How to Find a Great Online Coaching

Back Story

This article came about due to a number of women competitors, reporting their stories metabolic damage, or metabolic slowdown from prepping for as little as one show.  

They were miserable, post show. Miserable to the point of hiding the fact that they ever stepped on stage. 

These coaches gave what could be considered a cookie cutter, one size fits, most, bro-science bodybuilding style contest prep plans.

The formula is the same.  Overtrain, the competitor, HIIT, twice daily trainings, cardio in excess of 2 hours per day, low calories, low fats, and low carbs diet, for weeks at a time.  

This ultimately was the formula for disaster.    

Post show, girls would gain, upwards of 20, 30, 40+ lbs, and no amount of diet, or restriction could get their weight back down. In fact, any time, they tried calorie restriction their scale weight went back up.

This article is to help guide you to find your best coach, and the most qualified coach to step onstage, in a strong lean, healthy body, and be able to return to your normal life, once the stage lights fade.

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The definition of “coach“from —>“a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes”

Definition of “trainer” – from —>
1.  a staff member on an athletic team who gives first aid and therapy to injured players.
2.  a person who trains athletes; coach

At the time of writing, I perceived, them to be very similar. Trainer=Coach.  Perhaps it is just semantics or arguing over the finer points of true definition trainer vs coach.

I often sense that the word ‘coach’ itself should hold some higher value than simply ‘trainer’.   In French, trainer and coach is the same word – entrainer.

Evolution of Contest Prep Coaching

Back in the day, there were no ‘prep coaches’ as it is referred to today.  

Many back in the early days of fitness and bodybuilding, the majority of us competing did not have coaches/trainers.  

It was your friend, or a friend of a friend who would guide you, however, they were not hired to specifically do just that – get you ready for the stage.  

We [the competitor], read a lot, the information came mainly from magazines, or we bounced ideas off of each other, asking about what worked for you, had discussions, and tried new things.  

In those early years, I must admit I would have benefitted from someone showing me how, rather than me trying to ‘trial and error’ my way to the stage, or repeating something I saw in a magazine.

The idea of ‘contest prep coach’ evolved to where they ONLY guided the competitor on training & the nutrition.  

Nowadays, contest prep coaches now could include anything that would be under the umbrella ‘contest prep‘. Including but not limited to, all things presentations, such as posing, makeup, bikini/suit selection, hair, shoes, tanning, and jewelry selection.  

From trainer, we have now evolved into a coach, that can mentor, and guide the competitor on all aspects of the competition journey, from the start, training and nutrition, to all aspects of the final presentation, and stepping onstage.    

Sure there are those coaches who just continue to do training & nutrition, and leave the posing/presentation to another coach – called a posing coach.  There are also teams of competitors, in which a coach or team of coaches guide a number of clients to the stage.

Train. Coach. Educate.

I train people in my gym.  I educate them about training and nutrition. I coach physique clients to step onstage.

The definition when it comes to coaching in the physique enhancement business, I will define coach as someone who trains people through programs and willingly teaches their clients (or athletes, physique competitor) proper nutrition and training protocol if required.

In essence they are willing to explain –‘why’, when asked.  

I will not say ‘required’, as some clients just don’t care about the finer details – they just want to be told what to do.

Other clients, have oodles of questions, and always want to know why – and a great coach should be using those moments as ‘teachable moments’, instead of just ‘do as I say’ and don’t question me or the process.  (if they cannot explain to you why…this is a red flag…and well, another blog post entirely)

In the world of competitive fitness and related divisions (bikini, bodybuilding, figure, figure model, etc) there might be a need for a trainer or coach to help guide you to your physique goals.  That is losing body fat and/or gaining muscle.    

I have trained myself for my own shows for over 10 years, without help of a coach or trainer.   I have the formula that works for me, but it would have nice to have someone in my corner, guiding me to the stage.   Through some informative conversations online, I found a trainer/coach and they helped me with my physique and added knowledge to my toolbox.

As for the criteria I use to find a great coach, it is not so much about what they can do for my physique, but what I can learn from them as a coach/mentor.   As I coach clients, so I want to be able to improve my coaching abilities.

A coach can help support you into an event or show. They design your nutritional strategy, and/or training plan. Individuals who just want to ‘lose a few’ can also benefit from hiring someone with experience in this area.

Finding a good coach = trainer + teacher, can be quite a task.

If you are a newbie where do you start?   If you are intermediate, looking to get to the next level and perhaps have outgrown your current coach – how do you go about finding a new one?

Visual results are usually what drive people to good trainers and/or coaches.  I mention trainers, as there are some who can whip people into shape but really don’t want to explain why, making them great at training, but not so great at the teaching part.   It does not mean that they are not the right fit for you, just don’t expect to learn very much.

