By Carl Valle
Education is everything, and knowing where to go to find great coaching information is a tougher choice now with all that is accessible. It’s hard to navigate the education world, as there are so many certifications and conferences available. This blog is about the best online education for strength and conditioning coaches, though I know that education beyond the laptop or flat screen is necessary, specifically great books and time in the trenches.Knowing where to go to find great coaching information is tougher now with all that is accessible. Click To Tweet
Other coaches, including peers and mentors, are a big part of the equation, and online information is just about convenience and accessibility, not necessarily what is best. Down the road, I may create a list of influential coaches or pioneers in the field, but for now I want to provide a comprehensive list of great information in strength and conditioning that we can all learn from.
Instead of thinking about my favorite educational resources, I thought about the resources that could help more coaches. Knowing that education is about advancing a field instead of reinforcing personal beliefs, this list is better than my original compilation.
About the List
It’s important to share how I created the list, as some coaches will likely believe some resources don’t belong on it. It’s also easy to jump to conclusions with a perception that I am biased towards specific online education options. If my bias was high, I would clearly include SimpliFaster, but I don’t need to since you are clearly already here. Other options such as Complete Track and Field and ALTIS Education are not included because they are very centric to athletics, but non-track coaches should still definitely invest in them.
Several of the resources have free content, while many of them are paid services only. I did include two podcasts and, if the list was longer, I would have included Voyager Sport and Historic Performance. However, due to the additional audio research section and articles with the listed resources, I had to make a tough choice. Finally, down the road, resources like Bartold Clinical and other options will grow to the point I’ll have to create another list entirely.
Individual coaches such as Derek Hansen and other experts have institutes or educational products, but I didn’t include them because they are already well-known. Also, some of the resources listed provide live events or education, but are more familiar for their online education. Again, all the resources below are online education, Finally, this list is just my input to the profession—feel free to share your own list so we can move performance enhancement training forward.
The Top Online Education Resources for Strength and Conditioning Coaches
Only 10 resources are listed here, for a good reason: Choosing just 10 forced me to think long and hard about what was deserving and what is best for the average coach. These are not my only recommended resources, as I am a huge fan of books and people, but this is a great start for new and veteran coaches alike. The list is not ranked in any way besides just what was on my mind for this year. Keep in mind that I listened to feedback from other coaches as well, as I didn’t want to be exclusive.
Science for Sport
The Science for Sport resource started out as a humble website sharing summaries of pertinent sports science information. It now has a Performance Digest that really does a great job disseminating essential research information to coaches. The digest is gold, and the structure of the information is so much better because it has links to infographics, podcasts, other research studies, and even videos that relate to the subject matter.Science for Sport’s Performance Digest does a great job distributing essential research information. Click To Tweet
The stark reality is that coaches may not have enough time to read every research article, so services that find relevant, useful, and practical studies are valuable. Science for Sport has an internal podcast as well, and they cover great topics. In addition to sport science, the digest expanded into sports medicine, nutrition for athletes, and recovery science. The digest is delivered to coaches each month, and the educational resource is continually evolving by adding richer experiences with expanded material and better design for reliability.
I think the strongest parts are the editor’s comments and the applied takeaways. Those two parts of the research review are great because they add a little wisdom to the subject matter.
A dark horse in coaches’ education just a few years ago, the Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar(CVASPS) is now a powerhouse. I missed the early conferences as I was hesitant to travel to Virginia due to its proximity to the Boston Sports Medicine Performance Group, and now I deeply regret it. The seminar brings in international coaches and true leaders in performance, as well as great presenters in other fields like sports medicine. Frankly, the videos are worth binging on like a Netflix series, as they are jam-packed with great presentations and excellent audio capture. If I could make one recommendation to the conferences and workshops, it is to get the audio captured on a wireless mic and not depend on the camera or boom mic.CVASPS’ videos are worth binging on like a Netflix series as they’re full of great presentations. Click To Tweet
The CVASPS material is not just recorded presentations, and it includes an annual manual that is written for coaches by coaches. Also, the online subscription has presentations by excellent professionals that shouldn’t be missed. If that isn’t enough, Jay DeMayo, the provider of this great resource, has a podcast that really does the trick with asking and answering the right questions. I have attended the seminar for years and if the online education is up your alley, then I would recommend visiting Virginia as the group of people are outstanding.
