plain and simple. If your coach hands you a piece a paper with a bunch of food on it and nothing else, it is most likely because they actually didn’t calculate the macros and calories themselves. They literally just gave you a pre-made plan that you paid them to “customize.”

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Every reputable coach I know will write everything out in black and white; there is no guessing. A client should receive a meal plan stating every macro, from every food, in every meal, and every calorie. Period. This is in part so the coach can keep track of everything and adjust accordingly. Like I said before, if you are not given that information, it is because the coach actually isn’t tracking anything. How can a coach track your progress if they actually have no clue what you are eating? They can’t. It turns into just a big guessing game. And I don’t know about you, but if you are jumping on stage half naked in front of hundreds of people, you better hope your coach isn’t just guessing.

Also on that note, if you ask your coach (from an education perspective, which I encourage) why you are eating certain foods or taking certain supplements, they should not be getting defensive. If you ask your coach the WHY behind your nutrition and they get defensive or mad that you even asked, you need to run for the hills and hire someone else. Defensiveness comes from their insecurity because they actually have no clue what they are doing and think you are catching on. Run. Run fast.

An educated and reputable coach in the field should have zero problems answering your questions and should be excited to educate their clients.

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Training Regimens

Similar to nutrition, your training plan should be laid out 100% and easy to understand. Your coach should be available to answer questions on how to perform certain exercises and send you videos if you are still unsure. You shouldn’t have to figure it all out on your own. With contest prep there will always be a learning curve clients will need to overcome, but that is what your coach is for. They shouldn’t be leaving you guessing.

Also, make sure you use common sense when it comes to your training. Contest prep training is definitely a unique beast, but if your coach has you doing two hours of cardio a day at 12 weeks out, you may want to think about that for a second. Does it sound realistic and make sense? Does it sound healthy? Pay attention to your body through this process and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Getting on stage is not worth destroying your body for the rest of your life. If it sounds crazy, it probably is.


For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you are a client who has chosen to work with an online prep coach (which a lot of people choose to do.) Your primary communication with them will probably be through email, with some texting and periodic phone calls. Their communication with you should be very specific and planned out. For example, most coaches prefer weekly updates via email from their clients on a specific date so they can adjust their plan accordingly on time. Assuming as a client you follow through with those deadlines, there are some aspects you should expect from you coach in return.

Plan Changes on Time

If your updates or plan changes take into effect every Monday, you should receive any changes well in advance. You shouldn’t receive a brand new meal plan Sunday night at 8 PM if you are expected to start first thing Monday. Again, assuming you sent your updates on time your coach should do the same. If you have adjustments to your meal plan, you should get it at least 24 hours in advance at the very least. 48 hours is preferable. This gives you an appropriate amount of time to buy and prep your food for the week.

Scheduled Appointments

It is your coach’s job to stay organized and schedule time with you accordingly. This could be anything from an in person training session, Skype posing session, or just a phone call to touch base. I have heard a number of accounts of coaches not showing up for training or constantly rescheduling posing sessions. This is extremely unprofessional and should not be tolerated by a client. Sure, there will times here and there where they may have to move things around but the communication should be clear and consistent. They shouldn’t be missing sessions with you or canceling with no notice.

Plan Specificity

A client should expect their coach to be specific and detailed when it comes to their plan. Like I said before, they should not leave you guessing or confused. If they are not 100% clear and you end up doing something incorrectly, that’s on them. Coaches should never assume anything when it comes to prepping a client, especially if that client has never done a show. How is the client supposed to know the difference between a figure suit and bikini suit? How are they supposed to know what HIIT stands for? Some don’t. And that is okay; it is the coach’s job to educate and lead them in the right direction. Assumptions made by a coach are usually due to laziness on their part. Communicating directly and simply is part of a coach’s job.

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Good Referrals

This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people hire coaches without having any referrals to back them up. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current or past clients of a coach and get their insight. Clients are a coach's walking resume. Would you ever hire someone without reading their resume? Probably not. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions about their experience.

Pros and Cons of a Large Clientele

When you are looking into hiring a coach, you will notice some coaches have a huge clientele base or even have additional coaches working for them as well. Absolutely no problem with this model; in fact, it is necessary once a coach hits a high number of clients. A pro to hiring a coach with a large clientele is that they didn’t develop a huge clientele base on accident. They probably know what they are doing and have a lot of experience. On the other hand, due to their work load ,they most likely do not have the time to dedicate per client as much as they would like. Therefore, beginners may fair better with a local coach or someone with a smaller clientele.

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Pros and Cons of a Small Clientele

One thing to note here: do not let a small clientele lead to the assumption they are a bad coach. Some of the best prep coaches I know have a client base of 10 or less at a given time. There may be many factors to this, such as having additional jobs or priorities. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their job; it just means it is not their bread and butter. It is typically more advantageous for a beginner to work with a coach of this nature so they get the attention they need. A downside is that typically working with a local coach or one whom has a smaller business, you may not receive the “prestige” some larger prep teams have in terms of reputation in the industry. I personally don’t find this to be a main concern, but it is for some so you need to consider it.

Look at Stage Pics with a Grain of Salt

A lot of potential competitors make the mistake of judging a coach’s expertise simply by the way their clients look on show day. Having the, “Oh, wow. I want to look like her! Her coach must but awesome!” mentality can be really detrimental. One of the most important aspects of dieting and training for a show is not actually how you end up looking on show day; it is HOW you got there in the first place. A coach can use very unhealthy methods to get their clients to show day, and they will probably look great. No doubt about it. That is why it is so important to actually speak to current and past competitors to understand their experience during prep and, more importantly, after. If a coach is using drastic measures to get their clients ready for the stage and all of them are rebounding and experiencing mental issues with food post show, you need to know that information. Like I said before, no show is ever worth destroying your body for. You need to make sure you hire a coach that has your health in mind first and foremost.

Although this is definitely not an inclusive list, I hope this article shed some light on what clients should be expecting from their prep coaches. Competing can be an awesome and rewarding experience as long as you do it right and have the correct coach for you in your corner. Also, feel free to reach out to all of us here at in the Q&A with any questions you may have on this topic. We have fantastic coaches associated with elitefts, and we all would be more than willing to lead you in the right direction. Take advantage of the resources here to ensure a Strong(er) show day!