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Contest Prep “Coaches”

Coach shaking clients hand

Every Joe and Jane is a contest preparation coach

Coach Ingrid Geelong PT and Two Clients
Ingrid, Stephanie Sanzo and Emma Wheatland

This is one of the many reasons I left the thick of the bodybuilding industry.

What is it with people wildly declaring themselves that they are a preparer of trainee’s for competition? Wow these coaches are as prevalent as chest implants in a bikini division.  There are girls and guys who sign up do a show or two, win a trophy, even an Overall and next thing they are offering their services as a glorified contest prep coach. Granted – I get that these said people may have an amazing physique. They may have serious potential to be the next Ms. Australia. They may have learned SO SO much from their journey to stage. Therefore, they are excited, and passionate. I get all that. But sorry – that just doesn’t, nor shouldn’t qualify you to take on a client and prep them for a similar journey through your ‘expertise’. This does so much disservice to the fitness consumer and to our industry as a whole. I wish there was a way to circumvent this.

I know I could pick a credible coach by being blindfolded and having them talk me through their why I should select them to be my coach. That way, I wouldn’t be using their body to influence me (which I wouldn’t anyway) – but let me tell you, I could pick a fraud in less than a nano –second, and I would love to “out” them at a second’s chance. You know, a bit like how the voice chooses their contestants for the show. Hide the ‘look’ and listen. Much can be said for this approach.

Now days with choosing a coach it’s more like the X Factor – there is also an element of ‘marketability’ in the decision. My coach is blalah and blah and this is what they look like. Aren’t they great? They have won x, y and z. I will look maybe not like them exactly, but I reckon I will get close to it. And if they charge an arm and a leg, I reckon they must be super-duper special and their service will be amazing.

A Little Contest Coaching Research…

Just for shits and giggles – something I rarely do due to lack of interest and lack of time; I perused a few Australian websites on the weekend. Yes, I was interested to see how some ‘with a good name’ market themselves….

You know sentences like “You’ve seen my own incredible conditioning on stage – if you are a figure competitor, wouldn’t you love to know how to get those shredded legs?” smacks of ego and demonstrates not one iota of an example of great coaching in my book…… (Interestingly I congratulated this girl on her ‘great physique’ in season B last year and was rewarded with a huge sneer of her nose……now she wouldn’t have known me from a bar of soap but I was disappointed and guess  I learned a bit about her that day!)….I have written and blogged an awful lot about ‘being nice; back stage and always treating people with humility…..Anyway, I digress….

Honestly – these girls and guys need to have a really good hard look at themselves and what they are selling – to me they are selling a bag of falsehoods and also selling out their values and ethics. I don’t know what for – is it money? Fame? Getting a ‘reputation’?

On-Line Contest Prep

As for on-line contest prep coaches well…. The proliferation of online contest coaches is largely due to some combination of:

  • The well-intentioned desire to diversify their business model as a personal trainer
  • Their inability to keep themselves busy with in-person clients
  • Their dissatisfaction with their current training arrangement
  • Or……Thinking it’s an easy way to make some extra cash

I believe the thinking is “hey I’m good with people in-person, but why should I limit myself to people that are within driving distance of where I train?  HEY EVERYBODY, I DO ONLINE PRO COACHING TOO!!!”

Is Domain Knowledge Everything?

Interestingly – a great coach is also not the complete all round fitness expert. Nope they are not. Even though this individual may know endless amounts of facts and figures and important useful science driven facts about bodybuilding and contest preparation a fantastic coach is leadership and all the elements contained within the broadest definition of this word. Therefore, domain knowledge is not everything.

Knowledge Diagram
How to choose a contest prep coach

Huh, Ingrid what do you mean, knowledge is not everything? Well of course it’s important. Without a strong understanding of the major components of nutrition, strength and conditioning, anatomy, physiology and the like you cannot be a good coach. But what I am saying is that knowing things like:

-changes in sweat mineral concentrations after heat acclimatizing when training bicep curls in a commercial gym setting


  • Relationship between maximal squat strength and rear delt fly strength and
  • A complete understanding of neurocontrol training programs to reduce lower extremity injury risk

Is not going to make or break you as a fantastic and successful contest prep coach. You know what I am saying?

The job of a coach is far more diverse than this. It never boils down to ‘how much do you know’? Thus, I will say it again – domain knowledge aka what you know about the sport is just a part of coaching….coaching is far more about doing, not knowing.

Athlete’s vs Coaches: Opposites Attract

‘Great athletes make the worst coaches, with very rare exception’

The mindset of a great athlete is the exact opposite of the mindset of a great coach. They are diametrically opposed!

  • The mind of an athlete says, “I don’t care what it takes, I’ll die if I have to.”
  • The mind of a Coach says, “We are in for the long haul, so we are going to pay attention to everything including personal care, rest and recovery.”

Coaches don’t win battles, they win wars.

What Is Great Contest Preparation Coaching?