Mladen Jovanovic is the main contributor to Complementary Training, a website dedicated to sports performance, specifically focused on the more-demanding aspects of training for athletes. The website has guest authors, some videos and articles, a message board, and a few other gems that are really cutting-edge. What sets the website apart are its sport science and statistical interactions that push the envelope. Complementary Training tackles very tough subjects in training and sport science. The topics of repeated sprint ability, statistical analysis, and velocity-based training are not easy to add real significance to without doing your homework.Its periodization content is the highlight of the Complementary Training website. Click To Tweet
I think its strongest area is its periodization content. Planning training the right way in a real-world setting isn’t easy, and this is the highlight of the website. I like “agile periodization” and other concepts that are shared online, but feel that the breadth of information is key because it forces the reader to rethink what works and what sounds good on paper. In addition to the periodization information, the interesting philosophical points are worth noting as well.
Alan Aragon’s Research Review
If you are really progressive with sports nutrition or want to keep abreast of research regarding diet, read AARR (Alan Aragon’s Research Review). Alan has written some stellar articles in the past, and is Van Helsing to bad Bro Science. Alan’s work is striking and AARR is a top-notch subscription product.
While the subscription comes out monthly, I recommend you preview it weekly by picking one article and reading it thoroughly. It will enlighten you on nutrition, while also setting the stage for teaching you to be a critical thinker. Alan is that type of mind, and his article on chocolate milk is a classic. His contribution to post-workout nutrition is also something he is known for, and while I didn’t change my protocol for practical purposes, the research made me rethink nutrient timing.Alan Aragon’s Research Review is the gold standard for all nutritional research reviews. Click To Tweet
I debated whether to include the AARR for a while, mainly because it has a narrow focus and concentrates mainly on general nutrition, but its quality is such a great standard that I decided it was important to include it. What impresses me is the amount of sustained quality over the years, as well as the great guest contributions. This is the gold standard for all nutritional research reviews and I hope that coaches can read a few issues that they may find useful. Subscriptions are very economical, and if you are in sports nutrition professionally, I recommend you subscribe and read it religiously.
Stronger by Science
One of my favorite authors is Greg Nuckols, and his secret with Stronger by Science is balancing science and practice without sacrificing or compromising either. If I had a person to emulate today with the written word it would be Greg, as he nails each article. His background and expertise is powerlifting, but before you scoff at the notion that he is worth learning from, know that he covers other areas in training and dives into general strength and conditioning concepts outside the three lifts. Greg knows his information and is very clever in his writing, and with so many free articles, it’s a no-brainer to read. He does provide some books for sale, but he raises the bar so high on his free articles that many paid educational products are not as good as his public content.With Stronger by Science, Greg Nuckols balances science and practice without compromising either. Click To Tweet
Two other resources—Barbend and Juggernaut Training Systems—are excellent if you like Greg’s work. Catalyst Athletics is a good read as well, and of course Elitefts is another leader in the powerlifting and strength training world. Reading great writers makes everyone a better communicator, as the goal of writing better is sharing information in the best way possible. Cool topics like myofibril hypertrophy and other physiological articles are super useful because they matter to coaches looking to find advantages that make a difference in the real world.
Strength and Conditioning Research
One of the biggest influencers in strength and conditioning education now is Strength and Conditioning Research. I like the breadth and volume of information Chris Beardsley provides, but if you are pressed for time you can drown in it. I would rather have too much information to tackle than not enough, and I like his service as it ensures that the right information is found and shared. His social media posts are nice snapshots of sport science, especially the strength training information, and I recommend following him if you find it hard to keep up with the research.My favorite part of the Strength and Conditioning Research website is the infographics and charts. Click To Tweet
Strength and Conditioning Research is one part service, one part online articles, and there is a lot of content on the website. Coaches will be impressed with the length and depth of each subject, and he has a book that can be found on Amazon. If you are trying to decide whether Science for Sport or Strength and Conditioning Research is right for you, try subscribing to both for a year and decide for yourself. While they are similar enough to make it hard to choose, each coach will have their own preference as to what is important.
My favorite part of the Strength and Conditioning Research website is the infographics and charts to explain individual studies. Those posts inspire me to make decisions in my own reading, and they are done with clear graphics that really hit home.