A good coach should be ‘results oriented’ as that is the job they do. The means to get to the results should be considered.

There is no way of knowing 100% for sure, of what you will be signing up for when you hire someone to guide you through your prep.  It is a risk you take the first time, trying to find the right fit for you.  

There are, however, some important criteria that all GREAT coaches exhibit.

Here are some key points to consider when hiring an online coach or trainer.


Do they get results with their clients?

You would not be looking into them as a coach if they didn’t however, there might be a few clients out there who did not get results – ask about that.  Often only the ones who succeed, get featured on social media and websites, instead of the ones who did not make it to the stage.

Sustainable results

What do their clients look like in the off season?
What about 1-2 weeks after the show?
Are their clients able to maintain their results as a lifestyle?
What do their bodies look like 2 weeks after a show, 3 months later, 6 months later, or even a year?

Their clients, bodies pre and post-show, should not look like two completely different people. 


How long have they been training clients?
How long have they been training competitors?
How many bodies have they worked on?

There is no cut off, to say here, is a X number of clients they should work with prior to becoming a contest prep coach.  However, it should be more than, just have competed, stepped off stage, and now they are training clients for shows.


What kind of education do they have?
Do they upgrade/renew their certifications?
Do they read every day/every week?
Do they attend conferences, workshops in order to better their skill set?

Information is constantly changing in the industry and your coach should remain up to date, on the latest information. 

Personal Fitness

Do they train?
Are they in shape?

They don’t have to be in stage-ready shape or even have ever set foot on the stage,  however, having some experience with the process (including the diet) goes a long way to support their knowledge base.

They need to look the part, and they need to be healthy.  


What type of training are they known for?
What type of client do they train on regular basis? 

If they are known for coaching baseball, or football, they are probably not a reliable coach for competition prep or body fat loss.  Your coach, should be knowledgeable, to design, and help you implement a plan, that is going to get you the results you desire.


Although this could be biased based on whose information you receive, the coach should be more than willing to give you previous clients in order to speak to about their services, and experience. 

Many times coaches will have testimonials on their site which gives you are start point. 

Be aware that this ‘portfolio’ of their best work.


Do you feel heard?
Do their previous clients feel heard?
Do they answer your emails/texts properly?
What is their tone they take with you?  

Many times girls just brush off curt, and rude responses, as the personality of the coach, however, having a good client/coach relationships should be empowering, not draining. 

If they talk down to you or call you names, this is not the coach for you. No matter how knowledgeable they seem if they don’t treat you with respect, there is always someone else who can help you.  

They should answer all your concerns, and not just pick and choose what information matters.


Are they considerate of your schedule?
Do they send update in an appropriate amount of time?

They answer your message, chat, text, email, in a timely manner. Previously, 24-36 hour response time, was appropriate, however, with technology, by the end of the work day is a good guideline.  

I have office hours, in which if you text/message me during that time you are more likely to get a response.  If you text me at 2 am, perhaps not so much.  

Your coach most likely has a life outside of coaching, so you should communicate when would be the best time to ensure a prompt response.  


How do they measure, assess or track progress?

This should be weekly or biweekly, or sometimes as little as every 3rd day. They should be taking measures, photos, and weight or body fat measures. 

Although all are not measures are necessary daily, or even weekly, your coach should be tracking your progress in a manner, which is reliable. 

If you are prepping for a show or even a special event you need to know if you are making progress or not. 

Tracking some of these variables will help to see, or not see the progress.

Post-show Support

What kind of guidance do they offer post-show?
Is it included in their services? 

You may think you are able to go back to regular eating habits, however, this transition easier for some than others, and having someone there is support you through it at least for 4-8 weeks post show might be something to budget into your show expenses.

You don’t know you need it until you need it.

There is no shame in saying – “I need help with this”.
You may need more time to feel like you are back to ‘normal’.


Great coaches always want you to be your best, and strive towards achieving what you never though you could.


Let's chat + see how my approach to fat loss is different.

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Original Post 18 November 2011
Updated 20 April 2018
Update 11 May 2021


Does this coach get sustainable results?

How do their off-season competitive clients look like?

Are they respectful and answer all emails/texts in a timely manner?

Do they have a positive relationship with their clients?  In season, and off-season?

Do they upgrade, or continue their fitness education?  

Are they old school, or have a handle on new school training methods?

Do you feel heard, understood and supported or are you just another number on their team?

Written by Allison Ethier
Allison Ethier, is a wellness lifestyle & body coach, IFBB Fitness Pro, and mom & coffee lover. She provides structured training, and flexible nutrition, to guide everyday athletes, to move better, build strength, and feel good in their own skin. B.Sc, B. Edu, NSCA-CPT, ISSN, PN1
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