strength coach standards

Coaching Standards and Objectives

"The coach can articulate the importance of empathy, trust, and safety (both physical and mental) in the coach-client relationship. The coach also recognizes and can articulate the need to act professionally in all regards."

“When you set to work to study any science, what strikes you first of all is its beginning. I assure you there is nothing more attractive and grander, nothing is so staggering, nothing takes a man’s breath away like the beginning of any science…. The trouble is that every science has a beginning but not an end, like a recurring decimal.” – Anton Chekhov

The article below is a published version of the standards and objectives for the Professional Barbell Certification (PBC). We believe that most people who wade in the the waters of barbell training, eventually want to learn more and take the interest further. Whether to improve your own knowledge of physical training or to begin to spread the word of strength training to those around you, education tends to be the natural extension of serious training.
The standards below will likely raise more questions than it will provide answers, but that’s the point. The beginning of education is knowing what questions you need to answer. These standards aren’t static, however. They are part of a conversation, continually changing and updating based on increased experience, usage, and practice. You can join the conversation and begin answering your questions by joining the Barbell Logic Coaching Academy or participating in our education programs. Click this link to learn more.

The Barbell Logic Coaching Academy’s

Professional Barbell Coach Certification Standards and Objectives

The Professional Barbell Coach meets the standards of coaching performance, skill, and knowledge detailed below: 

  1. Platform Presence
  2. Practical Coaching
  3. Functional Anatomy
  4. Physiology
  5. Functional Mechanics
  6. Programming
  7. Coaching Theory 

Platform Presence

Teaching Progression: The coach smoothly and efficiently teaches each lift, introducing the critical aspects of setup and movement while using verbal, visual, and tactile instructions to set up future cues. Instructions are clear and concise without superfluous verbiage or explanation. Errors in setup and movement are corrected seamlessly as part of the progression. 

Lifter Control: The coach uses tone and volume along with appropriate cue timing to control the pacing of the reps and sets. The coach can control and correct a lifter that is going through reps/sets too quickly or slowly. 

Cue Volume and Length: The coach uses assertive and concise cues at a volume loud enough to be easily heard over gym background noise. Cues consist of as few words as possible. Longer explanations, when necessary, are not attempted during a set and are used to set up additional concise cues to be used during the next set. 

Platform Spacing and Awareness: The coach exhibits knowledge of where to stand relative to the lifter, using appropriate distance to be able to see the entire lift and correct angles for receiving as much information as possible. The coach moves around during the set to see the lift from various viewpoints and avoids aspects that would limit or distort relevant visual information.

Coaching Rapport: The coach displays the ability to connect with the lifter, seamlessly balancing encouragement and praise with the proper command and assertiveness required to fix the movement. The coach shows enthusiasm for the lifter’s success and improvements and empathizes with the lifter’s struggles and failures. 

Practical Coaching 

Coaching Eye: The coach sees the entire lift, noticing the larger movement pattern and detailed movement, diagnostic angle, and position details all at once. The coach is able to list all errors that they see after a rep. They can consciously “zoom in” to examine more detail as needed and then “zoom out” again for the next rep to still see the whole lift. 

Knowledge of the Lift Models: The coach understands the application of the models of the lifts to a given lifter irrespective of anthropometry and can immediately make corrections of diagnostic angles and positions for a range of body types. The coach demonstrates that the models are a set of physical parameters that define an efficiently performed lift in a way that best fulfills the exercise criteria and that the models are not merely a standard visual representation for how the lift should look. 

System for Addressing Errors: The coach displays an organized and consistent method for fixing all setup errors before the movement begins and re-scanning the setup for changes between reps. Movement errors are mentally cataloged and corrected in descending priority, addressing first the errors that cause the most deviation from the model and the exercise criteria. The coach can articulate why high-priority errors are solved first and lower priority errors left for later. 

Selection of Error Solutions: The coach identifies root-cause primary errors and uses a solution that will address those errors first while also fixing other follow-on errors. When a root cause or primary error is not immediately apparent, the coach will continue to prioritize fixing mistakes that cause the most significant deviation from the model. Each rep informs the coach’s approach, and the coach makes adjustments as needed. The coach can articulate a plan to move forward and address any remaining errors unresolved within a given set. 

Cue Selection: The coach uses cues that are clear, concise, and actionable. When possible cues are reminders of instructions from the teaching progressions. The coach demonstrates a variety of cues (of all types) when the initial cues fail to present a fix to the problem. The coach doesn’t use cues that confuse the lifter; the coach avoids cues that the lifter has to interpret in the middle of a set. 

Functional Anatomy

Planes, Directions, and Movement Terms: The coach can identify the three cardinal planes of the body, describe anatomical directions and locations (superior/inferior, medial/lateral, etc.), and explain correct terminology for joint movements (flexion/extension, adduction/abduction, etc.). 

