USAPL Coaching Certification: A Review
If you want to find a powerlifting federation that suits your training and supplement regimen, you can find one. Powerlifting has an interesting history, such that you can find geared, raw, and everything in between, matrixed with tested, non-tested, or you-pick. Every possible combination, it seems, has its own federation, and some have two or three. One of those federations, the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association became affiliated with the International Powerlifting Federation in 1997 and became USA Powerlifting (USAPL). USAPL supports raw and equipped meets, including national championships, and has a rigorous drug-testing program based on its “no performance enhancing drugs” stance.
When I moved to Georgia, I began training at a gym populated by USAPL lifters and, when I began powerlifting training, USAPL was my natural choice of federation. I’m not sure, though, it would have been different if I were at another gym. While there’s a chance, I suppose, that my totals would be larger if I took performance enhancing supplements, I cannot imagine wanting to do so. For me, there’s just too little certainty about how those drugs affect the body, long-term. If you’re like me, and the challenge is how to get stronger naturally and perfect your movement, USAPL offers the competitive environment to test how you progress.
And so after two years of competition, it was perhaps also natural that I signed up for the Club Coach certification course offered by USAPL. I’m a teacher by trade, so coaching is in my blood. And I find that the best way to learn something well is to teach it to someone else. In the spirit of life-long learning, and selfishly wanting to know more about the craft so I can get better at it, I signed up and paid my $295.
The Club Coach certification, the first level offered by USAPL (the others are Senior National Coach and Senior International Coach) is a full-day, followed immediately by a test. Here are the elements of the curriculum:
Instruction in the Code of Conduct and History of Powerlifting
The Squat, followed by a “practical” consisting of both performing and coaching the lift (unscored)
The Bench Press, followed by the same kind of “practical” exam (unscored)
The Deadlift, followed by the same kind of “practical” exam (unscored)
Training Principles and Program Design
Introduction to Calculating Attempts at a Meet
Clearly, this entry level coaching certification, which comes with a 100+ page manual (received a couple of weeks before the face-to-face), gets into enough detail to test both your mental stamina (it was a info-packed 9-hour day) and your ability to synthesize material. In our class of 14, we had experienced powerlifters who had been to National Championships, crossfit coaches who are branching out, strength and conditioning coaches doing professional development, and athletes who were thinking of getting into coaching. Your mileage may vary, but the more experience you have with powerlifting, the easier this is, but I also think you will get more out of it as well.
Our guide through this was Josh Rohr, an experienced powerlifter, coach, meet organizer and leader in the USAPL. Through science, demonstration, and anecdote, he covered all the material in an authoritative and accessible way. He spoke well to all the various kinds of students throughout the day, offering helpful tips on how to coach the toughest parts of the movements.
The manual offered to us also had a number of articles by leading USAPL coaches on topics as broad as “how to coach” to “making weight” to “attempt selection.”
At the end of the day, you pull out your laptop, log in, and immediately take the test. Ours had 76 questions and you had to get 61 of them right (80%). This is not an open test. No notes. No book.
Fortunately, our instructor was good at signaling what we really needed to remember. My best advice is to study the manual thoroughly before the day of instruction. If you understand the lifts, and how they are judged in meets, that is a key, even down to understanding the difference between a red card and a yellow card by a referee. If you understand training principles, that is a key. And if you understand procedures in a meet, from weigh in to when you can change an attempt selection, that is a key. That’s a lot of information to take in if you plan to just show up the day of the course and then take the test. It won’t be that easy.
That said, however, with decent preparation and diligence the day of the test, you can be successful. From my personal standpoint, I achieved my objective. I am much more knowledgable about the sport, the lifts, the training, and the meets than I was before, even though I have done two state championships and one national championship as a lifter. I’m still learning, and this course was a great addition to my knowledge set.