What Does a Strength and Conditioning Coach Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Strength and conditioning coaches can work in diverse environments with a broad range of clients. Learn what day-to-day looks like in this career.

[Featured Image]: A Strength Trainer, in a gym, holding a medicine ball, preparing to work with a client.

A strength and conditioning coach creates safe and effective strength training routines to help someone reach health, fitness, or sports-related goals. Strength and conditioning coaches may work one-on-one with a client out of a gym or home, lead group fitness classes, or work as part of an athletic team or school’s strength and conditioning program.

What a strength and conditioning coach does daily may change based on the work environment and the job title. Some strength and conditioning coaches are called fitness instructors, strength and conditioning fitness leaders, fitness trainers, or strength trainers. These titles are often used interchangeably, with slight variations in the duties and responsibilities of each job title.

Job description of a strength and conditioning coach

A strength and conditioning coach works with individuals or groups on strength training techniques like proper form and creates fitness or exercise plans and programs to help a person reach specific athletic or sports goals.

In essence, a strength and conditioning coach’s role is to support a person in whatever their fitness and movement goals may be while avoiding injury. As an overall approach to health and fitness, strength and conditioning coaches often provide workout tips and lifestyle advice to help people reach their goals.

A few duties and responsibilities of a strength and conditioning coach can include:

  • Monitoring the progress of a client or athlete and tracking changes

  • Making fitness and lifestyle suggestions to help clients reach goals

  • Assisting in goal setting

  • Offering motivation when needed

  • Providing nutrition and lifestyle advice

  • Providing basic first aid care if needed or knowing when to call for emergency help

  • Referring clients to specialists who can help with sports-related injuries, such as chiropractors or physical therapists

  • Creating specific workout plans that are evidence-based and effective

  • Teaching group fitness or weight training classes

  • Working one on one with individuals to assist in weight training routines

  • Teaching individuals how to use specific gym/exercise equipment

  • Making suggestions to athletes to improve performance

  • Modelling  workout techniques for injury prevention

  • Leading athletes in training exercises

Depending on where you work as a strength and conditioning coach, you may also be in charge of a strength and conditioning program for a school or other organization. If you work at a school or for an athletic team, you will likely work with athletic directors or support staff within an athletic program, along with athletes. Your day-to-day duties may look different from if you worked for a gym or out of a home gym.

What skills does a strength and conditioning coach need?

Effective communication skills are essential for strength and conditioning coaches, since they may work closely with clients. For this, you’ll need to be able to listen to your clients and offer supportive and helpful responses to their needs. A few other beneficial personal skills for someone working as a strength and conditioning coach include:

  • Empathy

  • Motivation

  • Customer service skills

  • Public speaking when working with groups

  • Enthusiasm

  • Problem-solving

  • Creativity

  • Multitasking

  • Proactivity

A strength and conditioning coach’s technical skills are equally essential to help your clients prevent injury. This requires an understanding of human anatomy, how muscles grow and change, and the overall dynamics of strength training. A few technical skills you’ll need are:

  • AED/CPR training

  • First-aid training

  • Knowledge of current trends in the fitness industry

  • The ability to compose and create effective workout routines

  • Knowledge of exercise physiology and kinesiology

What qualifications are needed to work as a strength and conditioning coach?

You will likely need training and certification as a strength and conditioning coach. You may also need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field. Most employers also require CPR and AED training and certification.

Many certifications specifically for strength and conditioning coaches require a college degree or current college degree program enrolment to be eligible for national certifications. To work in higher-education roles, such as with collegiate teams, you may need a master’s degree.

There are several qualifications available for strength and conditioning coaches in Canada. The Canadian Sport Institute and the Coaching Association of Canada offer widely recognized certifications, such as the National Coaching Certification and the Advanced Coaching Diploma.


Various courses are also available for strength and conditioning coaches to build their skills. The Coaching Association of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Strength and Conditioning offers these. Once you take the required courses and gain the proper qualifications, the Canadian Strength and Conditioning Association helps to connect professionals with roles throughout Canada—the association serves as a resource for strength and conditioning coaches around the country.

The Canadian Strength & Conditioning Association also offers internships to provide coaches with hands-on training and connections to positions nationwide. Completing an internship is a great way to build your network, gain experience, and open doors to professional development opportunities in the strength and conditioning field.

Where can a strength and conditioning coach work?

A strength and conditioning coach can work in numerous settings, from the sidelines of a football field to a private gym. Your workplace depends on factors like your job title, credentials, education, and your role according to your employer.


Gyms may hire strength and conditioning coaches to work more as personal trainers, working one-on-one with clients or teaching conditioning classes in a small group setting. Your role as a strength and conditioning coach will depend on the gym. You may work with a team of other strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, or conditioning coaches to create classes, workout plans, and other resources.

Alternatively, you may create workout plans for individuals based on their goals and work with them to monitor their progress. Part of your job at a gym would also involve onboarding new clients and helping them set goals based on needs.

You will likely need certification in personal training or strength and conditioning to work at a gym. Experience is a perk, but some gyms hire trainers right out of school or after gaining certification.

