Finding the Best Strength & Conditioning Coach

Personal trainer, fitness coach, fitness consultants, exercise specialist, health & wellness coach, physical trainer the list goes on! There are so many different titles that someone can label themselves to attract clients looking to improve their fitness, body composition or athletic performance, that it makes my head hurt. But as a fact, all labels are not created equal there are certain characteristics that differentiate quality between Coaches: academic knowledge, certification, technical skills, reputation are all important to ensure clients are receiving the most effective training programs to achieve their goals whether it's being drafted to the NHL, finishing an Ironman or recovering from an injury.


Education forms the foundation for developing the best Strength & Conditioning programs inorder to help our athletes and clients achieve greater health & performance. To ensure Strength & Conditioning Coaches has the education to , The American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) have identified:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomechanics
  • Athletic Injury Care / Prevention
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Exercise Prescription
  • Exercise Testing
  • Nutrition
  • Human Physiology
  • Sports Medicine

The human body is extremely complex & huge variations exist between individuals and even day-to-day within the same person, meaning only those Strength & Conditioning Coaches with a strong background in the above mentioned categories will be able to interpret and adjust training to optimize each training session. Regardless of if your goals are to improve your body composition or maximize your sport performance, a trainer with a comprehensive education in these subjects as recognized by a formal university education will be the best possible resource to helping you achieve your goals.

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE: Make sure your Strength & Conditioning Coach has appropriate education in order for you to get the most out of every training session


The number of possible certifications that someone can get in order to be certified to work with people in a strength & conditioning setting are infinite varying from inexpensive 2-day courses with no pre-requisites to expensive, multiple module certifications with specific educational requirements. Instead of bashing the lower-quality certifications, I'll describe why we require our Coaches to pursuit the Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialists certification (obtained from the NSCA). The CSCS certification requires a university degree in Kinesiology (or similar) and involves a fairly challenging in-person exam. This is currently accepted as the top certification in the industry due to the high standards and challenging exam ensuring high quality Strength & Conditioning Coaches possess the CSCS certification. CSCS Coaches are experts in developing programs for sport performance, body composition and post-injury reconditioning.

In order to help our clients who are recovering from an injury and looking to regain their strength, power, and fitness, we also have a number of Certified Athletic Therapists on our Team. These Coaches have an in-depth understanding of orthopedic and athletic injuries and the best methods for regaining functioning following successful rehabilitation.

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE: Check into your Strength & Conditioning Coach's certifications do they match your needs?


The golden rule is that a Strength & Conditioning Coach has to know what they're talking about. Period. Education and Certification build a strong foundation, but neither is comprehensive for all the different skills that a Coach can have. In addition to the theoretical and practical knowledge that education and certification provide, technical skills can only be developed through experience.

As a Strength & Conditioning Coach, one of the hardest things to witness is going into a gym and see a Personal Trainer demonstrating bad technique on exercises. When an athlete performs an exercise with proper technique, it allows the targeted muscles to function in the right lines of action, which equals more efficient training resulting in faster adaptations whether it's improving speed/agility, increasing power, building larger muscles, or losing fat. Clients generally trust that Strength & Conditioning Coaches know proper technique and may not recognize they are being coached to be in a position that greatly increases risk of injury (like a herniated disc in the image below). Therefore, it is essential for Strength & Conditioning Coaches to have rock-solid technique in the exercises that they are teaching.

Good vs. Ugly Deadlift Technique

Technical skills also involve building programs including the individual workouts and how they fit in to the long-term plan. When a plan is developed correctly, a client can achieve their goals much faster than when following a mismatched, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants program. This is the art of Strength & Conditioning adapting the science to each client's goals and needs to yield the greatest results.

Lastly, if you have specific training goals, look for a Strength & Conditioning Coach with proven success working with clients with similar goals (e.g., if your goals are to run a marathon, search a Strength Coach with experience with marathons). A Strength & Conditioning Coach with experience relative to your goals will be able to develop a more comprehensive training program based on knowledge about what is required in order to achieve those goals.

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE: Take the necessary steps to make sure you are not being put in poor technique.


Reputation is the final quality to consider when looking at Strength & Conditioning Coaches. When Strength & Conditioning Coaches have a good reputation, which can be due to great results, strong rapport building, passionate approach or a combination of all. The dark side of word of mouth is that a great personality and marketing can sometimes overshadow less than ideal training practices and poor results. That is why reputation can be useful to inform, but each client should experience training with a potential Strength & Conditioning Coach to learn whether training with them will result in long-term success.

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE: Reputation can't under or over over-emphasized. The best way to learn about a Coach is to experience first hand what training is like.


There are a number of qualities to weigh when considering who you work with as a Strength & Conditioning Coach it's not only an investment of time and finances, but as well as trust that you will receive training that will allow you to reach your goals using the most effective training methods to optimize your training. At Mind to Muscle, we've ensured that each of our Coaches exceeds these standards in order to provide the best possible training whether it's for a Youth athlete looking to increase sport performance, a Master's athlete continuing to compete or a Weekend Warrior recovering from an injury.


Fuller, BB. & Harding, FV. A survey of personal trainers in the Greater Los Angeles area. Poster presented at the annual meeting of Southwest Chapter of ACSM.

Malek, MH., Nalbone, NP., Berger, DE., Coburn, JW. (2002). Importance of health science education for personal fitness trainers. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 16(1).

Hilgenkamp, K. (1998). Ethical behaviour and professionalism in the business of health & fitness. ACSM Health & FItness Journal, 2(6).