Across the United States and around the world there are thousands of strength and conditioning coaches working hard to train clients that range in ability and dedication from junior level and amateur competitors to Olympic-caliber and professional athletes to die-hard powerlifters and everyday citizens.
With countless different methods and schools of thought about the best and most effective conditioning programs, the influences of each coach is wide-ranging and individual.
With that in mind, it is very difficult to compile a short list of the top strength coaches in the world. However, this is a list of the some of the most influential strength and conditioning coaches of all-time, listed in no particular order. A few of these guys might not technically be “strength coaches”, but they definitely belonged on here.
I think the list actually contains 67, but 65 just made for a better hook…
Louie Simmons is the owner of Westside Barbell which has turned out many of the strongest powerlifters in the world. An experienced and championship-caliber weightlifter himself, Simmons has been ranked nationally even at over 50 years of age. Through personal experience and a myriad of training programs, he has produced many champion lifters and over 100 training articles. Simmons created the Reverse Hyper machine for strength conditioning, and he
serves as a consultant for several NFL and college football
After learning the basics of Olympic weightlifting, Pendlay studied exercise physiology in both his undergraduate and Master’s degree programs, focusing his attention specifically on endocrinology and the body’s reactions to stress. His research has allowed him to work with weightlifters, cyclists, skiers, and track and field athletes. Pendlay created Wichita Falls Weightlifting, and he is the current head coach for the California Strength team, where he
trains American team members and weightlifting record holders.
A former Olympic weightlifting competitor, Starr became the assistant editor of Strength and Health magazine in 1966 before changing careers to become one of the first strength and conditioning coaches in the NFL for the former Baltimore Colts and the Houston Oilers.A published author of both fiction and nonfiction, including his book The Strongest Shall Survive, Starr currently works as a writer for both MILO and Iron Man magazines.
AKA “The Renegade Strength Coach”, Jason has trained more than 700 professional athletes around the country, Ferruggia teaches naturally skinny people to gain weight and build muscle quickly and impressively. As the chief training advisor for Men’s Fitness magazine, Ferruggia has written more than 500 articles in his monthly column and various other magazines, and he has presented seminars nationwide about his well-researched and cutting-edge training techniques that create muscle through short trips to the gym. Jason’s blog is currenty the most popular strength training blog in the world
Currently serving as the Olympic Weightlifting coach, Totten is also employed as the president of Werksan Barbells. He has been the head coach of the East Coast Gold Weightlifting Team since he established it in 1992. Prior to these credentials, he spent 33 years teaching and coaching at the high school level, and he continues to run satellite training centers out of his local high school to coach and motivate lifters from afar.
As a world-renowned coach and member of the LIVESTRONG.com Fitness Advisory Board, Smith dedicates himself to encouraging each level of his athletes to work beyond their potential. He serves as a consultant and lecturer at nationwide seminars, and he has been a featured writer for several health magazines, all while producing best-selling fitness and power-building DVDs. Smith owns and operates Diesel Strength and Conditioning, where he trains professional
MMA fighters with innovative techniques.
DeFranco established his program and training gym designed only for athletes at a New Jersey location in 2003. Since then, his warehouse-type centers are training athletes have worked to improve athletic performance at the high school, college, and professional-levels. DeFranco’s tough strength training program was featured in the documentary Strong, and his center was recently voted as one of the top 10 gyms in the country by Men’s Health magazine.
As the founder and CEO of Elite Fitness Systems, which trains athletes and other coaches, Tate has participated as a top weightlifter himself for nearly 25 years. Additionally, he is a top personal trainer who has worked as a writer for magazines such as Powerlifting USA and Men’s Health. Presented by the Society for Weight Training Specialists, Tate won a Lifetime Achievement award in 2005 for his hard work
and entrepreneurial spirit.
Staley is a former martial arts competitor and trainer who has coached the Olympic weightlifting team and many elite athletes from a variety of sports, including boxing, football, and bodybuilding. Having published more than 100 articles, he also lectures frequently about human performance and training for sports. Staley’s website is consistently considered in the top 50 health and fitness websites worldwide, and he is consulted often for his training program.
