USA Physique
The Coaching Authority

Competition Team Coaching Methods

The internet has taken the Prep Coach career to a whole new level. How it works differs from coach to coach. Many coaches only allow check-ins once a week, and some may even ask you to hold all questions until then. There are a few coaches out there that allow for 24 hr communication. Some will give you a workout program that is shared by others, and others will customize them for you.

When you are looking for a Prep Coach, you should do your homework. Look at it like you are conducting an interview and be prepared to have your list of questions ready. Below are a few questions you should ask every coach you interview…and our answers as well.

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What is your philosophy as a Prep Coach?

First off, we are not just “prep coaches”. We are Physique Readiness Coaches. As IFBB Pros and NPC Judges, we noticed that the field of contest prep coaching focused primarily on the next show rather than the competitor’s ultimate goal and health. This lack of a clear and defined strategy resulted in many competitors competing in back to back shows where we judged, year after year, showing little to no improvement in their physiques. These are not our competitors, because we do not judge shows our competitors compete in. But this unfortunately left many highly ambitious competitors miles from their ultimate goals and uncertain of what needed to be done to increase their placing. The problem was not that these competitors lacked the motivation, they simply lacked a clear and concise plan of action with an ultimate end goal in mind. Through our love for the sport of bodybuilding, our unique experience, education, training, coaching, and achievements, we created the concept of a Physique Readiness Coach™.

What is a Physique Readiness Coach™?

The Physique Readiness Coach is a unique and rare “Prep Coach” who draws on their extensive experience and unique insight as an IFBB Professional Athlete and NPC Judge, to craft a multi-year competitor development strategy. It is a Quality Assurance, long term strategy by which we systematically prepare for our competitors’ career, specifically to enhance delivery of optimal improvements each time the competitor takes the stage. The process starts with the competitors’ Offseason Plan and continues through their Contest Prep Plan, Peak Week Plan, Contest Day Plan, Stage Strategy Plan and Reverse Diet Plan…ALWAYS with the ultimate goal, and the competitors’ health in mind. It also includes consideration of our competitors’ personal Support System and making sure they have Realistic Expectations.

How does your coaching work? What will I get?

We have partnered with Trainerize and have a software program that houses and streamlines our management and monitoring system in one place.  This goes above and beyond Online Training that uses spreadsheets and communication by text, email and social media messaging that gets cluttered with spam, solicitations and other type annoyances.  Not too mention, in todays age of technology, it’s outdated and extremely limited.

This is all done from a convenient app on your phone. Workout Programs, Nutrition Plans, Progress Pictures, Internal Communication that is Private and Secure, Notifications, Volume and PR (Personal Record) tracking, Check-ins, Graphing and Charting, Scheduling and so much more!  We are able to monitor everyone, every day of the week if necessary (like the final stages of Contest Prep or when someone is struggling). It’s the ultimate accountability tool for us, and you, to make sure you get optimal results.  And it’s all done from the convenience of your smart phone. 

My Fitness Pal, Apple Watch and Fitbit also syncs with our tracking software. You don’t have to report your nutrition to us…we can check as long as you are tracking, and tracking is YOUR responsibility.  The more accurate you are in your tracking, the better off you will be. Your macros, calories, even things like sodium and fiber…if you record it, we see it anytime we need to. And, with Fitbit and Apple Watch, we see your daily step count as well.

Furthermore, we see your weight everyday (as long as you record it in our app) so we can analyze, based on trends, if you are progressing appropriately. So, there is no need for you to perform check-ins, other than progress pics once a week. We are checking on everyones progress multiple days a week. In addition, we will check in with you at least once per week and you can message us and ask questions anytime. There are no restrictions on communication.

Do you have any other coaches on your team?

For the past several years it has only been us two.  However, in the last year our team has exploded.  And rightfully so with the tremendous success our athletes have had.  After, every single competitor that we have put on the stage has walked away with AT LEAST a Top 5 placing before their season ended.  That’s rare!

Truth be told, we have needed a coaching staff for about a year now.  We have had to turn away too many candidates because we refuse to overload ourselves, but we’ve just not found the right coach for us…until now. We are happy to announce that we have brought Molly Greer, Valerie Ocano and McKay George on board, and we are thrilled to have them.

And…with the addition of 2 x Olympian, IFBB Pro, NPC Judge…Karin Hobbs, as our Head Posing Coach and Advisor, our team is complete with a wealth of knowledge and experience.. 

What is your philosophy on cardio?

