Intro to the Professional Barbell Coach
The purpose of the professional barbell coach is to get his clients stronger, and everything the coach says and does with his client will be directed to that goal. Even when deviations to normal training must occur, the long term vision for the coach is always focused on the client’s strength. The rehabbing of an injury, adding in conditioning for an overweight trainee, or the reduction of stress for an in-season sports athlete are a few examples where the coach structures and executes a plan in a way that makes the trainee as strong as possible today, under less than ideal conditions, while simultaneously preparing him to resume normal training to achieve strength gains as soon as possible. So, even though the purpose of the coach remains fixed, the day-to-day role that the coach plays in his clients’ progression may appear somewhat fluid and based on individual circumstances of the trainee. The professional barbell coach must therefore possess the knowledge, insight and ability to identify when changes should be made for the client, without hindering long term progress. And just as the day-to-day role of the coach may change based on circumstances which are mostly out of his control, he has also entered a relationship with his client where his role will evolve naturally over time. For the rank novice, the role of the coach is extremely hands on, with the majority of the focus on the client’s technique under the bar. From teaching and supervising the exercise set up, to viewing every rep performed, the coach is constantly watching, assessing and correcting (through cues), the client’s movement. And given the enormous importance of performing the barbell exercises correctly, the barbell coach could be thought of as a “movement coach” at this point in the novice’s career. The movement coach understands how the exercise is to be performed, and can immediately identify deviations in the trainee’s movement. Once a deviation is identified, the coach then immediately issues a correction to the trainee using a “cue” to ensure his movement stays correct and consistent in order to move the bar safely and effectively. So, in addition to having the expertise in correct movement patterns and the ability to understand what corrections are needed, the coach also has the role of being an efficient communicator in the form of these cues. The coach must be able to take a complex problem, and simplify it into as few words as possible, so that the trainee can understand and execute the correction while being under load. In addition to teaching technique, the coach is also responsible for exercise selection, weight/set/rep selection, as well as gym safety/etiquette, equipment recommendations and even nutritional guidance. And If the barbell coach has fulfilled his role competently and with integrity, as the trainee progresses through his lifting career, the coach gradually moves from teacher to that of a consultant.
The examination of the barbell coach’s role highlights important distinctions from that of your average personal trainer. The professional barbell coach uses a model based approach when training clients, which has established criteria for how an exercise is supposed to be performed. Knowing how an exercise is to be performed using a model, knowing what corrections to make, and finally, what cues to give in order to implement that correction, requires the coach to have in depth knowledge and experience to train his clients successfully. Knowledge of anatomy and physiology enables the coach to establish the exercise model, and determine when a deviation to the model has occurred. This knowledge also allows the coach to identify the correct exercises in a trainee’s program. With this biomechanical insight, only exercises that use the most muscle mass over the longest effective range of motion, that allow us to move the most weight possible, are used. In addition to his in depth knowledge, an effective barbell coach also possesses countless hours of experience coaching clients. Closely observing lifters over time that represent different ages, abilities and anatomy structures improves his coaching eye, or ability to see and correct the trainee’s mistakes in real time. And rounding out the coach’s competency toolbox is his own lifting experience. His training experience using the same exercises, model and programming structure allows the coach to grow in understanding of what it takes to become a successful (strong) lifter. The coach’s own mistakes, injuries, fatigue and the general ups and downs of a rigorous training program help the coach become more empathetic/sympathetic toward his clients. This empathy or sympathy makes a better coach because he has gone through it, and therefore has a better understanding of what a client goes through and can coach them in a more practical and useful way. The knowledge and experience that the professional barbell coach possesses is typically not found in your average personal trainer. Personal trainers usually do not coach based on a model, have as much knowledge on anatomy, movement or programming, nor do they usually have much experience training themselves. Personal trainers tend to rely on machines to train clients, which does not require any knowledge about how the body works – only how the machine works.