Client homes

Strength and conditioning coaches may train clients in their home gyms. In this work environment, strength and conditioning coaches can work one on one with clients training them on the proper use of equipment, guiding them through workout programs, and offering tips on form and technique.

Freelance strength and conditioning coaches or trainer entrepreneurs will typically provide this service. This option requires some travelling, and the equipment may limit you at a client’s home, but it’s a great way to work closely with clients or athletes to help them meet goals.

Group fitness facilities

Group fitness facilities typically offer bootcamp-style classes that combine cardio and strength training. Strength and conditioning coaches at group fitness facilities generally work more as group fitness instructors. You will likely offer form cues and monitor your client's progress, provide alternative exercises based on need, and train individuals on the proper use of various equipment.

Schools or athletic organizations

Schools and athletic organizations rely on strength and conditioning coaches to help athletes prevent injury, improve performance, and boost endurance. You may work one on one with athletes, an entire team, or other coaches and trainers to develop workout routines and programs.

As a trainer at a school or athletic organization, you may work with a specific population, like high schoolers or college athletes. If you want to specialize in a particular population, such as young athletes, consider enroling in an online course or specialization. The Science of Training Young Athletes and The Science of Training Young Athletes Part 2 are courses you can take on Coursera. These courses can provide helpful tips for anyone who wants to work in schools, summer camps, or rec centres as a trainer for young athletes.

Physical therapy clinic

Strength and conditioning coaches may also work in physical therapy clinics, where they will work with patients to build strength. The goal of this type of strength and conditioning coaching typically helps patients recover from injury, manage chronic illnesses, improve the quality of daily life, and return to independent activities.

Freelance training

As a strength and conditioning coach, you also have the option to work as a freelance trainer or own your training business. Social media sites like Instagram and TikTok have made it possible to gain an online following to provide strength training tips and services to gain clients or build a reputation as an effective trainer.

Other career paths for strength and conditioning coaches

You may also have opportunities to move into other careers within the fitness industry if you have a degree in exercise science or certification in a related field. Let’s review possible career paths.

Gym manager

You can begin your career as a personal trainer at a gym and take on leadership roles. After gaining the necessary experience and learning how the gym operates from a managerial standpoint, you can apply for a position in management and eventually work your way to gym manager.

Exercise psychologist

You can work as a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach as a freelancer or in a gym. As you gain clients and experience, you can work towards earning your CSEP Clinical Exercise Physiologist certification (CSEP-CEP). To qualify for the CSEP-CEP exam, you must have [2]:

  • Completed 100 hours of professional or volunteer work in health-related fitness

  • Earned at least 120 credits of coursework at a post-secondary that meets the CSEP-CEP core competencies, and become an exercise physiologist

Some trainers may also move industries entirely and work as professors or in the sales or marketing department for an exercise equipment company or a gym.

Personal trainer

A personal trainer designs safe and effective workout programming for individuals and groups, typically in a fitness centre or gym setting. Some personal trainers may work in their clients’ homes or their own home. Personal trainers help people reach various fitness goals, including changes in weight, body composition, or improved endurance in everyday tasks.

Like similar health and fitness careers, personal trainers should be certified to use an automated external defibrillator and provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or in more common terms: they need to be AED/CPR certified. Most personal trainers only need a certification, not a degree. A few popular personal training certifications are the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), ISSA’s personal trainer certification, and NASM’s certification for personal trainers.

Bodybuilding trainer

Are you wondering what the difference between a strength and conditioning coach and a bodybuilder is? Bodybuilder trainers work one on one with individuals who want to build muscle mass and cut fat, sometimes in preparation for a bodybuilding competition. A few duties of a bodybuilding trainer include:

  • Designing research-based, evidence-based workout programming to gain muscle and build the physique

  • Providing muscle-building nutrition plans

  • Providing accountability and motivation

  • Creating goal-based timelines to monitor progress and help clients reach their goals

These coaches are usually certified or receive specialist certifications. One of the most internationally recognized certificates is the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) certified bodybuilding specialist. This certification is accredited in Canada.

Salary and job outlook information

Strength and conditioning coaches in Canada earn an average of $59,650, according to Glassdoor [1]. According to Job Bank CA, the highest-paying strength and conditioning fitness roles are in Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Yukon Territory. In contrast, the lowest-paying roles are in New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia.

Job Bank CA estimates a “Moderate” to “Good” job outlook for strength and conditioning fitness leaders across Canada, with the best outlook in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Yukon Territory.

Next steps

Do you enjoy health and fitness and want to make it your career? Strength and conditioning coaches get to do what they love daily, helping people meet their goals and seeing the results of their hard work and knowledge. It can be a rewarding, physically active career with many opportunities and growth.

Not all strength and conditioning coaches need college degrees. Some positions may only require certification or specialized training. Start by increasing your knowledge and skills by taking an online Science of Exercise course or Weight Management course on Coursera. Dream up your ideal career as a strength and conditioning coach and get started.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Strength and conditioning coaches salaries in Canada, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/canada-strength-and-conditioning-coach-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IN3_KO7,38.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed March 20, 2023.

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