Coach and Client Relationship Success - Client Expectations


With current trends in powerlifting, it is becoming a rarity to find a lifter without a coach. This is great for the sport as athletes are demanding more of themselves, and coaches are honing their craft by working with large numbers of athletes. Success of the relationship is contingent on a multitude of factors relating to achievement of goals, personality dynamics, success in competition, and progression.  In this first part, creating a standard of expectations for the client can have profound benefits on how well the individual succeeds. 

There are several keys here, but it all starts with communication. Being in contact and providing the necessary information allows a coach to make the micro-adjustments and assessments that they have been hired to do.  This requires video feedback, trusting in the process and asking questions in a timely manner, and doing it all with the appropriate mindset.  Mindset means being willing to both trust and be positive. Trusting the coach and their abilities is vital to reap the benefits of a well thought out program. A positive mindset allows progress not just in the gym, but in all facets of being a competitive athlete. Great athletes believe in themselves, and the bad ones often don’t.

*It’s also important to mention a coach and client relationship will not always work out. It is the responsibility of the coach and client during a consultation to determine if this is a best fit where both can benefit from the relationship


This is the most important quality the client can have with a coach and is an overarching theme beyond what is explained.  Communication is vital in any relationship for that matter and absolutely applies to all coaching.  As a client, relaying feedback information from training sessions can aid in the coach's ability to keep progression at the forefront.  Here is a list of those items that can help in the client's success. 

  • Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): This pertains to all sets upwards of 75-80% of current max.  This helps by creating body awareness on any given day.  Understanding daily stressors and fluctuations allows the client to learn how good, average, and bad days feel. Fluctuations can then be used to push through perceived tougher days if allowable, pull back the intensity or volume and help at competitions with attempt selection.  Make notes of sets' RPE and provide to the coach. 
  • Fatigue: Competitors and training enthusiasts understand the inherent challenge of training.  Blocks of training can be arduous and create fatigue.  Bringing this to the attention of the coach will help allow the coach to assess and modulate training so that risk of injury, burnout, or regression in strength do not become an issue.  When multiple sessions in a week's time are unachievable or beyond normal challenges, then notify your coach and discuss the options to reevaluate.
  • Injury: Do yourself the favor and bring up any issues relating to pain, injury, or problems executing movements.  Beyond delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a concern for a coach.  He or she is looking out for the well-being of the client and striving for progression.  An injury related concern is information to provide so that the coach can outsource to a licensed physical therapist, rehab specialist, or modify the program to address the concerns if he or she is qualified. 


The client has a responsibility to the coach.  A coach provides a service to the client to aid in their endeavor in sport specific training.  A client needs to trust the coach.  It is illogical for the client to invest in themselves and hire a coach only to stray the course for their own motives.  The profound quote used by the elite coach, Matt Gary, comes to mind: "trust the process."  For a client, this is a process.  It is not easy and the level of effort will vary based on the status of offseason, accumulation or competitive preparation.  Every day in the training facility is different whether it seems easy or difficult.  When external factors come in to play it is imperative as a client to do the due diligence of following the plan laid forth.  If the client feels the plan is concerning based on a rougher than expected day, address it with the coach.  When movements feel crisp and working sets feel easy, that is a part of the process and use that to execute with efficiency; It does not mean max attempt.  Trust the coaches decisions and expertise, it is the reason he or she was hired. 

Video Feedback

With the various social media platforms, email, and cloud-based options, it is easier now than ever to share training videos with the coach. Technique analysis, RPE, and injury prevention can all be vital to the client's progress and are items a coach is looking at when reviewing training video.  The platforms are free for the most part, and coaches even provide locations for video storage that is included in their services.  Private YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook accounts specific to the coach and select few are great ideas for daily updates the coach can then review.  Another component of video recording and review is macro level progress and how it pertains to learning.  Understanding where the client started at the beginning of time with a coach or more specific to a block of training to where he or she is at the finale can help with perspective. Awareness of progress over time can get lost in the day to day training sessions.  Looking back can allow for evaluation of one's self or the coach's ability. 

"Progress is Progress"

Frustration in training is common; remember this quote.  Progress has been mentioned throughout the article, but acknowledging that it is not one-dimensional has not.  To further explain this, let's ask the question: what is progress in the client's perspective?  Absolute strength, technique, performance in competition, mindset, recovery from an injury, knowledge for future coaching endeavor are possible answers. Primarily hiring a coach is to get stronger and develop more maximal strength followed by better performance in competition for the competitive athlete.  As discussed in the video feedback section, progress is hard to see day to day.  It is highly suggested to look at the grand scheme and review the level of progress on the frustrating days.  Every client will feel a level of depression when things do not seem to go well.  As a client, those are the times to understand with an open mind and open heart for themselves that progress can be measured in more ways than just weight on a bar.  As a client, am I better than before? Am I healthier and not injured? Did I tie my personal record at a lower bodyweight? Did I have a great performance at the meet? Did I best my personal record squat?  This sport is a hobby to a majority of clients.  Be kind to yourself and look at how far you have come. 

Ask Questions

This is a topic that will tie into the coach's perspective article to be written later.  For the client, ask questions.  It is that simple.  Discuss with the coach about everything related to the service you are receiving:

  • Programming methodology
  • Approach to movement patterns
  • Cues to think about for competition lifts
  • Game day strategy
  • RPE of working sets
  • Long term planning

It is the right of the client to learn from their coach and that is what a quality coach will strive for.  All levels of athletes will work with a coach for various reasons but it is a disservice to the client not to ask questions and gain knowledge from the coach and his or her expertise.  

Overall, there are two key characteristics that a client can use to help become a better athlete.  Communication is number one.  Being in contact and providing the necessary information to the coach will have profound benefits.  Video feeback, asking questions, and relaying training information will all bode in a positive experience for both parties in the relationship.  The second important characteristic is mindset.  Mindset ropes in both trust and positivity. Trusting the coach and their abilities is vital especially for due diligence and to reap the benefits of programming. Positive mindset of progress is the awareness to grow as a lifter on various fronts of as an athlete.