For those who compete in Bodybuilding, cardio is a big issue and philosophies are all over the place. We consider ourselves “cardio minimalists”, with respect to offseason and contest prep. Sure, cardio is fantastic for general health purposes, it does well for fat loss and keeping your health in check when used responsibly. However, cardio is not your friend when it comes to building an “optimal physique”, and that’s what we build. Yet on the same token, it will eventually become a necessary evil when it comes to getting stage lean.

I know that sounds confusing, so let me explain.

As a Physique Readiness Coach, our job is to help you reach your full potential so that you look your absolute best come stage time. To do this, you must optimize your metabolic rate which is actually quite simple. It starts in the offseason by focusing on making sure your food intake is as high as possible (while keeping your body fat gain reasonable) and cardio to an absolute minimum. The reason is based on science, and quite frankly…common sense.  Just think about it from a logical standpoint.  The more cardio you do in the offseason, the less effective it is during contest prep. And this is why your offseason will be based on your workout program, nutrition and NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis) and little to no cardio.

There are two sides of this coin. Once you start your prep, the initial deficit will be pretty significant so calories should be high enough that you have plenty of room to pull from when fat loss stalls, and it will stall often. On the flip side, cardio should be low enough that you have plenty of cardio to add in, over time, without having to rely on hours and hours of it to keep fat loss going. Extreme doses of cardio typically lead to a slower rate of fat loss (and an increased likelihood of an all out fat loss stall), increased rate of muscle loss, slower recovery time, extreme fatigue during the final stages of prep, a less than optimal physique on the stage and a horrible rebound after the show is over.

Have you ever seen a competitor in the final weeks (or months) of prep doing hours of cardio multiple times a week? More often than not, progress stalls (a common problem in the lower half for females), the physique starts to show a higher rate of muscle loss and most competitors just get worn out. Studies show that the more cardio you do, the more it interferes with strength and size gains from lifting.  That combined with being on extremely low calories, all that cardio can eat away at your physique really quickly. We do our best to make sure our competitors avoid this at all costs, and it starts in the offseason, with a strategic plan.

But in full disclosure, there may come a time for some that we have to flirt with the “extreme” in the final stages due to unforeseen circumstances that may arise during prep.  Some example are, not allowing enough time for prep, calories/metabolism not high enough when prep starts, injury, sickness, relationship or work issues, extra travel, etc. Now we do add in extra time in your prep to give you a cushion for the “unforeseen” if you have been with us before you start prep, but we haven’t found that crystal ball yet that tells us how long those circumstances will last.

The bottom line is this: we keep cardio at a minimum (and in many cases, none) during the offseason, so it becomes merely a last resort tool during contest prep, instead of the main focus for fat loss.  Most of our competitors don’t go over 200 minutes per week, but there are some that have been required to go to the extreme.  It is still based on individual progress.

What is your philosophy on Performance Enhancement Drugs (PED)?

We do not encourage or discourage the use of PED’s. We support our athletes whether competing natural or enhanced. If you choose to use PED’s, our goal is to give you as much information as possible, both benefits and risks, so you can make an informed decision. We make recommendations, but it is not our job to make that decision for you.

The use of PED’s is not a moral or ethical issue as long as you are not competing in a tested (natural) federation. In this situation, it is cheating, and we will have no part of that. Anyone caught cheating will be dropped immediately and no refund given. However, in non-tested federations such as the NPC/IFBB, PED’s are used by many competitors. The larger the show, the more often PED’s are used. You do not “need” or “have” to use PED’s to be successful in any federation. Success is defined by the individual. Depending on what you consider successful will determine if your expectations, based on the use of PED’s or not, are realistic. That is the reality of the situation. Don’t hate the player…hate the game.

Are your programs customized for individual needs and growth?

Our workout programs are customized for the individual based on strengths and weaknesses of each competitor, but in full disclosure…let me explain.

The first phase will last about 10 weeks, which includes an “intro” week, and a “deload/active recovery” at the end. The first phase is “somewhat” the same for everyone, depending on your division and experience level. We start with 3 or 4 main compound lifts based on your needs. Examples include, but are not limited to…squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell overhead press, barbell hip thrust, etc. You will be performing each main lift twice a week. Once you complete your first phase, we should have enough data to determine what needs to be improved on. This is where the customization starts. Main lifts will still be included, but we may change things like rep ranges, sets, intensity, density, etc. In addition, accessory work will be modified and more suited to address your individual strengths, weaknesses, goals and health. As you continue to progress, we will start to add more tools to your toolbelt. Those tools may include super sets, drop sets, FST7, Blood Flow Restriction, High Volume sets, etc. You could say that your workout program grows as you do.

