How to be a Coachable Powerlifter

How to be a Coachable Powerlifter

By: Payton Cowan

As powerlifting has become more mainstream, there has been an extreme influx of online coaches available to new and/or veteran powerlifters alike. There are countless different criteria for a coach to meet in order to be considered high quality, and not even that alone gets high client traffic.

While there is such a high standard for the performance of online coaches, there seems to be shockingly little information on how to be coached, and how to understand what you are paying for.

I am a long time athlete of Steve DeNovi (PRS Performance), and through working with him for years I have come to understand that there must also be a criteria that athletes must meet in order to improve quality of service from the online coach.

There are three different criteria that are extremely important to meet as an athlete in order to successfully be coached: the powerlifters ability to understand criticism, the ability to communicate effectively with your coach, and finally the ability to trust the process. 

How to be Critiqued

It is extremely important for an athlete to understand how to take criticism without being offended or countering the criticism received. Too often there are many coach/client relationships that do not succeed because the athlete does not understand how to take criticism in a positive light and apply it to their own training.

The issue with criticism mostly occurs after a rough training day, when the athlete is already perturbed about the result of their gym session. The coach will attempt to explain what variable most likely led to the result of the session, however the athlete is unable to take accountability in the moment mainly due to short-term frustration, consequently they disregard the advice given.

The coach is trapped in an endless loop of distributing the same information to the athlete - while the athlete ignores it and faces the same repercussions every session without trying to understand the variables at play.

The best way to handle criticism from a coach is remembering that they are not there to tarnish you, or make you mad, rather they are there in order to help you train in the most efficient way and make the most progress possible. 

Communication is KEY

Athletes must have the ability to communicate in order to have any form of basic coaching.

The basis for all online coaching is communication between athlete and coach in a method that is predetermined. The job of an online coach is to keep track of the variables of their athletes and program in a way that will be most efficient for them. Without the line of communication from the athlete it becomes completely impossible for the coach to do their job. 

That said, there are limits to the communication that athletes should give to their coaches. Sending your coach a video of your top set and backdowns if requested is a good practice, along with sending your coach a short paragraph explaining the variables which were at play going into the session.

However, on the flip side, spamming your coach with every single video you take in the gym, with constant messages is not a way to efficiently communicate and will more than likely diminish the service you receive because the coach is not able to effectively analyze the information they are sent. 

Another issue that often arises in online coaching is the inability to communicate about the life variables outside of the gym. Different things such as diet, sleep, hydration, stress all play large factors in general performance.

Sending your coach a video of a top set which did not move to standard paired with a message saying “gym session did not feel good” does not give the coach the information they need to effectively understand the performance of the session, it is comparable to giving a person a very complex word with no context and asking them to define it.

There are so many important things missing, such as the context, which make it possible to define the word.

The most important part of creating a create communication standard with your coach is simply TALK with them and establish expectations on BOTH sides for what kind of communication that you both expect.

Trust the Process

Finally, and arguably the most important, an athlete must learn to trust their coach and their judgment therein.

If you are being coached by someone who has a good reputation for being a reliable coach with a quality service, then there is a good chance that they know more of the intricacies of training than the athlete. In this situation, when a coach makes a decision for their athlete’s training that they are not used to, the athlete needs to learn to put their trust in that choice and continue training. 

Frequently there are arguments between coaches and athletes because the athlete tells the coach that they do not like a certain decision made in their program and rather than opening that up for discussion they demand the coach change it to whatever specific movement they had in mind.

Many athletes are unable to let go of their program and allow someone else to have full control of their training, which ultimately leads to an extremely optional program because the coach is attempting to balance writing a quality program and satisfying the movements that the athlete thinks is best for them. 

That said, it is not bad to discuss changes made in the program with your coach. It is also not bad practice to open a variable that you think would be good in training for discussion. Creating good discussion with your coach is a healthy way for the coach and athlete to further understand each other which creates a much more efficient relationship between the two. 

The Final Enhancement

There are so many criticisms of online coaches due to the extreme standards that they are held to. However, in the buzz of online coach standards it seems that the standards of athletes have been forgotten or disregarded.

Athletes need to put just as much work into their coaching as their coach does. If an athlete takes the three things discussed, the ability to take criticism, communicate, and trust someone else entirely with your training they WILL succeed.

When you fully master all three of the keys that I have listed in this article, then you will successfully be a quality athlete for your online coach. 


Hi! I’m Payton Cowan, I have been a part time powerlifting coach for 2 years now and I’ve been powerlifting for more than 4 years! I am a full time college student and a huge anime fan! My favorite anime of all time is either Violet Evergarden or Naruto.

 For coaching requests, shoot an email to, or shoot me DM on Instagram @thejackedmclovin!

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