So, you’re going to hire a coach. You’ve made the choice to place your entire training program in someone else’s hands. Congratulations! I applaud you on this decision.
There are some incredible minds out there who can help you take your game to the next level. It’s a commendable decision for any athlete to recognize how to take advantage of the resources available to them, and in powerlifting, none is more valuable than the seasoned advice of the right mentor. Now, how do you choose a coach?
Do you find the guy with the most Instagram followers? Maybe someone who’s sponsored by your favorite protein company? Ohhhhh, you chose the guy with the biggest total at your local gym? Perfect. I wish you luck, because chances are you fucked up!
Don’t feel bad, we’ve all done this. It’s easy to be persuaded by sponsorships, fans, persona and bravado. We’ve all let our emotions and naiveties influence our decisions but if you’re as serious as I am about powerlifting – or any sport for that matter – then you’ll think long and hard before you hire a coach.
Decide what you’re looking for before you start looking
You’re putting another person completely in charge of your progression. Don’t you think that person should meet some sort of criteria? Here’s what I look for in a coach:
- Education: What kind of training have they done? Do they have any academic education that could help make them a stronger coach? How do they continue learning?
- Experience: Who else have they coached? Have they competed before?
- Availability: Are they accessible in a reasonable amount of time when you need them?
- Adaptability: Will they work with you when things aren’t going as expected? Will they customize a program to your specific needs?
My coach may not be the perfect one for you, but I chose him for the following reasons: He has a strong educational foundation studying the body and exercise – a BSc. in human kinetics, an MSc. in exercise science as well as a Masters in sports management. He is also actively competing in my sport. He’s available via text almost all the time and I’m lucky enough to be able to train with him when our schedules allow. I hired him specifically because I was injured. I hired him because I trusted him to get me past my injury and back on the platform. It worked exactly as planned and we have become great friends in the process. (If you’re reading this, thank you!)
Don’t settle for a coach who doesn’t care about you
“Online coaches” are a dime a dozen. You want a copy and paste, cookie cutter program? Give me $2 and I’ll find one online for you, but if you’re truly looking to make serious improvements, you won’t get results this way. You need something specific to your goals, and it shouldn’t be a snap decision. Sometimes it also means checking your ego and acknowledging even the best coaches and lifters in the world need some guidance and accountability. Having the properly trained set of eyes on you will never fail to bring great rewards.
Hire a coach who has an invested interest in you as a client, a coach who wants to see you succeed. Too often I have people ask me questions about their programming, second guessing their coaches advice and decisions. I pretty much always tell them they should hire a new coach who is more in tune with client needs.
Remember, your coach is there to help you, but they can’t know what’s happening in your head, with your body or during your training unless you tell them. If you’re injured, tell them. If you’re going through something personal and it’s affecting your training, you tell them. Their job is to adjust your programming accordingly. If they aren’t willing to do this, find a new coach.
Don’t be an askhole client
Clients, you’re not off the hook. If you’ve done your research and hired a coach for the right reasons, listen to them and don’t stray from their programming! They have a plan for you and it will work (given they’re not an idiot). The most frustrating thing for a coach is an askhole client: a client, who asks for advice, receives it and then does something else. Don’t be an askhole – just don’t do it. Don’t shotgun questions out to everyone you know and take the answer that suits you best. Just listen to your coach! Why bother researching and investing time and money if you aren’t going to follow the protocol?
Personally, hiring a coach was the best decision I’ve made since beginning my journey into powerlifting. It has helped me to get healthy again and has kept me from making poor decisions in the weight room. I have an ally who is always on my side when it comes to training and who is there to help me through bad sessions as well as slap my ass when I crush my training.
Choose wisely, use a set of guidelines and listen to them. Most importantly, remember why you started! Training is supposed to be fun and purposeful. Enjoy the process, Embrace the journey and stay healthy.
About the author
Bradie Johnston began weight training at the age of 15 when he was racing BMX bikes. Like most of us, a friend convinced him to compete in a powerlifting meet and he’s never looked back since. He has hosted, coached and competed in meets and finds he learns a lot from watching others lift. He has a 635 squat, 510 bench, and 655 deadlift. No really, his bench is actually 510.