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What Is A Strength and Conditioning Coach?

what is a strength and conditioning coach

If you're asking 'what is a strength and conditioning coach?' as somebody looking to hire or become a strength and conditioning coach, this article covers everything you need to know!  

Contents:

Before we get started, enquire today to see how taking OriGym’s CIMSPA-accredited personal training courses can help you kickstart your career in the fitness industry! Or, download our free prospectus to browse the full range of health and fitness courses. 

What Is Strength And Conditioning?

Before we get into answering the question, ‘what is a Strength and Conditioning coach?’, let’s first establish what exactly is meant by ‘Strength and Conditioning’.

Strength and Conditioning (often known as S&C), is the practical application of sports science principles to improve athletic performance. It is predominantly used with athletes or fitness professionals looking to improve their speed, strength, power and endurance in a specific sport or discipline. 

As well as improving athletic performance, Strength and Conditioning can help to reduce the risk of injury. This is done by focusing on the parts of the body most susceptible to injury, strengthening the muscles and joints that are used the most. 

There is a common misconception that Strength and Conditioning is just about lifting weights. But in fact, there is far more to it than that! Whilst strength training is certainly an important aspect of S&C, it is just as much about mobility, flexibility and even mental wellbeing. 

Through improving general health and wellbeing, Strength and Conditioning also provides several other subsequent benefits to clients, such as: stronger bone density, improved posture, improved mood and increased metabolism. 

With so many benefits and the ability to work with a high-level of clients, it’s no wonder that Strength and Conditioning coaching is becoming an increasingly popular career path for fitness professionals! 

What Is A Strength And Conditioning Coach?

A Strength and Conditioning coach is simply a qualified fitness professional who plans and delivers training programs to improve the performance of athletes or athletic teams. 

But what does a Strength and Conditioning coach do? Well, there are many similarities to the role of a personal trainer, as they both ultimately help clients achieve their fitness goals. 

However, where personal trainers work with clients of varying fitness abilities and fairly general fitness goals (such as losing weight or building strength), Strength and Conditioning coaches deliver a much more specialised service. 

Before we continue, if you’re wondering, ‘what is a Strength and Conditioning specialist?’, the short answer is that it is the same! The terms ‘coach’ and ‘specialist’ can be used interchangeably in the context of this article, and in S&C in general.

Working mostly with professional athletes, the primary goal of a Strength and Conditioning coach is to help a client improve their speed, strength, endurance, agility and power in order to enhance their athletic performance. 

The second goal of a Strength and Conditioning coach is to reduce the risk of injury for athletes. This means using principles of mobility and flexibility training, helping to strengthen the parts of the body most susceptible to injury in a particular sport.

Studies such as this one have shown that regular Strength and Conditioning training can indeed reduce cases of injury amongst athletes and sports professionals. 

Like personal trainers, Strength and Conditioning coaches may also monitor client’s general health and wellbeing. For example, they may refer a client to a nutritionist if they feel that they need to work on their diet. 

When wondering, ‘what is a strength and conditioning coach?’, you may not have thought about mental health. But as well as physical health, Strength and Conditioning coaches are often also involved in athletes’ mental wellbeing. They should be able to motivate clients and act as a positive role model for them - which is also one of the skills required to be a personal trainer

The day-to-day tasks of a Strength and Conditioning coach vary depending on where you are working and the type of client(s) you are working with. Generally, they can include: 

  • Creating and planning a training program for an athlete or athletic team.
  • Delivering training sessions on the field, court or in a gym.
  • Teaching Olympic Weightlifting and proper technique. If you are particularly interested in this area of fitness, check out our guide on how to become an Olympic Weightlifting Coach.
  • Supervising and motivating athletes during the sessions. 
  • Delivering skill-related drills.
  • Assessing and monitoring athletes’ progress during and after the program. 
  • Ad-hoc tasks to help the team such as cleaning equipment, assisting with transport and administrative tasks. 

As you can see, due to working with a high level of clients and the varied nature of the role, being a Strength and Conditioning coach is a demanding yet hugely rewarding career!

Who Do Strength And Conditioning Coaches Work With?

Now that we have answered ‘what is a Strength and Conditioning specialist?’, let's discuss what kind of clients they work with. You may know Strength and Conditioning coaches for traditionally working with professional athletes. However, the client base for S&C coaches is rapidly expanding to include other areas of the fitness sector. 

The main type of client that Strength and Conditioning coaches work with is professional athletes. This could be on a national, international or even Olympic scale. You could work either with individual athletes on a one-to-one basis, or work with a whole team or athletic club. 

