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The Olympic lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—are some of the most technical and beneficial exercises in any strength training program. The epitome of functional fitness, these lifts challenge you in strength, speed, power, balance, mobility, and coordination—all with just an Olympic barbell and some weight plates.

RELATED: What Is Functional Fitness?

If they’re so good, why don’t we see them more often in strength training programs? Well, being an Olympic weightlifter myself, I’d argue that a lot of coaches don’t know how to coach them, so instead of teaching them wrong, they avoid them entirely. Although these are beneficial lifts, they’re highly demanding and technical, too.

A great place to start if you’re looking to coach these lifts better is the course offered by the organization recognized by our country’s Olympic committee—the USA Weightlifting Certification. The Level 1 Coaching Course is a pivotal point to begin to learn how to coach weightlifting. But is this the course for you? Let’s look into that.

Years of Weightlifting Experience

Our team of certified personal trainers, coaches, and athletes are all passionate about continuing our education in the fitness industry. So we’ve tried all sorts of personal training certifications and other courses.

For the USA Weightlifting Level 1 Course, I’ve actually taken this course and can speak from my experience. Along with that, my background is in Olympic weightlifting. I’ve been lifting for over 20 years now, with one of my more recent achievements being the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I’ll bring that experience as an athlete and coach to my honest review of this certification.

USAW Level 1 Certification

USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Course

GGR Score: 3.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 2-day course
  • In-person or online courses available
  • Covers how to coach Olympic lifts
  • Covers technique and program design
  • Teaches weightlifting progressions
  • Helps beginners learn highly technical exercises
  • Written exam at the end of the course
  • Recertified through an annual online exam

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Course specific to Olympic weightlifting
  • In-person or online courses available
  • Inexpensive for a certification
  • Recognized by the USOPC

Cons

  • Exclusive to USA Weightlifting members
  • Recertification is only an online exam

Bottom Line

If you’re interested in becoming a weightlifting coach, the most specific course you can take for Olympic weightlifting is the USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Course. The course is 2 days long and blends hands-on learning with lectures to go over the technical aspects of the Olympic lifts, as well as lifting safety and program design. A participant must pass a written exam at the end of the course to earn their certification.

A Quick Look at the USA Weightlifting Certification

The USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Course is a two-day course that covers aspects of the Olympic sport of weightlifting: technical errors, how to test mobility, coaching cues, basic programming, and athlete development. The Level 2 course is similar, but takes a deeper dive into programming and coaching individual athletes.

These are the only weightlifting certifications recognized by the sport of weightlifting in the United States, led by the national governing body of USA Weightlifting, making this a valuable certification if you’re interested in coaching competitive weightlifting.

man cleaning with gymreapers with gymreapers knee sleeves

In the more than two decades that I’ve been involved in the sport of weightlifting, the course and certification of USA Weightlifting coaches has changed drastically. It used to be the Wild West, where USA Weightlifting coaches were allowed to coach their weekend-long course however they wanted. Because of this, participants got wildly different experiences that taught the lifts and coaching cues differently.

In the last decade however, great strides were taken to make the course more uniform and cover the same information no matter who was the instructor or where the course took place.

Now, you can expect the course to be led by two certified coaches using a mix of hands-on learning and lectures that will primarily focus on the correct technique of the Olympic lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—and coaching cues and progressions to help athletes learn the proper technique.

RELATED: How To Do the Snatch Exercise

At the end of each course is an exam, typically done in-person; a passing score will certify you as a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coach.

Before You Buy:

  • The Level 1 and Level 2 courses can count for continuing education. One course counts as 1.3 CEUs (continuing education units) for organizations such as NASM and NSCA. For the SCCC credential from the CSCCa, this counts as 6.5 CEUs. You can also petition ACE to receive CECs (continuing education credits) for attending the course.
  • Since 2020, the course and exam have now been offered online as well as in-person. If you can’t find a course near you in the coming months, there is an online course available once a month.

Is the USA Weightlifting Certification Worth It?

At $549 plus a $99 USA Weightlifting annual membership fee, the USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Course costs quite a bit, but is one of the less expensive courses we’ve covered on Garage Gym Reviews. With its low price it provides good value, so I rated it a 5 out of 5 in this category.

The course is given by USA Weightlifting, the only recognized governing body in the United States for the sport of weightlifting. So if you’re wanting a bit of recognition as a weightlifting coach, this is the certification to get.

Coach Mary lifting weights on the Rogue state at the Arnold Fitness Festival

The Level 1 is an introductory course, so if you’ve had lifting experience, the course will probably cover a lot of things you may already know. But for people new to the sport, this is a great crash course into the world of weightlifting. Plus, if you’re looking to actually coach competitive weightlifters, this certification will be a great starting point, too.

