Online "coaching" seems to be all the rage right now. I quoted coaching because I don’t know if I consider online training to be coaching. I’m not putting down what some “coaches” do. I just think that we need a different word for this service.

Whenever I think of coaching, I return to a quote from one of the greats: “A coach, a friend, a brother. Someone who is going to stick by your side through thick and thin, someone who will be a loyal friend and never ever turn on you no matter what.” As you hopefully know by now, the great coach I’m referring to is Roy Munson of the classic film Kingpin. I hope you’re still reading after that quote, and if you are, let's discuss what most lifters need before they need a coach.

Find a Program and Stick to It

Almost every lifter's first mistake is not sticking to a plan long enough to know if it works. I remember one of my assistants telling me that a popular training program failed him. I responded with, “Or did you fail the program?” He didn’t like my retort, but I laughed.

Program hopping is one of the biggest issues in lifting today. If you want to make progress, you must stick to what you’re doing and have faith in that program. Often, I see people hire a “coach” because it makes them accountable to the program. If an expert tells you it will work, you’re more apt to stick to the program.

RECENT: What Have I Done to Help?

I always liked this quote from MLK about having faith, and it applies to most lifters: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Have faith in yourself and the program you’re following, whether it comes from an online coach, a book, or even your personal experience.

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Benefit From a Free Technique Tune-up

I often hear older lifters complain about Instagram and everyone’s lifting videos. I believe these are invaluable. The amount of information available for free is amazing. Is some of the information garbage? Of course, it is. It always has been. Newspapers in the 1800s had no standards and routinely printed lies. It’s your job as the consumer to read through the BS and figure out what is true. We know you can visit elitefts to read informative articles and even have someone critique your technique. You can also look at Squat University (he may have the best information for any single person on the internet). I was recently speaking to Ed Coan, and someone asked about his technique. Ed responded with, “Just send me a video." In this day and age, there is no reason not to learn from the best when the best are giving their information away for free.

Learn to Filter

As a 20-year veteran of college strength and conditioning, let me give you an apology from all strength coaches. The hype videos that everyone sees are great, and recruits, donors, and fans all love them, but they aren’t there for technique. Too many lifters watch the wrong videos when learning how to lift. The reality is, there is good and bad, and if bad is flashy, it sells better. I run our Instagram account at work, and I’ve been trying to figure out what “sells” on Instagram. I’ve been clicking on locations to see which one has a lot of interactions. I’ve found that the cream doesn’t rise to the top on social media. What sells? Sex and flash sell. It’s sad but true. So when something is all flash, critique is extra hard.

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Search for the Best Program

What is the best program for you? Here’s the truth—it probably doesn’t matter. I’ve written and spoken about this before. As long as your program has progressive overload and follows the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands), your program will work.

Here are some programs that you should google and stick with for 12 weeks. Then maybe consider hiring a “coach.”

  • 5/3/1
  • Bill Starrs’ 5 X 5
  • APRE
  • Conjugate
  • Westside for Skinny Bastards (a variation on conjugate)
  • 1 X 20
  • MASS or MASS2
  • TriPhasic

Start with this short list and, whatever one you choose, stick with it for 12 weeks. Trust and have faith in the program.

Consider Nutrition

The newest trend with online coaches seems to be nutrition “coaching.” I believe there can be some value in spending time with an educated person on nutrition. The concern I have with this service is the person’s credentials. Unless one is a registered dietitian (RD), I don’t believe he or she should be telling you what to eat.

Nutrition is a very specific field that needs an understanding of many body functions—a basic certification can’t cover that. So my advice is to be very careful with this service. Too many people believe they have expertise in this area because it works for them. Go back to my thoughts on social media. Something may be flashy, but try scrutinizing it further.

As with any purchase you make, your dollar is your vote. Before you hire an online coach, I ask you to do your research and ask a few questions:

  • Do you need a coach or a program?
  • Do you need training partners?
  • Is this person qualified to coach?
  • Has the person had success as a coach?
  • Is the coach open to discussion or as flexible as glass?

After this, check references. From there, you and only you should decide what is best to help you move forward.

Happy shopping!