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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Best Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification for You

Best Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification for You

Reading Time: 6 minutes


DATE: 2024-05-06

There are many coach or trainer roles a fitness professional can fill. Personal trainer is probably the most well-known. Another to consider is strength and conditioning coach, and many in this position have their strength and conditioning certification. 

If you’re thinking of doing the same, you may be looking for the best certification course. Here we cover what to look for when selecting the best certification program for you. Before we get into that, let’s clarify what a strength and conditioning coach does as well as a few benefits of earning your certification.

What a Strength and Conditioning Coach Does

A strength and conditioning coach helps clients improve their strength and endurance. They also create training programs designed to boost power and speed. But wait…isn’t that what a personal trainer does? Yes and no.

A personal trainer can help clients improve in many areas of fitness. And sometimes these areas overlap with that of a coach that specializes in strength and conditioning.

What makes a strength and conditioning specialist different is, in most cases, their clients are higher-level athletes. The athlete may play basketball for a university and want to cross the court with greater speed. Or they might play football in the NFL and need a training program that helps them hurl the ball with more power. A strength and conditioning coach can help them reach both of these goals.

This isn’t to say that a personal trainer can’t help athlete clients improve in their sport of choice. They can. It’s just that a strength and conditioning coach is more specialized in this area. Their training is designed to help clients reach their peak performance. This is generally more desirable for an athlete than for other types of fitness clients.

Benefits of a Coach Certification in Strength and Conditioning

There are several benefits of becoming a strength and conditioning coach, in general. You get to help some of the top athletes excel at their sport. Like personal trainers, you also get to work a varied schedule. But there are also benefits to earning your strength and conditioning certification.

One is that it helps better prepare you for this role. In a strength and conditioning certification program, you learn about:

  • exercise science and exercise physiology

  • best strength exercises based on a client’s goals

  • elements of an effective conditioning program

  • safety considerations during strength training and conditioning

  • how to motivate clients as a strength conditioning coach

  • ways to improve your success as a fitness mentor

Another benefit of certification is that it sets you apart from professional trainers who lack this credential. Imagine that you’re an athlete. You want to boost your performance, so you’d like to hire a coach. You’ve found two that you like—one is a certified strength coach and the other is not. Which are you likely to choose?

Being a certified strength coach tells prospective clients that you’re an expert in this field. It says that you know how to create and deliver a safe, effective training program for high-level athletes. This can make you the trainer of choice.

Certification may also be required when working with certain athletes or teams. If they are in the pros, they want to know that they’re getting the best strength and conditioning coach. One way to help ensure this is to require certification. 

How to Find the Best Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification for You

If you want to have the greatest chance at success in this role, it’s natural to look for the best strength and conditioning coach certification. The problem is that “best” is subjective. 

You might think one trainer certification program is the greatest but someone else thinks the same about a different course. And you may both be right because you’re basing your opinions on different factors. Instead, it’s important to find the best conditioning and strength coach certification for you.

Here are some things to look at when making your final decision:

  • In-person versus online certification programs. Are you looking for a certification course you can physically go to, or would you prefer the convenience of taking it online? If you want an in-person course, one needs to be offered in your area. If you’d prefer an online option, you can become a certified strength coach from anywhere as long as you have a good internet connection.

  • If it’s a recognized certifying agency. The reason this is important is that you don’t want to go through the process of earning your certification only to learn that no one recognizes it. Search for top certifying agencies to learn which ones are accepted more readily. If you did this search on Google, you can click on the results for more information. For instance, ISSA comes up as one of the top agencies. When you click on it, you learn more about the organization. You’re also provided links to other online articles that mention ISSA. This includes several that mention it as offering one of the best personal trainer certification programs. 

  • What you’ll learn. Maybe you’ve been providing personal training services for ages. You may have even completed a personal trainer certification program. Some of the things you learn in a strength and conditioning program are similar. But others are different. In the latter, you’ll learn more specific information related to strength training and conditioning. You learn why strength training is critical for runners, for example, and how to develop a program for this type of athlete. While a personal training certification course may give you the A-B-C’s of strength training, a strength and conditioning certification course will tell you how to apply strength training techniques when training some of the top athletes in the world.

  • Included materials. What type of study materials does the certification course include? At a minimum, you should receive a textbook and study guide. Together, these can help you prepare for and pass your certification exam. Also look for some of the “extras.” Does the course include access to videos or 3D animations so you can see how each exercise should be performed? Additionally, what does it offer in terms of student support? Research indicates that access to support services helps contribute to student success (1).

  • Other certification options. If you know you want to be a strength coach, why do other certification options matter? Because if you decide later that you want to expand your service offerings, it can be convenient to earn additional certifications with the same organization. You might want to add services as a health coach, for example. When you get this certification from the same agency, you’re able to keep track of all your fitness certifications in one place. Your continuing education credits also apply to all your certifications, preventing you from having to take different courses for each one. 

  • Testimonials or reviews. One of the best ways to determine the quality of a strength and conditioning coach certification course is to see what others have to say about it. Learn from those who’ve completed the program. What did they like? What didn’t they like? Certainly, not everyone is going to be happy with every certification program. So, look for themes to get a more accurate view. If a lot of people are saying the same thing, it’s more likely to be true than if only one person says it.

Becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach

Typically, there are no prerequisites for taking a strength and conditioning certification course. As long as you have an interest in strength and conditioning, and a desire to provide fitness training in this role, you can become a certified strength and conditioning coach.

That said, it can be beneficial to have a personal training background. If you earned your personal trainer certification, you have a good foundational knowledge of fitness. This can help you in a strength and conditioning trainer course.

You also have a better idea of what to expect in a certification course. Even though the new course is focused on strength and conditioning, it likely follows a similar format to personal trainer certification programs. This is especially true if you obtain your certification through the same certifying agency.

You may also find that you get through the course more quickly because you are familiar with many of the fitness terms and concepts. This isn’t to discourage you if you don’t have a personal training background. Instead, it is to help set realistic expectations if you pursue strength and conditioning certification without a base level of education or experience. Either way, you can become a successful coach, no matter what type of coaching you want to do.

If you’re ready to get started, International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) offers Strength and Conditioning Certification. This online certification course includes access to a virtual exercise lab, a free professional website, unlimited support, and more.


  1. Johnson, C., Gitay, R., Abdel-Salam, A. G., BenSaid, A., Ismail, R., Naji Al-Tameemi, R. A., Romanowski, M. H., Kazem Al Fakih, B. M., & Al Hazaa, K. (2022). Student support in higher education: campus service utilization, impact, and challenges. Heliyon, 8(12), e12559. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e12559

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