 Great coaches get higher than average results out of their athletes — with lower-than-average injury rates, burnout rates, metabolic damage and metabolic adaptation.

They do this by being smart.

Real coaches always et the bar VERY high

  1. Teach you exactly how to reach that bar
  2. Keep you in the driver’s seat, they remain the passenger
  3. Pull you back so that you don’t kill yourself in the process
  4. Don’t give generic diets. Ever. Nor training programs for that matter.

Real coaches do NOT:

  • Become your external motivation
  • Scream and yell about everything under the sun
  • Tell you to ‘suck it up princess, follow the diet and stop complaining.’
  • Pedal you drugs

Coaching IS teaching.

In my opinion, you can’t be a great coach unless you first learn how to teach. This is no doubt one of the reasons I wanted to coach. Because I love teaching. SO much so that after I got my Bachelor of Human Movement I went off and did my Dip Ed. When I did my teaching prac, I was offered a job and stayed on to teach year 8 PE, SOSE, Thinking Skills, VET – Sport and Rec, and Year 12 Human Growth and Development. I love teaching – only problem is it didn’t pay well!!

A Coaches Job Is NOT To Motivate Your Athletes

You will never be a great bodybuilder, fitness or figure athlete if you need a trainer/coach to yell at you. Motivation comes from within. There is no way to change that.

Teaching someone how to be strong — on the INSIDE — is hard work. But that is your real job. If you are the “yelling” coach, you are failing.

How To Pick a Good Coach?

Never, never, NEVER choose a coach based upon what they did as an athlete!

Seriously. No, I am sorry hiring (insert IFBB pro name here________________) who has won (insert comp name here___________) and has 100,000 Instagram followers does not mean that you get a) great advice, b) what you pay for, c) fabulous service d) genuine care, d) tailored, individual plans based around your lifestyle and goals that will get you to stage in a healthy, enthused, conditioned and optimal manner.

My Disappointing Contest Coach Research

On the weekend I actually had a conversation with someone who emailed a VERY WELL-KNOWN Australian pro who has prepped many girls to stage. What was the process? The process was sign up, make the payment, and send your photos.

So said client said “yes but don’t you want to see my current diet”?

Pro trainer: “no, just send me your photos”

Client: “How about my training program, my medical, my snapshot of a typical day?”

Pro trainer: “No the photos will do.

And then, this lady proceeded to give me in hard copy her diet. But her friend who was with her, also passed me her diet – and guess what. Yes, they were exactly the same. Now I took a few minutes to look at the two diets carefully. I thought… “well benefit of the doubt….perhaps the grams of food are slightly different, perhaps the supps are slightly different, perhaps the macros are tweaked….even maybe the “notes” section was different. Alas no. Word for word, gram for gram.

And this gorgeous, lean and conditioned woman is an idol of many. Sorry but this makes me feel very cross and rather sad. It’s really uncool and discredits her in my eyes and again our industry as a whole. Just not good enough….but I suppose a fast way to make a buck.

A Great Coach Physique Means Naught To Me

Hot bodybuilding girl
What You Really Need To Know

It may be true that your coach had (or currently has) some an admirable physique. But that has NOTHING to do with their abilities as a coach.

  • What are they able to do WITH OTHER PEOPLE?
  • What are they able to do with people JUST LIKE YOU?
  • These are good questions to ask:
  • Do they know how to train beginners?
  • Do they know how to take someone UP to the national level starting at nothing? (Rather than recruiting people who are already good)
  • Can they keep them for between 1 and 3 years as a client? 5 would be even better as that is a real relationship showing the test of time between coach and athlete….
  • How many people have they done that with?
  • Can you honestly imagine liaising with this person for the next 5+ years? On a really honest and open level. About all facets that may directly or indirectly affect your contest goals?

Honestly, my advice is often to choose someone who is rather new to coaching, but is passionate about TEACHING — especially about teaching people just like you. What they lack in deep experience will be MORE than made up for in honestly, dedication, and passion.

Coaches are supposed to be educators

The key is their interest in the art of teaching. If they have that, it will trump everything else. Trust me they really will. And as much as it is hard to believe, comp prep is not all about superior knowledge. Absolutely it is important….

What you MUST watch out for is the Athlete Mindset. If they are constantly in “bro mode” while coaching you, you are going to pay the price.

Most new coaches only know how to be an athlete, and they think that yelling louder and pushing you harder is where success comes from. They only know a good copy and paste for their willy nilly diet plans and ad hoc approach to cutting calories.

They won’t suffer for that — you will.

Ask the right questions, look for more than a pretty body. Be mindful that coaching is a talent in and of itself and take your time in choosing the person that is going to help you path a way to step on stage.

I will write a further article on this with a list of questions that you should always include before signing on with someone, but that is for another a day…..

Comment ( 1 )

  • Codey Elmsmith

    There was so many good bits of information in this article, some of which I had never considered. Great information Ingrid thanks for sharing.

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