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Please take the quiz which will allow you to discover which weightlifting qualifications will suit your needs and preferences as a fitness pro.

What weightlifting certification is right for you?

We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.

In this article, we’ll be discussing weightlifting certifications.

I’ll provide you with the most in-depth analysis of what I’ve identified to be the five best weightlifting certifications.

I’ll be looking at the following:

  • Why you should get a weightlifting cert
  • An intro into the top 6 certs
  • Accreditation
  • Study Materials
  • Cost
  • Exam structure and difficulty
  • Recertification
  • Pros and cons Final score determining which is the best across all criteria

After reading this article, you should be able to decide which certification will fit your current needs.

With that said, let’s jump right into it.

Best Weightlifting Certifications in [year] 4

Top 6 Weightlifting Certifications  

Team USA Weightlifting Certifications

The USAW Level One course is a fundamental program administered by the US Olympic Weight Lifting organization.

This level of authority and heritage makes it one of the most comprehensive and highly regarded certifications in this category.

The course runs over two days and covers the basic theory and practice of Olympic weightlifting from a coaching perspective.

The only prerequisites are a high-school diploma or equivalent and an active membership with USAW.

NSPA Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach

The National Sports Performance Association was founded to unify the main aspects of high-performance athletic coaching for optimized coaching outcomes.

These aspects are:

  • Speed & Agility
  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Nutrition
  • Program design

Each aspect is encapsulated in its program and certification.

In the case of this article, we’ll be dealing with strength and conditioning in the form of the Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach.

The 16-module program culminates in a 75-question multiple-choice test conducted entirely online.

Prerequisites for the NSPA CWPC are simply that candidates be holders of high school diplomas or equivalent.

ASFA Olympic Weightlifting Coach

The American Sports and Fitness Association, ASFA, is an online institution that delivers entry-level and advanced credentials for fitness pros.

Their Olympic weightlifting Cert caters to personal trainers who want a professional edge regarding correct programming and instruction of standard lifts.

The principles included in the ASFA OWC cert also lend themselves to professional athlete coaching and have a nutritional component in the curriculum.

Eleiko Weightlifting Level 1

Eleiko is a company with an interesting history. 

Founded over 60 years ago in Sweden, the brand is now synonymous with top-quality weight training equipment.

Their barbells and weight plates are considered the finest quality and are often the official brand for many of the world’s top Olympic lifting and powerlifting competitions.

They’ve issued their weightlifting certification with their influence and expertise in weight training.

The cert specializes in building the observational skills you will need as a coach in checking and adjusting form and cueing lifts and movements.

Burgener Strength Education Weightlifting Level 1 Course

Founded by world-renowned Mike Burgener, Patron of the Burgener weightlifting dynasty, the BSEW Level 1 cert is a comprehensive program by the pros, for the pros.

Their dedication to facing a progressive challenge with the strictest form is why Burgener Strength is highly recommended and approved by CrossFit.

The team of instructors behind the curriculum is seasoned weightlifting athletes; some are considered the best in the world.

This means you’re dealing with a wealth of traditional evidence-based knowledge and some priceless personal insight.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Coach

While this certification isn’t strictly a weightlifting-only course, it comes from one of the best fitness certification organizations. It emphasizes athlete programming and weightlifting technique, so you get weightlifting knowledge and much more. Best of all, ISSA has many other excellent certifications that can be bundled together for incredible value.

They offer an Elite Trainer package, which includes 3 different certifications, so you could get their strength and conditioning certification along with personal training and nutrition for only a few hundred dollars, more than one cert by itself.

Accreditation  

Now that I’ve given you a brief on the various certifications we’ll be looking at let’s look at another important aspect.

That aspect is accreditation, one of the first things you should watch when shopping for credentials.

That’s because accreditation lets you know that what you’re getting suits the general standards for the correct administration of education and that the content of the curriculum is relevant and approved.

Accreditation also helps you steer clear of scams and money grabs.

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In certain cases, accreditation isn’t available and may not be necessary.

In such cases, it would need to be a cert or institution that has built itself a reputation and level of credibility that speaks for itself.

Using an example in the nutrition space, I will point to Precision Nutrition.

That’s a world-renowned, highly regarded nutrition coaching program, which is also not accredited by any recognized commission.

But back to weightlifting certs and their accreditation.

CertificationAccreditation
USAW Level 1NONE (USOC approved)
NSPA CWPCNONE (NASM approved)
ASFA OWCNONE
Eleiko Weightlifting Level 1NONE (IWF endorsed)
Burgener Strength Education Weightlifting Level 1NONE (CrossFit endorsed)
ISSA Strength and ConditioningDEAC

As you can see from this table, no weightlifting certifications are accredited by an accrediting commission.

