Lately it seems as if everyone and their grandma is offering some sort of fitness coaching, even if they have no business doing so. Chances are if you have an account on any social media platform and follow fitness pages, posts about "Macro Plans" and "Meal Plans" pollute your screen on a daily basis. With so many coaches out there, it's hard to discern between who is competent and who is incompetent if you don't know what to look for. Within this post are some things to look out for in a bad coach, but first I want to share a couple messages that were recently sent to me regarding some peoples experiences with bad coaches. Keep in mind, there are certainly more than 6 commonalities between bad fitness coaches, these are just some major ones that stick out to me.
Messages Sent to Me:
1.) They Prescribe Non-Personalized Protocols:
Perhaps the most common issue with many fitness coaches. Aside from slight arbitrary differences, protocols across their client base appear to be exactly the same. Why is this? It’s simple, they lack the knowledge necessary to recognize and account for individual differences, and lack the patience to find out what will work best for the individual, so they prescribe the typical "Meal 1: X Oz Chicken and 1 cup of rice, etc.".
2.) They Prescribe an Overly Rigid Diet.
I’m aware that some people enjoy eating the same 5 foods. However, there’s a big difference between wanting to eat the same 5 things day after day and being told that the only way you’re going to make progress is if you eat the same 5 things day after day. Aside from this being extremely impractical to maintain for a significant period of time; the methodology is outright flawed. It is because of this methodology that so many people binge eat post show and put all of their fat back on in a matter of weeks; they have no idea what to eat after the obligation of stepping on stage has passed, and their coach has no idea how to transition them from competition prep to every day life, so they fall off the map.
3.) They Pressure You to Take Drugs.
To preface this; it is obvious that people use drugs in competitive sports. Whether or not you agree with this or support it is something you need to decide on your own terms, I'm not here to persuade anyone either way. The point is, many of these coaches are prescribing harmful drugs ( Clen, T3, Winstrol, etc.), to people who have no business taking them; such as bikini competitors. If you cannot get a female ready to step on stage for a bikini show without the use of drugs; you have no business being a coach. All it takes is a wrong dose to have long term negative health implications. Chances are a coach like this wouldn't tell you about the dangers of taking such drugs, either.
4.) They Expect You to Believe Them Just Because.
“ Why should I do this?”, “ Because I said so”. Perhaps the biggest sign that someone is full of shit. If your coach cannot explain to you why you’re doing what they’re having you do, you need to seriously reconsider working with them. If the only justification for their methodology is authority; run fast and run far. Your coach should be able to explain the reasoning behind why they are implementing something. Keep in mind, there's nothing wrong with saying " I don't know.", but that is a far cry from a coach posturing themselves as someone who knows what they're talking about, yet failing to provide any legitimate reason as to why they're having someone implement a certain technique.
5.) They Use Ridiculous Tactics.
Some of the previous points tie into this. These tactics can be things like cutting water/sodium, starvation diets, limiting certain foods for no good reason, incorporating "cheat meals/cheat days”, ridiculous amounts of cardio for no good reason, peak week techniques like smothering yourself in Preperation H, or eating more fish to “thin your skin"; the list goes on. A good rule of thumb here is if they sound like they’re full of shit; they’re probably full of shit.
6.) They Get Mad at You When You Don’t Progress.
Ironic isn’t it? That some of these coaches get mad at their clients for following what they told them to do and not getting results. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about the clients who don’t follow their protocols to begin with regardless of the coach; I’m talking about the people who diligently follow the plan they're given, no matter how ridiculous, yet are ridiculed for having not progressing as planned. These clients are often ‘punished’ with either a more restricted diet and/or more cardio, which makes this even more ludicrous.
The bottom line is, there are way too many people like this out there offering coaching services. Perhaps the saddest part is that people are actually listening to them. It’s very easy to be a charlatan, it’s very easy to copy one of your clients diets and give it to the next, it’s very easy to not stay in touch with your clients, it’s very easy to tell someone to listen to you because you “ said so”, it’s very easy to turn to drugs when you’re not competent enough to get someone in contest shape otherwise. All of these things are very easy to do; which is why there are so many bad coaches out there. If you're looking for a coach, I implore you to do your research. You’re not hiring someone to cut your grass here; you’re putting your physical and psychological health in someones hands; act like it. And don’t be afraid to speak up, the more people talking about these issues; the faster they’re going to get resolved. To end this on a positive note, I would like to quote Eric Helms in his recent interview with us when asked what he feels makes a competent fitness coach.
Thumbnail photo credit: Jimmy Murtaugh, Alpha Design Photography.
Athlete Pictured: Thomas Ho