Joint Types: The coach can list, identify, and answer general questions about the significant joint types and is knowledgeable about how the joint types will limit segment/limb movements around the joints.

Bones and Connective Tissues: The coach can identify and list major bones and key bone features from diagrams and can answer general questions about the functionality of connective tissues such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. 

Muscle Groups: The coach can identify and list significant muscle groups, including rough attachment points (origin/insertion), location, and size/mass relative to other muscle groups. Coach understands and can describe the function of the major muscle groups corresponding to the joints that they cross.


Basic Definitions: The coach can define and explain basic physiological terms and principles such as physical strength, homeostasis, training/physiological stress, and exercise vs. training.

Basic Principles and Functionality of Muscular Contractions: The coach can describe the basics of the Sliding Filament Theory and understands the general organizational structure of skeletal muscle. The coach can also explain how upon contraction a small change in muscle length can create a significant movement of the body and how the muscles can only produce force by pulling and not pushing, and therefore how the main muscle groups act in agonist/antagonist pairs.

Adaptive Physiology & Exercise Criteria: The coach understands the basic concepts of Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) and how the Stress Recovery Adaptation (SRA) and Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) principles derive from GAS. The coach can also describe how SRA and SAID dictate the physical stressors required to disrupt homeostasis and create a strength adaptation and therefore drive the criteria by which we choose exercises. The Coach can list and describe the main exercise criteria and how they overlap and interact with one another.

Basic Bioenergetics: The coach can describe the general role of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscular contractions and list the various ways that ATP replenishes in the muscle cells. The coach can explain the differences in the replenishment rate and volume for the different energy systems. 

Functional Mechanics

Classical Mechanics Basics: The coach can define and apply basic classical mechanics terms and concepts such as gravity, types of force, normal force, acceleration, momentum, and impulse. 

Moment Definition and Calculation: The coach can define and diagram moment of force and moment arms in simple examples and can apply these terms and perform simple calculations for a variety of lever-type cases.

Basic Kinematics of the Lifts: The coach understands and can explain the Balance-Linkage Movement Model and how it applies to the barbell lifts, including an understanding of the constraints involved and how they dictate an allowable pattern and range of movement for the lifter-barbell system.

Moment Model Analysis of the Lifts: The coach can describe how we perform the lifts in such a way to manipulate the moment of force distribution between joints and create optimal training stress while avoiding unnecessary moment force on the lifter. The coach can describe how moment is distributed differently between two or more lift variations and how to use that analysis in conjunction with the exercise criteria for the lifts to pick appropriate training exercises. 


Physiological Basis of Programming: The coach understands and can articulate programming as the manipulation of training variables to drive physiological stress and disrupt homeostasis to take advantage of the SRA cycle. The coach can describe how all programming must adhere to an underlying principle of applying adequate stress in the presence of sufficient recovery to be effective.

Definitions and Terms: The coach can define and apply standard programming terms such as sets, reps, load, volume, intensity, tonnage, frequency, etc.

The Novice Effect and Training Advancement: The coach understands and can articulate the concepts of the novice effect and training advancement. They understand the rate of training advancement influences from several factors, including, but not limited to the client’s age, sex, lifestyle, and genetics. The coach understands the degree to which the client is already adapted to the stimulus primarily dictates the rate of advancement. The coach can explain how this phenomenon has drastic implications on expected training outcomes and program design.

The Linear Progression: The coach understands and can detail a basic linear progression for a new or returning lifter, including the sets and repetitions scheme, the choice of exercises, and how to choose starting weights and select appropriate weight jumps. The coach can demonstrate the ability to program for a variety of theoretical novice stage clients and can explain the need to make any deviations from the standard program and the method to implement the changes. The coach can also describe and detail any late-novice stage program changes to extend a linear progression, explaining when those techniques may or may not be applicable.

Post-Novice Programming and Minimum Effective Dose (MED): The coach can describe the end state of a linear progression, including the signs that the LP is coming to an end and the physiological reasons for why that is happening. The coach can also map out changes that can transition the client into post-novice programming using Minimum Effective Dose principles.

The coach can explain how to change the smallest possible number of variables to produce the greatest results and continued progress. 

Coaching Theory

The Coaching Process/System: The coach can articulate the mental process that they use on the platform. For example, the coach may articulate the importance of following a system of prioritizing setup errors first, followed by primary and then secondary movement errors, and can provide an example of consequences of not doing so. 

Importance of Training for the Coach: The coach understands and can articulate the importance that training holds for the coach in terms of the ability to solve movement problems, program effectively, and empathize with the client.

Basics of Coach/Client Connection: The coach can articulate the importance of empathy, trust, and safety (both physical and mental) in the coach-client relationship. The coach also recognizes and can articulate the need to act professionally in all regards.




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