One of the main differences between a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer is that personal trainers tend to work with the general population, whereas strength and conditioning specialists tend to work with athletes and teams.
However, many personal trainers are expanding their knowledge and education to encompass this more specialist qualification because it’s apparent that strength and conditioning has huge benefits for everyone and not just elite athletes.
Strength and conditioning coaching involves more detailed movement assessment of clients. Movement quality is fundamental to safe and efficient progression and development, whether you are starting as a beginner on a fitness journey or training for the next Olympics.
Being able to delve deeper into movement quality means strength and conditioning coaches are in a good position to work as a team with a client’s physiotherapist if they have injury or pain. Also, establishing good movement quality with kids while they are still young is invaluable for their future health and performance. There is a growing desire to use coaches for this purpose in youth teams and sports.
Strength and conditioning coaches also have knowledge in the more specialist fields of plyometrics and speed and agility training. Again, these aren’t just methods that benefit elite athletes. You can’t just launch a beginner into plyometric training but coached at the appropriate level it can bring enormous benefits to the most people. For example, improving bone density through impact training for people at risk of osteoporosis. Making the end of a fitness class fun with some simple agility drills has proved popular with my clients over the last couple of years. These methods can really boost people’s confidence and challenge their bodies in a safe way.
Strength and conditioning coaches also have knowledge in periodisation i.e. programming to peak an athlete for competition. Again this can benefit the general population because your coach can help prepare you for a race or fitness event you have planned. Things have changed and we are now seeing older people compete in age group categories across a range of sports. Competition is no longer just for the young! Injury prevention and movement quality has particular challenges in the older population and strength and conditioning training still has real relevance.
Strength and conditioning coaches tend to train with a barbell and Olympic plates. Olympic weightlifting techniques are crucial to many elite athletes to progress their strength, power, speed and movement. However I believe the barbell is for everyone, whatever your age, ability or body type. I have seen all of my clients progress with barbell movements, appropriate to their level, and many of them have become quite addicted!