What is a strength and conditioning coach?

It’s something I’ve had on my mind for a while. There was some fairly furious debate on twitter in the New Year and it gives the distinct impression of battle lines being drawn. So, what’s the difference between a strength and conditioning coach and a personal trainer? I get this a lot when I tell people what I do “so, you’re kind of like a personal trainer right?”

Am I? I coach athletes as well as general population. Some people use that as a dividing line. But I know plenty of other S&C coaches who “do personal training” too, you know, to pay the bills. It’s like a dirty word, something they’re ashamed of. I enjoy it, it’s great for my coaching (so many different movement patterns to work on and cue) and very rewarding to see people attain their goals be that becoming pain free or completing a 10k for the first time.

So are S&C coaches just better than personal trainers? There are plenty of personal trainers helping their athletes (or clients) lose weight, get fitter, feel better about themselves and enjoy longer life and are very good at it. They have to motivate people who aren’t very motivated, provide encouragement to and engage with people who have very low self esteem and body image difficulties as S&C coaches have to. I’m sure there are poor personal trainers about as I’m sure there are bad S&C coaches too. Given the size of the market for personal training, PTs are certainly are better than S&Cs at marketing.

Qualifications? Plenty of personal trainers have sport science degrees. Plenty don’t. The same in S&C. The majority of PTs will have a REPS qualification, I haven’t done one so I’m not in a place to comment on the quality. S&C has undergrad and postgrad degrees and an industry qualification designed to provide a level of quality assurance. Not all coaches have any of them, plenty of coaches don’t have a UKSCA accreditation and criticise the qualification. As far as I can see, there’s not a lot else that’s available to separate the two professions.

Lots of PTs say they’re strength and conditioning coaches and what’s to stop them? If the field itself doesn’t take the qualification seriously, then why should anyone else? This should be the seal of approval to give peace of mind to athletes and general population that the person they’re hiring is of a certain standard and that they remain there. There’s a reaccreditation process to ensure that people update their skill sets and continue to develop knowledge and experience, simply remaining accredited should mean that the coach at least remains at a certain standard.


Neil Welch

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