How to become a strength and conditioning coach: Part 1 of 4 – Getting Qualified

Having worked in this fantastic profession for well over a decade, and now running the leading conditioning education company in the UK naturally I get a lot of people asking about becoming a strength and conditioning coach and making a success of themselves. This tells me that people are struggling to get the information they need, or that there is too much conflicting information out there.

I wrote a 3 part series back in 2011 called ‘So you want to be an S&C coach?’ But things have moved on since then so I decided to rewrite this series. This series is a comprehensive answer to those questions. A blueprint if you will.

Here’s what I’ll be covering and 3 further articles which together make up the ‘How to become a Strength and Conditioning Coach’ guide:

Part 1 (your reading it now) is all about the qualifications and initial learning resources you need to check out.
Part 2 is all about how to get experience and start your journey to becoming a great coach.
Part 3 focuses on continuing education and how to get your dream job.
Part 4 (A bonus article) will show you the strategy required to build a fantastic 6 figure coaching business if that’s your goal.

Okay so on with the show.

My goal with this updated series of articles is to set the record straight and provide genuine clarity on the subject of ‘how do I become a qualified, competent, and successful strength and conditioning coach’.

Qualified, competent and successful. Those three words are important here. This is not about purely how to get a qualification in S&C, this is about how to thrive as a strength and conditioning coach. Someone who is able to work at the highest echelons of performance sport should they wish to, or in commercial fitness and build a highly successful business. Or both of these. Successful means achieving your own version of success.

A couple of words of caution before you jump into this. You will have beliefs already about how this is going to work. Where have those beliefs come from? Very often they come from other people and we inherit them in an almost osmosis like way without actually coming to that conclusion ourselves. Everything I will share with you in this series has been tried and tested by myself and many dozens if not hundreds of people that have come through our level 4 strength & conditioning coaching course successfully. It is absolutely what I believe to be true and nothing more. Therefore I urge you to attempt to read this with a mind that is open to new ideas and open to reframing current beliefs.

Do I need a degree? Or what courses do you recommend?

There was a time when I would have recommended doing an undergraduate degree in strength and conditioning, however I personally did not go down this route. My degree was in construction project management of all things. I then went on to do a strength and conditioning masters. But times have changed since I did my MSc in 2007. You absolutely do not need to do an undergrad degree. Most people who go down that route want to do a degree, but they don’t need to. What happens in that classic consumer psychology way they justify that purchase of the degree with the rationale being that you can’t get anywhere without one. This then becomes a hard wired belief that absolutely is not true. Don’t take my word for it, check out THIS article that explored this scenario further. My advice, save yourself the £30k it will cost you to get a piece of paper that guarantees you nothing. If you want to do a masters later in life to scratch the itch it will be there for you. Especially if you join us and take advantage of our fast track to masters pathway.

You need to look at obtaining a professional level certification which gives you the ability to practice as a strength and conditioning coach, get insured with a credible insurer and not one that has a ton of loopholes in it, and finally gives you the knowledge to actually be competent. There is a difference here. Plenty of people pass their driving test and then they crash. A good certification will give you the support throughout, and provide a pathway following your certification that allows you to grow and develop.

Which professional accreditation should I choose?

Until around 5 years ago I would have said that the UKSCA accreditation was important for working in high-performance sport. But as I mentioned earlier times are changing. The English Institute of Sport (the largest strength and conditioning coach employer in the UK) no longer recognise the UKSCA accreditation. Why? Perhaps they feel that it is not fit for purpose anymore. If your goal is to be a great coach, open a performance gym, and work with performance athletes the UKSCA was never required and it still isn’t.

But even for those of you reading this whose sole goal is to work at the highest level of sport the pathway is simple.

  1. Educate yourself to a high level by learning from people who are doing this every day or have done until recently.
  2. Get a good certification that will allow you to get insurance, actually teaches you how to get results and supports you during and following the course itself with continuing education.
  3. Network with people who are doing what you want to do. If you want your own gym go and meet gym owners. If you want to work in elite sport go and speak with high-performance sports coaches.
  4. Keep going. Accept from the outset that it will take time and you cannot become great overnight. With that in mind prepare to put a between several years and several decades into your quest to get to the top. One thing that we need to accept as coaches is that the journey never ends (until we retire or die!

For a more in-depth version of these four steps click HERE to read my article about getting a job in elite sport.

