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What Does a Strength and Conditioning Coach Do?

Reading Time: 7 minutes


DATE: 2024-02-07

Do you have performance-based clients asking you to train them? Do enjoy helping clients get bigger, faster, and stronger?

If your interest tends to lean towards athletes or performance-based clients, you may want to consider adding a Strength and Conditioning Certification to your education.

If you're interested in gaining a better understanding of what a strength and conditioning coach does, keep reading. We dive into what the role looks like and some of the potential opportunities!

About Strength and Conditioning

Strength and conditioning is an area of sports science that historically focuses on athletes. It aims to improve movement and strength to help athletes perform better, more efficiently, and more safely. 

What Is Strength and Conditioning in Athletes? 

For athletes, there are two main goals of strength and conditioning training: 

  • To improve athletic performance

  • To prevent athletic injuries

Performance gets much of the attention, but injury prevention is just as important. After all, an athlete cannot perform at all if they have injuries. 

The Elements of Strength and Conditioning Training

One of the most important elements of a strength and conditioning program is performance. Athletes work with strength and conditioning specialists to improve how they perform in their particular sports and to prevent injuries.  

Several elements go into a program that help athletes reach these goals:

  • Movement quality

  • Mobility

  • Strength

  • Stability

  • Power

  • Agility

  • Endurance

  • Speed

Most importantly, a good strength and conditioning program is individualized. It takes into account the client’s goals, abilities, and limitations. 

What Is Strength and Conditioning for Non-Athletes? 

While this type of training has long been associated with athletes, non-athletes increasingly use it to stay fit and healthy. A skilled coach can take the principles and elements of strength and conditioning and apply them to a client of any age and skill or fitness level. 

For example, an amateur runner can benefit from working with a coach to develop the strength and form necessary to run 5Ks faster while also avoiding injuries. Seniors can benefit from strength and conditioning to improve daily functional movements in order to prevent falls and injuries. 

What Are the Benefits of Strength and Conditioning?

For both athletes and non-athletes alike, a regular strength and conditioning program offers numerous benefits: 

  • Improve performance. It’s not just professional athletes who get this benefit from a tailored strength and conditioning program. Casual athletes and gym-goers can learn to lift more, run faster, and win more weekend basketball games with the right coach. 

  • Build strength. Strength is just one element of this type of training, but for anyone who doesn’t currently have strength training in their routine, this is a great place to start. An individualized strength and conditioning program can help build muscle strength effectively and safely. 

  • Prevent injuries. This is one of the two pillars of strength and conditioning, and it is so important. No one wants to be injured. The right program can significantly decrease the risk of injury from a specific sport or from fitness activities in general. 

  • Recover faster. When injuries happen, because no plan is foolproof, good strength and conditioning makes it easier to bounce back and recover. 

  • Improve health. Any kind of training and working out will benefit physical health, but strength and conditioning provides an extra boost. It trains the body in specific ways to allow an individual to go harder and faster and to get more of the health benefits of sports and physical activity. 

  • Enjoy sports more. Strength and conditioning clients benefit from getting more enjoyment out of their chosen sport. Moving correctly can be life-changing and make a sport or even just a workout more fun. Of course, not having injuries also increases the fun.

The Role of a Strength and Conditioning Coach

Strength and conditioning coaches have a fascinating position. They are experts in movement and use that knowledge in very specific performance-based niches.

A strength and conditioning coach trains performance-based clients and athletes of all ages and skill levels. Although they can help improve overall fitness, most clients' goals revolve around improving or developing a particular skill or improving sports performance. The expertise that a strength and conditioning coach provides can help improve motor skills, improve performance, and reduce injury.

Programming from a strength and conditioning coach can be a combination of strength training, speed and agility training, power training, skill-related drills, flexibility training, and balance training. Although performance training is a huge component of their knowledge base, a strength and conditioning coach must also have an extensive understanding of how the body adapts to stress and recovers to be able to implement appropriate periodization. Coaches will need to know how to monitor mental and physical fatigue to ensure they are progressing the client or athlete towards their goals and not increasing their chance of injury.

Scope of Practice for a Strength and Conditioning Coach

A strength and condition coach often works closely with the head coach or assistant coach of a sports team. The strength coach administers the appropriate evaluations, designs effective programs, and tests and trains clients in a safe environment. They prioritize form, injury prevention, and individualization for each athlete. Coaches shouldn't be diagnosing or treating disease. And, if a client's circumstance is outside their scope of practice, they refer to the appropriate professional.

What Is Required to Be a Strength and Conditioning Coach?

The educational requirements of a strength and conditioning coach vary based on the type of position the coach is looking for. Many positions prefer or require that strength and conditioning coach applicants have a B.A. in a health and fitness-related field, such as exercise science, exercise physiology, kinesiology, sports medicine, etc. Although a four-year degree isn't always required for all employment avenues, it is advantageous. A credible strength and conditioning certification, however, is almost always required. It's important to note, another component of success in the strength and conditioning field is experience. Whether it's volunteer, internship, or another hands-on route, it is recommended to pair your education with some hands-on experience.

