Strength Performance Network

One of the current problems facing the strength and conditioning profession (if we can term it that), is competency.  One definition that Webster uses to define competent is "having the ability to be legally qualified."  Right here, we should stop and ponder this.  Are strength and conditioning coaches qualified (we'll omit legally as that does not presently pertain) to facilitate strength and conditioning across a spectrum of situations?  I don't think I could answer that with a yes.

Now, you may say, sure, heck yeah I'm qualified and I have a piece of paper to prove it.  But, what about the increasing demonstration of lack of professional competency that we read, hear, and see demonstrated on a frequent basis?   How are we accounting for that? 

Competency is more than having a piece of paper, it's demonstration of being qualified to facilitate a practice, a skill, an art that could endanger or harm others if not facilitated with competence.  Herein lies part of the problem as not being regulated by a state entity, strength and conditioning practice is really in the category of "participate at your own risk."  Probably that statement would be more factual than suggesting competency.  The real truth is that the public at large has no idea how loosely competent strength and conditioning professionals are.  Now, that question is certainly being raised considering current events in strength and conditioning.


What does it mean to demonstrate competency as a strength and conditioning professional?




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Comment by John Mikula on March 29, 2017 at 2:38pm
Thanks for your comment, Karsten, well stated. One aspect you mentioned was performing a needs analysis, which I believe would be part of a legislative scope of practice. Yet, most of the "needs analysis" in the field seem to center around how much one can clean, squat, bench, or d-lift. Certainly, these are aspects of weight-lifting, but they should not qualify as a needs analysis for anyone, these should be ancillary to the actual needs of the individual for the professional strength and conditioning coach and also should transcend generic indexes in text books (i.e., energy system generalizations for sports).
Comment by Karsten Jensen on March 29, 2017 at 1:42pm

Hi John - It is a difficult question, because ultimately the outcome - the athletes ability to practice and compete - is affected by other factors than our efforts. I am not sure if my answer fully pertains to your post, but it is about what strength coaches should and should not do.

Overall purpose: Improve athletes ability to practice and compete

 Comment: The above emphasizes that the primary objective for strength is not just help athletes “Get stronger” without regards for transfer to their sporting environment. The training program should be reverse engineered based on the goal stated by the athlete/coach to ensure transfer to their sporting environment.              

Specifically:  Improve any supplementary physical quality for any athlete to optimal levels through exercise in the absence of musculo-skeletal pain

Comment: “Supplementary” marks the distinction between strength coaches and sport coaches in sports that are dominated by 1 primary physical ability (strength, speed, power and endurance). The sprint coach, Olympic lifting coach, power lifting coach etc must help athletes improve the primary ability to maximal levels. In contrast, the strength coach works with the qualities that are supplementary to the final performance, for example speed for a football player. The supplementary qualities most often must be developed to optimal levels (=the level needed to practice and compete at the desired level) rather than maximal levels.

Comment: Due to a thorough needs analysis a strength coach can work with any athlete and does not need to limit himself/herself to certain sports

Comment: “the absence of musculo skeletal pain” marks the distinction between strength coaches and therapists and the emphasis on “exercise” marks the distinction between strength and conditioning and therapy, even thought therapy can include exercise.

Comment: The scope of practice for strength coaches include delivering exercise programs that support changes in body composition in conjunction with an adequate meal plan delivered by a nutritionist.


Comment: The scope of practice of strength coaches include coaching on the mental aspects of the strength and conditioning process to include goal setting, motivation, focus etc to exclude mental aspects related to sport performance or any personal issues that goes beyond the strength and conditioning process.

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