Coaches who are working at the highest level or who have thriving strength and conditioning businesses have several things in common. Most importantly they are all very good coaches. Secondly, they all have a huge passion and drive to achieve. Being a good coach takes time and experience, but if you don’t have passion and drive to succeed then you need to look for a different pathway. You can learn the skills and tools for the trade you cannot learn the passion I’m afraid.

The good thing for you is that the SCE Level 4 course covers points 1 and 2 above and gives you a decent exposure to point 3 as well. (I would say that wouldn’t I, but the Facebook reviews and endorsements from over 1000 students hopefully reinforces this too!). If you’ve literally never done any fitness, PT or coaching courses you can also jump onto our Fundamentals course prior to the Level 4 which is a nice baby step to prepare you. If you would like to learn more please leave your details in the form below:

Why people might fail

Most people fail because they lack the coaching skill set to engage with their clients.

It’s not about sets and reps. When I sit on interview panels for strength and conditioning or personal trainer roles the coaches who get the gig are the ones who can connect with people and have fun with their clients whilst maintaining professionalism. Don’t fall down because your head is too far in the books or you’re too casual and ‘Yea bro’ with people.

When I work with fitness business owners and personal trainers who want to have their own gym the area that is lacking is often the underpinning knowledge to get consistent long-term results. That combined with a lack of business acumen. These things are both teachable (if you are prepared to learn of course).

If you do have a degree or are doing one currently, you still need to attack the four steps I’ve outlined above.

If you simply want to scratch that itch then be my guest, I wish you all the luck in the world on that. If you are older than 25 years old I would still say forget the undergrad, save yourself £30K and go straight to a more specific masters degree taking advantage of our fast track to masters. Click HERE to find out more about that.

In conjunction with getting out there and getting your hands on people (More of this in the next article).  You can also read up and around this fantastic subject using our list of resources below.

Texts that will help you learn the underpinning theories

  1. Essentials of strength training and conditioning.
  2. Strength and power training- Supertraining, Science and practice of strength training, S&C biological principles.
  3. Conditioning prescription- Exercise Physiology
  4. Movement, speed, agility and plyometrics- Training for Speed, Agility and Quickness, Gamespeed, High powered plyometrics,
  5. Injury prevention/reduction- Low Back Disorders, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, stretch to win,
  6. Anatomy and physiology and biomechanics- Muscles, testing and function. Florence Kendall– Surely one of the landmark anatomy texts available today, Biomechanics of human movement
  7. Periodisation/Russiona Strength training- Block Periodisation, Transfer of Training in Sports- Bondarchuk, bompa
  8. Whatever else floats your boat!

The books listed above are quality reading material by authors at the top of their game. There are so many more but these are the ones I would recommend to start with.

I will go through some more resources that I recommend in one of the future parts of this series on continuing development.

Personally, I learn a lot from videos as well  as books, and there are some excellent video resources that I would recommend you check out.

Firstly we have done a lot of the work of compiling information into one space for you with our MSP Network. There are around 60 different video resources in the membership area and it’s £9.99 per month to be a member.
This is our product so of course I am biased a little but you can try it out for free so you can’t lose really!
Click HERE to take a look.

Further resources

Mike Boyle Functional Strength Coach 1,2,3- Awesome resource really inspiring stuff from Boyle.




Mike Boyle Advanced Programme Design– As above, great set.

Stuart McGill- Ultimate back– good look at McGills philosophy, needs to accompanied by his books to get the full picture.

Cressey and Robertson- Building the Efficient Athlete– An excellent overview of functional anatomy for the S&C coach

Lee Taft- Groundbreaking movement 1 : A very good look at movement training and progressions, really breaks down movement well in this set.

I hope that’s given you a good overview of how to get off the mark in your quest to become a strength and conditioning coach. Now go away and buy some books!! Oh and if you want some free resources sent to you every single week then leave your details below and we will get you some great sent across straight away.

To your success!


Brendan is the CEO and founder of Strength and conditioning Education, the UK’s leading education provider for people looking to work as Strength and Conditioning Coaches.

As a strength and conditioning coach Brendan has worked for many national governing bodies and institutions including the English Institute of Sport, Durham University, Huddersfield Giants, British Tennis, England Golf, TASS, and many more. He has also supported many professional athletes including UFC fighters, cyclists, boxers and many many more. Follow Brendan on all the usual social media channels @brendanchaplin.

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