If you’re interested in working with a club, taking OriGym’s CPD course in group training would help you gain the skills and experience to deliver Strength and Conditioning to a group.

Many Strength and Conditioning coaches also work with local, college or university level sports teams. Again, you could work with clients on an individual or group basis here. This is a great option to gain experience working in a competitive sports environment before moving on to working at a national or international level. 

Although it is typically associated with fitness professionals and competitive sports, Strength and Conditioning coaches can also work with casual fitness enthusiasts on a smaller scale. Many Strength and Conditioning coaches begin their career by teaching S&C based group classes and 1-1 sessions in gyms and leisure centres. 

What Is The Average Salary Of A Strength And Conditioning Coach?

When wondering ‘what is a strength and conditioning coach’, it is likely that one of your main questions will be about how much you can expect to earn. But despite this, figures available on Payscale show that the average yearly salary of a Strength and Conditioning Coach in the UK is £24,624. However, this varies according to several factors:

Location. You may not have thought it, but one of the main things that can affect your salary in any fitness-related role is your location. Particularly if you are working as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in London, you can expect a much higher salary than if you were working outside of London.

The type of client you are working with. The size, status and wealth of the athlete or sports team you are working with is a huge determiner of how much you will be paid as a Strength and Conditioning coach. For example, a national team will most likely give you a higher salary than a local university team. 

Your experience. As with most jobs, the amount of experience you have behind you will affect how much you can justify charging for your services. The more experienced you are in S&C, or even in the fitness industry in general, the more sought-after you will be! 

Your qualifications. The more qualified you are, the more employable you are! Along with experience, this is what will make you stand out in the Strength and Conditioning job market. It is also worth noting that this is considerably above the average personal trainer salary of £21,591. This shows that the more qualified you are, the bigger your earning potential is.

For a more detailed explanation of how much a Strength and Conditioning coach makes, check out OriGym’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Salary Guide

 

Qualify as a Personal Trainer with OriGym

Enquire about our industry-leading Personal Training Diploma and become a certified fitness professional in as little as 4 weeks.

How To Become A Strength And Conditioning Coach

Now that you have a better understanding of the role of a strength and conditioning coach, let’s discuss the different qualifications you can earn in order to pursue these job roles.

Vocational Training Courses 

Not every employer will require candidates to hold higher education qualifications. Many will also prioritise applicants who have undergone vocational training.

These qualifications are significantly cheaper than university degrees and can see you qualify at a much faster rate. 

When choosing a vocational qualification to pursue, you may opt to study Strength and Conditioning specifically. In doing so, you can develop advanced theoretical knowledge and practical skills considered to be valuable by employers. 

However, you don’t just have to specifically study strength and conditioning, employers will also consider applicants with backgrounds in personal training. This can be seen in the example below, from Transform Wellness.

Here you can see that the employer is looking for a Personal Trainer, who can also provide strength and conditioning coaching to their customers:

job advert for strength and conditioning

With positions like this available, it’s worth considering alternative ways to become a strength and conditioning coach that are quicker and cheaper to achieve than a degree.

You could become a personal trainer by completing a Level 3 Personal Trainer Diploma combining your Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer qualifications respectively.

Through the Personal Training Diploma you will learn how to plan and deliver bespoke workout programmes, suitable for individual clients and larger groups. These will help your clients meet their personalised fitness goals, which as we’ve discussed is a key role of strength and conditioning coaching. 

When choosing a training provider you’ll want to opt for a course that is regulated, as this ensures that you’ll be trained to the appointed industry standards. 

At OriGym for example, our course is regulated by Ofqual, endorsed by CIMSPA and awarded via Focus Awards. This ensures that students who hold our qualifications will be recognised by employers within the industry. 

Higher Education Degree

Another route you could take to become a Strength and Conditioning coach is by completing a higher education degree in a related topic - e.g. BSc in Strength and Conditioning or Sports Science.

A university degree can help you develop specialist expertise and gain hands-on experience to learn how to improve athletes' performances and reduce their chances of injury.

These qualifications typically take 3 years to complete and can cost up to £9,250 per year. Students can apply for government loans, but this will still result in £27,750 of debt before any interest is added.

With a sports science degree, you can apply for Strength and Conditioning coach positions at professional sporting institutions, such as Charlton Athletic Football Club which are currently looking for a Professional Game Academy Strength and Conditioning Coach:

requirements for charlton athletic s and c position

As you can see from the education, qualifications and training requirements listed in the job description of this position, the football club is looking for applicants who have achieved a Sports Science related degree.

So, when deciding to become a Strength and Conditioning coach you should compare both vocational training and higher education courses before deciding which one is best for your specific needs.  

