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The future of Starting Strength

October 16, 2013 - Uncategorized -


Starting Strength Coaches Association 2013.  Taken from tomcampitelli.zenfolio.com

     This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the 2nd annual Starting Strength Coaches Association conference. The event was hosted by Rippetoe at his famous “Wichita Falls Athletic Club” in Texas.  It was extremely inspiring to be in the same gym where Bill Starr, Glenn Pendlay, and of course, Rip began their careers.  The history of that gym and the impact it has made both nationally and internationally on Strength and Conditioning are overwhelming, and being personally invited down there was a real honor.  As the conference moved forward, and as I listened to the various topics presented by my colleagues, I couldn’t help but notice the awe inspiring feeling that came over me.  For the entirety of my experience in this field, I have strived towards complex understanding of so many different topics within strength and conditioning/health and wellness.  By this, I mean I have asked countless questions about countless ambiguous topics pertaining to health and wellness.  Where others have remained complacent with certain paradigms, I have continuously pushed the envelope to understand so many “whys” that still remain so unclear to so many other professionals.  Arriving in Texas last weekend, I realized that all the questions that I’ve tirelessly aimed to answer ultimately brought me to this gym in the middle of nowhere, filled with dozens of people exactly like me.  I finally felt like I was at the right place, with the right people.  The Starting Strength Coaches Association is comprised of some of the most professional, diligent, intellectual, ambitious, and humble individuals I’ve ever come to know.  In my day to day dealings in NYC with clients and trainers, I oftentimes feel a real sense of aloneness (not to be confused with loneliness),  similar to the way wise or spiritually evolved people feel when relating to the masses.  The paradox of my complex understanding on how to improve others physically, is that sharing my knowledge with fellow professionals seldom results positively.  As I’ve said countless times in this blog, there is so much crap out there about fitness.  The field is so overwhelmingly saturated with bullshit, that it is customary for every single professional to have their own paradigms on how training should be conducted.  I completely agree that there shouldn’t be organizations full of carbon copy trainers, but that is not what the SSC certification is about.

    The Starting Strength Coaches Association is, as I mentioned earlier, a group of forward thinking individuals who employ reason and logic to their thought processes of how things should be conducted.  They are real “doers” who cannot be satisfied with answers that can’t be explained through extensive observation or research.  If something has been shown to work better than what they have previously believed, then they simply change their thought process to allow for a fuller understanding on a topic.  They are, by nature, alpha males and females, so egos are involved of course. However, they are also humble, and will politely bow to a properly presented argument if it proves superior to their own.  They are MD’s, PHD’s, PT’s, and scientists, but most importantly, they are coaches.
     The certification is maintained through the strictest of standards.  To obtain the SSC certificate, one must attend a Starting Strength Coach seminar. Priced at $800, the Seminar is a three day intensive course designed to give attendees a thorough understanding of the principles of the Starting Strength model. Split between lecture and practical hands on lifting/coaching, the seminar allows each participant the opportunity to learn how to coach, as well as perform, the lifts.  The lecture portion discusses in-depth principles of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics, and how they apply to the Big 5 (the squat, deadlift, press, bench press, and powerclean).  If desired, participants have the option of being evaluated as a potential Starting Strength Coach.  Although a portion of the seminar sets out to teach people how to coach the lifts, Rippetoe always prefaces the weekend with a speech on how it is not his or any other staff coach’s responsibility to develop anyone into a coach in a three day period.  He explains that coaching is a skill that is developed over months and years of practice, and that labeling anyone a coach simply because they paid $800 is simply blasphemy, and this distinction is another important aspect that sets the Starting Strength Coach certification apart from other certifications.  If an individual happens to be evaluated as having already attained enough experience as a coach and a lifter prior to the seminar, and demonstrates this ability sufficiently on the platform, then they will have passed the “platform”.  If, and only if, a participant passes the platform, they will then be invited to sit for the written exam.  Consisting of 10 essay questions, the exam is a take home test designed to test the coaches understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, coaching, and stress/adaptation concepts as they pertain to barbell training. The average time spent on the exam ranges from 20-30 hours and results in approximately 15-20 single-spaced pages.  According to Rippetoe, the passing rate of those who decide to actually take the test is between 10-20%.  Naturally, this rigorous certification process weeds out any recreational coaches, and simply leaves only the most exceptional coaches with the most comprehensive knowledge and experience with the subject matter.
     Sitting and listening to Jonathon Sullivan review the pertinent literature of 2013 chosen by the SSC Science Committee, I began to see the future.  When the NSCA created the CSCS certification (the current gold standard of strength and conditioning certifications) back in 1985, the beginning of that process was not too dissimilar to what we were doing there that weekend.  The paradox, however, is this:  with all of the information present, the caliber of professionals in attendance, and the product that is the Starting Strength model, awareness of this organization is not even on the strength and conditioning radar.  The Starting Strength organization is still in its infantile stages.  However, with such a group of professional and passionate individuals, this organization will eventually hit critical mass. Our hope is that the Starting Strength Coach Certification gains the credibility it deserves, and the goal that we all set out to achieve will finally be reached: setting the bar so much higher than it has ever been before. Regulation of the industry, and bringing awareness to “The Truth”.

Coaches Rountable Q&A.  From left to right – Jim Wendler, Mark Rippetoe, Matt Reynolds, Jonathon Sullivan.
Taken from tomcampitelli.zenfolio.com

     For more information about the 2013 Starting Strength Coaches Conference, and to see the detailed maintenance of certification (MOC) required by all Starting Strength Coaches, please check the link below.

To find a Starting Strength Coach near you, check out the Starting Strength Coach directory here:

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