We have a defined process for maximum recovery, training, body composition, and metabolic rate for off-season and contest prep. This applies to nutrition and your workout program. Both off-season and contest prep follow specific phases and your nutrition and workout program work together to optimize performance in the gym, and results. The only way this works to the fullest potential is to plan both nutrition and programming based on INDIVIDUAL progress and the goal of each phase.

Workout programs are designed to meet current judging criteria AND current judging trends of each division. They are modified based on individual strength and weaknesses as needed, dependent on the phase you are in. Programs will have 4 to 5 workout days in the off-season and 5 to 6 workout days in contest prep. The sixth workout is typically only added if needed during prep. Main lifts will always be included, but each phase will have a unique way we use tools like drop sets, super sets, giant sets, failure, FST7 and BFR to name a few. In addition, each phase will have separate ways we emphasize strength, hypertrophy, density, and volume.

Nutrition is addressed in a comparable manner as your workout program. Each phase will be different. It is not always about trying to force more calories in, performance must be part of the calculus. There are times when we want to push your metabolic capacity upward consistently, times we will rely on just pulses, and other situations where may need to just maintain. There may be times when a slight decrease is needed in the off-season as well, but that is predominantly done in prep. The phase and corresponding style of training along with individual progress will determine how we increase, maintain, or decrease your calories. And that will be different person to person, and phase to phase.

This is a proven concept. One that is duplicable, creates a continues cycle of improvement between offseason and prep, though ultimate success relies on the ability to progress on an individual basis. It allows for deviation, when applicable, due to situational circumstances at any given time. There is no time standard for each phase. Your progression is determined by your performance and genetics. The harder you work and the more detail-oriented you are, the quicker you progress to the next phase. If you slack off on your nutrition and/or training, you will not reach the next phase as quickly as your potential will allow. If you are compliant in all aspects, you will.

NOTE: We do not change workout programs just for the sake of changing. Muscle Adaptation occurs over time, consistency is key, and it would be counterproductive to change what is working. However, as we see your physique develop, we may modify some things to address any need.

Will I get a Meal Plan or is your nutrition plan based on Macro Counting?

Our Nutrition Plans are all based on Macro Counting for Competitors, and you will need to have a basic foundation for how to do this properly. Meal Plans will be considered, but we will need to have that discussion first. Lifestyle clients can do meal plans or macro counting on any basis. But learning how to select appropriate foods to meet your goals rather than restrictive dieting is more sustainable, so we encourage you to quickly learn to macro count.

Current scientific research tells us that Restrictive Dieting (meal plans) are not sustainable. The data also suggests they have a higher risk associated with eating disorders than Flexible Dieting. That is not to say that meal plans do not work, they do…and for many people. But the data shows that there is a high correlation between Restrictive Dieting and binge eating which can lead to self-regurgitation and other eating disorders. Any time food choices are limited, the risks increase.

In addition, Restrictive Meal Plans are extremely lacking in food variety.  Food variety is essential to gut health, and lacking variety can have a devastating impact on gut bacteria.  Furthermore, as you get further in prep, calories go down and so does your metabolism which has a dramatic effect in the way your food digests.  The slower your metabolism, the longer it takes to digest food.  Combine that with your good and bad gut bacteria being thrown out of whack…it’s pretty clear why so many Meal Plan competitors start to have digestive issues (food sensitivities, bloat, constipation, etc.) in the later stages of prep.  Having more food variety can eliminate a lot, and in some cases, all the aforementioned issues.

We prefer Flexible Dieting which allows you to control the types of food you eat. You just hit your Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat and Fiber goals. That said, it’s perfectly fine to prep your food based on your macro guidelines since YOU get to choose the food you eat. It’s much more sustainable and more pleasant for the athlete. We will set your Macro goals for you and modify them as needed depending on your goal (fat loss, muscle gain, contest prep, etc). No need for guess work, no restrictions, just eat the food you like, and we will tell you how/when to adjust as much as needed. You can even use the style of diet you like. Want to stick with “clean eating”, “Keto”, “Snake Diet”, “Vegan” etc…have at it. Again, just choose the foods you want and hit your goals and you are compliant. There is no fear of “cheating” because you have the final say in how you hit your macros. Our nutrition plans are just like our workout plans. Completely individualized and are modified as you progress.

