A great coach or team of coaches usually surrounds athletes that compete in a variety of sports at a high competitive level. If you’re an MMA fighter, you will usually have a strength and conditioning coach, a striking coach, and a wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach. Usually the difference between amateur and lower levels of competition and professional levels of competition is the availability of better coaches who are committed to improve an athlete's or team's performance levels. If you’re a great coach with a proven track record, chances are people will be seeking your guidance and experience.

Should it be the same for powerlifters? Do you think it is coincidence that Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell has produced such a stable of world class lifters? Some of the best lifters in the World have come out of Westside Barbell. Lifters have moved to Columbus Ohio to train with Louie Simmons and everyone that has been privileged enough to have his guidance have made tremendous improvements in their lifting careers. Dave Tate, Chuck Vogepohl, Matt Smith, Dave Hoff, Shane Hammock and Josh Connelly are just a few names that come to mind who have trained at Westside Barbell.

Lifters starting out will obviously be able to progress and make gains through training, competing and gathering experience for the first few year of lifting. Some will progress better than others depending on a variety of factors including their program, commitment to training, and their drive. At a certain point gains will start to slow down and become more difficult. This may be the time to consider looking for a coach.

Where do you look? Who is available? Should you be looking for online training or personal coaching?

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If you’re involved in the powerlifting circles and have been competing in events, chances are you have met a lot of lifters and have been networking with people who know coaches, or know of coaches that can help.

What should you look for in a coach? I believe you need someone who has a proven track record of competing, has been through the trenches of competition, and who has also has coached other lifters. If I want to squat 1000 pounds in multi-ply, do I really want to hire a coach who is a raw lifter and squats 500 pounds?

dave tate steve goggins coach

I’ve had a couple of opportunities to work with some great lifters. In 2014 I met Chad Aichs at elitefts who helped me prepare for the WPC Worlds in West Palm Beach Florida. Most of our coaching involved following a specific training template. I would send videos of my lifts to Chad and he would recommend making adjustments that he felt would improve my lifting. Sending videos and training online can be frustrating if you live in a different geographical area and Chad recommended I travel to Reno Nevada to train with him for a week to fine-tune everything before the competition. So a month before WPC Worlds I travelled to Reno Nevada to train and it was a great experience.

The coaching definitely paid off because I ended up with a squat PR, a bench PR, a total PR, and won the gold medal in my division.

2015 wasn’t the best year for me competing.  I injured my leg training on my last training session preparing for the XPC Finals at the Arnold and my leg injury took its toll for most of 2015. I competed at an RPS meet in June and bombed my squats for the first time ever. My confidence over the summer wasn’t the greatest, to say the least.

In August I was at elitefts and met Todd Brock.  Todd had trained at Westside Barbell for twelve years with Chuck Vogepohl and has been affiliated with elitefts for the past eight years. Todd had a ton of lifting experience and he was coaching a couple of my friends who were making some tremendous improvements in their lifting. Todd was training my best friend Bruce Mason and took his squat from 850 pounds to 1003 pounds in a few months!

I spoke with Todd and he told me that he thought I had a lot of “untapped potential” to lift some big numbers even at my old age.  We got along famously, developed a great friendship and our lifter/coaching relationship began in October.

Todd has an uncanny ability to figure out what your weaknesses are and how to address them with different lifts. One of the issues or physical limitations that I have is my chronic back issue, which limits the amount of heavy lifting I can do while still trying to lift heavy, so this affects a different approach to figuring out a training protocol that can also accommodate an injury.

I worked with Todd, who was very meticulous with training percentages. We really focused on a few specific movements to improve posterior chain strength and back strength. We speak on the phone two or three times a week to discuss how everything is going and Todd makes suggestions to improve technique on all the lifts from training videos I’ve sent. We did a lot of exercises during the training cycle that I hadn’t previously focused on including a lot of heavy dumbbell work prior to our bench training sessions, belt squats, and lots of lat pull downs, GHRs and reverse hypers. We also incorporated a lot of pre-hab and stretching several times a week.  We are planning on competing at the XPC Finals at the Arnold in March this year so we picked a meet in early January to do a few token lifts and see how things were progressing.

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One thing we decided in October was to try and do a meet without cutting weight and it was our goal to try and reach a body weight as close to 300 pounds as we could. In October I competed with a bodyweight of 272 pounds. In January I weighed in for the Detroit meet at 295 pounds — 23 pounds heavier than the previous meet and the heaviest I’ve ever been.

xpc marshall johnson

Todd flew from Alabama to Michigan to attend the meet with me and I can’t express how much it meant to me that somebody would fly across the United States to make sure I did well at a meet. To have the support of somebody who keeps your head in the right spot and makes sure you’re focused, dialed in and ready, is a value that I’m extremely fortunate have.

Going into the Detroit meet I only squatted heavy once in four weeks. My best squat going into the meet was 848 pounds, which I did at worlds November 2014.  We opened up with 830 pounds and it flew up.  Todd set the second squat at 900 pounds. It flew up and honestly didn’t feel heavy at all; I couldn’t believe how fast the weight moved! A 52-pound PR! I couldn’t believe how easy 900 pounds was and I was pumped to do a third because I felt I could have easily squatted 930, but Todd wanted to wave the third attempt to save our energy to focus on the Arnold. We got our 520-pound bench opener and it flew up. I opened my deadlift with 640 pounds and I didn’t take my time to set my hips properly.  The weight flew up so fast I lost my balance backwards and dropped the bar on my shin. Our meet was over but I had never felt stronger or more explosive at a meet, ever!

Working with a coach who can figure out how to prepare you properly, squeeze the best performance out of you, and peak properly for a meet is something that is so valuable I can’t express how much it meant to me. To have a coach is adding a member to your team, a friend that can offer constructive criticism, offer proper guidance, keep you focused and accountable and take your lifting to the next level.

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Todd. He has taken the time to figure out what works best for me and has made me confident that I will lift a lot more in the near future. Todd has proven to me that you don’t have to lift heavy to be strong and if you trust your coaches instincts and follow the program, you’ll break barriers you never thought you ever could. The proof is smashing a 52-pound squat PR with just over two months training.

If you’re progress is stalling or you’ve reached a plateau with your lifting, I highly recommending finding someone like Todd Brock who can take you to the next level in your lifting career!