Just Fly Sports
The Just Fly Sports website is another one-man show that provides a great podcast and super quality articles and interviews. I love Joel Smith’s work, and he’s a great writer and accomplished coach. There is a lot of his writing here on SimpliFaster and his books are great reads if you can get your hands on them. Additionally, his knack for understanding the science and applying it practically is also important. For those that don’t know Joel Smith, he is a strength coach at Cal, and a former track and field athlete. As a jumper, he really knows the ins and outs of plyometrics, making him a popular resource in the jump training community.The Just Fly Sports website showcases Joel Smith’s knack for applying science practically. Click To Tweet
I didn’t include Just Fly Sports simply because SimpliFaster sponsors its podcasts: SimpliFaster sponsors Just Fly’s podcasts because they’re that great. While I don’t want to get into the business side of education, the consumers of content vote with their time, either reading a page online or listening to a podcast streaming or recorded. I was a guest on the Just Fly Sports podcast and really enjoyed it because the questions were great. So many times, I listen to podcasts and cringe, knowing the opportunity was wasted on fluff questions. Joel does a great job with both his writing and his podcast, and most of the content is free to download or read.
NSCA, ASCA, UKSCA
The three leaders in strength and conditioning certification and education are the NSCA, ASCA, and UKSCA. Other countries provide excellent education, but for the most part, these three organizations stand out as the leaders in the field of strength and conditioning. Other individual programs or added-value education services from coaches exist, like Ian King and EXOS, but the backbones of foundational expertise are the NSCA, ASCA, and UKSCA. Most coaches will see these three organizations as certifications and the textbook as the education, but all three have made online education better by providing their members with access to conference videos and other educational opportunities.The NSCA, ASCA, and UKSCA are the backbones of foundational expertise. Click To Tweet
I have not been to the ASCA or UKSCA conferences, but I follow their contributors and presenters, and I am very impressed with how applied their sport science is. Over the years, the NSCA has grown and had competition from other organizations, but it recently had a nice rise in the quality of its education due to great people like Scott Caulfield and others from Colorado Springs. I have attended a dozen conferences over the years, and their online information is also very good. Therefore, if you can’t make the conferences, know that the videos are worth investing in as they are recorded professionally and that makes a big difference.
The most surprising inclusion on this list is likely OPEX, as they’re highly connected to fitness, but the quality of their education is so high that everyone in the iron game can learn and grow professionally. In fact, from a business perspective, anyone in the private sector should just get involved with the company as they really drive professional development.The quality of OPEX Fitness’s education is so high that anyone in the iron game can learn from them. Click To Tweet
At first glance, I thought the company was a CrossFit education brand, but it has done a great job of going beyond one training system and creating a resource for everyone in strength and conditioning. A stigma with CrossFit may exist for some strength and conditioning coaches, but I am thrilled that training—although some of it is not ideal—has helped ignite interest in the Olympic lifts and liberated all of us from machine-only type training. Give credit to the coaches who made physical culture great again.
The founder is James Fitzgerald, a former CrossFit champion and great strength coach from Calgary. While he moved within Canada a few times, his home base is now the Phoenix area, where he provides certification and continuing education to coaches. I met James in the early 2000s, when IS first held its conference in Toronto, and now it’s great to see his vision come to life with OPEX.
Strength of Science
Evolved from the Pacey Performance Podcast, the Strength of Science is another resource that provides audio interviews, video highlights of research, and written articles. The most prolific podcaster today has got to be Rob Pacey, as he has banged out more than 100 sports performance podcasts and interviewed some amazing people. If you want depth, I love the videos that are research reviews, but the format isn’t for anyone pressed for time. What makes Rob’s website so great is that everything is organized well and open to the public.
I mentioned earlier that a few other podcasts exist, and I recommend coaches download all five mentioned in this article, as well as consider other old, discontinued, or less-known podcasts. Drive or air travel time is a great time to consume podcasts and lectures. Some podcasts not mentioned here have a lot of great information, but due to the wide range of options, it’s easy to let them fall through the cracks.Remember that a coach’s education is very personal. Click To Tweet
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, but it’s hardly the tip of the iceberg either. Feel free to pick and choose whichever education meets your needs, and remember that a coach’s education is very personal.
Invest in Education for the Future
I don’t have a rule of thumb on how much outside education is necessary for self-improvement, but I would guess it should be more than 10% of your time to play it safe. I know some very sharp coaches who read and learn (watch) daily, as well as others who only spend a few weeks in the off-season checking to see if anything relevant changed during the year.
My own education budget was much higher in the past for live conferences and coach visits, and today I invest in online education more than ever. Find the right balance between live and online education, as physical interaction and being present are so important now. Of course, I recommend every coach learn from the resources on this list, as they can make a real impact on your coaching.