There is one exception.  If you are in the last few weeks of prep and you want us to create a meal plan for the final week to help bring the stress down…that is fine and completely reasonable.

If you want something like a 12 or 16 week Contest Prep Plan, there are free ones all over the internet and you will find most are very similar to the ones a lot of coaches give you and charge you for.

When can I start prep?

Ok, here we go. “When can I start my prep” is one of the most frequently asked questions we get. It seems like everyone wants to rush to the stage instead of focusing on where they need to be before prep starts to ensure an efficient and effective prep. On top of that, so many coaches push the standard 12 or 16 week preps because cookie cutter plans make it easy to manage more people…thus, more money. Everyone should watch that video, whether you work with us or not. Its old and the video quality is not that good, but the information is still on point.

We don’t do those.

Just think about that for a second.  Why would you give the same prep to someone who is 15lbs over stage weight to someone who is 30lbs over stage weight?  There is no logic to that at all.  It’s ludicrous actually, and why a great majority of competitors end up on stage with a subpar physique. 

Talk about fitting a square peg in a round hole. 

Instead, we focus on what is best for the individual and appropriately work through the Five Stages of Contest Prep.  I’ll get to how we set you up to pull this off in a minute.

So the next logical question is, why are they so popular?  Lazy coaching…period.  And, when you give 100’s of clients the same or similar plans, someone is going to do good on them and get all the publicity…the rest are just cast to the side.  We don’t like that “throw them on the wall and see who sticks” mentality.  And, in my opinion, it’s unethical. It takes a hell of a lot more effort by the coach to “CUSTOMIZE” a prep for a client based on division, weight, metabolism, etc.

So to answer this question “When can I start prep?  When your metabolism is high enough (and your base physique is solid), because your metabolism is the driving force to peel the layers of fat off to get you stage lean. If your metabolism isn’t in a good place to start, you will not be successful…PERIOD.

Look, if you’re eating, for example, 1500 calories or so and you are holding, maintaining or gaining weight…you are not even close to where you need to be. For most folks, that’s not even a healthy maintenance level. As a general rule of thumb, take your weight and multiple it by 15, then take your weight and multiply it by 17 (we call this the Multiplier Factor)…that will give you a good calorie range to be in if you are an active person. But the conversation starts when you are 15 x’s your bodyweight in calories.  And the leaner you need to be for the stage (usually based on division) the higher your Multiplier Factor should be.

How long are your prep plans?

Just like everything else we do, it’s all based on the individual.  There is no set plan we give to everyone, that’s just not how we operate.

Once we decide to put you in prep, then we base the length of prep on losing only .8 to 1% of your body weight in lbs per week.  Dieting at rates faster than 1% of bodyweight/wk has been shown to result in a greater reduction in muscle mass, strength, and hormones than dieting at a 0.5-1% bodyweight/wk rate of weight loss. Then we add in a good cushion of time for diet breaks, peak week testing protocols and unforeseen things like injuries, sickness, work/relationship issues, etc.  When all that is put in place, you very well could be looking at 16 weeks, you could be looking at 24 weeks too.  It’s all based on the individual, not everyone as a whole.  This is what it takes to pull of the Five Stages of Contest Prep successfully.

As a result, most of our competitors arrive at stage lean several week early and are at the point we are increasing calories, some still losing weight.  It is not uncommon for them to end up adding back in 500, 600 or more calories by the time they hit the stage.  An additional benefit is that prep can be extended due to an increase in the number of calories consumed, resulting in a more healthy state while still doing shows.

We focus on building “Competitive Athletes”, not just a bunch of “competitors”. Instead of focusing on just putting a high number of “competitors” on the stage with cookie cutter prep packages and see who sticks, we focus on what is best for the individual and work through the Five Phases of Contest Prep to put “Competitive Athletes” on the stage.  

How many clients do you have and what do you look for in a potential client?

This is one of my favorite questions and the one I LOVE to get asked. There is not a specific number but Natalie and I stay at around 100 clients between us (not counting the clients of our other coaches) and consider that a happy medium.  This allows us to be readily available to answer questions, monitor our clients progress, perform routine full analyses of each competitor’s data as well as monitor the progress of those coached by others on the team. Afterall, whether you are coached by us specifically, or other coaches on the team, we are ultimately responsible for EVERYONE on the team.  There is a good reason for that, and we are going to keep it that way.