Beginning more than 25 years ago, Boyle’s career training football players at Boston University led to his world renowned work in sports performance training. He has been featured on HBO’s “RealSports” and on ESPN for his training book, Functional Training for Sports, as well as his DVDs about strength training, conditioning, and weight loss. Working with professional athletes across New England, Boyle was signed to the Boston Red Sox strength training staff in 2012.
As a lecturer, writer, and owner of two-time top gym nominee Results Fitness in California, Cosgrove specializes in athletic performance enhancement developed through scientific study. His training philosophy focuses on real-world people with busy schedules. He has written many training manuals and produced several educational DVDs in addition to his column for Men’s Health Magazine and his recently published book The New Rules of Lifting for Women.
The founder and president of Athletes’ Performance, a facility created to help athletes achieve their top goals, Verstegen cultivated his successful programs at Georgia Tech the opening of his gym in 1999. He serves as a consultant for high performance companies such as adidas and Gatorade, and Verstegen is often interviewed as part of his job as the Director of Performance with the NFL Players’ Association. His Core Performance system of training and line of books
has brown Verstegen international fame.
Woicik honed his strength conditioning program at Syracuse University in the 1980s. Joining the coaching staff of the NFL Dallas Cowboys in 1990, Woicik is credited for bringing conditioning and more wins to the team, earning him the title of the NFL’s Strength Training Coach of the Year in 1992. After a two-year stint with the New Orleans Saints, Woicik trained the New England Patriots for 11 years before returning to the Cowboys. He holds the record of most Super Bowl rings
for a coach, earning a combined six with the Cowboys and
A recipient of the National Strength Coach of the Year award in 1993 for his work at several universities, Clark became the head conditioning coach of the Texas A&M athletic program. After serving collegiately for 25 years, he is the current coach for the Kansas City Chief’s NFL team after previously holding a similar position with the Seattle Seahawks from 2004-2009. In his brief work with the Chiefs, Clark’s team has already reached the Super Bowl.
With his Underground Strength Methods, Evan-Esh works the core strength of his trainees. Based on his own trial and error with sand bags and weight benches, he has cultivated a conditioning method similar to those considered outdated by many fitness experts. Evan-Esh’s so-called underground style of training uses basic materials found outside and at junk sales without relying on new technology.
As a certified strength and conditioning specialist as well as a nationally ranked competitive strongman, Hulse runs a Strength Camp fitness program that has been demonstrated on FOX Sports as well as ranked the best fitness service in Tampa Bay. Hulse also qualifies as a holistic lifestyle coach who coauthored the Lean Hybrid Muscle Program, one of the most popular muscle building programs that combines aerobics training, dieting, and weightlifting.
Owner of Cressey Performance facilities in Massachusetts, Cressey trains athletes of all levels, from youth to Olympic-caliber performers. He has published more than 200 articles and has spoken at seminars around the world. A competitive powerlifter himself, Cressey has co-produced several DVDs, including Magnificent Mobility and Building the Efficient Athlete. He specializes in working with injured athletes, although he also trains healthy competitors.
As a former drill instructor and conditioning trainer with the Soviet special forces, Tsatsouline specializes in sculpting the muscles for flexibility and toning through martial arts fitness training. He has been a major supporter in establishing the Russian kettlebell as a superior fitness and strengthening device. Tsatsouline is now a civilian consultant with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Marshals, and SWAT teams, and he has published numerous articles on stretching and flexibility.
After opening one of the first CrossFit affiliates in San Francisco in 2005, Starrett’s facility has become home to many Olympians, world champions, and everyday exercisers. He works with his athletes in a positive, welcoming environment to motivate his trainees to perform at a higher level. A former canoe and kayak champion himself, Starrett also serves as the conditioning coach for several competitive rowing athletes.
Featured on programs on networks such as ESPN, Spike TV, and Fox Sports Net, Rooney is the creator of the Training for Warriors system and a consultant for Nike running speed testing camps for collegiate athletes. Recently Rooney has also been the leader of the Parisi Speed School, now a national franchise under his tutelage. He has trained 127 athletes successfully drafted following the NFL Combine.
