For the first time in my brief powerlifting career I was in the market for a new coach. I had never really had to search for a coach before. I was lucky enough to meet Boris Sheiko right at the start of this journey.
He has coached me for the last 3 years, and it ended upon the completion of my last competition as he has a major project he is working on that is taking up a lot of his time. This came as a surprise to me, but I knew this day would come eventually.
I plan to keep in touch with him and send him my competition videos as I progress over time. I don’t normally need validation, but reading an email where he wrote, “It was a big pleasure to see how you improved since we had started, especially as a coach” really felt good to read.
I say that because it shows the relationship I had with him. I respect him more than any other coach out there. On top of that, it is all that I have known. I have done it one way, and that one way sets the foundation of my beliefs and forms the beating heart of Precision Powerlifting Systems.
Finding a coach under these circumstances is not very easy. I took a couple of days to let it settle and clear my thoughts. I drummed up a list of what I needed out of a coach. I first and foremost needed someone that was willing to meet me in the middle from where I was coming from and what they tend to do for their athletes.
I require my coach to coach elite lifters, and their technique must look good. They must have some type of background in sports science. I prefer someone that has competed before in their life. This doesn’t have to be in powerlifting, but any sport. I also preferred someone that I have had some kind of interaction with on a personal level. The last 2 pieces are more preferences and I wouldn’t disqualify someone I felt was a quality coach based upon them.
Next, I started to make a list of potential coaches. This is where I realized there were very few quality coaches that are out there. My Instagram feed is filled with coaches, but not many that I feel are quality enough to pay them.
I can only imagine being a lifter looking for a coach. It can be extremely confusing with all the contradictory information that exists out there. I get why people lean towards coaches that are strong themselves because logically it makes a lot of sense.
I came up with a list of 5 coaches in no particular order; Jeremy Hartman, Zac Cooper, Ryan Gleason, Nick Guidice, and Arian Khamesi. That is it. If those did not work out I would have ended up coaching myself. To be fair, there are other quality coaches out there, but they are not a good fit for me.
Out of all of the “coaches” out there, with a “DM me for coaching” on their IG, I only had a list of 5 coaches that I would trust to coach me. There are going to be over 20,000 lifters that compete in the USAPL this year, and there are less than 20 quality coaches out there that I know of.
That is not a lot and it leaves many lifters paying good money for subpar coaching. This coaching may get them stronger in the short term, but often with long term risks. Many of these coaches’ lifters also have very poor technique, and with a sport as simple as powerlifting that is unacceptable in my opinion.
Hopefully, as the sport continues to grow, we see an increase in the quality of coaching out there. Also, hopefully the athletes continue to gain more education on what good programming and coaching should entail.
Good coaching isn’t just writing the perfect program. A lot of it comes down to what we actually see and the adjustments that we make on a day to day and week to week basis. Also, coaching is not just shouting cues to the athlete.
Coaching is knowing when to say things and when to let training do its thing. The right variations and volumes with lighter weights help to fix technique issues. If your coach needs to keep telling you the same cue over and over they are not doing their job. A great coach uses very few words to get large improvements.
A good coach should have long term plans for you as a lifter. It should not just be recycled 12-week blocks with new numbers and a simple little twist. That is a short term strategies being applied over the long term.
Rates of progress should be monitored over time. It is not about getting really strong really fast as this can lead to an early career peak for an athlete and potential injuries. Slow steady progress over a lifter’s career will lead to the greatest career total and the lowest risk of injury and burnout.
Progression does not need to happen every single week. Progression can be stretched out over time. This allows the athlete to acclimate to volumes and intensities, improve at those volumes, and intensities, and when the time is right volumes and/or intensities can be increased. These times should be around important competitions.
Progress doesn’t always need to happen in a linear fashion either. When Dave started with me his best squat was 606lbs. However, he was a beginner and had a lot to clear up in the squat with technique. He competed shortly after and actually only squatted 585lbs. This was a 20lb decrease in the squat.
However, we continued to work on technique and added weight appropriately over time. At Nationals he squatted 617lbs. A modest increase in 10 months of training. However, since that period of time, Dave has added 40 more pounds to his squat. He hit 655lbs in training this week for an RPE 9. Once technique is dialed in, we can begin to increase volumes and/or intensities appropriately. Long term strategies that will yield the biggest numbers.
I feel my time with Sheiko gave me a very good foundation to build off of. For 3 years, I performed a lot of volume with the competition lifts and special variations to really work my technique. Now, I will be thrown something a little bit different. The structure, volumes, intensities, and exercises will change a bit.
To be honest, it is difficult even writing that and thinking that is how it is going to be. However, I have trust in my new coach from our conversations and it is comforting to know that other coaches that I trust also trust him.
Many of my lifters were asking if this is going to change the way that their programs look, and my answer was no. Our programs are based off of alternating high, medium, and low load days of recommended volumes and average intensities. That will not change as I have spent the last 3 years of analyzing the data and making the appropriate adjustments. There may be an exercise I do that I like, or maybe we use RPEs a hair differently than we do now. Who knows?
All I know is the foundation and walls of the PPS style of programming has been put up. Technique is still a first priority, and once that is good enough we will progress to greater variations and more of an emphasis in improving strength. The house is built, but how we decorate it could change a bit.
All I know is I am looking forward to the next chapter as an athlete and this experience has taught me quite a bit about what lifters go through in searching for a coach and beginning to work with one. I am sure quite a few of the PPS athletes felt just like me when they started with me.