Coaching From the Heart

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Being a Strength Coach today is a common term. Not too long ago, this was a much smaller community and you heard about personal trainers but not so often did you hear the title of Strength & Conditioning Coach.

As the years have passed and more information is readily available for us there are more Strength & Conditioning Coaches and more gyms of all types not just around the world, but in each and every town.

Maybe you think you’re a Strength Coach, but maybe, deep down, from the heart, you are not. This quick explanation is something that made me think a lot about who I am and what I do, when I heard my buddy talking about something Coach Vern Gambetta said, who essentially mentioned that there are 2 sides of the coin to Coaches:

–   The Fitness Industry

–   The Coaching Profession

I never saw the 2 sides this clearly until I realized the types of Coaches I tend to come across. I get Coaches who are always asking me about training info and love to talk training.

Then, I have Coaches who never attended a live seminar, haven’t trained anyone on their own, have TONS of knowledge to gain and they keep asking me about marketing.

I understand the need to have marketing knowledge. WIthout marketing knowledge I wouldn’t be where I am today and many people wouldn’t know about what we do. How can you help people without adequate knowledge? You can’t.

You’re only marketing your poor training methods. Coach Greg Glassman has said repeatedly, “Pursue Excellence”. It can’t be said any simpler and more powerful than that. Get GREAT at what you do. Good just isn’t good enough. That’s not what I simply believe, it’s what is IN my heart and I feel it in every bone and muscle of my body.

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When you train people, you have to truly believe that they deserve better information, better coaching and better attention from you. When a marketing expert tells you, “You already know everything you need to know about training”, it’s time to walk away.

There’s no such thing as you being good enough. Period.

The Fitness Industry has the Coaches who jump from one band wagon to the next, one fad to the next. These Coaches have a tough time standing their ground and thinking for themselves. Instead, they latch on to one method each and every time it rises to popularity.

The Coaching Profession is the group of Coaches that use their own training as a lab, constantly experimenting, testing and analyzing their training methods, seeing what works / doesn’t work in the real world and focusing on giving those they train everything they have, from the heart.

These Coaches are also busy training people and have a solid retention rate with their members because they deliver amazing results.

The fitness industry is busy focusing on which web site to copy and being “good enough” as a Coach.

I am NOT trying to put a negative spin on anything here, instead, I am trying to encourage you to NOT get caught in the “fitness industry”, which is something that happened to me. I never got stuck thinking I was good enough. My passion for training has always been there.

But….. I got tied up in the E Myth and believing in perfect systems and in turn I spent less time in the gym, even though it was more than the norm, I was going against what was in my heart.

In my heart, I feel most comfortable IN the gym. Preferably, a gym with pumping music, weights being dropped, athletes attacking the training all while I am in the thick of it all coaching athletes and hard charging adults.

It’s perfectly FINE to NOT follow the herd, to NOT follow all the systems and what everyone else says is the right way to be a Coach. If you love to Coach, then get in there and be fucking awesome at it.

Do you still need marketing know how? Yes. You do. The best marketing you can have is to showcase your results in such a way that those you train will shine on their own. This has always been the way we’ve received the most acknowledgement. Another teammate, parent or coach sees an athlete we’ve trained and is in shock by the progress he has made.

Referral contests, facebook ads, etc – I’ve done them all and still do them to keep certain things running smoothly, such as getting new people to find out about us who might ordinarily not know about us. But once we get them to The Underground it’s all about results.

If you can’t deliver powerful results in a rapid time frame then you need to get better at what you do. Period. There is only so much you can learn from books and articles on the internet.

Don’t kid yourself either. If you think you know all there is to know about training, or, you see a seminar coming to your neck of the woods and in your own mind say to yourself, “I’m not gonna pay $500 to learn about squats, deadlifts and the bench press”, listen to this story.

A few years ago I hosted a seminar with 2 elite level powerlifters. I contacted countless CrossFit Coaches in the state and surrounding states on several occasions. None even replied to the e mails and none showed up. None. We could barely give the seminar away.

At the time of the seminar I had been training for 22 years myself and coaching for over 10 years. That seminar was the best seminar I had ever attended, hands down. The details of technique, program design, mindset and all around gaining more knowledge still floors to this day.

I was in shock at how so many people knew about the seminar but chose not to get better. Not only did they choose not to get better, they chose to not deliver a better experience for all the people they train through their gym.

When you let opportunity to gain greater knowledge pass you by, you also give those you train less than they truly deserve. When you start viewing your training business as an opportunity to deliver a greater experience, you begin pursuing excellence as Coach Glassman encourages.

While I’m at the gym, coaching, I’m changing things on the fly. I used to think was the wrong thing to do from a business standpoint until I spoke with AJ Roberts and he told me how the lifters at Westside Barbell do the same after their man lift. Each lifter is on his own routine in an effort to attack his weak areas.

My friend saw me running a few sessions and told me he could never run his gym like this, with people doing different exercises and workouts at the same time.

A weaker kid walks through the doors who needs to be attacked through squats and deadlifts even if the workout says otherwise, I am always gearing and tweaking each workout towards building weak areas for each athlete. When you Coach from the heart, you know deep down you’re letting that kid down if you don’t tailor that workout for his needs.

The E Myth would say to have a system that anyone can follow, with just enough knowledge. This would make for a great business model, but, not the greatest model to deliver results in human performance.

When you’re a Strength Coach from the heart, you understand that running your business the right way means tailoring workouts for each individual and not copying what everyone else is doing.

Some athletes are squatting, others hitting farmer walks, others are on bodyweight work and sleds while others are spending more time on mobility. This requires mental agility and also mental toughness on your part. It requires a lot more energy to Coach like this rather than having all 10-20 athletes following the same workout with the same weights and the same exact exercises.

As a Strength Coach you will evolve. You’ll catch yourself making mistakes and that’s expected. Where it really counts is what do you do from there? Do you follow the herd and let the norm dictate how you train, or, do you pursue excellence and gain greater knowledge in an effort to deliver greater results?

I’m sure the business experts will be pissed at me for this article and that’s perfectly fine. For those of you in the gym on a regular basis training others and pursuing excellence, you “get it”.

If you are managing a team of trainers then pass the torch and give them opportunity to develop greater knowledge. If you think you’re team of coaches is smart enough or good enough then you’re in the wrong “business”.

Zach Even – Esh is the Founder of The Underground Strength Gym and Creator of The Underground Strength Coach Cert. Zach has trained hundreds of athletes ranging from the youth level to the Olympic level and serves as a consultant for coaches and athletes around the world, including D1 Wrestling teams. For more info please visit &

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