Wendler, a former football player at the University of Arizona, has transitioned into strength and conditioning coaching at the University of Kentucky. Soon he was hired by Elite Fitness Systems, where he competes in powerlifting and continues to coach trainees in strength and conditioning. Wendler is the author and creater of The Simplest and Most Effective Training Method for Raw Strength.
A weightlifting competitor and trainer for over 40 years, Kubik is the creator of the Dinosaur Training program of books and DVDs, as well as the author of hundreds of articles published in Milo, Ironman, and Muscle and Fitness among others. Based in Kentucky, Kubik has released two novels about the Iron Game, as well as his follow up manual to Dinosaur Training, a special strength training program for older lifters.
An accomplished motivational speaker, Hinds has been training for over 30 years around the world focused on healing and strengthening the body. As the owner and founder of the Monkey Bar Gym franchise, Hinds’ program integrates full-body training, Yoga, and a plant-based diet to better both the body and the world. He also serves as the vice president of LifelineUSA, which invents and distributes fitness products.
Based in Las Vegas, Mahler focuses his training on using the kettlebell and a vegan diet to produce strong, well-conditioned athletes. His Aggressive Strength training is especially popular with mixed martial arts fighters who appreciate his seminars, classic techniques, and modern routines for strength conditioning. Mahler’s program requires focus and internal intensity channeled on the workout in order to make progress.
A frequent trainer of celebrities, musicians, fashion models, and professional athletes, Dowdell is the founder and co-owner of Peak Performance in New York. This gym was voted the third best in the country by Men’s Health magazine. Additionally, Dowdell has contributed to several books, including his personal fitness manual, Ultimate You, as well as national publication such as Fitness magazine, where he serves on the advisory board.
As one of the leading strength, conditioning, and nutrition experts, Richards trains boxers and rugby teams for championships. He studied under several renowned fitness leaders, and he has over 25 years of career experience to build his own company, Phil Richards Performance. In addition to being Europe’s first Westside Barbell certified strength coach, in 2009 Richards began developing his own line of nutritional products to enhance athletes’ training.
With experience as a former high school coach and as a current writer for Men’s Health, John publishes his own monthly newsletter called Get Up. He is a former competitor and current record holder in discus and weightlifting competitions. Now mostly retired, John has found renewed energy in training himself and others through the simple motions of picking up, lifting, and carrying everyday objects.
As an early athlete and physique contest participant in the mid-1900s, Gironda opened his first Californian gym in 1948. One of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, his book called Unleashing the Wild Physique is considered a classic. Gironda favored the classic shape of wide shoulders tapering to a small waist and hips, and he favored a training program that promoted doing more work in less time. His diet and exercise regimen trained Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, among others. Vince’s Gym remained open until
Gironda’s passing in 1997.
A master at strength and conditioning for combat sports, Jamieson has trained some of the biggest names in MMA. Originally a trainer for Division I collegiate athletes and professional football players, Jamieson is also the creator of 8weeksout.com and the author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning, published in 2009 as the authority on MMA training.
Morris is an avid bodybuilder who still competes in the over 40 division. Formerly the wellness director who coordinated a hospital sports medicine program, he has repeatedly returned to the Pittsburgh Panthers weight room after stints with the University of Buffalo and the Cleveland Browns. Morris’ weight room was named one of the top 10 toughest gyms in the country by Muscle and Fitness magazine, and his flexibility and conditioning program was featured in Sporting News
Based on his philosophy of fast-twitching muscles and flexibility used in clean-and-jerk, yoga, and track stretching, Barwis has brought his program of channeling the body’s energy to the West Virginia University, to the University of Michigan, and more recently to the New York Mets as a consultant. He attempts to train with love and respect for each of his athletes. In addition to his collegiate training, Barwis has also trained several All-American strength and
conditioning athletes and Olympic participants.
Having served as the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the nation’s women’s hockey team, Ebel has experience working with accomplished athletes. Specifically working with winter athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid from 1999-2004, Ebel helped lead the American team to a record number of medals at the 2002 Olympics. His program is based on a combination effort in controlling the athletes’ diets, weights, and fitness levels.
