Online Coaching is Ruining Powerlifting

Online coaching is still a relatively new concept. It has many positive features to it. I would have never been able to work with the legendary Boris Sheiko if it wasn’t for online coaching. However, the low barrier to entry has led to a market over saturation of online coaches that have no formal education in the field and very limited experience competing.

In order for online coaches to try to make a career out of it, they need to try to differentiate themselves from all of the others, often leading to the inexperienced and uneducated breaking down research articles with their Dunning-Kruger hats on. The systems we have created do not certainly lead to the fast spread of good information, this is the misinformation era of mankind.

To try to prove their worth, every client is an “athlete.” The vast majority of people competing in powerlifting compete at local meets and only compete a few times, they are not athletes and you are not a coach. They are clients and you are a personal trainer. Your job isn’t to try to show you are an expert at developing the physiology of top end strength. Your job is to teach them the rules, have some fun, and build a foundation for them to build upon if they stick with this endeavor for the longer term.

Long term athletic development programs are non-existent in the United States, but we can look at a country like Canada to gain some valuable information here. They have categories titled “Train to Train (TT)”, “Train to Compete (TC)”, and “Train to Win (TW).”

In TT they are learning how to train, TC they are training full-time and competing at a national level with an introduction to international competition, and train to win they are competitive at the international level. Almost all of powerlifting is in the TT category. Most will not last long term, but those that do will be in the “competitive for life” category which is the participation in sport not on the path to the podium.

Every level of this is determined by the development of physical and emotional traits. If someone looks like a jumbo shrimp on a deadlift or out of the hole in the squat, they have not developed the physical traits to move onto the TC category. If someone is getting frustrated by the non-linearity of strength performance, they are not emotionally ready to move onto the TC category.

The lack of a structured process and the low barrier to entry to be a “coach” plays a critical role in the short duration of participation in this sport. People quit because they are led by incompetence and miscategorized as athletes instead of people that are attempting to get a little bit more out of their exercise. Young lifters with high levels of potential are rushed to be competitive before they are physically or emotionally ready and burn out within a few years. That is if they are lucky enough to not get hurt, or not suffer from an eating disorder at a young age due to this being a weight class sport.

Beginners should not be running the same programs as those that are competitive on the international stage. Only adjusting frequency, volume, and intensity is not enough of a difference here. There needs to be a focus on developing specific physical and emotional skills before that progress is allowed.

My plan moving forward is to put more of an emphasis on the appropriate development of recreational “athletes” as well as those on a podium pathway, but that far exceeds the scope of this introductory article.

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