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Thinking of becomming a Strength Coach?

I found this tremendous post at another website. Its a great read for anyone that is starting out or that wishes to become a strength coach read up on this.

Trading places
How to make your mark as a strength & conditioning expert
By Christian Thibaudeau

For some of us, strength training is such a passion that we decide to make it our livelihood. Many peoples have a lot of knowledge when it comes to building muscle, strength and power. Yet, how many actually become ?famous? strength coaches? Very few indeed! Sadly, the guys at the top are not always the better coaches: however they all have a lot of drive to make their mark and know how to market themselves.

I feel that I?m well placed to give you a few tips on how to make it as a strength expert. Not that I consider myself to be one of the top strength expert or a Guru of some sort. However I have achieved a fairly high level of success and recognition in a very short period of time. Becoming a reputable and successful strength coach is a lot like playing chess: you must think about your every moves and try to predict what will happen next.

So I am about to give you a few tips on how to get to the top and how to stay there when you reach it.

How to reach the top

Getting a break

I?ve said it many times I?ll say it again: the ?secret? to being a successful coach is to get one big break. Your break could be getting a job writing for a quality training publication like T-mag, it could be training a young athlete who goes on to become a star and it can even come from an already established training authority who chooses to take you under his wing.

The thing is that you never know where your break is going to come from. So really, you should maximize your opportunities to get a break: get to work with as many athletes as you can, even if that means working for free at first, get in touch and establish good relations with any top strength coach you can. Basically you have to get your foot in the door anyway you can.

I worked for free during my first two years in the strength training world. The local athletes and organizations do not have a lot of money. And face it, if you are not a ?big name? coach, pro athletes (who can pay a lot) will not hire you. But to get a good reputation you must produce athletes and most of all you must get to know athletes. During these first two years it was very hard for me to conciliate everything: training, career, studies. In fact I almost burned myself out at first. I took so many clients that I had a lot of trouble keeping myself organized. But I have no regrets because the more athletes you get to work with the more you hone your skills as a strength coach. Working with a lot of athletes will also increase your chance of getting a break. One of the young athletes you are training today could become a star tomorrow. He could also find himself training with sport superstars: word of mouth is very powerful! The more peoples talk about you, the greater are your chances to succeed.

Knowledge

You can have all the drive in the world, if you are not qualified as a strength coach you won?t last very long. It?s very important that you be able to produce results. While you don?t need a Ph.D. in exercise science to do so, you must acquire as much theoretical and practical knowledge as possible. This means reading everything you can on training, but reading it with a critical eye. It also means developing a feel for athletes. It?s one thing to plan a session on a piece of paper; it?s another to actually train athletes in the gym. The only way to develop that feel is to get to train as many athletes as possible.

Contacts

When you are trying to come up in the strength training field you cannot afford to be an asshole. A lot of wannabe trainers act superior and condescending to other coaches or regular peoples. This is big mistake! If you never know which athlete could become a superstar, you also don?t know which coach could become very influential in the future. I remember working with a local strength coach and self-proclaimed guru and he once told me in a fist of rage that he would ruin my career. Obviously that was before I started working for T-mag, training elite athletes and having a good reputation. The problem is that I?m now much more influential than he is. I?m not a vindictive guy, in fact if he wanted to work with me again I?d probably agree, but some other guys are vindictive and will remember if you jerked them around.

Some coaches can get away with being egocentrics and condescending, but this is only if they have the right to do so: once you are on top you can afford to be more self-confident and cocky. However I still believe that genuine good guys like Charles Staley, John Davies and I will have the edge in the long run. Never underestimate the power of respect and good relations. Cultivate them, if peoples feel that you?re a good guy they will often go out of their way to help you.

Establishing good working relations entails that you first need to create a relationship! You must go out and get to know peoples. Be genuine and frank. If you lie to them at first and they find out, you?re toasted!

Image

While enlightened athletes know that looks doesn?t equate knowledge, the vast majority of athletes judge you according to your physique. As a strength coach, having a muscular but lean physique is the best business card you could have. When I started my career I was still competing in Olympic lifting. At one point I was 230-240lbs on 5?9?. I was very strong and fairly muscular: but I did not have a pleasing or aesthetic physique. Deep down, most athletes want to look good, it?s human nature. So if your physique seems unattractive to them chances are that they will not really trust you. They will think: ?if he knows so much about how to get in good shape, how come he isn?t?. You cannot underestimate the influence of your physique on how peoples perceive you. I knew a weightlifting coach, great coach and great guy. However when he tried to go ?mainstream? he failed because he was grossly out of shape and obese. Now, he was a fantastic and knowledgeable coach but he just turned off most ?regular? athletes he approached.

Along the same lines I firmly believe that a strength coach should be able to do what he asks of his athletes. Obviously I?m not talking about being as good as them. However if you ask your athletes to do the Olympic lifts you must be able to do them yourself, and do them with adequate technique. If you ask your athletes to run several 400m sprints (which are hellish work) you better be able to do it. Some coaches will often workout with their athletes from time to time. John Davies is known for doing this and so am I. If your athletes see you train hard they will have an easier time accepting the grueling work you ask of them. As former Navy Seal commando Richard Marcinko would say: ?Leaders lead from the front, not from the back?.

