A Strength Coach: More Than Just Cues

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Being a strength coach is much more
than simply shouting “Knees out!” As SSC Shelley Wells told me:
“We are more than just cues.” Coaching is a multifaceted role
that involves upholding standard practices, guiding trainees towards
their strength goals, and continuously expanding one’s knowledge. In
this article, we will look to explore various aspects of what being a
great strength coach entails, including the challenges faced by new

Why You?

So, why do you want to become a
strength coach? I’ve seen many people come and go, lasting only five
years before burning out. It’s a common occurrence. When you’re
financially struggling and wondering if coaching is a viable career
option, doubts can creep in. However, if your vision and focus is
pure and you have a genuine desire to help people, you will succeed.
I’ve experienced tough times myself, to the point where I
contemplated asking a tramp for spare change. That’s the kind of
poverty that can hit you hard, even when you’re working over 40 hours
a week with a fully booked schedule. Big-city life can be unforgiving
and drain your finances rapidly.

Now, let’s talk about that deep burning
desire that keeps you relentlessly pursuing excellence in the realm
of strength training. Is there a chip on your shoulder, perhaps
stemming from childhood experiences? Or is there a profound
admiration for those legendary titans who came before you? This inner
drive needs to fuel you for not just a few years, but for decades. In
my case, it was the experience of being bullied that ignited my
determination to build myself up and take charge of my life. I wanted
to pass on the mentality of being a resilient and a determined
individual, coupled with mastery of the barbell.

To me, becoming a strength coach is
akin to embarking on a personal quest of self-discovery, a pilgrimage
of sorts. I want to share that transformative experience with
individuals who are genuinely committed to their training.
Part-timers need not apply, this isn’t the path for you. The rewards
don’t come in the first six months, but over the long run. It’s about
pushing yourself physically and mentally, surpassing the limits you
thought were impossible. The journey is challenging, but it’s worth
the wait. If you’re pursuing strength coaching simply because the gym
is your “passion,” you’re not gonna last. Dig

New SSCs: The

Passing the Starting Strength Coach
(SSC) Certification marks the beginning of your professional strength
coach career. However, it is essential to recognize that acquiring
your SSC is just the start. Just like passing your driving test,
becoming an SSC does not automatically mean you’re an experienced
and skilled coach – it just means that you’re a coach. Just as when
you pass your driving test, you don’t instantly become a great
driver. You passed the platform and the orals, but can you hang with
the big dogs? It takes years of learning, experience, and honing
one’s craft to truly excel in the weight room. That requires decades
of time, not just a few years. Decades.

Experienced coaches possess the ability
to respond to common questions from various angles. Through repeated
exposure but also personal reflection, coaches develop refined
answers. We get questions about appropriate deadlift footwear,
concerns about shoulder impingement in the press, the difference
between practice and training, programming, common injuries and shiny
fallacies, among many others, and they require thoughtful and concise
responses. Coaches have the privilege and responsibility of debunking
these myths, instilling honesty, and guiding trainees towards
successful habits rather than seeking quick fixes.

Coaches accumulate invaluable
intangibles through their coaching career, which often include
personal and coaching mistakes, injuries, collaborations with other
professionals, and experimentation with new ideas. These experiences
shape a coach’s instincts, education, and intuition. From training
while injured to managing stressful situations, coaches learn to
navigate various challenges and consistently make progress. It’s
problem solving, not excuse management. We strive towards progress,

Seeking Advice

Whenever I’m in doubt, I ask Rip. If
it’s an Olympic lifting question, I ask Josh. If it’s an injury
question, I ask Will. If it’s a programming question, I ask Andy or
Nick. If I have a physics question, I ask Mia. If I have a diet
question, I ask Bob Santana. Even experienced coaches like myself
seek advice when in doubt. Consulting seasoned professionals and
experts in specific areas helps me expand my knowledge and make
better and more-informed decisions. Recognizing that there is always
more to learn and remaining humble in the pursuit of knowledge is a
crucial trait for a coach’s growth.

That also means respecting those that
have come before you. We are all standing on the shoulders of the
giants who paved the way before us. Success takes a village; very
rarely is a coach bootstrapped and self-made. The knowledge and
coaching that helped build you up came from a coach who spent time
figuring this shit out in the trenches. That should not be forgotten
or be taken lightly. Especially now that you’re the new sheriff in
town, you should be respectful of the people that got you there. 

Few Observations

Creating a thriving gym culture is akin
to planting a tree. It requires a stable and well-equipped facility
(the soil), knowledgeable and nurturing coaches (the water),
enthusiastic and dedicated members (the sunlight), and effective
management (the splint). A positive gym culture fosters a sense of
community, motivates trainees, and generates an environment where
everyone can thrive, so the gym develops into a solid oak tree.

When growing a great brand, it’s
crucial to prioritize quality over quantity. Using great restaurants
as an analogy, each venue can offer signature dishes while
maintaining the brand’s identity. The head chef, symbolizing a new
coach, adds their unique flair to the menu, becoming a new reason for
people to return. However, quick expansion can lead to soulless
spaces lacking appeal. The goal should be to expand carefully, like
Nobu, not metastasize, like Starbucks.

The presence of established coaches
like Rip and Josh brings a unique energy to the room – the fear of
God comes to mind. Coaches with a track record of success can instill
a healthy dose of respect and buy-in for the trainees, pushing them
to perform their best. The trust and connection formed between coach
and trainee is what sets great coaches apart.

Becoming an SSC is just the beginning
of a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and growth. Being a great strength
coach, to me, is a continuous process of improvement, adaptation, and
dedication to both your craft and the success of your trainees.
Embrace the challenges, seek knowledge, and always strive to be the
best coach possible. As a paid professional, your dedication and
diligence as a strength coach will always be in demand. This was a
hard certification to get, and the public knows this – no wonder
there’s not that many of us, although we are growing our numbers.

The SSC credential opens doors to great
opportunities. However, to truly excel and differentiate yourself
from average trainers you must go beyond the three letters after your
name. Embrace the thirst to deep-dive into your profession, explore
new avenues, and continually push yourself to excel. The next ten
years of your coaching career will shape you into an exceptional
coach with an expanded toolkit, a broader mindset and a rich wealth
of new experiences. Keep chasing that version of yourself, always
seeking improvement and never resting on your laurels.

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