Book excerpt: How to find a strength coach

I wish I could train every woman! Since I can't, here are some tips on finding a trainer near you, and what to ask them. Don't be shy if you feel like you don't know what you're talking about. They have to meet you halfway and understand your questions even if you are hesitant.  We are not born knowing what a squat rack is (a good thing), versus a Smith machine (not a good thing), for example, so no trainer/coach should be impatient with questions. Below is an excerpt from my book draft. (It's getting there...)

Where to look for a strength trainer/coach and what to ask them

First choice: see if there’s a Starting Strength Coach in your area, and contact the one nearest you. Tell them you want to strength train, and a Starting Strength coach will know what to do with you. Make an appointment and go talk to them to see if you want to work together. Starting Strength is my favorite beginners' method because of its simple and gradual approach, and it is becoming better and better known by trainers, so it can be a good way to start a conversation.

Next choice: Some CrossFit coaches are also excellent strength coaches and are happy to do personal training in basic strength only, rather than putting you into CrossFit classes. Contact your two or three nearest CrossFit gyms to ask if they have the type of personal training you are looking for: strength training on its own. (Just to be extra clear, you are NOT looking for CrossFit training at this point.)

Another place to look: Independent gyms where freelance trainers do personal training and where gym members also can work out on their own.

What to ask the trainers you contact:

If he or she isn't a Starting Strength Coach, ask the following questions.

"Do you offer personal training or small-group training in the basic barbell lifts -- the back squat, bench press, deadlift, and shoulder press?"

"Do you actively teach the lifting skills to middle-aged or older people who have never lifted weights before, and who may not even know exactly what these lifts are yet?"

"Do you start light and progress the weight a few pounds every time, according to the trainee’s ability?" You’re interested in a gradual progression of weight in as efficient a fashion as possible. You can tell them, if you wish, that you’ve heard of the Starting Strength novice method and that is the type of training you are looking for. If they say their training is similar, that’s good.

"Do you have squat racks and/or power racks?" (If they say they have a Smith machine, that is a different thing -- used for a different type of squat -- and is not what you want. You want them to say they have either power racks or squat racks, or both.)

Ask, “If you teach other exercises besides these four, are these four lifts the primary focus? I don’t want to do anything similar to a CrossFit WOD, for example.”

If the trainer says they train with “free weights,” tell them you are open to starting out by learning the lifts with free weights (this phrase usually refers to dumbbells), but that your goal is to train progressively with barbells. Do they have light training barbells and training plates in addition to “free weights”? Will they make it a priority and a goal to put you under a barbell?

You want them to answer yes. If they sound very cautious, that’s okay. They can’t be sure how soon you’ll be using barbells until they work with you, so they shouldn’t make specific promises other than to have a goal of getting you under a barbell.

Send me a message if you have questions about the questions. Thanks for reading!

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