Posted 1 year ago

Why you should keep your coach in your off season/gaining phase

For the most part, if you are new to the bodybuilding scene and have never actually gone through a gaining phase or ‘bulk’, as it’s commonly referred to, you’ll more than likely stick with your coach throughout this phase of your training. However, if you are a seasoned competitor or have some experience/knowledge of offseasons, that might not always be the case.

What often happens is that a competitor will finish their season, step off stage, or complete their photoshoot prep, and then they’ll discontinue their work with their coach. Whilst there are many reasons why this might occur (such as wanting a break from bodybuilding, wanting to go at it alone, or a desire to work with a different coach), in this article I’d like to discuss why it’s important to keep your coach by your side during your gaining phase/off season, and the benefits that doing so could bring about.


For the most part, when I’ve been working with a coach, I have always stuck with them after competing/dieting; either that, or I’ve chosen to move to a new one that I thought was more suited to my evolving goals and could help me get the most out of my offseason. This is because I’ve always known that with added accountability, I would be in the best possible position to grow. Being accountable to yourself is one thing but being accountable to someone else is a whole different thing.

For instance, you will instantly raise your own standards when you know that someone else will be looking over your progress week to week and checking every detail. Remember you have hired that person to help take you from A to B to C, and so and so forth. You will have a plan to follow both in and out the gym and can simply just focus on “doing the do”. Any questions you have, any issues you find as your journey progresses can be answered and rectified in a short period of time.

It takes a certain kind of individual to coach themselves, and personally, the ones I see doing so (with exceptions) aren’t reaching their full potential. Why? Because it can be all too easy to let complacency set in, especially if you have just competed/dieted for a shoot. For example, after months of being so rigid and strict, you can pick up some bad habits. That meal you missed, that set you didn’t do, that training session you missed… It all adds up. It’s obviously fine for one week, but before you know it, it’ll be every week until you are barely training, or you’re eating everything in sight, and haven’t really progressed at all.

However, if you were to be checking in with your coach and any of the above occurred, then for the first week your coach might understand and let it slide. After that, though, questions will be asked – your coach’s goal is to help you reach your full potential, so they’ll want to know what is happening that is moving you away from your goals and do everything in their power to help you quickly pull you out of any slump that you may find yourself slipping into.

Push the boundaries

Let’s suppose you’ve just finished dieting, you reverse out well, and have stuck with your coach throughout. Food focus settles down and you’ve found your groove with training again: now it’s time for the real part of the off season. This is where your coach might push you to places you wouldn’t go to on your own.

For example, until 2020 I was never able to push my bodyweight above 120kg, as I physically was not able to eat enough to do so. However, when I wrapped up my season then, my coach helped me push to 128kg, and then 132kg later that year. If I’m honest, I don’t think I would have been able to do that on my own, as I had a limiting belief around what was possible. Now, however, 120kg is actually a really good weight for me to maintain at.

I also have many female clients who, whilst they might not struggle to diet, do find it difficult to see themselves adding on weight. This tends to occur in the first part of the bulk, where they express how uncomfortable they are beginning to feel. However, for them to reach their goals, I need to remind them that we still have another 4-5kg to add in the next few months. Of course, this is met with mixed emotions, but ultimately they hired me to ensure that the next time they step on stage, they bring an even better package. My best strategy in this instance is to bring focus back to performance in the gym, as opposed to physical appearance, and guess what happens? They GROW! Every time we recomp after these big push phases, we can see how much muscle tissue they have added. Now ask yourself this, would they have seen the same results if they had stopped 4-5kg before in those early stages of the bulk? The answer is probably not.

Remove the decision-making pressure or fatigue

This one might seem self-explanatory, but it’s worth reiterating that when you work with a coach, you won’t have to think as much, stress as much, and can simply just do whatever your coach is telling you to do. If you coach yourself, you might be constantly second guessing yourself, asking things like: “Do I need more food? Am I gaining at the right pace or is this too fast? Strength has stalled, do I have to adjust my program and exercise selection? Should I change my stack design as time goes on?” (…) etc just to name a few examples.

As you can see, it might be a little overwhelming, but the truth is that anyone who is passionate about bodybuilding will be asking themselves those questions inevitably, because we all want to grow as much as we can! Thus, the benefit of having a coach is that those decisions are made for you and being able to bounce your ideas back and forth with them (as opposed to deciding all alone) will remove a lot of the stress and uncertainty from it.

In addition, having a coach might even force you to make decisions that you usually wouldn’t make your own. For example, your strength might have slowed down: in the self-coaching situation, you might just consider adding another set, whereas a coach might rotate in a different exercise, change the rep range or tempo, and could even adjust your volume across the week.

Show winning physiques are made in the off season

If there was one piece of information to remember from this article it would be the above. If you want to achieve a physique worthy of winning a show or want to see incredible progress next time you diet down, then I need not remind you that this is done in the off season/gaining phase.

Making your goals clear to your coach at the beginning of your journey can allow them to give you a realistic time frame of how long it will take to achieve it. You can also rest assured that every decision that they make for you/with you is done so with that goal at the forefront of their mind. Look across any sport, and any high-level athlete doing well in that sport, do they have a coach? You bet they do. Some may even have a team of coaches, all of whom have the same collective goal for that athlete.

The trick is to find a coach who is just as passionate about your goal as you are. Your coach should keep you motivated, you may even have an innate desire to do them proud, and if you do, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you put in 100% and they give you 110% back, all you’re going to get from that is a burning desire to succeed and a scenario whereby success does not merely happen by chance, but instead, is a mere certainty.

Every step you take, every action that gets done, every day that passes, you know that you are simply getting better and better. When that feeling becomes the norm, it feels good!; and you’ll not want to let go of it.

In summary, sticking with your coach during your off season/gaining phase can be invaluable for your own progress. It will give you the accountability you need to not slack off; it will force you to push the boundaries in instances where you might not have done so on your own; and it can remove decision making that might be making you feel stressed. When you combine all those with having someone else in your corner who is just as passionate as you are about your goal, you will see an incredible change in your physique the next time you diet down and will have success when you do so too.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons