A strength and conditioning coach is a fitness and physical performance professional who uses exercise prescription to improve the performance of competitive athletes. This is achieved through the combination of strength training and aerobic conditioning, alongside a variety of further methods. Strength and conditioning coaches also help athletes with injury prevention and proper mechanics within their sports performances.
Strength and conditioning coaches may work with sports teams, as well as individuals. Strength and conditioning coaches are often employed by higher education institutions and professional athletic teams.
Strength and conditioning coaches have the option to specialize in a particular sports team, type of performance, training type, training philosophy, or work in the collegiate level, where they are assigned a sport. The general description and duty of a strength and conditioning coach is to develop an exercise prescription plan that modulates aerobic, resistance, and/or flexibility training to suit the metabolic and physical demands of the sport in question. With aerobic exercise prescription, strength and conditioning coaches determine the type, duration, and frequency of each exercise. For resistance exercise prescription, the type of exercise, total session volume, rest period, frequency, and intensity are determined. They may also be involved in prescription of stretching routines or other approaches. Nutrition and medical consultation are not within their scope of practice and training qualifications.
In the US, The National Strength and Conditioning Association offers a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach qualification that is required for positions in the field. In addition to the C.S.C.S. certification, it is encouraged to attain a bachelor's degree in majors that are related to exercise science due to the competitiveness of the field.
The Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association also offers certification exclusive to the collegiate and professional-level strength and conditioning coach. This certification is known as Strength & Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) and requires a bachelor's degree and a 640-hour internship in addition to passing the certification exam.
Strength and conditioning in the UK is generally overseen by the UK Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA) and the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS). Both organisations provide regulations and standards for employers and professionals. A UKSCA membership and Bachelor's degree in sport and exercise science are generally accepted by many professional sports clubs as prerequisites for strength and conditioning positions. As well as the UKSCA and REPS, 1st4sport Qualifications offer standardised training in accordance with other official National Governing Body qualifications.
The implementation of effective strength and conditioning programmes has led to an increase in speed and strength. Research has demonstrated that not only does training improve performance but incorrect training (distance running, a slow-twitch muscle fiber activity, in football athletes with fast-twitch characteristics) can cause decrements to performance. Using techniques such as plyometrics in some high-power athletes and sports-specific movements in others, strength coaches may improve physical function and athletic performance.
Criticism has followed the increased use of strength and conditioning coaches in a variety of sports due to the shift in importance to the size and speed of the players. In rugby union, a game with heavy physical contact and minimal[clarification needed] protection, players are being described as being "too big", creating collisions that are increasing the risk of short and long term injuries. Further, it has been proposed that the increased weight and speed of players and subsequent rise of collision force leads to more frequent and severe concussion injuries.
However, there is as yet no research to suggest an increased use of strength and conditioning leading to an increased risk of injury.
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