The Online Coaching User Manual

The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Coaching.

I feel there is still much confusion about Online Coaching out there. People still are quite sceptic about it and therefore I want to help the public to understand Online Coaching better. To shed more light on this awesome tool, I have decided to write a user manual, explaining what is important when working with a coach in an online setting. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot about communication!

No, your coach won’t try to sell you dodgy stuff like detox teas and ab-rollers. If he does, you have found the black sheep of the industry and you should run away as soon as possible, there is nothing for you to get there.

Instead, most online coaches keep it quite simple, as simple has proven to work great for most people. It is effective, cheap and fast. You will probably get a couple of things once you are enrolled:

  • A tracking sheet for daily weigh-ins and other measures (as applicable)
  • A workout plan
  • A check-in sheet for weekly feedback (depending on the client and goal less or more frequent)
  • Some dietary guidelines

Not much, huh? Well, the real magic happens when you work with those tools! A lot of data and feedback can be compiled on a couple of spreadsheets, as long as you use them correctly.

General Guidelines

Giving feedback is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure a great online coaching experience. The more information you provide, the better your coach can adapt nutrition and training for you. As you probably never see your coach in person, this is of even greater importance than in a traditional client-coach-setup. Give feedback, let your coach process it, customise and stay on track!

Your coach assigns you a check in slot where you make sure you provide him with all the information he needs from you. Measurements like bodyweight, hip circumference or skin fold measurements need to be tracked by you in a shared document. Maybe even total calories and macros consumed. Sometimes you will be asked to send pictures of yourself to allow your coach to actually see how you respond. Make sure all this information is ready when check in is around the corner, it helps to keep you accountable and allows your coach to have a good work flow. If you are prone to forgetting such deadlines, use a reminder!


Obviously the best training program is worthless if you don’t do it. Be honest with your coach about skipped training sessions. He won’t be mad at you! And how else can he adapt the training program for you to be better able to fit it into your life? Be honest, document, give feedback. Together you will find a solution.

Document your training sessions as detailed as possible. This includes making videos of you as you train. Your coach will ask you, at least from time to time, to send him a form check. Together you will work on technique and find a form that works best for you. Perfect form is different from person to person, so allow your coach to help you finding what is optimal for you. Video yourself. I know, it’s sometimes a chore, but good things won’t come easy!

As we are talking about individual exercise technique, we have to talk about “feeling”. Do you feel the target muscle while (or after) doing the exercise? Do you feel the burn? Do you get “a pump”? Does it feel “right” or does training on this machine feel weird? Is another muscle the limiting factor? To give you an example: Chantal loves to do the cable pull over for her lats (latissimus dorsi). She has a great feeling while doing the exercise. When I do it, all I feel is my triceps (as the long head of the triceps is also involved in retroversion of the arm)! I have to stop a set because my triceps is completely exhausted before my lats even feel anything. Clearly not an ideal exercise for me! So if you experience similar things with an exercise, tell your coach immediately! Together you will find an exercise variation that works much better for you.

Finding the perfect exercise for you is easier if your coach knows what equipment is available to you. Make sure your coach knows what you are working with. It is a good idea to send pictures as machines can vary wildly in construction and therefore resistance curve and other characteristics, even if they have the same name. Also if you are curious about a machine, ask your coach about it. Maybe it is worth giving it a try to see if it gives you a better feeling (see above).


Make sure you log and report all your calorie intake. This seems obvious, but in reality underreporting is a mayor problem. Many clients are afraid what their coach might think of them if they overshoot their daily calorie target and simply “forget” to log or outright lie about their meals. Don’t do this! Your coach won’t think bad of you. He is there to help you! If you are honest and report that you struggle with your calorie intake, he will come up with a solution. If you lie to him, he simply cannot help you! Log everything that goes into your mouth. Be honest. Together you can do it!

Many people have a difficult time hitting exact macros, which I totally understand. Most coaches won’t force you to hit exactly their macro targets, but give you a range where you should find yourself at the end of a day. If you don’t have a macro range to hit, focus on the total calories. Energy balance is the single most important factor for body fat change, everything else is far less important. Next focus on getting in your protein. Take this as a minimum required intake, more is never a problem. Protein is incredibly important for almost any body function, especially muscle building, so make sure you get everything right here. Carbs and fats are pretty flexible and you don’t have to worry too much about them. They won’t influence the end result significantly. Use this wiggle room to make you overall diet enjoyable and easy to stick to.


Most training or tracking sheets have a notes section, so please make use of it! Report unusual stress, bad sleep and other activities or circumstances that might be important for your coach to know. A few nights of bad sleep may let you put on weight and/or plummet your performance in the gym, leaving your coach worrying what is wrong with your program. In fact nothing is wrong, life is just happening.

Make sure to keep your coach updated whenever a lifestyle change occurs. This includes little things like taking up another sport (possibly reducing your ability to recover from workout to workout) to big changes such as taking up shift work. Lifestyle changes can directly or indirectly affect your ability to recover, your performance, your stress levels and your sleep, so please make sure to communicate this to your coach. I know, I’ve said this already a hundred times, but it is just so important.

To Sum It Up

As long as you work on keeping the communication between yourself and your coach in tip-top shape, you will be able to make great progress, more than you might be thinking is possible. Being honest and putting in the work form the base for great success.

If you have any further questions about online coaching, please let me know down in the comment section or if it is too personal contact us here. Don’t be afraid to ask, I am happy to know what people bothers in the fitness industry.

As always, stay strong and eat well!

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