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What Makes A Good Strength And Conditioning Coach?

As well as qualifications, there are some key skills and personal attributes needed to be a good Strength and Conditioning coach. So in answer to the question ‘what is a strength and conditioning coach?’, we can say that it is someone who has the following skills and abilities:

An in-depth understanding of human anatomy 

When we have discussed the question, ‘what does a Strength and Conditioning coach do?’, we have said that they help clients train their body for a particular sport. This level of precision therefore requires an in-depth knowledge of the human body in order to know how to help your client achieve a specific goal.

For example, you may be working with a gymnast who wants to improve a very specific area of strength, such as their shoulders. A Strength and Conditioning coach must have the knowledge and experience to know how to create a training program containing exercises and drills to specifically target the shoulders. 

Human anatomy is one of the key topics covered in OriGym’s personal training courses, providing you with the foundation of knowledge needed to go on to be a Strength and Conditioning coach. 

Motivational

In answer to the question ‘what makes a good Strength and Conditioning coach?’, one of the most often overlooked skills is the ability to motivate your clients. 

If you are working with professional athletes it is likely that they will be training under immense pressure and to a very high standard. They therefore need all the motivation and encouragement they can get during their Strength and Conditioning training. 

Even if you are delivering S&C in a more casual fitness environment, you will still need to be able to push your clients to reach their full potential! 

Like a personal trainer, a Strength and Conditioning coach should act as a positive role model for their clients. 

Organisation and time management

Since athletes are often working towards a competition, race, match or game, a good Strength and Conditioning coach needs to be organised and able to work to a deadline. 

Strength and Conditioning coaching is generally more time-sensitive than personal training. Where a personal training client may have a more general goal such as ‘to lose weight’, S&C clients are much more likely to have a time frame for their goal, such as a competition that they are working towards. 

An S&C coach therefore needs to be able to manage their time well in order to adhere to these kinds of strict deadlines. This means creating a training program with a well thought-out timescale and managing your time effectively. Particularly for competitive athletes, every session counts!

Having a time frame is useful when setting goals for any type of client, and is part of the ‘SMART’ goal-setting framework. Check out our full guide to SMART fitness goals here to see how using this acronym can benefit you and your clients!

Flexible

Since Strength and Conditioning coaches often work with athletes, they need to be flexible and able to adapt to the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of competitive sport and athletics. 

As we have said, organisational skills and planning your sessions ahead is vital for a Strength and Conditioning coach. But equally, you should be aware that things don’t always go to plan!

For example, your client may pick up an injury. Instead of letting this hinder your client’s progress, you should be able to quickly improvise and work your program around it. 

Similarly, a good Strength and Conditioning coach needs to be aware of any external changes that could affect your client. For example, if you are working towards a competition and the date changes or is cancelled, you should be able to adapt the timeline of your program accordingly! 

Communication skills

Finally, as a ​​Strength and Conditioning coach, strong communication skills are essential.

Whereas a personal trainer interacts solely with their clients, a ​​Strength and Conditioning coach will need to be able to communicate with a wide range of different people. This is because when working with an athlete, you will need to interact not only with the athlete themselves, but with their team, other coaches, and even family members.

Furthermore, in order to deliver the S&C coaching sessions themselves, you will need strong verbal communication skills. You should be confident addressing a group and able to explain exercises clearly to your clients. 

Communication skills are also important for a personal trainer. In fact, being able to communicate effectively with your clients is one of the main skills you will see listed on a personal trainer job description

Strength And Conditioning Coach Career Progression Opportunities

Once you are a qualified Strength and Conditioning Coach, a whole host of career opportunities will open up to you! Here are some of the main career paths you can go down: 

Working with professional athletes/sports teams

The most common career path for a Strength and Conditioning coach is working with professional, Olympic or collegiate athletes. 

Although this is the most popular and therefore competitive market for Strength and Conditioning Coaches, it is arguably still the most lucrative and rewarding. Gaining as much experience and knowledge as possible is a surefire way to help you stand out in this market. 

Since there are so many different kinds of athletes out there, there is a huge potential to really expand your skills and experience to include a wide range of different sports and disciplines. Not only is this personally rewarding, but it will also look great on your CV!

Plus, with athletes and sports teams in so many different places around the world, there is always potential to travel as a Strength and Conditioning coach - perhaps more so than any other fitness-based role. 

 

Qualify as a Personal Trainer with OriGym

Enquire about our industry-leading Personal Training Diploma and become a certified fitness professional in as little as 4 weeks.

Working in gyms and fitness clubs

As well as working with athletes, S&C coaches are now becoming increasingly sought after in more casual fitness settings such as gyms and fitness clubs. 