First off…we are picky.  We are in this to produce winners…those who put in the work.  The “detailed” work.  The “hard” work.  You absolutely MUST have PATIENCE!  Bodybuilding takes time, discipline and sacrifice.  If you want short cuts, go to another team…we have no place for you here.  I know that may sound harsh, but not near as harsh as the judging panel will be.  We are looking for clients that have an “athlete’s” mentality regardless of your current condition. 

We are not interested in working with those who just want to be “competitors”, we want people who want to be “competitive”…there is a difference.  You don’t have to already have a great physique…we are not worried about that.  We have several that are 1-2 years away from being ready to start prep.  And we have gotten quite effective and efficient in building “competitive” physiques regardless of the client’s current condition and experience level.  In fact, the more time you are willing to spend developing your physique and up-regulating your metabolism before starting prep, the more we want to talk to you.

Look, when the focus is filling the stage with bodies rather than individual development of each athlete, it becomes a numbers game (bodies and money) and a crucial element gets lost. Just think about this for a moment. Have you ever been spread so thin that you could only half ass all the projects you had going on so that you could at least meet deadlines? Most of us have…there are only so many hours in a day.

We believe in Quality over Quantity and would rather give more time and effort to a few with the right mindset, than less time and effort to many. That’s why you will often see a notice at the top of this page that says “We are not currently taking on new clients.” We only bring new clients on when we are confident that we can continue to deliver the “personal touch” that we have a reputation of doing.

How often will I need to check in with you?

Our check-in process is flexible, tailored to your needs and progress. Rather than set days for a once a week check-in, we monitor everyones data several times a week, with more frequent reviews for those in prep or facing challenges. Adjustments are made as needed, sometimes multiple times a week or not for several weeks. Expect at least a weekly update from us, confirming your progress or suggesting changes, lifting the burden of your shoulders and putting it on ours.

You can check in, communicate with us all you like. It’s 24/7 access, but let me put that into perspective..

For example, you can wake up in the middle of the night with a question, message us (we have our own internal messaging system, so no outside interference) then go back to bed. Weekend, day, night, holidays, whenever. And no, we are not just going to let them build up and only answer certain days, times of the week. Granted, if we are with clients, in a meeting, it’s family night, we are sleeping, have company, etc…we will have the system on silent.

But keep in mind, the weekends are family time for us.  And we often try to respond to messages on the weekends if time permits…just don’t start expecting it.   The exceptions are if you are in the final stages of contest prep…that’s monitored 7 days a week.  And we are in constant communication with you on contest day, regardless of the day of the week.

Furthermore, anytime we are free we will constantly be checking. A large majority of messages are replied to the same day.  However, in the unlikely event you do not hear from us within 24 hours during the week, please follow-up.

I want to learn as I am being coached, can I ask questions like “why do you have me doing xyz?”

First off, I can tell you from personal experience that these types of questions typically generate the “trust the process response.”  We DESPISE that phrase. Look, you are paying us for service as a coach, and a coach is also a type of “teacher” if the coach is performing their duty correctly. You will NEVER get the “trust the process” response from us.  We see it as our job to make sure you understand the reason you are doing something.  That creates buy-in.  And the more you “buy into” something, the more effort you will put into it. The less you understand the “why” the more likely the enthusiasm will not be there, and effort decreases. It’s just human nature.

Why would you put in 100% effort if you don’t understand, or know what to expect? Not to mention, we don’t plan on being your coach for life. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to the point where you had the ability to build your own program and know how to adjust your own nutrition plan by yourself? I think the answer to that is “yes”. Now, that’s doesn’t mean we are going to sit down with you and have “school”. But if you are our client and ever have questions…ask. It’s what we are here for.

We encourage asking questions as long as it pertains to what we are telling you to do.  AND, we do ask that you visit our FAQ page first.  A large majority of the questions we get are already answered there.  If you ask a question that is already in the FAQ, we will refer you to that page first.  

How much do your plans cost?

We have three coaching plans which you can find here. None of the plans have a set-up fee. And we are so confident in our service that we don’t require a contract, just a flat rate on a month to month basis. You may cancel at any time, but you must do so 7 days before your next due date (the system sets it up on automatic payments).

How do I get started? What’s next?

To get the selection process started, just fill out the Competitor Application. Someone will try to get back with you within two business days and work on setting up a free consultation.  In the meantime, we encourage everyone to read our FAQ section.  A lot of information about our coaching methods, and why we do what we do, can be found there.