Great for:

  • Strength coaches wanting to add Olympic weightlifting to their program
  • People who want to coach competitive weightlifters
  • Beginners looking to learn more about the lifts

Not recommended for:

  • Learned weightlifters not wanting to coach athletes
  • Coaches or trainers who don’t include Olympic lifts into their training programs

USA Weightlifting Level 1 Certification Specs

PrerequisitesMust be 16 or older and a current USAW member
Number of study options2-day long course, done in-person or online, with online slides and text
Hard copy of materials available?No, online materials only
Pricing$549
Term length1 year
Exam formatOnline or in-person, multiple choice

Course Prerequisites 

The USA Weightlifting Level 1 course has very few prerequisites. The course is open to anyone 16 years of age or older who is also a current USA Weightlifting member. The current membership fee for coaches is $99 per year.

The Level 2 course has the same prerequisites, but is only available to coaches who successfully passed the Level 1 course.

Woman snatching Eleiko weightlifting bar

USA Weightlifting coaches will have to pass a background screening, as well as take a SafeSport course, used to teach coaches how to properly coach ethically and professionally around athletes of all ages. Additionally, coaches are strongly encouraged to take a course from USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency).

Course Options and Pricing

Both Level 1 and Level 2 courses cost $549, plus a USA Weightlifting membership of $99 per year. In-person courses are offered across the nation year-round, so you’ll have to sign up for one nearby your location whenever it’s available.

However, since 2020, USA Weightlifting has also offered online versions of the coaching certification course, typically once a month. If you’re having trouble finding a course near you, the online course can be a viable option, although it’ll be less hands-on as the in-person course.

Woman wearing weightlifting shoes setting up for a barbell deadlift in a CrossFit gym.

Course Material: What You’ll Learn

Basically, the Level 1 weightlifting coaching certification is a crash course into the world of weightlifting, through the perspective of a weightlifting coach. Over the two days of instruction, you’ll cover the following topics:

  • Weightlifting safety: This section busts the common myth that weightlifting is dangerous, when in fact it has a lower injury risk than many major sports. This will cover an effective way to help your athletes warm up, as well as barbell safety.
  • Effective coaching: This section will cover being effective at communicating with and coaching beginner athletes, particularly in making them feel welcome to the gym and sport.
  • Physical readiness assessments: The snatch and clean and jerk demand not only strength, but speed, balance, flexibility, and coordination. This part of the course will go over testing an athlete’s mobility as it pertains to the Olympic lifts.
  • Weightlifting technique: The bulk of the course begins with teaching the proper technique of the Olympic lifts, including proper positioning throughout each lift.
  • Teaching progressions: USA Weightlifting teaches coaching the lifts with a top-down approach, meaning aspects of the pull of each lift are taught from the hips—the power position—and as athletes learn the position, the coach adds a lower position and lower position until the athlete is lifting from the floor comfortably.
  • Error correction: The lifts are very technical, and newer athletes will make common mistakes. This section will go over common errors and coaching techniques to correct these flaws.
  • Program design: The course will go over basic programming concepts like periodization and progressive overload, and how they can pertain to an Olympic weightlifting program.

RELATED: What Is Progressive Overload?

Along with these major sections, the course will also cover coaching weightlifting for sports performance coaches, and how the Olympic lifts can carry over into many sports athletes’ training routines.

Course Design

Being the first step to learning about coaching Olympic weightlifting, this course is designed for beginners and experienced coaches alike. The course schedule runs for two days, typically 9 hours on the first day and 6 hours on the next, including a 1-hour lunch break. You must be present for the entirety of the course.

In my experience, the course was a mix of hands-on learning with lectures. After lectures discussing technique, we broke into small groups with PVC pipes or empty Olympic barbells to practice the snatch and clean and jerk progressions. While one person practiced the lifts, another acted as a coach and helped correct the lifter’s errors using a mix of verbal and tactile cues.

crossfit coaching
Credit: CrossFit, Inc

On the in-person course, there isn’t a set practical test, but participation is encouraged during the practical portions of the course. While someone may be injured and unable to perform the lifts during the course, the instructor will have you take a more active role in coaching course participants performing the lifts.

Even on the online course, participation is highly encouraged. While access to a bar and bumper plates or PVC pipe isn’t required, the course description does recommend it.

Studying Experience

When I took the USA Weightlifting Level 1 course in 2018, I had been weightlifting and strength training for nearly two decades and coaching weightlifting movements for one decade. So the two-day course was a slight refresher for me and the certification exam was fairly easy. 

Obviously, that won’t be the case for everyone. In my course alone, there were a couple of participants who had never done the Olympic lifts before. Even if you’re new to the world of weightlifting, the two-day course covers everything you’ll need during the course. There won’t be any surprises on the exam; pay attention and participate in the course, and study the course materials, and you should be fine.

Man studying the NASM online module at a computer

The course study materials are online to keep up with any rule changes that happen with the sport of weightlifting. They are a healthy mix of texts, slides, diagrams, and modules to help with studying.

Exam Options and Test-Taking Experience

At the end of the second day of the Level 1 course, the certified coach will administer a certification exam to you. This is a relatively short written exam. The questions are multiple choice, and you need a passing score of 70% to pass the exam and earn your certification.