Regarding accrediting commissions, you’re looking out for two main ones.

These are the National Commission on Certifying Agencies, NCCA, and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, or DEAC.

These two commissions are the gold standard for authenticating fitness credentials.

However, in this case, weightlifting is a sporting discipline first and a fitness methodology second.

That means weightlifting certs aren’t bound to the same criteria as a personal trainer cert, for instance.

Regardless of this, we do see some of the certs having alignment with reputable organizations.

For example, Burgener Strength is a CrossFit preferred administrator, while the US Olympic Committee endorses USAW Level 1.

NSPA states that NASM accredits it, but accreditation in this sense means approval since NASM is not an accrediting commission but is accredited by the NCCA.

Eleiko is an approved supplier by the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation), but this is primarily concerning their equipment.

Eleiko is considered the most preferred brand for weightlifting and powerlifting.

Study Materials  

Every certification and its curriculum is structured around a suite of study materials.

These resources aim to introduce all the knowledge and concepts, prepare you for the final exam or assessment, and in some cases, provide initial support as you launch into your career.

When I look at the quality of study materials, I look at the variety and relevance.

Relevance is simply a look at how congruent the content of the curriculum is with its practical application once you certify it.

With variety, you have many options, meaning more of your bases are covered in learning and exam prep.

There is a line, however, where excess variety means the study package is just bloated.

Now that you have a basic idea of what to look for, let’s see the study packages.

USAW Level 1

The USAW Level 1 study package includes a course manual that can be considered a textbook.

With this, you’ll also have access to 3.5 hours worth of module videos.

From what many people are saying, according to reviews and discussions from forums such as Reddit, the real value comes from the course instructor.

Each USAW Level 1 program is facilitated by an expert instructor offering insight, teaching, and guidance while administering the final assessment.

The quality of your outcomes as a candidate seems to hinge on the instructor’s experience and abilities more than on the study package.

NSPA CWPC

The NSPA weightlifting cert includes extensive study materials that cater to further understanding the 16 modules.

These materials include:

  • The Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach™ Course
  • Video lectures corresponding to the 16 modules
  • Eight-course handouts
  • Advanced Programming bonus material

There is no course textbook for this program which is a bit of a drawback based on what I consider the ideal learning experience.

A textbook allows you to refer to relevant concepts during your coaching practice.

ASFA OWC

ASFA doesn’t list its course materials on its website; however, they do list some recommended texts.

These include:

  • Science and Practice of Strength Training
  • Explosive Lifting for Sports
  • Powerlifting

Eleiko Weightlifting Level 1

Eleiko provides a comprehensive study package that combines practice assessments, lifting and form guides, and all required reading and study exercises in one complete bundle.

You can access it online as well through your student profile.

Burgener Strength Education Weightlifting Level 1

According to a Burgener Strength facilitator, the course materials are all condensed into the Participant Guide for those who register for the course.

This single-copy document serves as a one-stop shop for all your requirements.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Coach

ISSA provides the best study materials out of these programs.

Study materials you will receive include:

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  • A hard copy of the primary textbook, which is 615 pages
  • A guided study workbook to help you
  • 250 animated exercises online
  • Access to an online student forum
  • Practice exams and section quizzes
  • Access to certified professionals for any questions you have

The ISSA study materials are fantastic overall and certainly more than any smaller organization.

Cost of Certifications

Cost is king, and when it comes to picking a certificate program to dig into, how much it costs can be a deciding factor.

When looking at top-rated institutions such as ACE and NASM, you’ll notice that their tentpole certifications, usually the Personal Trainer ones, can be quite pricey.

With Olympic weightlifting certs, the pricing is a bit more conservative.

Let’s take a look at pricing according to the course websites.

  • USAW Level 1 – $549 for course +$84 (annual membership fee)
  • NSPA CWPC – $495
  • ASFA Olympic Weightlifting Coach – $199 (certified for one year)
  • Eleiko Weightlifting Level 1 – $299 for online course
  • Burgener Strength Education Weightlifting Level 1 Course – $645
  • ISSA Strength and Conditioning Certification – $471.41 ($39.28/12 months)

As you can see, none of the courses register a price in the thousands of dollars.

With your average PT cert, you will often find price points well into the thousands, especially with the all-inclusive packages.

Speaking of packages, most of these weightlifting programs only come in one package.

