Do I really need a coach for a bodybuilding competition?

Q: Do I really need a coach for a bodybuilding competition? If so, when do I actually need one because that is a lot of money to spend in the “offseason” isn’t it?

A: If you want just to compete in a bodybuilding competition and do pretty good, no…you do not need a coach. If you want to compete in a smaller federation where softer physiques are the norm and competition might not be as fierce, you may not need a coach.

But, if you want to be “competitive” and deliver your “optimal physique” whether you’re standing on a small stage or a national stage against 1,000 other competitors showcasing their optimal physique then YES, absolutely 100% get a coach.

Here is something else to consider, and I’m sure it’ll ruffle some feathers. Don’t waste time, effort and money with a personal trainer. BIG MISTAKE. I am an NASM Certified Personal Trainer myself, and I thought I knew how to get someone ready (myself) to compete because of my certification and working as a trainer.

I was wrong.

Trainers are wonderful, for general health purposes. They provide a fantastic service for those who want to get fit, get in shape and improve overall health. That’s all well and good, but that is not what you need if you want to deliver a competitive physique on stage.

My husband is also an IFBB Pro and coach and we used to argue about the way to train folks for bodybuilding competitions. It wasn’t until I started training for a show myself a couple of years ago that I had to swallow my pride and admit he was right and have since changed my thought process and the way I do things. I transitioned from “trainer” to “coach” myself.

Trainers do not have the knowledge to prepare someone for the stage, you need a coach to do that. You need a coach to help develop your overall physique to deliver your absolute best on stage…an “Optimal” physique.

You need someone with experience in identifying your strengths and weaknesses for stage purposes. Someone with a trained eye and an experienced eye. Someone who understands how you respond to carbs, sodium and other “variables”, which is crucial come Peak Week time. Someone who will individually build your workout program and nutrition based on aesthetics, balance and symmetry.

You someone who can DO THIS ALL while keeping your health a priority, and keeping it in check.

Not to mention, all the information above will be considered “data” that will be captured over the time you spend with your coach, as a necessary component to put together your contest prep program/nutrition plan and this “data” is priceless.

Look, a competitor’s physique is not built during prep. Prep is to “peel and preserve” what was built during the offseason. What I mean is, Prep is to peel the body fat layersoff, and preserve as much muscle mass in return so when you step on stage you will be showcasing the “Grand Reveal” of all your hard work and effort that you put in during the offseason. And that hard work and effort needs to be under the guidance of someone who specializes in doing just that, a Physique Coach.

Unfortunately, too many competitors think that they need a coach after they reach a certain level of leanness or muscularity but the hard truth is that you leave a lot of gains on the table when you don’t have a coach help you do the building. Even the best coach can only get you to look as good on stage as your offseason allows. If you didn’t focus on the right body parts, from all the required angles and/or created imbalances, that is all going to show as a great big flaw for the judges to critique, regardless of how low someone cuts your calories or how many hours of cardio they prescribe.

So take it from someone who began as a Personal Trainer, but only made it to the next level (winning my IFBB Pro Card) when I realized there is a substantial difference between an Personal Trainer and a Physique Coach. Not to mention, getting ready for a bodybuilding competition is hard, time consuming and expensive. That’s a lot of things you risk wasting by not doing it right.


Natalie Nichols is an IFBB Pro, NPC Judge and Physique Coach and can be contacted at  

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