Jun 7, 2018
What’s Your Philosophy?
P.J. Gardner

In Part One and Part Two of this series, we examined the concept of a strength coaching philosophy and took a look at examples of various approaches being used around the country. Now it’s time to define your own philosophy.

So what is your philosophy of weight training? You have to fully believe in it! Is it evidence based, or is it a blend of different philosophies? Make it exactly what you want it to be!

Your philosophy can be a combination of different approaches — use the parts you like from several other programs. Any philosophy is a reflection of what the strength coach wants to emphasize in their athletic program. It has to be communicated, put into writing, and practiced throughout the athletic program.

Be flexible with it, because it can change as knowledge, experience, and research accumulate. It should be taught and demonstrated in team workouts and continually restated. It is your job to educate the other coaches as to why your philosophy calls for the training to be executed in certain ways (i.e. research may indicate Olympic lifts be performed prior to others because of technical requirements negatively affected by fatigue.)

The philosophy of any program should be fully explained to all athletes in the program in order to ensure all aspects are completely understood and adhered to. Convince everyone! The philosophy itself has to be sold to the organization, school, team, and athlete. Those entities have to buy in to your way of training in order to get the most out of the program.

Most philosophies are stated in a manner that promotes improved athletic performance. All athletes want to improve every aspect of their performance. Philosophies emphasize methods that increase strength, power, agility, speed, and overall athletic performance.

Once you know what your philosophy is, there is one more important question to answer: Does it work? How can you answer that question? Well, tests of various drills are one way to check and verify that your philosophy is working to improve athletic performance (for example, you can test athletes on the 40-yard dash, T-drill, vertical jump, long jump, and bench press, squat, power clean, and other measurements). Are these drills and movements improving? Preseason and post season tests are common in most programs.

Most sport teams above middle school adhere to a certain way of training (the strength coach’s program) based on the coach’s education, experience, and possibly the research available. Teams, players, and even coaches “buy in” to various techniques, prescribed lifts, set/rep schemes, and rest periods — the entire weight training program. Everyone involved has to believe in the implemented program day in day out! Get all the feedback you can from other coaches and athletes.

One of the best ways to promote your program is to show that it is based on research. The articles in professional journals such as the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and others explain what exercises, lifts, and programs result in measured strength gains for various muscle groups. This research-based evidence is what many coaches use to design weight training programs that they believe will be effective in increasing muscular strength for athletes. The industry as a whole is using this method for continuing education in the field. It makes sense in the mottled world of weight training that we use more of what is proven to work.

In addition, with technological advances, many elements of strength can be measured and biomechanical analysis (Dartfish) of various lifts and movements can easily be recorded and later reviewed by coaches and athletes to see what improvements in technique have been made. Biomechanical video is a great teaching tool for coaches and learning tool for athletes.

The bottom line is that most strength and conditioning coaches use a variety of sources to develop their own approach. They borrow from successful colleagues, tweak based on their own experience, and incorporate state-of-the art research. And then they never stop evaluating the results to be sure their philosophy works.

The philosophy of weight training is what a coach makes it! Study the books, read journal articles, review the information available, and come up with your own philosophy of weight training to persuade the athletes, teams, schools and organizations that you will work with in the future. It is your uniquely developed program. Own it!


1. Boyle, Michael. Advances in Functional Training, On Target Publications, 2010.

2. Boyle, Michael. Functional Training for Sports, 2cd Edition. Human Kinetics, 2016.

3. Baechle, Thomas, R. & Earle, Roger W. (Eds.). (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. NSCA. 3rd edition. pp.571-573.

4. Fleck, S.J., and W.J. Kraemer. 1987. Designing Resistance Training Programs. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

5. Fleck, S.J., and W. J. Kraemer. 1996. Periodization Breakthrough! Advanced Research Press Inc.

6. gymJP.com website. Jan. 2018.

7. High Performance Sports Conditioning. Foran, Bill., Editor. Human Kinetics. 2001.

8. McRobert, Stewart, Beyond Brawn 3rd ed., CS Publishing LTD., Connell, WA 2012.

9. Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning website. 2018.

10. Next Level Strength & Conditioning website. 2018.

11. WordPress.com weblog. Jan. 28th, 2018.

P.J. Gardner, MS, ATC, CSCS, CES, PES, is Athletic Trainer at Liberty High School in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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