Online Coaching

by Mark Rippetoe | November 02, 2016

top of the squat

A recent survey of the training logs posted on this website reveals that you aren’t Doing The Program. Nicholas Racculia PhD SSC and his staff recently surveyed a group of 324 training logs posted in the Training Logs section of the forums on this website, and discovered that 6 of them – less than 2% – showed strict adherence to the program. Some of you need our help, and we have decided to offer it.

I have spoken extensively about the difference between in-person and online coaching. There is no substitute for real-time expert feedback from an experienced coach who is standing on the platform with you, evaluating and correcting every rep of every set of a workout, from a variety of observation angles and the immediacy of close proximity. Nothing else works as well, but it is often (if not usually) unavailable to most trainees. Therefore, online coaching becomes the best option for most people who want the quality provided by a Starting Strength Coach.

I’ll remind you that the Starting Strength Coach credential is the only certification in the world that is predicated upon the demonstrated ability to effectively coach the major barbell exercises. The rather extensive and difficult essay test is not even offered until practical coaching proficiency has been demonstrated at a Starting Strength Seminar. Our overall pass rate is about 15%. The SSC credential therefore stands in diametric opposition to the rest of the entire certification industry – the “Gold Standard” CSCS certification offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association is merely a multiple-choice ticket punched by graduating PE majors.

Many of our Starting Strength Coaches have been offering their services online for quite some time, and indeed, internet coaching has become a Big Thing, with tens of thousands of fitness trainers of various stripes offering their services across many different social media platforms. The vast majority are unqualified hacks, their credentials consisting of a weekend certification, a few months experience as a pinsetter at a corporate gym, and an email account. Most are turning out template-based programs with no video analysis and no technique feedback at all – because they don’t know how to correctly coach the barbell exercises.

In contrast and for example, our staff coach Jordan Feigenbaum MD SSC has established quite a successful business due to his excellent nutrition research, his attention to detail, his devotion and loyalty to his clients, and his talent for movement analysis. Matt Reynolds, Nick Delgadillo, Tom Campitelli, Niki Sims, Paul Horn, Michael Wolf, Steve Hill, Austin Baraki MD, and other staff coaches have built impressive high-quality online coaching businesses. Many if not most other SSCs offer their services to clients across the world, and this has helped establish the Starting Strength brand as the world leader in basic strength training information and consultation.

In-person coaching from a SSC is therefore the best introduction to barbell-based strength training available anywhere in the world. My personal reputation is staked on the process that generates the coaches carrying this credential. But hands-on coaching from a SSC is not available to everyone. The highly selective process that sorts through coaching candidates – while very efficient at identifying talented, well educated and experienced coaches – is inherently and in fact purposely inefficient at generating large numbers of SSCs, and as of now there are only 120 of us in the world. There are no plans to change the pass rate by lowering the standard. We’re working on ways to expand the number of SSCs by developing an educational pipeline. In the meantime, this makes online coaching from a SSC the best option for most people.

To help you, we will soon have a new service on this board: Starting Strength Online Coaching.

SSOC will be quite different from every other online coaching experience you’ve ever had. It will consist of video review of the trainee’s lifts from every single workout, program direction via e-mail and telephone, other web-based services, and a very rapid turnaround time that facilitates the immediate application of the coaching product to the trainee’s next workout.

partial squat

starting strength online coaching

The feedback provided by the video analysis of every workout is very important. It allows for much faster progress because it prevents the technique deterioration that always happens when training without supervision. Even the most advanced lifters need technique correction – form “creep” happens to everybody, regardless of the level of training advancement – and novices just learning the lifts benefit far more from this feedback because they are in the development stages, building a solid foundation of good form that supports continued strength improvement.

An effective coaching product like SSOC depends on good quality input from both trainee and coach, and this means a high level of investment from both parties to the arrangement. The coach’s investment is measured in years of education and experience, both personally under the bar and professionally as a coach. The trainee’s investment is measured in willingness to accept the coaching and not deviate from the program. Given sufficient commitment to following your coach’s directions regarding technique, programming, and recovery, you will make better progress than 99.somelargenumber% of the people who start a strength program. Guaranteed.

It also means that the trainee has invested in the facilities necessary to do the program correctly. As I have said many times on the boards, you can’t do a barbell training program without barbells, and SSCs do not coach Pilates. The trainee has got to be ready to Do The Program, in terms of both commitment and access to the equipment. This may mean a home gym investment if you are in a remote location, or a gym membership at a place equipped properly for barbell training. An SSC will not and cannot work around your equipment limitations.


The SSOC website will be linked from a tab at the top of this page, so watch for it soon. It will be run by Matt Reynolds SSC, and will feature the services of many experienced SSCs. We’re still fleshing out the details, but we hope to have the service up and running by December 1. It behooves all of you who have problems with program adherence, confusion about technique or programming details, or slow improvement to consider subscribing to the service.

My first recommendation is always in-person coaching from an SSC. Failing that, get some qualified help through our Starting Strength Online Coaching platform. Wasted time is wasted potential. 

Discuss in Forums

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.