It’s common for fitness certifications to come in multiple package options, all priced differently according to what you get in terms of course material.

ASFA is the only one with multiple packages available based on their website listing.

The one I indicated in the table above is their basic package, which only includes the course.

After that, you’ll have the Certificate & Pocket Certification Card, which goes for $125 and is valid for one year; then you have the Certificate & Pocket Certification Card with lifetime renewal, which goes for $299.

This means that for just under 300 bucks, you will never need to recertify with ASFA, but more on recertification later.

Exam Structure And Difficulty

The next thing I’m going to look at is the exam structure and difficulty.

The complexity of the final assessment is a necessary consideration.

If you want to append a weightlifting cert to your current fitness credentials, the easier, the better.

If you want to go into weightlifting coaching as your main focus, the more challenging and comprehensive program would be a better choice.

USAW Level 1

Let’s start with USAW Level 1.

This cert can be considered incredibly easy. 

Many have reported that the difficulty barrier may perhaps be too low.

That’s because the combination of USAW’s lack of stringent prerequisites and an easy-to-pass assessment means that anyone with little to no knowledge of Olympic weightlifting has a significant shot of qualifying.

The course combines a two-day seminar and instructional held by USAW expert coaches and an online certification exam.

NSPA CWPC

The NSPA CWPC is considered relatively challenging by many who’ve taken it.

Compared to USAW Level 1, it’s more of a natural and worthy barrier to entry when it comes to qualifying candidates.

One snag with NSPA is its recognition.

Since it’s a regional cert, mainly recognized and accepted in the Midwest US, it features very little elsewhere and is not as preferred as the others in this article.

ASFA OWC

ASFA OWC offers a straightforward assessment that combines a live 2-day seminar and a final written exam.

From my perspective, the exam isn’t very challenging, but it isn’t a breeze either.

It acts more as a reinforcement of what you will have learned from your course material and practical sessions.

Eleiko Weightlifting Level 1

Eleiko, in recognition of the explosion in popularity of both powerlifting and weightlifting, devised a four-step process by which they administer their program.

These steps are:

  • Stance
  • Grip
  • Position
  • Action

How Eileko conducts the course is aimed at driving candidates towards competence rather than testing them for it.

In this way, all course candidates will gain experience and knowledge in coaching Olympic weightlifting.

However, to certify, there is a certification test, which according to many successful candidates, isn’t too stressful provided you attended and fully immersed yourself in the coaching seminar.

Burgener Strength Education Weightlifting level 1

Burgener Strength administers its final assessment as a live practical seminar like the rest.

Over two days, candidates will be drilled on the fundamentals of technique, how to execute the lifts, and how to coach them effectively.

Many candidates report the Burgener course to have a more in-depth approach and a higher barrier of entry compared to USAW, for instance.

This means the Burgener program should, in essence, produce a higher caliber of Olympic weightlifting coaches.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Certification

The ISSA SSC test is completed online. 

The test is also open book, and there is no time limit. 

You will be asked questions about:

  • Anatomy
  • Fitness assessment
  • Sport-specific training
  • Sport psychology
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Injury prevention for athletes

I could not find pass rates for the certification, but I assume it’s around 90% similar to their general CPT.

Area of Focus  

All the certs listed in this article are geared towards equipping you to coach Olympic Weight Lifting; however, even within that category, each cert presents something different and has a unique approach.

Understanding each cert’s specific angle and area of focus should help you decide better between them.

USAW Level 1

USAW Level 1 is your standard, general approach to Olympic lifting. It is instituted by the national body of the sport, after all.

This general approach has often been cited as why USAW’s difficulty is so low, allowing many candidates to qualify, even with little lifting experience.

This is a good cert to add weightlifting expertise to your personal training repertoire since it doesn’t require much-lifting knowledge and experience before enrollment.

NSPA CWPC

Based on NSPA’s mission statement, their programs aim to equip coaches to administer sports-specific training at all levels.

That means you’re gaining the skills to instruct and coach exercise science from a recreational, amateur, or professional level.

So while it isn’t aimed at a high level of competition, the standards and methodologies instilled make it a great compliment to sports coaching.

ASFA OWC

ASFA is a certification agency dedicated to upskilling established professionals.

So if you’re a newbie, their programs probably aren’t your best bet, but if you’ve got some skin in the game, ASFA OWC might just be what you need to take your weightlifting coaching to the next level.

Eleiko Weightlifting Level 1

Eleiko is a brand synonymous with quality regarding lifting equipment and apparatus.

