I’ve received several questions on how to enter the field of strength and conditioning, and how to get into coaching athletes over the last couple of months.
“How do I get started with training athletes?”
“Which certifications should I get?”
“What continuing education tools do you recommend?”
“Yunus, how come you keep getting more handsome every year that passes?”
Rather than answer all those emails landing in my inbox one-by-one, I’m putting this article up as mandatory reading for all ya peeps entertaining thoughts on becoming a strength coach.
Breaking into strength and conditioning certainly isn’t easy if you don’t already have established connections within the industry.
Fear ye not, though.
I’ve compiled your 12-month curriculum for How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach 101 below.
Follow the five steps I lay out for one full year, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a strength coach, and further ahead than 98% of those contemplating getting into the field.
So without further ado…
The class is in session, and Professor Yunus ain’t afraid to deliver a good spanking to those skipping their homework.
Email or call high school, college, and pro strength coaches as well as those running their own training facilities in your area. Ask them if they’ll let you observe how they train their athletes.
Offer to pay whatever they deem appropriate for their time.
They’re doing you a huge favor by having you come in and helping you out.
Not the other way around.
You won’t become a great trainer based on the certifications you accumulate.
But you have zero chance of getting hired if you don’t possess the minimum qualifications for a strength coach job on paper.
What’s the one certification you should get then?
The Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) offered by the NSCA.
Forget about chasing 27 different certs. Just get the CSCS.
It should take you a maximum of 3 months of intense study to acquire those four letters after you name.
I’ve helped people pass the CSCS exam in as few as 42 days following my study plan.
One hour of concentrated reading per day amounts to 1 book** per week.
Repeat that each week for a year and you’ll hit 50.
Who should you read?
All the classics…
– Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladimir Zatsiorsky
– Supertraining by Mel Siff
– Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe
– The Strongest Shall Survive by Bill Starr
** DVD’s are interchangeable with books as continuing education tools
Preferably ones that have a hands-on component and a favorable student:presenter ratio to maximize what you’ll learn at the event.
If you don’t know which seminars to attend, pick one from each of these categories, and you’re all set:
– Olympic lifting
– calisthenics/bodyweight training
– strength training for team sport athletes
– mobility/rehab/injury prevention
– nutrition for athletes
Those cover the fundamentals and will give you at least a basic understanding of training for strength and athleticism.
Reading up on training theory is all fine but you’ll never become a great strength coach if you don’t train anyone.
(Unfortunately, the recent uprising of internet trainers chasing Instagram/Facebook fame rather than getting friggin’ good at their craft has diminished the value of in-person coaching… but that’s another story for another day)
The fastest way to get your hands on real athletes and gaining invaluable experience is volunteering your time with a strength coach running a solid program.
When you find a strength coach whose style resonates with you and who you could picture as a mentor, offer to intern/volunteer with them in exchange for gaining access to their knowledge.
You may have to pay for this opportunity but the cost far outweighs the boost to your career that studying under an accomplished coach will give you.
Plus, you may tap into his network of colleagues in the strength and conditioning industry that could open up other coaching opportunities later down the line that would never have been accessible to you otherwise.
Put this 5-step plan in action over the next 12 months, and I guarantee you’ll have all the tools to go far in this field.
Sounds like a shit ton of work, doesn’t it?
That’s because it is.
At times, you’ll be wondering how not to run out of hours in a given day.
But the good news is, it’s only hard to weed out the wannabes.
Those hell-bent on succeeding and making a career out of training athletes will find a way to get it done.
Somehow, some way.
There’s no try.
You either do, or don’t.
If you enjoyed this article, please do a brother a favor by liking, commenting and sharing it with others who might dig it as well.
Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.