How to Choose an Online Weightlifting Coach
Generally speaking, you'll get stronger and build better technique with a coach. The problem is, though, that it's a jungle out there. The barrier to entry for people to call themselves an "online coach" is so ridiculously low, that it can be hard to know who to trust. In this article, I'm going to run you through 4 key things to look for in a weightlifting coach, what good online weightlifting coaching should involve, typical costs, as well as some of my own experiences, failures and lessons learnt both as an athlete and as a professional coach. Let's get started, shall we?
The Four Things to Look for in an Online Olympic Weightlifting Coach
To be honest these pretty much apply to finding any coach, whether online or in-person, for pretty much every sport.
1) The coach has got the right qualifications
A weightlifting coach should have qualifications that demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the snatch, clean and jerk, and various assistance movements. In the UK that means a British Weightlifting certification, in the USA that means a USA Weightlifting certification. If you want to become a high-level weightlifter, you're probably not in the best hands if your coach is just scraping by with a CrossFit level 1 certificate.
2) The weightlifting coach has actually coached weightlifters
Crazy idea right? You want your coach to be someone who has already taken people like you and helped them reach the results that you want. In 2018 when I was looking for a new online weightlifting coach, I chose Glenn Pendlay for exactly this reason. He'd developed a tonne of lifters from average to nationally competitive.
3) The weightlifting coach lifts, or has previously lifted
Now, this doesn't mean that your coach has to have been an Olympic medalist or world champion (and to be honest the best athletes often do not make the best coaches, for a variety of reasons)
But they should have at least been involved with the sport and spent a good number of years diligently trying to improve their Olympic weightlifting total. They should know how the movements feel, and what a tough workout feels like. From my own experience as a coach, I can tell you with certainty that I've coached weightlifters, and athletes from various sports, who FAR exceed my physical ability (Heck, I once coached a guy who squatted up to 180kg basically the first time he touched a barbell) But if I programme them a workout you can be damn sure I've tested it on myself. I know how it feels. I know the difficulty. I know exactly what I'm asking them to do.
4) You're a Good Personality Match With Your Coach
We're all different people, with different upbringings, different styles of communication and different personalities. If you want a successful long-term relationship with your coach, you've got to be on the same page, and you've got to be a good personality match. If you're a very mental/conceptual athlete who likes detailed feedback and wants to know how and why you do things, then you might not get along well with a very physical, learn by doing type coach. Or if you're someone who likes to have a bit of a laugh during training (within reason) and in feedback chats, then you might not be a good match for a coach who's a bit of a hard-ass. With that said, you shouldn't just look for a coach that babies you, panders to your nonsense or lets you get away with poor behaviour. Good coaches are people who are going to call you out on bad habits to help you become better. There are times when you might not like your coach (in the middle of 4x8 heavy squats for instance) but there should always be mutual respect.
What Should Online Weightlifting Coaching Involve?
If you're going to hire and pay good money for a coach, then you want to know what your weightlifting coach is actually going to do to improve your weightlifting.
At the bare minimum, you should be looking for...
An individualised weightlifting programme
Some form of video technique analysis or feedback
Ideally, on top of this, you would have...
Regular communication with your coach for Q&A's and check-ins.
Longer reviews at the end of training blocks
How Much Does a Weightlifting Coach Cost?
A good weightlifting coach offering the level of support above will likely cost something in the region of $200-300 (£140-220) per month. And I can tell you from my own experience coaching, that for the sheer amount of time and energy I put into coaching my clients, it's a very justifiable price. If your finances don't allow that, your best bet would be to look for hybrid coaching options, in which you get some of the above features but not all of them. So it saves the coach some time and saves you some money. Personally, I run a custom programme + monthly check-in option. So you'd get your individualised programme, run it for a month, and then we'd have a longer review, including some video technique analysis. So the feedback isn't as regular, and it's less time-intensive on my part, which reduces the cost.
At the end of the day, quality costs money. As the old saying goes... "pay peanuts, get monkeys."
Who's The Best Online Weightlifting Coach?
I seem to hear this question asked quite a lot (Reddit weightlifting says hi) and the honest answer is that it really depends on which metrics you try and use. Do we decide by...
How many national/international medals their athletes have won?
How liked or respected they are by their athletes?
The progress their athletes have made?
How well they communicate and pay attention to their athletes?
And when picking a metric, do we also have to consider the factors that impact it? For example...
If a coach focuses on youth development and talent pathways, they might have zero national/international medals, despite having built the foundations for hundreds of athletes to succeed down the road.
Conversely, if you have a coach that works only with elite international competitors, their athletes are actually going to make very little progress (maybe 1-2% per year) versus someone that coaches beginners and can see 100-200% progress in that time frame.
What I mean to say is, there's no such thing as the best weightlifting coach, there are simply different coaches who happen to be better at certain things when assessed in certain ways. So when looking for your own coach, the most important thing to consider is if that particular coach is a good match for your training level and situation.
Wrapping Up - Next Steps
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that you're probably not reading an article about online weightlifting coaching just for entertainment. So let's make this actionable... 1) Assess your own ability level and situation. Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced weightlifter? What do you want to get out of remote weightlifting coaching? Improved technique? Competition success?
2) Come up with a shortlist of coaches who fit the 4 criteria we talked about above, and whose service includes the features we discussed. Narrow this list down to your favourite.
3) Sign Up (If you're unsure see if they have a month to month option) and see how you get along with them. Do you have a good coaching relationship? If yes, fantastic, if no, then part ways and look elsewhere. 99% of the time if you've done step 2 correctly, you'll be onto a winner. 'Til Next Time Alex
MSc Strength & Conditioning
British Weightlifting Tutor/Educator