Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Online Coaching Services and When To Utilize Them

by Rebecca Skinner, SSC | February 08, 2022

It’s no surprise that Starting Strength Coaches will tell you that in-person coaching is an invaluable experience. Coaches conducting in-person sessions can provide immediate feedback and verbal, visual, and tactile cueing to get a lifter moving in accordance with the lifting models quickly. This saves time: the faster the lifter can learn technique correctly, the faster the progress.

In-person sessions with a Starting Strength Coach allow corrections and cueing to be provided in real time as the coach moves around his lifter to get a full view of each rep, making adjustments as needed. Regular in-person sessions with a coach can also help with programming: as changes become necessary session to session, the coach can make adjustments that are appropriate. This tends to be a very difficult task for the average inexperienced lifter.  

If you’re interested in getting stronger and are able to access in-person services through a Starting Strength Coach, Starting Strength Gym, or Starting Strength Affiliate Gym, the investment is definitely worth it. It’s not uncommon for people who first experience a personal session with a Starting Strength Coach to say they wish they'd made the appointment sooner. It’s a huge time saver, getting them to move in accordance with the model quickly and guiding them through their program.

But what do you do if you aren’t close to a Starting Strength Coach, Starting Strength Gym, or Starting Strength Affiliate? What if your work schedule or life situation doesn’t allow you access to regular in-person coaching?

You can try to execute the lifts and programming independently using references provided in the 3 main books (Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training 3rd edition, Practical Programming for Strength Training 3rd edition, and The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40), or via article and video references provided on the Starting Strength website. But how would you know if you are truly doing the lifts correctly, or correctly programming the lifts for continued progress? So what do you do when in-person coaching services are inaccessible and/or not an option?

Online Coaching

Online coaching with a Starting Strength Coach, through a Starting Strength Gym, or a Starting Strength Affiliate location is an excellent secondary option if you do not live close enough for coaching services, or if your schedule doesn’t allow for in-person coaching. While there are different service levels and types of online coaching offered through the Starting Strength coaching pool, the most common online coaching format across Starting Strength Coaches is conducted in a “post-workout” format.

In this format, a coach programs your workouts in advance, often through online coaching software. You complete your assigned workouts, filming the work sets that your coach wants to see, and then send this footage to your coach for review. Your coach will be able to look at your lifts, providing you with cues and corrections for your next workout. You can implement this feedback in your future sessions, which will also be assessed by your coach.

With online coaching – similar to in-person coaching – you don’t have to worry about making changes to your program. Coaches will navigate that for you based on what they see in your sessions. Having someone steer the ship for you not only prevents you from stalling prematurely, but allows smoother transitions through each phase of training advancement. This reduces the frequency of resets, complete program overhauls, and “program hopping” from one template program to the next.

Post-workout online coaching also provides some training flexibility. You can train on your own schedule at whatever time of the day works for you, uploading your footage on your own schedule. You can also train on the go: if you are traveling for work or are on vacation and have access to equipment, you can still receive coaching. And if you’re lucky enough to have your own equipment, it’s a weatherproof and a pandemic-proof way to have coaching. The weatherman and the government can’t shut down your home gym.     

Similar to in-person coaching, your coach can answer questions you might have, to keep yourself better informed on topics surrounding training. Coaches act as accountability buddies, to help you stay on track. They can provide moral support and navigation during times of training that may be difficult, whether it be due to life events or the loads being handled.

Online coaching is also sometimes a more affordable long-term training option for individuals on a tighter budget. While in-person coaching is worth the investment, online coaching costs tend to be lower than long-term in-person coaching. If cost is a concern to you, then online coaching services through a Starting Strength Coach, Starting Strength Gym, or Affiliate Gym may be something to seriously consider.

Potential Limitations to Online Coaching

Online coaching has its limitations. For example, if a client has the bar too high on his back, the online coach can recommend that he lowers the bar position for the next session. In the following session it’s not uncommon for the lifter to either place the bar slightly lower but still not low enough, or to put the bar too low, underneath the correct position. This forces the remote coach to make a second recommendation that will hopefully help the lifter find the correct bar placement on the back by the 3rd session. In other words, delayed video review wastes time. In contrast, a coach on the platform can immediately come up behind the lifter and position the barbell into the correct spot on the back prior to unracking. Both ways can get you the correct end result, but one is quicker, more direct, and more efficient.

Another example of this is stance in the squat. Online, in the session footage, a coach could observe a client that may be too wide or too narrow with his stance. The toes might be angled out too much or too little as well. The coach can recommend that the lifter widens or narrows his stance and adjusts his toe angle based on what he sees in the video, but the client can incorrectly interpret what the coach is suggesting. This results in subsequent time spent trying to settle the client into the correct stance. An in-person coach can fix stance and establish correct foot placement within a couple seconds.

In-person coaching also allows observation from all angles. A video reviewer can request a change in video angle from session to session, but he can’t move around the lifter in real time. It takes longer to coach a lift from a video than it does on the platform with the lifter, especially if the video angle or framing is less than optimal. In-person coaching provides instant feedback, while online video review will be delayed. Both ways provide feedback that can help you move correctly, but one way is better than the other.

In summary, if you are in a position where you can receive in-person coaching in any capacity – especially as a beginner – do it. This is true even if you supplement in-person coaching with online coaching, or are planning on using online coaching exclusively down the road. While online coaching is usually a more economical option than in-person coaching, nothing compares to hands-on, real-time, person-to-person coaching services. Regular full-time in-person coaching is and always will be the best type of coaching you can receive. Online coaching services may be a viable alternative to in-person coaching, depending on the quality of the coach. Being able to weigh your options between both types of service is important. Regardless of the format of Starting Strength coaching you utilize, the goal is to get stronger, and having a qualified coach help you is the best path forward.     

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