The designer and implementer of the Oregon Ducks’ strength and conditioning program for athletes, Radcliffe has been combining exercises to improve speed and quickness at the university for 27 years. Radcliffe’s year-round programs involve long and short term goals to improve speed and endurance. He has also written books and articles in several professional magazines, and he has produced a number of plyometrics videos.
With more than 40 years of training athletes around the world, Bompa is one of the premier specialists in periodization, workout planning, and peaking, all based on varying training exercises to reduce stress on the body. His book Theory and Methodology of Training and his online training system have allowed him to work with Olympic and world athletes. Currently Bompa is a full-time professor in Ontario.
Most known for inventing the plyometric training program, also known as Shock Method, Verkhoshansky began his career as a coach in Moscow in the 1950s. Through research and published papers and dissertations, he created his fitness regimen and led various Soviet committees and training programs in the 1980s and ‘90s. Verkhoshansky has served on the Olympic Committee of Italy since 1995.
As a hugely successful and influential coach of Olympic weightlifters, Abadjiev created a famous Bulgarian training method based on high intensity Olympic weightlifting with more weight and fewer repetitions. A decorated weightlifter himself, he coached the national Bulgarian team from 1969-1989 and again from 1997-2000, working with the Turkish national team in between. Abadjiev is largely retired now, although his methods are still used by many professionals.
Robert Dos Remedios
After working with high school and community college athletes, Dos Remedios accepted a position as the first full-time strength and conditioning coach in California at College of the Canyons. His success can be measured by the football teams’ championships and by the 8 players who went to the NFL after not even earning college scholarships to play. Dos Remedios remains at the college, where he was named the NSCA Collegiate Professional of the Year, a distinction
awarded by his peers.
Issurin’s research focuses on high-performance training and coaching, and he has published his findings in numerous journals and in 10 books. As a lecturer and Olympic committee member, he has worked especially with water sports and swimmers. Now living in Israel, Issurin works as a lecturer at the Wingate College and coaching school.
Known as the first teenager to bench press 600 pounds, Clark’s unusual reverse grip also made him the first lifter to bench press 700 with that stance on the bar. He began referring to himself as the World’s Strongest Man, touring a demonstration of his strength in the mid 1990s. He broke his own record with an 800-pound bench press in 1997. A former steroid user, Clark gave motivational speeches to children and prison inmates before his 2005 heart attack and death.
A holistic practitioner and founder of the C.H.E.K. Institute, Chek consults with numerous sporting organizations and professional teams and athletes. CHEK coaches and trainers combine multiple biomechanical workouts to create new fitness and lifestyle programs. Chek works with rehabilitation patients dealing with mild to complex orthopedic conditions, as well as professional athletes.
Recognized as a top strength coach of professional and Olympic athletes, Poliquin founded Poliquin Performance in 2001. His philosophy based on nutrition and supplements in addition to strength training led to the creations of the Poliquin International Certification Program and BioSignature Practitioner program, both of which have been featured in numerous worldwide magazines. Poliquin’s gym and strength institute in Rhode Island was completed in 2009, and
he recently opened a European distribution company for his
As a trainer of hundreds of Russian athletes over 26 years and a recent professor at Penn State University, Zatsiorsky stands as one of the foremost sport scientists in the world. He is also the author of almost 400 academic papers and 15 books, including his human kinetics tome Science and Practice of Strength Training which focuses on coordination, heavy weights, and repetition exercises to increase strength.
Siff lectured to students in South Africa about biomechanics, communication, and engineering, but his work in strength conditioning spread to athletes and exercisers worldwide. His books Supertraining and Facts and Fallacies of Fitness are recognized as some of the most important and respected works about conditioning. Siff served as a leader at conferences and sports councils before his sudden death in 2003.
Dr. Yessis, a professor at and president of Sports Training, Inc., has been a consultant to the U.S. men’s volleyball team, the Los Angeles Raiders, and several Olympic teams. His three-step fitness regimen, known as the Yessis System, is designed to improve running speed through “explosive strength,” a term coined by him. Having written 16 books and more than 2,000 articles on sports technique, Yessis is often referred to as a “legendary biomechanist.”
