What’s the difference between a Strength & Conditioning Coach and a Personal Trainer

Ultimately, if you work in the fitness industry, your aim is to help your clients achieve their fitness goals, however, a Strength and Conditioning Coach and a Personal Trainer go about this in two very different ways.

What is a Personal Trainer?

First things first, what is a Personal Trainer? To train the general public in 1-1 sessions, most gyms require you to achieve a Level 3 diploma in Personal Training, this ensures you have all the basic skills to understand the anatomy of training and how to build basic programmes for clients. The PT market is growing rapidly and Level 3 courses can have quite a distinct variety of quality in the content and delivery of the qualification, so if this is a route you’re looking to go down, be sure to go with a company that has a good reputation within the industry, great reviews from students and is CIMSPA accredited (like us!).

What is a Strength and Conditioning Coach?

A Strength and Conditioning Coach is usually qualified as a level 3 Personal Training and then chooses the specialist area of Strength and Conditioning to take them to Level 4, which is a step further in their education to advance their knowledge in this specific area. However, in more recent years, we’re starting to see a change in the fitness industry and we’re finding that lots of PTs now want to get an S&C qualification to be able to offer their clients a more advanced service. Of course, there are other methods into Strength & Conditioning, but this is the path we see most frequently at Strength & Conditioning Education. The Level 4 Strength and Conditioning Course gives Personal Trainers to have a greater knowledge of advanced training methods and equipment associated with strength and conditioning. Our Level 4 Strength and Conditioning Course helps our students not only learn more but also gives them an edge in a very competitive market by being of a higher qualification status than a standard Level 3 Personal Trainer.

What are the main differences between Strength and Conditioning Coaches and Personal Trainers?

There are a few main differences to be aware of, these include;

The level of knowledge

Strength and Conditioning focuses particularly on movement quality, although this is an area of focus in personal training, S&C delves much deeper into the methodology. Students on our courses will often have never practised Olympic weightlifting, strength training, plyometrics, speed and agility, mobility, core stability, and endurance to such an advanced level. These are advanced methods that are fundamental to becoming a Strength & Conditioning Coach. To learn more about what fundamentally defines strength and conditioning check out our article: What is strength and conditioning?

The style of practice

Continuing on from the area of further in-depth knowledge discussed above, you’ll notice a difference in the programming of an S&C session, as there are different areas of focus. If you paid for a single PT session and spent 20 minutes warming up, you might not be too impressed, however, for S&C coaches conducting a full RAMP warm-up is critical to the session and make even take longer. The warm-up is not only used to prepare for action in S&C but also to improve performance. Coaches will program RAMP warm-ups with varying components for the activity ahead and these will be different during each session. Periodisation is also critical throughout an S&C program to achieve increased power, strength, mobility, and performance.

Ability to assess movement

A PT will learn how to assess their client’s movement, but an S&C coach will take that assessment a step further. Strength & Conditioning Coaches understand how to identify poor movement qualities, relate poor movement quality to sports performance and injury risk – and how to adapt programming to suit the needs of individual athletes that demonstrate limited movement.       

Training setting

Where a PT can work out of most mainstream gyms or facilities an S&C Coach requires more specialist kit such as Olympic lifting platforms and plates. A Strength and Conditioning Coach will also often need to take their athlete to a relevant training ground for work on performance, speed, or agility amongst other training methods. As Strength & Conditioning coaches typically work with teams you’ll often find that clubs have their own training ground or hire grounds that are representative of the sport they are training for. For non-athlete clients or 1-1 sessions, S&C Coaches will source facilities with designated strength & conditioning kit.

Career opportunities

After becoming a fully qualified S&C Coach there are more opportunities available with regards to the type of client trained. Whilst typically we think of PTs working with the general public, becoming an S&C Coach brings with it the potential to train athletes or even teams to higher performance, as well as the general public a PT is exposed to. An S&C coach has far more choice in the diversity of clients as well as specialist areas, for example, you might become a youth specialist.

Earning potential.

People value coaches more. Why? Because you’re educated to a higher level. Just like a university lecturer makes more than a school teacher; the enhanced skills lead to an enhanced earning potential. Strength and Conditioning Coaches can also increase their pricing based on experience and proven results as the years go by.

According to Indeed the average Strength and Conditioning Coach salary in the UK is £28,000 per annum, with the range between £20k – £35k, whereas the average PT wage is only £19,000 per year according to Payscale. The fitness industry is full of potential and worth billions, so don’t let these figures hold you back.

Communication skills

Where an S&C coach works with a far more tailored approach, you’ll find your communication skills dramatically increase. You’ll need to be asking better questions of your clients to get more from them. The better the questions asked, the better the answers you get.

Brand and profile

As your skills are enhanced by upgrading from Level 3 to Level 4 you’ll find your profile is heightened too. A higher level of knowledge can lead to a higher demand of clients which will help build your business as a coach. How you now market your skills is critical. You need to be the voice of knowledge and you need to understand the benefits of your newly unlocked skills. We offer an Elite Coach Mentorship perfect for fine-tuning how you take your new skills and build a successful brand and business.

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