How Do I Select A Trainer for My First Competition?

Lately, a lot of people have been reading my book, “She’s Losing It!” (available on and it’s piquing their interest to enter a bodybuilding competition.

Yes!  My plan is working!  I wrote my memoir to inspire other women to give this oft overlooked sport a try.StatesmanSocial - book picture

While bodybuilding helped me achieve my goal to look good in a bikini (we can’t always have noble goals…) the unplanned benefits were even better.  I learned about nutrition and in the process gained self confidence through sustained self discipline.  It is fair to say that I now live the natural bodybuilder lifestyle.

None of this would have been possible without the help of an outstanding personal trainer.  In fact, I have worked with three outstanding trainers, each with their own bag of training tricks, diet philosophies, and motivation styles and I would recommend any of them to a person looking to train:  Daniel Rufini, Melissa Coker and now Robin Johnson Jr.

But let’s talk about you.  Here are…

10 Tips to Find A Trainer for Your First Bodybuilding Competition

  1. Ask if the trainer has ever competed in a bodybuilding competition before.  A trainer might be very good at general weight loss but unless they have been through a 12 week show prep themselves, how could they possibly guide you through it?
    John, Kevin and my trainer Robin - Bodybuilding Winners 2013
    John, Kevin and my trainer Robin – Bodybuilding Winners 2013

    This is a niche sport, and by niche I mean that less than 2% of the population tries this sport even at an amateur level.  (To give you perspective:  The Boston Marathon has about 30,000 runners.  The Texas Shredder bodybuilding competition has about 300 competitors.)  Plus, there are some really quirky things about it, like spray on tan and wearing clear five inch heels with a glittery bikini while you try to arch your back into an S-curve.  So you want to make sure the trainer you work with for your first competition is giving you sport-specific advice and direction so you look like you know what you are doing when you get on stage.

  2. Does the trainer look fit?  Fat-trainerWhen you are a trainer, your body is your billboard.  If you are telling your clients to eat clean and train hard but have a muffin top over your sweat pants and jelly donut stains on your shirt, why should they follow your advice?  It’s important that your trainer lives the lifestyle he or she is recommending to you.
  3. Which aspects of training is provided? Competitive bodybuilding has three main components:  Diet, exercise and posing.  Some trainers will outsource the posing practice, other the nutrition.
    At posing practice with Dave Goodin
    At posing practice with Dave Goodin

    With respect to the posing, all divisions require specific moves and some divisions, like fitness, require a two minute dance routine with compulsory moves.  If the trainer only focuses on exercise (which is common, by the way,) that’s something you should know up front because you want to give yourself enough time to find the right coaches for all aspects of the competition.

  4. Ask questions about the dietEverybody thinks exercise is the most important part to having a ripped physique.  It’s not.  It’s the diet.  Some trainers will provide your show prep meal plans; others will suggest you see a nutritionist.  Ask whoever is planning your diet what types of food you will be eating.  They should mention that you will be eating whole, unprocessed foods (clean eating) every 2-3 hours (about 6 times per day.) NuWave-chicken-green-beans-corn (2) The calorie count should be high enough to accommodate your increased exercise schedule and the macronutrients should include protein, complex carbohydrates and fats.  If someone tells you that you will only be drinking protein shakes all day, walk away.  You need food.  Real food.  If someone suggests that you cut your calories to insane levels like 600 calories a day, walk away.  Don’t trust someone who asks you to starve yourself.  If they say, “Just follow the diet, don’t question me,” walk away.  This is your body and if you have questions you need to know that your trainer can answer them.
  5. Would you feel comfortable talking to this person about intimate things?  During my first show it felt like my body was a science experiment.  Add protein to my diet and I’d gain muscle but get constipated.  Cut carbs and I’d lose weight but not remember where I put my car keys.  Take a supplement with niacin and my face would turn red in patches.  protein-fartAll of these things are normal in the course of show prep, but how do you know it’s normal if it’s your first show and you’re too embarrassed to ask your trainer about it?  If your body is having a strong reaction to a change in the diet or exercise schedule, your trainer needs to know so it can be adjusted.  It boils down to trust.  While trust is built over time, you usually have a good idea by the third session if your personalities mesh.
  6. What are his thoughts about steroids?  Personally, I recommend going the natural bodybuilding route.  The show I just won 3rd place in was drug-tested, and I like it that way.
    No Juice For You!
    No Juice For You!

    Steroids, prescription diuretics, even some over-the-counter fat burners are bad for your health, but people use (and abuse) them all the time.  If your trainer thinks it’s a good idea to dabble with illegal performance enhancing drugs, stay away.

  7. What is her motivation style?  Want to know why bodybuilding is such a niche sport?  BECAUSE IT’S HARD!!!  So, at some point during your training, you will more likely than not want to give up and drop out.  This is when motivation becomes important.  QuitAre you looking for a trainer to be a drill sergeant, cheerleader or someone in between?  Do they want you to train to win or just step on stage for fun?  There is merit to both ideas, just make sure it matches your own.  Think about coaches or teachers you had in the past.  Which ones helped you score the winning point or make the grade?  Try to find a trainer with a similar style.
  8. Get referrals Is there a woman at your gym who looks fantastic and has the physique you wish you could have?  Ask her if she has a trainer and who it is.  A trainer is only as good as his or her clients.  I started working with my trainer Robin based on a recommendation from my friend Obidia.
    My cardio buddy, Obidia
    My cardio buddy, Obidia

    You can also Google the trainer.  I’ve blogged a lot about my trainers (all good things) and I know for a fact that they have gotten clients from behind-the-scenes stories I’ve written.  Happy clients post nice things on social media.

  9. What are her training rates?  Rates fluctuate wildly by person and by gym.  Ask if there is a discount for buying multiple sessions.  gym-membership-costYou may want to consider group training as a way to make training more affordable.  If you are doing a typical show prep, you will want at least two sessions per week for twelve weeks.  If you are entering a competition as a way to lose weight (like I did) you will probably need to give yourself more than twelve weeks to lose weight in a healthy manner.  (For my first show I trained for five months and lost 50 lbs., which is about 2 1/2 pounds lost per week.)
  10. Will he be backstage with you on show day?  You can tell who the newbies are backstage because they look slightly panicked.  Is it time to go on?  Does my posing suit look ok?  Am I supposed to exercise?  When?  How heavy?  What am I supposed to eat?  Oh no!  My spray on tan has a big drip – what do I do? 
    Liese doing tanning touch ups for me
    Liese doing tanning touch ups for me

    You know which newbies look calm?  The ones with a trainer backstage with them.  Trainers have to pay a lot of money for a backstage pass, plus they often have to pay for tickets for the night show too, so don’t expect a trainer to be backstage with you.  My first trainer fell into this category.  He came to the night show and gave me my list of what to eat, lift and when, but wasn’t backstage.  It was fine; I am an adult after all.  My other two trainers were more established and had teams of people competing, so they were backstage with me and their other clients.  I have to tell you, it’s way more fun being with a group and having that personal attention from someone before you stand on a stage to have your body judged.  Plus, it’s cool to take a picture with your trainer in front of the promoter sign after you’ve won.

    After my win
    After my win

A good trainer is knowledgeable, trustworthy and someone who can motivate you to push past your mental blocks so you can reach your fitness goals.  A good trainer is someone who can actually improve your life, so choose wisely.

Lisa ;)

Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two.

If you’d like to know what it’s like to train for your first bodybuilding competition with a hardass trainer, check out my book, “She’s Losing It!” available at Resolution Front Cover.4837209 (c) 2015 Lisa Traugott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, video, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.


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