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What the Hell is a Strength Coach Anyways?

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

For some reason it’s become a point of pride to call oneself “strength coach” instead of personal trainer.

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“What type of clients do you want to train?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

“My passion is in sports, so I want to train athletes. By the way, I’m not a trainer – I’m a strength coach,” is the response I got from the young and ambitious trainer.

“Then why the hell are you training in a boutique studio?” was the first thing that came to mind.

I’ve trained hockey players for the NHL draft, football players for college, a mogul skier for the national team, and an LPGA golfer. Does this make me a strength coach? No. I’ve also trained celebrities. Does this make me a celebrity trainer? No.

I’m a personal trainer and damn proud of it. While I’ve been fortunate to work with high performing individuals I make my living training regular people. Here’s what you may not know:  so do other “coaches”.

Bill Sonnemaker trains NFL players at Catalyst Fitness in Atlanta. He estimates it’s 5% of his total revenue. The rest comes from your average Joe.

Joe Dowdell trains a number of pro fighters. but the majority of income from Peak Performance comes from the average Joe.

Tony Gentilcore trains at Cressey Performance, famous for training baseball players. But the large amount of their clienetele is the average Joe.

The truth

All strength coaches are personal trainers. Unless you work solely for a sports team, you are a personal trainer. So start thinking like one. If your goal is to work with high performance athletes, then you would be better off applying for internships with intercollegiate sports teams or sports performance centers. Working for a gym is not the way to start a career training the athlete.

So stop telling me you want to train athletes when Grandma Mae, lawyer Bill, and doctor Meaghan are in front of you. Learn to train them because they are the ones who will pay your bills.

How to become a personal trainer

Their goals, however whacky they are, must become your goals

There is nothing wrong with personal training

For some reason it’s become a point of pride to call oneself “strength coach” instead of personal trainer. Text books, blogs, and magazines focus on the newest high performance training system or equipment. Well, who’s to say that the next best thing is better than the last next best thing? Maybe it’s worse? What I do know is that new and hardcore is cool and calling oneself a strength coach has become synonymous with cool.

Who are you helping with this stuff and how much money is it really making you? Reading a blog and learning how to do a ring muscle up is cool, but it won’t ever help you get your clients better results. Calling yourself a coach may be a great way to pump up your ego to the internet abyss but it isn’t going to sell clients on your services. Your job is to help people look the way they want and achieve the lifestyle they deserve.

This is personal training. You’re a service provider first and performance coach second.

Personal trainers must take untrained and sometimes unmotivated people and creatively develop a workout plan. The back cover of my book Ignite the Fire explains this point:

“Personal Trainers are now expected to be salespeople, psychologists, nutritionists, post-rehabilitation specialists, and motivational speakers. You can have all the training expertise in the world, but you must also be able to inspire passion in your clients, and develop relationships with the people you serve”

A personal trainer’s job is to figure out the best plan to balance what the client needs with their lifestyle. High performance is almost never a #1 priority. And, despite what you may think, even the top “strength coaches” makes most of their money from personal training.

how to become a personal trainer strength coach

So what the hell is a strength coach anyway?

Personal training is unregulated. So is strength coaching (it’s a blog, I’m allowed to make up words). This means anybody can call themselves whatever they want. If you want a career training athletes don’t work in a gym; you’re better off seeking out opportunities to work with that population. Words mean nothing. Let your actions do the talking.

If you do work in a gym realize that, while you may train some athletes, your money is being made training the average Joe. Take pride in calling yourself a personal trainer and give your clients a service they’ll remember.

If you’re a personal trainer “like” thePTDC’s Facebook page and join our movement.


Photo credits: BombDog Tojosan Koisny

About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is the creator and head coach of the PTDC and has a distaste for third person bios ... Hey, I'm Jon and I'd have to say that this site is pretty awesome. Thanks for being here. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded). My team and I have also created the first Academy and certification for online trainers. Click here to check out the Online Trainer Academy.