I became a CSCS in August 2011 but my interest in strength and conditioning principles started back in high school. As a competitive high school and club soccer player I quickly learned the value of sports performance training. Competing in some of the top soccer tournaments around the country made me realize how important building my speed and strength were to be successful. I trained in multiple speed programs, agility and jumping programs, and “injury prevention” programs, all while lifting weights. Looking back on it, none of the programs had any structure to them. Luckily I had a gym teacher my senior year that was a CSCS/ATC who taught me the principles and got me interested in becoming a strength and conditioning specialist.
How has my CSCS helped me? First and foremost, I really enjoy sports performance training and I pursued the CSCS to have the opportunity to train high-level athletes. I have structured evaluations, performance enhancement programs (speed, agility, plyometrics, power), and taught proper weight training techniques for multiple athletes at both the collegiate and high school levels. It has been a very rewarding experience working with these high level athletes and I continue to learn more about strength and conditioning everyday. From a physical therapy aspect, I have benefited tremendously. During my clinical rotations I have never failed to give more challenging exercises to my patients. I think the biggest benefit is understanding how and when to effectively change the intensity of the rehabilitation program. Unfortunately, physical therapy curriculum is so dense that it’s almost impossible to teach all the different types of exercises out there and how to effectively change intensity (sets, reps, type of contraction, speed of reps, rest time, etc) in a program.
Overall, my experience as a CSCS has been wonderful from both a physical therapy and strength & conditioning aspect. I can confidently say that I understand dosage and exercise prescription better than most of my peers because of the additional knowledge I’ve gained. If you are interested in pursuing a strength and conditioning job on the side from physical therapy, the CSCS certification is the one to start with. Right or wrong, it is still considered the “gold standard” in the industry (although there are some definite gaps in the CSCS test). For those who aren’t interested in becoming a CSCS but would like to learn the principles, the Essentials of Strength and Conditioning book is a must read starting point (I don’t agree with all of their principles-namely the periodization principles but for beginners it’s a great resource!).
Please leave a comment if you would like any additional posts on anything to do with the CSCS, whether its study tips for the exam, any other strength and conditioning certifications, or just general questions!
James Heafner DPT, Chris Fox DPT, and Brian Schwabe DPT, CSCS are recent graduates of Saint Louis University's Program in Physical Therapy.