The online exam is similar, just done online at home instead of in person.

You have two attempts to score a passing grade and earn your title of Level 1 Coach. If you don’t pass in two attempts, the website encourages you to email them to find out next steps.

Post-Certification

Earning your Level 1 certification makes you a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coach and shows your knowledge of coaching the Olympic lifts effectively, which will earn you a bit of industry recognition amongst personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches.

A Level 1 Coach also qualifies to create their own barbell club, which can then qualify and compete at national-level competitions.

Additionally, USA Weightlifting coaches also have access to purchase USA Weightlifting’s General Liability Insurance, which will help protect coaches from third-party claims of injury or property damage. It’s $65 and provides a million dollars of coverage for 1 year.

Advancement As a USA Weightlifting Coach

For those wanting to continue pursuing coaching weightlifting, there is the Level 2 course which is designed similarly to the Level 1, but takes a deeper dive into methodologies in training and programming, as well as competition coaching.

Once you earn your Level 2 certification, there are no more courses, but you can still advance to a National Coach, International Coach, and Senior International Coach. To progress to these higher coaching levels, you have to produce athletes at national- and international-level events.

It’s a little convoluted, but you’ll receive points for each athlete you take to a national or international competition, with the number of points depending on the scope and level of the meet. To become a National Coach, you’ll need 12 points from national competitions, and an International and Senior International Coach will each need four points earned from international competitions—Pan American Championships, Worlds, or the Olympics.

RELATED: What Are the Top Olympic Weightlifting Records?

USA Weightlifting Certifications advancement as a coach
From USA Weightlifting

USA Weightlifting Level 1 Recertification Requirements

The recertification requirement is fairly low for a USA Weightlifting coach, leading me to rate the process a 2 out of 5. Typically, certifications will ask for some sort of continuing education. In the case of USA Weightlifting, however, the main requirement is to keep your membership current, and to successfully complete a short online test each year.

It’s hard to compare it to other certifications because of the goals of the course, but I’d like to see a little bit more to show you’re maintaining and improving on your knowledge as a weightlifting coach.

USA Weightlifting Level 1 Certification vs Other Weightlifting Certifications

It’s hard to compare the Level 1 Course to any of the best strength and conditioning certifications, mainly because the goals are different. For one, the USA Weightlifting course doesn’t have any NCCA accreditation like the CSCS has.

RELATED: What Is the CSCS?

However, compared to other weightlifting certifications, the USA Weightlifting Level 1 Course stands out, as it is the only one recognized by the sport of weightlifting in the United States, meaning the USOPC (United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee). 

While there are other courses and certifications offered by prestigious weightlifting coaches, the Level 1 course is the only one recognized by the USOPC, adding to the course’s prestige. If you’re serious about coaching weightlifters, this is really the only weightlifting course to consider.

USA Weightlifting Certification: Final Verdict

Will the USA Weightlifting Level 1 Course make you an experienced, adept weightlifting coach? No, it won’t; most of that will come through experience, just like any other certification. However, the information covered in this course will help you break down the lifts for any beginner athlete, making this a great starting point for coaches wanting to learn more about the Olympic lifts.

If you’re wanting to learn more about the snatch and clean and jerk to teach your athletes, or you’re looking to begin coaching weightlifting athletes, the Level 1 Course is a fantastic place to start.

USA Weightlifting Certification Full Rating

USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Course

Looking to get into coaching lifters? See if a USA Weightlifting Certification is right for you in our review.

Product Brand: USA Weightlifting

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 549

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
3.5

Overall score: 3.5

Course Length – 4
Accreditation – 3
Continuing Education – 2
Prerequisites – 3
Learning Options – 3
Final Assessment – 4.5
Value – 5
Check Price

USA Weightlifting Certification: FAQs

Is a USA Weightlifting Certification worth it?

The USA Weightlifting Level 1 Course is highly specific to coaching the Olympic lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk. If you’re planning on using the Olympic lifts in your athletes’ programming, this is a great course to take and learn about coaching cues specific to weightlifting. Additionally, this is the only weightlifting certification recognized by the USOPC, meaning if you’re serious about coaching weightlifters, this is where to start.

What are the requirements for a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Certification?

Currently, anyone 16 or older with a current USA Weightlifting membership can sign up and take the Level 1 course.

Is a USA Weightlifting Certification good for all weightlifting coaches?

Because of how technical these lifts are, anyone coaching weightlifting should take a Level 1 course. Strength and conditioning coaches or personal trainers who want to include the Olympic lifts into their athletes’ training should also consider taking the course.

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The Olympic lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—are some of the most technical and beneficial exercises in any strength training program. The epitome of functional fitness, these lifts challenge you in strength, speed, power, balance, mobility, and coordination—all with just an Olympic barbell and some weight plates.RELATED: What Is Functional Fitness?If they’re so good, why don’t we see them more often in strength training programs?  » Read more about: USA Weightlifting Certification (2024): From an Olympic Weightlifter’s Perspective  » Read more