Owner of Team Super Training Gym, voted one of the best gyms in America by Men’s Health, Bell is a powerlifter and former professional wrestler who spends hours a day in his gym helping his team of powerlifters. Bell patented the Sling Shot supportive upper body bench training accessory that helps to reduce stress on the upper body during heavy lifts, and is the Editor of Power Magazine.
With the distinction of being the only strength and conditioning coach to have worked in the NFL, NBA, and MLA, Vermeil was inducted into the Strength Coaches Hall of Fame in June 2003. He owns and operates Vermeil Sports and Fitness, Inc., where clients are treated individually to receive an evaluation, conditioning, and strength training. This philosophy has brought Vermeil many celebrity clients, and he is frequently invited to speak at clinics and training camps.
As a staff member at the University of Findlay (Ohio) and the University of Maryland, Dietz has had the opportunity to train many Big Ten athletes, NCAA champions, and Olympic participants. Additionally, he has traveled the country lecturing and publishing scientific articles about training, as well as a co-authorship on a bestselling book about speed and explosive strength performance titled Triphasic Training. Dietz continues his work in Minnesota and on the Big Ten committee
to develop a policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Weingroff served for 12 years with the Philadelphia 76ers as the head strength and conditioning coach on a staff ranked first in the NBA with the fewest players missing games. Weingroff prefers to follow evidence-based training, relying on testing equipment to screen the bodies of his athletes and rehabbing patients at Drive495 in Manhattan and at Fit for Life in New Jersey.
A Master RKC and member of the FMS Advisory Board, Jones travels the country speaking working on behalf of Functional Movement Systems and Dragon Door. His exercise programs focus on using the grip and bodyweight of the athlete in order gain lean and functioning muscle. His work with RKC and kettlebells is available for viewing at his Applied Strength website.
Entering his 14th season with the University of Texas men’s basketball team, Wright’s strength and conditioning program boasts 13 straight years of making it into the NCAA Tournament. Individually, his athletes have excelled, 16 being drafted into the NBA and several others being ranked nationally. Prior to his work at Texas, Wright brought a program of strength and agility to Clemson that he also detailed in the book Basketball for Dummies.
Perhaps best known for his book Speed Trap, detailing the rampancy of performance-enhancing drugs, or for his work as coach of sprinter Ben Johnson, Charlie Francis was an Olympic sprinter himself. Although his explicitly described training techniques are typically overshadowed by his work in against drugs, Francis was one of the best sprint coaches of all time before his tragic death in 2010.
President and founder of Robertson Training Systems, Robertson has been in the fitness industry for 12 years, serving as a conditioning coach at Ball State University, working with rehabilitation patients, and personal training adults in the 40s and 50s. Since then, he has become a co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, which was named one of the top 10 gyms by Men’s Health.
Despite his personal success as a Soviet hammer thrower, Bondarchuk is better known as a coach and trainer of Olympic hammer throwing athletes. His book, Transfer of Training was translated to English while he was creating and leading the USSR National Team program from 1976-1992. Bondarchuk’s work with imitative approaches and technique form the basis of many current fitness practices.
Co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, Hartman has been training and coaching in Indianapolis for 17 years. With his license in physical therapy, Hartman works with clients facing joint rehabilitation and spinal disorders. However, he also coaches weightlifters, clients with weight loss goals, and athletes of all levels and abilities. Hartman is a published author, and he has created a bestselling DVD, Your Golf Fitness Coach’s Video Library.
Focusing on the technical aspects of barbell lifting and basic weight training, Rippetoe’s first books advocate a program of slowly adding weight to gain strength. Rippetoe also suggests that underweight lifters drink a gallon of whole milk each day to aid strength gains from the lifting. His strength training books and DVDs have sold well, as has Rippetoe’s Basic Barbell Certification course that he has now expanded to the Starting Strength Seminar.
Author of the seminar series “Building and Rebuilding the Athlete,” aimed at physical therapists, personal trainers, and conditioning coaches, Gambetta has also taught at the National Coaching Institute in Canada. He has served as a consultant with many professional sports teams, including the Chicago Bulls and the New York Mets, and he works on product development with Nike, Converse, and Dupont. Gambetta is considered the originator of functional sports
Working with athletes ranging in skill from juniors to international professionals, Thibaudeau himself has competed in Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding. His Black Book of Training Secrets outlines his personal theory of strength and power, and his DVD, Cluster Training, provides specific examples for training quickly. He trains athletes both in person and via email, incorporating ideas from many different fitness programs.
