I often see a lot of hate towards Powerlifting coaches these days. Recently, I stumbled across a Reddit thread from 6 months ago where lifters shared their personal experiences of working with a Powerlifting coach. It seems many had a bad experience and didn’t receive the services that they’d expect. I think the main reason for this is the lifters are going with someone who is a “programmer” and not a professional coach. A “programmer” would be someone who simply sends you numbers on a sheet. They tell you the sets, reps, and weight to do and you perform them. That isn’t what a Powerlifting coach should be!
A Powerlifting coach should be all-encompassing, they should be involved in every aspect of getting the lifter to their goals. In addition, they should be helping the lifter see goals they may have never been aware of. The reason I added “professional”, is because I believe lifters should be going to someone whose career is being a coach. They shouldn’t expect to get the same quality coaching from someone who is doing it for fun, on the side, after working their normal 40–60 hour a week job. Here are some things you should expect from your Powerlifting coach beyond just numbers on a sheet.
Technical efficiency is very important to the sport of Powerlifting and maximizing 1 rep max strength. Not only is it important to maximize force transfer into the bar but also minimize injury. Being injured can set you back further than any mediocre program or nutrition plan, so it’s important that a lifter picks a coach who is knowledgeable in basic human anatomy and the mechanics of each of the competition lifts. In addition to knowing the basic guidelines for competition lifts for all people, a coach should also have the ability to adjust the various variables for your height, weight, limb lengths, musculature, flexibility, and injury history.
Choosing a Weight Class
Powerlifting isn’t about being in the lowest weight class possible, though many seem to think that way. Many times, a lifter that has moved up a weight class and has been awarded with massive strength gains. In addition, it can sometimes be advantageous to be in a heavier weight class as it may be less competitive. A coach should be able to assess what weight class suits a lifter for the short term and long term. A coach should know the weight a lifter should be cutting from, the competitions a lifter should cut for, and which competitions they shouldn’t. That’s right, you shouldn’t be cutting for every competition!
Path to Higher-Level Competitions
Most lifters don’t want to just do local competitions forever. They aspire to eventually go to higher-level competitions like Regionals, Provincials, Nationals, or even Worlds. Each federation in Powerlifting has its own rules and regulations required to compete in these higher-level competitions. Even within an international federation, each nation has its own rules and regulations. A coach should know what these rules and regulations are for the nation and federation you compete in. If they don’t, then it’s their job to research it! Many new lifters don’t even know these higher-level competitions exist or that they have a chance of reaching them. It’s the duty of the coach to know these rules, know their lifter, and provide them with a plan to reach these competitions and goals they never thought possible.
Competition Day Coaching
This is arguably the most important aspect of Powerlifting coaching. Competition day handling can make or break an entire training cycle. Many powerlifters have had great training cycles, with it all going to waste in a competition due to various issues. Some examples are: not making weight, improper warm ups, bad attempt selection, not knowing the rules, and more.
A Powerlifting coach should know all of the competition rules for the federation the lifter is competing in. If the warm up room and competition platform are all pound barbells and weights, then the coach should know how to load the warm up weights and pick the attempts in pounds. If the warm up room and competition platform are all kilogram barbells and weights, then the coach should know how to load the warm up weights and pick the attempts in kilograms.
Federation Rules and Regulations
Expanding further on some points above, a coach should know the rules and regulations for the federation(s) their lifter competes in. Each federation has slight differences and some of these rules and regulations change over the years. It’s the duty of the coach to be in the know of the federation and how it’s evolving. A coach should be in the know for all new developments or changes in their lifter’s federation. For instance, changes can occur in any of these areas; rules for the competition lifts, drug testing protocols or procedures, qualification criteria for higher-level competitions, and if equipment specifications are altered.
This only scratches the surface of what a lifter should expect from their Powerlifting coach. There are many other topics that could be touched upon and in further detail. But, we’ll save that for another day! Hopefully, for those looking for a Powerlifting coach, this helps to direct you in knowing what to look for and what to ask to make a good choice. For those who already have a coach, hopefully this helps in assessing the services you’re receiving and whether you have a real Powerlifting coach, or just a programmer.