Does the strongest make the best coach?

I have a belief that strength coaches and personal trainers need to walk the walk besides talk the talk.

When I was a younger trainer, back home, there was a guy in my gym (we will call him Bill to protect the guilty) who has a ton of clients. He was busy during the day, busy at night, working the weekends and he looked like hell. He looked like he had stick legs with a Washington Apple perched on top… need I say those stick legs wore Zubaz pants.

I never understood why a guy looking like he just left a weekend at the bar could be so busy… well the answer was revealed to me many years later when I found out what he sold his clients… I don’t need to say much more because that is all public record for those who know who I mean.

He didn’t look the part, not even a little bit…

The trend now is to jump onboard the ones that push the most weight, look the biggest, win all the contests. But are they always the best at coaching? Depends on their dedication to their craft, their level of self-education and how they hone their knowledge.

Notice I said self-education. A college degree in Exercise Science, Physical Therapy or any other health related field WILL give you plenty of book knowledge. You can leave school and take a CSCS exam once you take the cap and gown off and have instant credibility attached to you.

However… all the education and the CSCS exam does is give you a piece of paper. Taking the CSCS exam doesn’t give you under the bar time, it doesn’t give you those hours working with a variety of clients with a variety of needs, it doesn’t give you the ability to run a successful training business, it gives you a diploma you can hang on your wall to impress people.

Most certifications are books and a test. No practical, no programming, nothing. You read and you test. If you pass, you get the piece of paper. If you fail, you can do it again.

Having said all that, it doesn’t matter if your coach can squat 1000 pounds, squat 500, competed in sports or chooses to only compete in 5k events. Some of the greatest minds I have ever spoken to, in this industry, weren’t the best at their chosen sport. They just worked the hardest.

They worked hard to get stronger, they learned, they trained people who were bad at sports, they didn’t go after the blue chippers, they took the worst kids on the team just to prove a point.

They succeeded because they weren’t the most genetically gifted, they didn’t touch a barbell and bench 225 the first time. They had to experiment and learn. That learning led them to absorb more knowledge which benefited them and their clients.

This is NOT to say you can’t be a genetically gifted lifter and be a great coach/trainer. This just means don’t always assume the best at their sport is the best at their craft.

Let’s take some team sport examples…

Jordan – a legend and a horrible coach

Magic Johnson – a legend and a horrible coach

Jim Harbaugh – good player and a winning coach

Mike Ditka – both a Hall of Fame player and a Super Bowl winning coach

Four examples of players/coaches. Different careers, different results as coaches. Their success coaching depended on how they absorbed the game, related to players, dealt with stress and a myriad of other factors.

The same goes for us in the strength world. There are some who make amazing coaches who have great success on the platform. There are some great lifters who don’t coach and there are plenty of average lifters who produce champion athletes and lifters.

It all depends on the factors I mentioned above…. self-education, dedication to their craft and honing their knowledge with experience.

I will add a few more to the list:

Humility – never be afraid to ask for advice from those who have been there.

Love what you do – this is obvious, but training people IS a job. Sometimes you have bad days and you space out but if you love what you do, and I mean truly love helping people get better, those bad days become good ones by helping your clients succeed.

Work to better yourself – in a conversation I had with a well-known trainer once, he mentioned to me that the worst thing he ever did for his own fitness was work in the fitness industry. Those of us who do this full-time will agree. Squeezing in workouts between clients can be a real pain in the ass. But, you have to MAKE time… you are a trainer, you are a coach… this leads into the topic that started this blog:

You don’t have to be the strongest or the best at what YOU compete in, but you damn well better exhibit some strength and look the part of someone who is going to tell others to get their ass in gear.


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