As founder and owner of Fitness Quest 10, a gym for conditioning and bodywork, Durkin is a personal trainer, speed and strength coach, and motivational speaker. He was named Personal Trainer of the Year in 2004 and 2005, and Men’s Journal declared him to be one of the top 100 trainers in the country. Durkin has created 27 DVDs about conditioning, massage, and personal growth.
The first American to earn a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, Maxwell taught the first kettlebell classes in the country and helped influence many of the movements and concepts in the RKC curriculum. He has worked with many government agencies, including the Secret Service and FBI, and he has served as a trainer for professional baseball players. Maxwell’s gift is in connecting with his clients, and he was named one of the top trainers by Men’s Health magazine.
After studying at Cressey Performance, Larrabee created The FitCast in April 2006. This podcast airs weekly, bringing fitness and nutrition experts together for the benefit of nationwide listeners. With over 5,500 listeners to some of the biggest names in the fitness industry, Larrabee’s podcast is one of the most listened to podcasts in its category. Additionally, Larrabee works at Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning center.
Nicknamed the “Father of World Weightlifting,” Hoffman wrote tirelessly about the benefits of exercise for the general public. He founded York Barbell in 1932, which revolutionized the shape, weight, and style of weightlifting forever. Hoffman’s York Barbell Company currently houses the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Museum in Pennsylvania.
Jones’ ideas about high intensity training involving short sets of lifting weights led to his creation of Nautilus, Inc. and MedX, Inc. companies and equipment, which include the Bowflex, Stairmaster, and Nautilus products. Jones pushed exercise enthusiasts away from the bulky shape of bodybuilders toward a leaner, stronger body type. He died in 2007 at 80 years old.
In leaving a career as a high school mathematics teacher, Contreras brought his passion for weightlifting, training, and glute exercise programs to the fitness industry. His training center in Scottsdale recently closed its doors so he can focus more on writing articles and eBooks about biomechanics and his personally invented conditioning regimens.
Through his training of athletes involved in more than 20 sports from 10 different countries, King has honed his methods of what works in strength and conditioning training. His approach is practical rather than scientific, and he has written many pieces of educational literature to spread his message, some of which appear in Men’s Health and Testosterone magazines. King’s system involves slow training, resting, and applying supplements when the body asks for them,
all findings based on his many years of working with athletes.
Juan Carlos Santana
A proponent of functional fitness, Santana combines biomechanics and conditioning to maximize the performances of his athletes. Working with clients that range from hard-working individuals to professional athletes, his methods apply to all types and all levels of trainees. In addition to his work with clients, Santana has lectured at more than 300 major conferences and authored more than 60 DVDs and books about fitness and improving performance. His IHP
training facility in Boca Raton has been recognized as one
of the top core-training centers in the country.
And this list just wouldn’t be complete without a shoutout to…
Milo of Croton
Ancient Greek wrestler Milo of Croton won many victories in the 6th century B.C.E., including six Olympic victories in wrestling. He is said to have demonstrated superhuman strength, perhaps based on his supposed daily diet of 20 pounds each of meat and bread paired with 18 pints of wine.
Although it is thought that he was ultimately devoured by wolves, Milo of Croton is considered one of the original bodybuilders.
Fred Hatfield ( Dr. Squat )
Known affectionately known around the world as “Dr. Squat” Fred Hatfield isa pioneer in the world of strength training. One of is most memorable accomplishments came at age forty-five when, at a body weight of 255lbs., he squatted 1014lbs in the squat, more than anyone else in history had ever lifted successfully in competition to date. To his credit are more than sixty books (many published in various languages), over 200 articles and over thirty world and national records in 5 different weight classes (something never before accomplished by anyone)
Editors Note: After creating this list it’s become painfully clear that far too many names have been left off of this list to make anywhere close to complete…
Just to name a few… a revision may be in order at some point so that these, and many other, great names in the history of strength training can be included
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