6 Steps to Becoming a USA Powerlifting Coach

If you’ve been powerlifting for more than a year, you’ve probably asked yourself the question “Would I make a good coach?” or “Do I have the knowledge and skills to coach myself?”

While the answer to those two questions is dependent on a lot of variables, this post will explain the process of becoming a powerlifting “club coach,” the first level of coaching certification through USA Powerlifting. I had the privilege of completing my training with USAPL President Larry Maile and Executive Director Priscilla Ribic. Our training was hosted at Strong Bodies Fitness in Lakewood, Colorado in January 2019.

I decided to go for a coaching certification about 2 years into strength training. After a failed attempt at learning the Olympic lifts with a novice coach, I quickly realized my physique made me a better-suited candidate for powerlifting. I viewed the benefits of the coaching certification as twofold; I could improve my own technique while coaching others to do the same. If you’re looking to gain more familiarity with the techniques and rules/regulations for USAPL, this course is for you. The requirements for the certification are fairly simple. Follow the six steps below to improve your lifts and coach your clients to successful competition.

Step 1. Become a member of USA Powerlifting. If you’re not already an active member, click here and select your appropriate application for membership. You must be a USAPL member to register for the coaching courses.

Step 2. Sign up for a course. Check the USAPL website here to find upcoming courses near you. For the club coach course, early registration is $295, regular registration is $360, and late registration is $395.

Step 3. Complete the workbook. After you register for the course, you will receive an email depicting the general timeline for the course. Your workbook will be mailed to you approximately two weeks before your scheduled course. There are about 100 pages of content, beginning with a section on mission, code of conduct, and the history of USAPL. The next three sections discuss the fundamental techniques of the squat, bench press, and deadlift (SBD). You will learn the basic concepts of training, i.e. the overload principle, general adaptation syndrome, and specific adaptation to imposed demands (SAID). Program design, training theories, and the rudiments of training phases are discussed at length. The final section of the workbook includes 4 lengthy articles from notorious USAPL coaches Larry Maile and Mark Gary, each discussing important facets of powerlifting and coaching.

Step 4. Look over the USAPL Lifters Handbook and the Technical Rules. These are not heavily prominent on the course exam but if you haven’t competed, will help to reveal the structure and general rules/restrictions of a USAPL meets.

Step 5. Attend your class. There were about 15 participants in my class and we were all seated at tables for the majority of the class. Larry had a slideshow and we were encouraged to ask questions at any time. I’d say about 50% of the content was in the workbook while the other half came from the USAPL handbook, rulebook, and from our instructor’s own coaching experiences. Be prepared to take copious notes and bring any clarifying questions you generated from the workbook.

My favorite parts of the course were the lift practicals. We split into small groups and took turns analyzing and coaching each others’ lifts. This allowed us to begin recognizing common mistakes in technique for the “Big Three.” Most of us were intermediate or advanced athletes so the mistakes were subtle. You will walk out of the practical with great feedback on your lifts.

Step 6. Complete the coaching exam. The last 15-20 minutes of the course are reserved for your online test. You will be required to bring a wifi-capable device for this final step. I brought a Chromebook, some brought laptops, and many others just used their smart phones. You will be emailed the exam link – mine had a total of 72 multiple choice and true/false questions. You are required to achieve a 70% or better to pass the course and receive your certificate.

Overall, the process from beginning to end was easy. If you have a basic understanding of the three lifts and complete the workbook prior to the course you will likely pass the exam. With this certification you can bring a team of lifters to any local or state-level USAPL meet. To coach at the national or international level, you will additionally be required to complete the Senior National Coach or the Senior International Coach courses, respectively.

USAPL also provides liability insurance for coaches. If you’re ready to take on clients, check out the details here.

Have questions? Drop a comment below!

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923 W 9th Avenue

Denver, CO 80204



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