How to Qualify as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in the UK
Following up on our previous article about nutrition courses, we're going to explore different career progression areas for personal trainers and how to get qualified in those areas. Our first articles in the series will explore the field of strength and conditioning (S&C), why some personal trainers may want to venture into S&C, how it could be relevant to general population clients and once you have decided to go for it, how to get qualified.
What is Strength and Conditioning?
According to the English Institute of Sports, S&C is the physical and physiological development of athletes for elite sports performance. The primary purpose of strength and conditioning is to use principles of exercise programming to improve the performance of the athletes in their chosen sport.
An excellent S&C plan will consist of sport-specific exercise prescription that will include speed and agility, plyometrics, strength training, endurance and core stability while keeping biomechanics and injury prevention on the forefront.
Can the Average Jane or Joe Benefit from Strength and Conditioning?
The biggest beneficiaries of S&C will be elite athletes that thrive on getting better at their craft season by season. If you’d like to become an S&C coach and work with athletes, getting qualified is a must. However, even if your ideal clients aren’t high performing athletes, but they attend “hobby” athletic events and races, they will benefit from working with a personal trainer who has knowledge and expertise in the S&C field, so they can enjoy themselves and come home without injuries while getting better at their chosen activities.
How to Get Qualified as a Strength and Conditioning Coach
As far as qualifications go, there are many pathways you can choose in the field of strength and conditioning depending on why you are considering an S&C course in the first place. If you are not exactly sure where to start, here is a quick rundown to help you do your research. Remember, the below options are just a selection of available courses I think will help you get started, ensure that you know where you are headed and find the provider that caters best for your needs.
UKSCA or the UK Strength and Conditioning Association is the professional body for Strength and Conditioning in the UK. Check out their website for articles, relevant journals, news and updates on how you can become an accredited S&C coach.
They also hold regular workshops on the main areas of strength and conditioning you can attend if your end goal is to become accredited and work with athletes of your chosen sport. They have also announced a new partnership with CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity), practically the successor of REPs.
If you have serious intentions in strength and conditioning, looking at relevant university courses will probably cross your mind at some point, and the UKSCA can help you with that too. They have a dedicated page to help you find the right university. Whether you're looking for an undergraduate or a postgraduate course, they have you covered.
St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London
Many institutions across the country run strength and conditioning courses to a degree level. The reason I am highlighting St Mary’s here is that they are internationally recognised and students have the opportunity to master their skills in a 5000-foot Performance Education Centre. Their Strength and Conditioning course was also the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.
Upon completing their modules, you’ll be equipped to pass the UKSCA accreditation criteria, and it will also prepare you to complete the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) qualification in the USA. If becoming a strength and conditioning coach is your ultimate goal, finding the best pathway is imperative.
Many personal trainers however just want to understand how to program the workouts for their client so that it best serves their goals, suits their lifestyle and brings the desired results most efficiently. Understanding the ins and outs of exercise prescription for specific goals can help you become the best personal trainer for your ideal clients. So, let’s see what options you have if a university degree is not in your plans, but you still want to learn the skills.
They have an online Fundamentals course you can join anytime and complete at your own pace. It was designed to give you a great start to strength and conditioning education, learn how S&C can help you improve your clients’ lives as well as learn the fundamentals of strength and conditioning, then you can decide if you’d like to enrol onto the Level 4 Award in Strength and Conditioning. The Level 4 qualification is a 12-week course taking place at various locations in the UK, so no matter where you are based, you will be able to find a course near you.
You can also join the MSP (Movement Strength Power) Coaching Network to access over 60 hours’ worth of content to help you learn and stay updated on topics like strength training, Olympic weightlifting, injury prevention, mobility and speed training.
Founded initially as KBT Education, DSW is a course provider in many fields of fitness and sport, including powerlifting, suspension training, gym instructing and personal training, as well as kettlebell coaching and various areas of strength and conditioning.
Their S&C courses are CIMPSA accredited and are structured in a way that you don’t have to enrol into a full-blown course at the start, you can take it to level by level.
The Strength and Conditioning Course Level 1 includes Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Kettlebell instructing and a basic program design that is completed as a case study assignment. Assessment will take place in person at a two-day course. You can find locations nationwide as well as dates throughout the year.
After completing the Level 1 course, you can enrol onto Level 2, 3 or 4 depending on what equipment, program design or assessment method you’d like to master. If you’d like to learn about it all eventually, you can choose to enrol onto the 10-month Level 4 course straight after completing Level 1 and go through all the modules month by month. You will attend coaching workshops every month up until month 6. You will then complete a 4-month case study, and on your final in-person day you will take your exams in month 10.
The two awarding bodies not mentioned yet in strength and conditioning are ActiveIQ and 1stforSportQualifications. Their website is mainly designed for course providers, so if you’d like to take their course, you need to go through an education centre to book.
There will be several of them offering varying levels of S&C qualifications. I recommend you check they are accredited by either of these two bodies before signing up if you decide not to go on either of the previously discussed pathways to acquire your S&C qualification.