Tips For Aspiring Strength Coaches
One of the questions I always get asked during any Q&A session is some form of “How did you become a Strength Coach?” or “How did you get to coach at Ohio State?”. In todays age of instant Instagram fame, most of the time the person asking is expecting a short concise answer, but that would be far from the truth. When I attempt to give them some reasonable breakdown of how I’ve lifted weights consistently for over 25 years, owned a gym for 15 years, trained thousands of clients, had 100s of articles published, and still volunteered at OSU for 1.5 years before I was brought on as the Strength Coach for the Ohio Regional Training Center…it can kind of seem daunting.
For any aspiring strength coach out there, the path they need to take will be unique and different than mine, but the key ingredients for success in this profession are the same: hard work, consistency, intensity, and the desire to lead with value. Here are 6 pieces of advice for anyone who wants to make a living helping others get stronger and more fit:
1. Walk the walk
I’ve met countless strength coaches and personal trainers over the years. Some were smarter than me. Many were stronger than me. What I can say is this - none of them loved training more than I do. This to me is one of the biggest requirements to be a great coach, you have to love the process. If you are passionate about your own workouts and training schedule, your athletes will sense and respect that. No one wants to take conditioning advice from a fat coach, and no one wants to learn to deadlift from a smart guy that doesn’t lift weights. This is especially true with elite athletes. Lead by example and people will follow.
2. Find a mentor
I’ve been lucky enough to learn from many people smarter and more experienced than me over the years, including Dr Eric Serrano, Dr Tyler Kelly, and Coach Tom Ryan. Find someone in your area that you look up to and you know that you can learn from. Ask them if you can shadow them, help out at their gym or practice. Most experienced coaches or experts will be happy to share their knowledge with someone who is genuinely motivated to learn and improve.
Now that you are learning and finding your niche, don’t be afraid to mix it up and experiment with different methods. You may be in love with the teachings of Louie Simmons or Cory Gregory, but trying to become a carbon copy of an established expert won’t get you very far. Why would I want to learn from you if I could learn the same things from the originator himself? It’s fine to use Westside or something else as your base, but learn as much as you can from different sources and incorporate them into your own unique style.
4. Volunteer your time
Offer to volunteer your time with a gym, university, or sports team that you would love to work with. They are not going to come looking for you, if they did that means you already made it. You have to take it upon your self to show them your value. I trained wrestlers at Ohio State for 18 months for free (and only had that opportunity because I trained ex-OSU great Tommy Rowlands for the Olympic trials for 2 years before that, also pro bono), with no promise that anything would ever come out of it. I knew that I could make an impact on the program and help their athletes, but I had to prove it to the staff and athletes first.
5. Focus on helping others
Your number one priority should always be to help others, not your contest prep or your IG account. But if you are smart, find a way to help others by teaching them as you do your show prep, or thru your posts on IG. There’s an old adage “no one cares how strong you are unless you are teaching them how you got there”. Be genuine about sharing the knowledge you’ve acquired along the way. Posting mirror ab selfies over and over with some faux-inspirational quote doesn’t count.
6. Never stop learning
No matter how much you read and how many champions you train, remember this one thing - you still have a lot to learn. I am constantly reading, learning about and implementing new methods. Any chance I get I take the opportunity to learn from someone with great experience - such as OSU Football Strength Coach Mickey Marotti - or even some young meat head in the gym. There are millions of ways to do things and you can always find out a new twist to something tried and true.
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