The New Breed
We have happened upon a new age of strength and conditioning. I have seen this coming for sometime now but tried to dismiss it as a fad. Actually, this has been evolving since the first strength coaches were put into place but have pick up speed with the popularity of personal training over the past 10 years. I began to see this first hand five years ago when I began giving seminars, but at the time it was very infrequent. Today I see it everyday. I see it on the internet, journals, magazines, TV, you name it. I have termed this new breed The Savvy Strength Specialist, or SSS for short.

Here is an example of what I am speaking about. While conducting a seminar, a thin hand goes up in the front of the room. When called upon, I get asked a question like “So what are your thoughts on the inverse bio-sequential process? This is then followed with “have you ever used imbalanced adductocentric patterns? This causes my head to spin, as I have no freakin idea what he is talking about.

It then dawns on me that this guy has done his homework and is much more educated that I am, but at what expense? His program still sucks!

Ability to Think

It seems to me that we are now in the age of the overeducated under-trained strength coach and trainer. This new bread owns and studies everything they can find on training to the point it has become too much and the have totally fried their ability to think for themselves and use common sense in the development of the strength programs.

They have also developed the ability to take these concepts and package them into articles and seminars to make themselves appear as experts in the field, but the program still sucks!

The Great Process
Their published articles and concepts then hit the market and become “the next great training process”. The circle continues and training becomes more and more complicated for the average coach and trainer to understand and implement. This is coupled with the fact that the concepts are usually based upon theory with little or no application. What we are left with are dozens of self proclaimed experts who have little to no training experience to back up their theories coaching thousands of readers on the “best” way for them to train.

Three Steps
I was once told that the way to truly seek out a good coach or trainers involves a three step process. These three steps include: education, ability and action. I do not hold each of these three steps at the same value because each step can be more important that the other depending on the profession track the coach or trainer wishes too seek. For example, a professor would need a higher education base to teach in a class room while a coach needs to have a very strong process for ability. Ability, in short is getting the job done in the weight room while action is showing you believe in your process.


Let’s examine these three steps in regards to the strength and condition coach or trainer. I am very close to these professions and feel I know the market from all sides of the spectrum. I have put my time in as a coach, trainer, writer, speaker and small business owner. I have also come to know many athletes, trainers, coaches, professors from the fitness field. Not only do I know these markets I can tell you the average age, hobbies, income and dozens of other demographic variables associated with these groups. The one thing I have found is there are NO EXPERTS, not one, nada. I also know we are all looking for the same things: To better ourselves, teams and athletes. As long as these three are kept in balance things move forward.

When the desire to better yourself becomes greater than the desire to better your client, team or athlete then your program sucks!

Education is very important to the strength coach and trainer. Education also comes from many forms, styles, and places. You should look everywhere for new ideas and thoughts, These can be found in trade journals, conferences, networking with other professionals in the industry, magazines, web sites, forums and discussion groups, seminars, and books. You should also look outside of the strength and conditioning profession for other ideas you may have never thought about. Staying in your own field will also place limits on your growth because you will only be using what has already been done before. You want to position yourself as a leader not a follower. DO NOT overlook the educational resources at your local gym or private training center. If you want to learn strength then you have to get to the source and talk with those who process it.

The most common I see with the education of the trainers and coaches today is that it is so over killed to the point of being ridiculous. They look like they have spent thousands of hours reading with no time in the gym. This is great if you wish to be a professor but if you want to get great results as a coach you need to realize that there is a huge difference between “book smart” and “gym smart”. To this day I still hear remarks about very smart people such as “Yes, he is smart as hell and has a very high IQ, but he has no common sense”. This is the same with coaching and training. “Yes, he really knows his stuff but his exercise technique is the worst I have ever seen”.

Education is important but it all has to work into what your own training philosophy is. We all come from different places, with difference experiences so why do so many try to copy others training philosophies? Strength Training is a much an art as it is a science and the only way to have a high level of success is to build upon what you truly believe is correct. I am blow away the number of times I have asked a coach or trainer what their training philosophy is and all I get in return is a blank stare. Yet, they still have a ton of questions to ask. How can you ask a question when you have no idea how you will use the answer? Your questions should always be building upon what will help your philosophy and keep in mind your philosophy can and will change over time.

In short you may think you have a great program but without a real base on education you are training in the dark and your program sucks!

You also have to have the ability to make your team or clients stronger. By this I do not mean taking someone who is below average and making them good, anyone can do this. You have to have the ability to make a good athlete great.

Ability is taking your philosophy and making it work. If your training philosophy holds strength at a very high level, then you have to be able to make your athletes or clients stronger. This determines the success of your program. I am amazed at the number of times I have heard “We have a great program, it is from so and so university and it always works for them but it did not work for us” No it worked for the coach who had the ability to implement the program because it was based on HIS philosophy. How can you be expected to have great ability implementing a program that is not based on your own philosophy? This is also true for all those who say, “We tried the Westside program and it did not work for us”. I would also bet these same coaches have also tried many “other” programs and they also did not work for them. If they do not have the ability to make it work then NO IT WILL NOT WORK.

So how do you develop ability? First pick a program you believe in and know. This will be a program based on your training philosophy. Second, you must learn communication skills ranging from the verbal to non-verbal. You have to be able to read your athletes and clients to know how they feel about the program and what they are putting into it. You also have to know when to push them and when to back it off. These are skills that come with time and can’t be taught in any classroom or books because different people will react differently to the same stimulus.

In short you can have great education but without the ability to put it to use your program sucks!

Lastly, the coach themselves have to also be above average in the weight room. I personally feel this is the most important of the three. This is my biased opinion because I have been training for power lifting competitions since 1983. I can honestly say everything I have learned about training has been directly related to my time under the bar and the people I have met along the way. When you passion in strength, you always find a way to get better. Let’s look at it this way. The average personally training client will not last one year, the high school strength coach will have an athlete for 3-4 years, the University level coach will also have the athlete for 4 years. Now most of the times you get these athletes and clients with a very limited training back ground and knowledge. If this is all you have then the only knowledge about training you will have particle experience with is 1-4 years, this cycle continues over and over and what have you really learned. Compare this to training yourself (seriously, not some get in shape fitness crap program) for the past 10 years. You would have ten years of evolving experience that will keep building you will also gain the ability and experience of:
1. What real straining should feel and look like.
2. What being in shape really is really about?
3. How to set the bar for each lift.
4. What it means to stay tight.
5. How to breathe under tension.
6. How to grip the bar for the best results.
7. How the slightest correction can make all the difference.
8. That strength can be limited depending on who is coaching it.
9. What bar speed feels like?
10. Plus a million other things you will not read in books.

When you train yourself you also gain the respect of your clients and athletes. They will look up to you for what you can do, not because they have to because the coach says so. They will want to seek your advice to be better. I can’t count the number of times I have had conversations with athletes and clients of other trainers about strength development. They all want to know what they should be doing. At the same time I hear the coaches saying that their athletes do not care about training. Funny how many times I have spoken with their athletes and they seem pretty damn serious to me. I often wonder if the coach did not look like a pinhead if these athletes would be asking me questions.

If you look like a pinhead and could not lift a heavy weight to save your life, then your program sucks!

Get educated, put a weight on your back, develop the ability to implement your training philosophy or your program will suck!