Education vs Experience?

How important is education versus experience when dealing with a strength and conditioning coach?  Or perhaps a better question is: why can’t you have both?

We all know each kind of trainer.  The first is the one with 7,000 cool guy letters after his name who expects you to know what a posteriorly loaded hip hinge is without looking in an Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.  Talking to this guy is like talking to a science book.  And nobody likes talking to science books.  The second kind of trainer is the one who has *insert gruff voice here* “done his time in the field” and “seen a lotta jacked up trainers” in his day.  This guy is a collection of his experiences and as good as those experiences may be, do they apply specifically to you?

Each one of these trainers has his pros and each one has his cons.  You can learn a lot from each of them.  Education is great, but applying that education is something totally different.  Sure, at some base level all people are the same.  We all respond generally the same way to different modes and intensities of exercise.  But, we all respond in radically different ways to people.  There is no cookie cutter answer to getting people to work hard and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all to training, especially when it comes to athletic populations who often have incredible genetics.  A lot of times, too much education trivializes the importance of the human connection in training and when you don’t have the experience to realize when the numbers aren’t telling the whole story, a coach can get into big trouble.  You can write what looks like the perfect program on paper but when you go to execute that plan, it turns out to be ineffective or BORING, every client’s worst nightmare.  A coach with experience will usually realize this while a coach who leans too heavily on education will stick to his guns and drive on.


Experience isn’t everything either, though.  Many coaches become ingrained in whatever system they were brought up in, whether it is Westside Barbell, 5-3-1, or some other form of training that has generally worked well for them in the past.  Sure, their approach works 9 out of 10 times, but what do they do when they get that client who it doesn’t work for?  Cut their losses and move on?  Or change their approach?

Education allows for a coach to adapt to any client while experience allows for a coach to optimize their training programs because they know what works and what doesn’t in the field.  When looking for a strength and conditioning coach, don’t settle for one or the other.  Your coach should be educated, certified, AND experienced.  And you’ll know the difference the first time you talk to them.