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Posted 1 year ago

Prepping yourself vs working with a coach

Let’s imagine you’ve decided you want to compete in a bodybuilding show or get lean for a physique photoshoot. After making this decision, your next step might be to sign up for the show or pay for the photographer, and that’s when the penny drops: these things are quite expensive. Never mind the cost of the competition entry fees or the photographer: when you start adding up things like outfits, tan, makeup, … it really does add up. At this point, you may have already enquired to work with a coach and realise that it’s another substantial investment.

So, what you might be inclined to do is to prep yourself, to save money from coaching expenses. Although it’s not the most common approach, it’s not uncommon either. However, there are some key considerations you need to take into account before deciding to embark on a solo-prep. In this article, I’ll be discussing some of these in turn, to help you figure out whether prepping yourself or working with a coach is best for you at this time to achieve your desired result in a show or in your photoshoot.


I’ll start with the most obvious factor, as it might be the most overlooked. This is because first timers might be the most inclined to want to save money on coaching. Let’s suppose you’ve been a regular gym-goer for some time, and you’ve gotten yourself into decent shape a few times doing mini-cuts and self-monitoring these. What you might not realise is that getting shredded – show-day or photoshoot-ready kind of shredded – is a whole different ballgame. Trust me when I say that cutting your own calories to poverty levels is a lot harder to do and to adhere to on the days you’re starving, especially when you don’t have someone to check-in with to monitor your progress. If you’ve never been stage-lean, you also might not be aware of what it requires in terms of output intensity and caloric deficit, so you might not know how to get yourself lean enough or how to assess that. Most importantly, when dieted down, your own perception of yourself becomes completely skewed: some days, you feel like you cannot possibly look any better, and other days you feel fat and are tempted to dig deeper. This is why having an experienced coach take over can be so helpful: not only does it remove the stress of these decisions, but they’re also a support base that can keep a rational eye on your physique. So, if it’s your first time trying to get lean, I urge you to do yourself a favour and hire a coach.

This decision might be different if you already have quite a bit of experience prepping and getting lean. You may have been through these protocols before and feel relatively confident in your ability to push yourself to those extremes. It’s also likely that if you’ve been there before, you have friends or people in your inner circle that have an eye for helping you assess your progress and make some of those difficult decisions. In this case, it might not be such a bad idea to prep yourself, if you feel confident in your ability to do so. What I will say though, is that even the best coaches have coaches to help them prep. Success leaves clues and given that the pros have the best physiques out there and still have coaches, I would be inclined to follow what they’re doing.


Now, this is a tricky one but hear me out. It makes sense that hiring a coach helps with accountability: at the end of the day, you’re paying someone money to get in shape, and good coaches are not cheap, so of course you’ll follow everything they say to a tee.

However, there’s definitely something special about being able to stay accountable to yourself. Although I’ve personally never prepped myself (and I would never ever want to do that to myself because I’d be a nightmare client), I can imagine how rewarding and satisfying it must be to hold yourself to that standard and get through the process for nobody but yourself. I genuinely admire people who are able to do that, as it takes a special kind of skill. I also think that prepping yourself can often put more pressure on you to do everything perfectly, because disappointing another person is one thing, but disappointing yourself is a whole other ballgame.

Therefore, an important consideration for you might be the following: will it hurt more to disappoint my coach, or will it hurt more to disappoint myself? Am I more likely to deviate from the plan when it’s been put in place by someone else or myself? These questions can help you navigate that decision a bit better.


The final consideration I’d like to discuss in this article is around support, and it ties into experience and accountability too. As I mentioned, if you have more experience in the sport, it is likely that you have built a network or a circle of supportive individuals who understand what you do, and also partake in bodybuilding themselves. In this case, when you have that network in place, prepping yourself might be easier as you’ll have your support system in place. The importance of social support is beyond the scope of this article (to read more about it, click here, but let’s just say that without support, it is very very unlikely that you’ll make it to the finish line, or that you’ll make it there having had an enjoyable journey.

This is where hiring a coach can be so beneficial: not only will they be there for you throughout the whole process, removing the stress of prep by taking control of the decisions and calming you down, but they’ll also be able to introduce you to more people like you. For example, at VW Physique, all of our clients are part of WhatsApp group chats, where they can meet and connect with other teammates who are on similar missions to them. It’s not uncommon for our clients to find true long-lasting friendships from connections like these, and ultimately make the journey far more successful and enjoyable. So, if you don’t know many people in the industry, you may want to strongly consider working with a coach who can introduce you to their team, as the support you’ll gain from the group will get you through the tough days.

Although this list isn’t exhaustive, I’ve covered some of the key considerations you might want to think about when choosing to prep alone or with a coach. If you have a lot of experience getting lean, are incredibly disciplined, and have a tight circle of support and experienced individuals who can help you through prep, getting it done yourself shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you’re relatively new to the game, have struggled with personal accountability in the past, and don’t know many people who do what you’re trying to do, I’d strongly encourage you to hire a coach. Not only will they ensure you have a smooth and stress-free prep, but you’ll be able to learn so much from them that the investment you make will undoubtedly pay off in the future.

If you’re ready to get lean for a show or a photoshoot and want to work with a coach, click the button below to book a consultation call with the team.

Clara Swedlund MSc MBPsS