As mentioned earlier, their plates and bars are preferred for most pro-level weight and powerlifting events.

As such, their Level 1 cert aims to equip pro-lifting coaches with what they call “the coach’s eye.”

Besides developing skill and knowledge in the science of lifting, Eleiko Level 1 aims to improve a coach’s innate ability to determine correct training loads and subtle discrepancies in form and technique.

Burgener Strength Education Weightlifting Level 1

The Burgener family heritage is one of excellence in the world of lifting.

Mike Burgener, founder and head coach at Burgener Strength is considered the godfather of American weightlifting.

As such, this cert focuses on competitive excellence, which makes it ideal for the pro weightlifting coach.

Another strong aspect of Burgener’s strength, no pun intended, is their association as an approved certifying partner with CrossFit.

If you want to be a CrossFit coach, this is the best lifting cert for you.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Certification

As stated above, the ISSA certification is more of a well-rounded program that includes Olympic weightlifting.

Principles taught alongside the barbell technique include the following:

  1. How to apply principles of metabolism, body mechanics, and anatomy to help aid athletes in producing optimal performance
  2. Anatomy and how body mechanics and structure influence energy and performance for athletes.
  3. How to describe exercise instruction and benefits to clients
  4. Tools to develop individualized fitness programs for endurance, strength, power, and speed
  5. Principles of nutrition and supplementation as they apply to athletics
  6. Proper identification of over-training and reducing the risk of injuries
  7. Fitness assessments and ways to track an athlete’s progress
  8. Fundamentals of sports psychology for individual athletes.

Conclusion  

Olympic weightlifting is a precise sport with many immediate risks if not coached or instructed properly.

Therefore, I will give a tied first place to Burgener Strength and Eleiko regarding a comprehensive professional lifting coach certification by lifters for lifters.

These certs prepare their trainers for high-level competitive activity such as being a national coach, with Burgener Strength also lending itself as a preferred CrossFit certifying agency.

In the third spot, we have ASFA OWC.

This cert is more in-depth when dealing with Olympic lifts than many on this list because it is aimed at established fitness industry professionals.

ASFA is aimed more toward the sports medicine specialist in this sense.

Fourth place goes to NSPA CWPC.

It is an intermediate-advanced level program, so it’s not quite the gold standard for weightlifting certifications.

However, it’s decent enough to teach you all the fundamentals and difficult enough to pose a necessary challenge.

In fifth is ISSA: it’s a great cert, just not as specialized as the others on this list.

In last place is USAW Level 1.

USAW is a great cert, and being that the national governing body of weightlifting administers it, it ticks all the boxes in terms of what you need to know to be a pro athlete coach.

However, it all comes tumbling down when you understand how easy it is to enroll and pass the cert, even with little to no lifting experience.

In my and many people’s opinions, this diminishes the quality and relevance of an otherwise amazing cert.

References

  1. “Reviews for ASFA on Indeed.” Indeed, https://www.indeed.com/certifications/companies/asfa-2O5JYEOJ/reviews.
  2. “Anyone Else a Bit Unimpressed with USAW’s Level 1?” Reddit, posted by user in r/weightlifting, https://www.reddit.com/r/weightlifting/comments/28xr5t/anyone_else_a_bit_unimpressed_with_usaws_level_1/
  3. “NSPA Certification.” T-Nation Forum, https://forums.t-nation.com/t/nspa-certification/113304.
  4. “USA Weightlifting vs CrossFit Weightlifting.” Reddit, posted by user in r/weightlifting, https://www.reddit.com/r/weightlifting/comments/4zlzum/usa_weightlifting_vs_crossfit_weightlifting/.
  5. “Courses.” Burgener Strength, https://www.burgenerstrength.com/courses.
  6. “About American Sports and Fitness Association.” American Sport and Fitness Association, https://www.americansportandfitness.com/pages/about.
  7. “Education Courses.” Eleiko, https://www.eleiko.com/en/education/courses.
  8. “Coaching Courses: USAW Level 1.” Team USA, USA Weightlifting, https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting/Coaching/Coaching-Courses/USAW-Level-1.
  9. “Eleiko Coaching Certification Course.” Reddit, posted by user in r/weightlifting, https://www.reddit.com/r/weightlifting/comments/4qpnup/eleiko_coaching_certification_course/.
  10. “Olympic Weightlifting Coaching Prices.” Reddit, posted by user in r/weightlifting, https://www.reddit.com/r/weightlifting/comments/3ptxdh/olympic_weightlifting_coaching_prices/.
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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