Having an important sports background is also important. No need to have reached the elite level in many sports, but I believe that the more different sports you practiced, even if just for fun, the better coach you?ll be. For one thing you will be able to better understand the physical demands of a sport if you practiced it. Myself I have participated at the competitive level in football, hockey, soccer, rugby, golf, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, strongmen competitions and basketball. I have also done some skiing (alpine and cross-country), badminton and gymnastics.

One last point that is linked to the preceding one is that to be a good strength coach you must have a certain level of strength yourself. I?m not talking about being a world class strength athlete. But you must be stronger than most peoples in a wide variety of lifts. Being strong is much like your physique: it can enhance or break the confidence an athlete has in you.

Material presentation

It is very important to be professional, even if you?re not yet established as a true pro. This means giving out well designed, visually appealing programs and business cards. If an athlete hires you as his coach and you give him a hand written program on some piece of paper, how professional will you look? Not very! All of my programs as visually attractive: my programs are 25-30 pages long, include pictures of all the exercises used in the program; I use myself as a model so that my athletes know that I can do the lifts I ask of them. The cover page is a high quality semi-hard/glossy paper and there is a kick ass color logo on it. The back page is also semi-hard and glossy, giving the program a ?softcover book? feel. I?ll tell you that I?ve gotten a lot of jobs simply based on the attractiveness of my program. There is nothing wrong with it: if you know that you?re good, you must get your message across in any way possible.

Having a visually stimulating business card, a card that stands out of the pack, will also be a great tool. If you leave you card in a gym or anywhere else you must attract the attention of as much persons as possible.

Like it or not, one of the most important thing to become a strength training success is presenting yourself and your material in the best way possible. This is because of what?s known as the Pygmalion effect: the way peoples see you will influence what they?ll think of you. If they see you as a true pro, someone who cares about his athletes and someone who?s in shape they will trust you all the more!

Marketing yourself

I used to believe that strength coaches who marketed themselves aggressively were nothing more than sellouts. I even referred to the type as ?bandits?. However I now understand that there is an important need to market yourself if you want to be a success. Nobody will hire you if you are a ?nobody? who never leaves the basement! You must get your name out there, get some recognition. Writing for a quality magazine is a good start but not everybody can achieve that at first. But every strength expert can write a small information brochure/booklet and distribute it freely in gyms. If you include a lot of quality info, make it snappy and interesting your name will get around!

Basically try to get your name out as much as possible. Take any opportunity you have to have peoples talk about you. Do not be ashamed of marketing yourself, you are not a sellout: you know that you have something to say and you want as much peoples as possible to hear it!

You too can make it

A lot of young coaches are intimidated by the top dogs in the field. I once was like that too. Somehow I did not believe that I could become part of the elite myself. It?s only when I told myself ?screw them, I can make it? that I started to have success. Confidence brings success which brings confidence. The current strength training Gurus are peoples just like you, if you put them on a pedestal you are doomed to fail as you will always consider yourself to be inferior: you are not! Most training authorities are at the top because they had one big break or had a fantastic drive to succeed: if you have that you too can make it.

Once you reach the top

When you achieve a certain degree of success you must make your name a fixture in the mind of athletes and bodybuilders. When peoples think of strength coaching they think of John Davies, Charles Staley, Ian King or even Christian Thibaudeau. To get your name to become synonymous with the profession you must make important contributions to the field: write books and articles, produce videos, give seminars. The more productive you are, the more ?mythical? you become. Remember that image is important in getting the job and knowledge is important to get the job done!

A lot of trainers become arrogant and demanding as soon as they have some success. I still believe that being a good guy and having solid, positive work relationships with other coaches is one of the keys to long term success.

Along the same line, when you reach the top remember your big break and give something back. For one, I?ll do anything in my power to help a future strength coach to make a name for himself. Don?t be afraid of other peoples? success.

Another thing you should do as you become more successful is to be more selective with your clients. When you start out you need to work with as much athletes as possible. However as you become a big name you need to be associated with success stories. You simply cannot survive failures: only accept athletes who are hard workers, disciplined and talented, these will get much more out of your training and as a result you will look better. Furthermore, if you maintain a huge client base when you become part of the elite you really cannot give all your attention to each athlete. Elite athletes need to be closely supervised because the slightest improvement can mean the difference between winning and losing, between 100 000$ a year and 1 000 000$ a year.

I am myself at the mid-point between the two: I?m slowly reducing my client base. However I still have non-elite athletes: these are the guys that first hired me when I was a ?nobody? so I repay them for their confidence by continuing to work with them.

Conclusion

Obviously the strength coaching profession is not for everybody. However if it?s your passion and just know that it?s what you want to do, go for it! The tips contained in this article will help you achieve your goals. But you still have to do the work. Opportunities won?t come up on themselves.

great article. thanks for posting. have you read the black book of secrets. i was wondering what type of training techniques he talks about in the book

Thanks for reposting! Great article and once again a ton of great advice from a stand-up guy.

d22,

Both of Christian’s books are top notch. The first lays the basic down in an extremely user friendly format, and the second delves deeper into methods for forming comprehensive weight training programs. He also breaks down the basis for each type of strength development, including the hows and why’s, plus how they affect your system, both muscular and CNS.

Top notch publication.

Lil Coach H
cscs

Pga- Thanks.