This is a fairly recent and exciting gap in the market, making it a great initial niche to break into if you are a newly qualified Strength and Conditioning Coach.

If you’re a personal trainer looking for career change ideas, it is also a great progression route from a personal trainer. For example, if you work in a gym as a personal trainer, you could use those connections to secure a job there working as a Strength and Conditioning coach!

Strength and Conditioning teacher and assessor

When answering, ‘what does a Strength and Conditioning coach do?’, you may not have thought of teaching other S&C coaches. But in fact, if you have been a Strength and Conditioning Coach for several years, becoming a teacher and assessor of Strength and Conditioning is another great career path to take. 

It allows you to use your experience in the industry to inspire and create the next generation of S&C coaches, which is a rewarding feeling! Plus, because of the high level of knowledge and experience required, you can expect a higher salary too. 

If this sounds like something you are interested in, taking OriGym’s Fitness Teaching and Assessing Course equips you with all the knowledge and practical skills you need to pursue this career path.

Owning your own Strength and Conditioning business

Another great career path if you are a more experienced Strength and Conditioning coach is to start your own S&C business. 

This allows you to take on several clients and therefore increase your earning potential. However, you will need to be ready to put in the hard work to attract clients, build your brand, market yourself, manage your own finances and all the other tasks that come with owning a business. 

This career path is undoubtedly lucrative and highly rewarding- but it isn’t easy! If you’re thinking of starting your own S&C business, OriGym’s CPD business course teaches you everything you need to know about how to run your own fitness business! 

Take a nutrition course

Even though Strength and Conditioning is a fairly niche area of fitness, there is always room for expanding your client base further by taking more qualifications. 

Nutrition courses are one of the most popular qualifications that Strength and Conditioning coaches take, as nutrition is is a perfect complement to your career as an important, but often overlooked, part of S&C coaching.

Although athletes may have dedicated nutritionists on their team, knowing about nutrition and how it can affect your client’s performance will undoubtedly help you stand out and get the most out of your clients!

FAQs

Where can I find a job as a Strength and conditioning coach?

If you’re looking to start a career as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, online is a great place to start. General job listing sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor will advertise S&C jobs, or there are fitness-specific job sites such as Leisure Jobs to help narrow your search.

The UK’s professional body for Strength and Conditioning, the UKSCA, also has a handy job board here where they post exclusively S&C coach vacancies.

As well as searching for advertised jobs, it can also be worth taking the initiative to reach out to potential clients yourself. For example, if you want to work for a specific sports team, sending a speculative application or even just beginning to network with them shows that you are passionate about working for them- and will help you stand out! 

If you choose to take your personal training course and Strength and Conditioning CPD with OriGym, you’ll have access to our award-winning post-course support. As well as CV advice from our team of experts, we guarantee an interview with a gym from our extensive network of partner gyms across the country! 

Do Strength and Conditioning coaches need insurance?

Any fitness professional working with clients needs to be insured- and Strength and Conditioning coaches are no exception!

Ultimately, the insurance you need as an S&C coach is the same as what you need as a personal trainer. This is essentially liability insurance that covers you in the event of injury to yourself or your client, damage or loss of equipment, claims of harassment and claims of professional negligence.Check out our guide to what insurance personal trainers need here for more detail! 

There are also some insurance policies that are specific to Strength and Conditioning coaches, such as this one which is endorsed by the UKSCA, the UK’s leading S&C organisation. 

It may seem like an annoying extra cost, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to have insurance as a Strength and Conditioning coach! 

Before you go!

So, we hope that we’ve answered the question, ‘what is a Strength and Conditioning coach?’ and inspired you to pursue a career in S&C. From what the role involves to how to become one, this article has covered all you need to know about Strength and Conditioning coaching!

Why not kickstart your career in Strength and Conditioning today by taking a personal training course with OriGym. You can also browse our full range of courses by downloading our free prospectus here

References

Talpey, Scott W. PhD; Siesmaa, Emma J. PhD Sports Injury Prevention: The Role of the Strength and Conditioning Coach. Strength and Conditioning Journal: June 2017 - Volume 39 - Issue 3 - p 14-19. 

Written by Alice Williams

Content Editor & Yoga Teacher

Alice graduated with a First-Class degree in French and Linguistics from the University of Leeds in 2019. As part of her degree, she spent a year living in France where she worked for a lifestyle blog, gaining professional experience in both translation and content writing. 

Alice is also a qualifiied yoga teacher, allowing her write from a place of expertise when it comes to yoga!

When she’s not writing or practicing yoga, she also loves running, cooking and music! 

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