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Important Traits of a Strength and Conditioning Coach

Although having the proper education and experience is important, there are additional traits that play a large role in a strength and conditioning coach's success. A coach should:

  • Have High Energy: Strength and conditioning coaches don't just improve athletic performance and physically develop athletes, they play a role in training the athletes' minds as well. Training can be hard! Training can be exhausting! Training puts an immense amount of stress on the body and mind! Strength and conditioning coaches need to be able to understand how to include proper rest in their programming but also be able to "light the fire under athletes" to help push them beyond their current capabilities (in a safe manner).

  • Invest in Lifelong Learning: All fitness professionals should be invested in continuing education. Regardless of whether it is self-taught or professional content, there is so much to learn. And, because the body functions holistically, it is important to try and develop a well-rounded view of all the different components of fitness (physical training, programming, mentality, stress, rest, flexibility, nutrition, etc.). (1)

  • Be Comfortable Training One-on-one OR in Groups: Strength and conditioning coaches can work with and individual student, athlete, or the entire team. It's important to be comfortable working with both. However, a coach must be able to individualize programming for each athlete. It can be a bit more challenging with an entire team, but individualization is imperative for injury prevention and success.

  • Produce Results: The smallest improvements, especially with elite athletes, require dedicated work from both the strength and conditioning coach and client. A tenth of a second off the 40-yard dash, an extra inch on the high jump, or an improved explosion from the starting blocks are changes that come from consistent and meticulous work. A coach needs to be able to improve the athlete and help them deliver those results.

  • Be Adaptable: The strength and conditioning coach must be able to think on their feet and adjust when needed. If an athlete is injured or overly fatigued, the training may need to be halted or adapted to maintain conditioning. If a drill is encouraging the wrong motor skills, they'll have to quickly assess and modify. And, what if a hard training day happens to align with a day the athlete is struggling mentally? The coach may need to have the flexibility to shift training and allow the athlete to regroup and come back with better focus.

Strength and Conditioning Coach Opportunities

The strength and conditioning coach's niche consists of athletes of all skill levels. So, most of the opportunities available for strength and conditioning coaches are within branches of fitness that have access to performance-based clients or athletes.

Collegiate, Professional, and Olympic Strength and Conditioning

Although this route is fairly competitive, there is a need for good strength and conditioning coaches across collegiate, professional, and Olympic sports. These routes typically require higher levels of education along with certification. The ability to develop proper programming for elite athletes is an important component of the athletes' and team's success. Intense and intricate programming is essential for obtaining peak performance.

Youth Strength and Conditioning

It's becoming more common for youth athletes to start developing their talent with a specialist. With the right coach and proper training, a young athlete can develop ideal motor skills and help prevent future injury. Clients of this sport and conditioning niche can be kids that are preparing for a college sport, young athletes hoping to obtain an athletic scholarship, or kids looking to improve their high school game. This is an intricate position that plays an important role in developing young bodies and minds and their love for fitness and sport.

Fitness Center Strength and Conditioning

Some fitness centers will seek out a personal trainer with strength and conditioning specialties. Marathon runners, weekend warriors, competitive weightlifters, and triathletes often seek performance-based training and the fitness centers want to be able to provide it. Keep in mind, although it is not essential, it is valuable to have some experience in the performance-based competition you are wanting to train within. Clients often find comfort in working with people that have experienced the training and competition themselves.

How Much Does a Strength and Condition Coach Make?

Salaries can vary depending on the level of training, length of career, location, and more. According to Salary.com, the average strength and conditioning coach salary is $47,855 (2). A strength and conditioning specialist will typically work in lower-level positions for a few years gaining experience before making it to the level they want.

Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach

Strength and conditioning can be a full-time career or a small segment of your overall clients. If you plan to pursue strength and conditioning as a career, start working on your education and experience now. Even if you only have a handful of performance-based clients, make sure you are properly educated and prepared to train them.

Passionate about athletes and performance-based clients? Jumpstart a successful career in the fitness industry with ISSA's Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification!

Featured Course

ISSA | Strength and Conditioning Coach

ISSA's Strength and Conditioning course bridges the gap between science and application by giving students the "how" of helping athletes achieve any sport-related goal. With this course, not only will you learn the exercise science behind strength and conditioning, but exactly how to create the perfect training program for any athlete. Further, it offers one of the only accredited exams in the strength and conditioning space, making you a hot commodity to any employer.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). I'm so stressed out! Fact Sheet. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/so-stressed-out-fact-sheet

  2. Strength and conditioning coach salary. Salary.com. (2023, July 25). https://www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/strength-and-conditioning-coach-salary

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