30 Oct Better Powerlifting: 7 Ways To Prepare For The StrongFirst Barbell Certification


I have a passion for the barbell. Always have, but even more so today.

Recently, I had an amazing learning experience by attending the StrongFirst Lifter Barbell Certification (the SFL).

To read my previous article on the great learning experience and opportunity, read Pavel, Doc and The Mighty Barbell.

If you’re serious about barbell training (specifically, the power lifts) and you’re committed to “getting better,” I’d highly recommend the SFL certification.

Just coming off this recent experience, I’ve had some questions about how to prepare.

So, I thought I’d write up a short prep guide to share the things I did to get ready for the 3 day lifting experience.

Keep in mind, this article will also help you even if you’re not planning to attend this certification, as the recommendations will help you to improve your barbell lifting skills and techniques.

And, these tips will depend on your background and training history with barbells, so let’s assume you are just getting serious with your training and want to know how to best prepare.

Here’s some important tips that I think will help you be fully prepared and maximize the experience.

1-Read and understand the requirements.

The 1st thing you need to do is to read and understand your requirements.

Strong FirstYou can find out everything on the StrongFirst Barbell Certification by clicking here.

Print off the requirements and know the numbers you’ll have to meet at the certification.

You’ll need to hit your strength and technique requirements, of course.

You should know that when you perform your strength tests, you have one chance and one chance only to execute the lift.

Knowing this, be prepared to hit your bench press and deadlift strength requirements when you are tested (more on this below).

If you don’t make the lifts at the certification, you will have an opportunity to submit a video within 6 months, so keep that in mind.

But, you get one lift attempt to fulfill your strength requirement, so make the most of it and be ready.

Know your numbers and be able to meet them, if you plan on becoming certified.

2-Immerse yourself in learning technique.

I would recommend reading and learning about proper barbell technique, especially if you’ve never had barbell training or taken a workshop before.

Yes, you will learn a lot about safe and efficient barbell technique at the workshop, but to be better prepared you should have a strong baseline going in.

Also, understand that there are different styles and techniques of barbell training.

You should have a fundamental understanding of safe and efficient barbell training for the power lifts.

Books I’d recommend to help you better understand technique (and programming) include:

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Powerlifting by Dan Austin and Bryan Mann

Deadlift Dynamite by Andy Bolton and Pavel

There are other great books, as well, but any of these will help you to improve your technique and appreciation of the power lifts.

3-Practice (a lot).

After you get one of the books above and learn the fundamentals around technique, you need to put it into practice (literally).

Spend a lot of time practicing the lifts, at least the ones you’ll be tested with (again, read the requirements).

This should be really obvious, but I wouldn’t recommend showing up without having a lot of practice under your belt to get the movement pattern, technique, and nail your requirements.

Even with all the practice, be prepared to refine your skills and learn even more at the certification.

After all, that’s why you’re there is to learn and get better.

But, you need to prepare accordingly.

4-Get a Coach.

This is a tip that can really help a lot.

If you can find a great coach, someone who is either a certified SFL instructor or is very experienced in barbell training, you’ll be set up very well.

Coaching makes the difference.

Finding a great coach can be a challenge, but the first place to start is on the StrongFirst website.

There aren’t many SFL instructors yet, as the program is still relatively new, but check to see if someone is close by to you.

If not, look for another strength coach in your area that has a strong background in barbell training.

How do you know if they have a strong background in barbells?

Simple.  Ask them what their history and experience is with barbell training.

Make sure you do your part, do your due diligence, and make sure that your coach is qualified or has an extensive history with barbells.

And, of course, there is always the idea of “virtual coaching” done by video submission to a qualified coach.

Honestly, this is a solid idea, especially if you don’t have a coach locally.

With the technology capabilities we have today, this is a great option to get quality coaching feedback.

It will make a huge difference when you get another set of eyes on you technique so you can focus on getting better, lifting more efficiently, and keeping it safe.

Find a coach.

5-Meet your requirements prior to the certification.

If your goal is to become certified and to teach others safe and effective barbell techniques, I highly recommend to make sure you meet your requirements prior to the certification.

Again, you will have 6 months to send in a video if you don’t pass at the workshop, but it’s a good idea to hit your strength and technique requirements at least a month before.

This is the same thing I recommend for a kettlebell certification, as well.

In my opinion, it’s not a good idea to show up and “hope” you’ll hit your numbers at the certification.

Be ready when you get there, which leads me to the next tip…

6-Pick a solid program to get you focused on the lifts.

Pick a program that will allow you to practice the lifts you need and get your stronger in the process.

Again, think about strength and technique here.

Personally, I’ve been training with barbells for many years, but prior to this certification I deliberately focused on the specific lifts for the SFL.

I picked a program that hyper-focused my barbell lifts.

I did an “Easy Strength” program.

Check out the great book Easy Strength by Dan John and Pavel for the specifics on that program (and many more program ideas).

The Easy Strength program is simple, effective, and focused.

A typical training day for me would be something like this:

  • Deadlifts, (1-2 warm ups), then 3 sets of 3.
  • Barbell Military presses, 2 sets of 5
  • Barbell Back Squats, (1-2 warm ups) then 2 sets of 5
  • Kettlebell swings 2-3 sets of 20-30 reps
  • Turkish Get ups, 1-2 reps to finish.

(Program Notes: kettlebell swings and get ups were the only kettlebell exercises I performed during the program and I would rotate bench press and military press every other training session.  Training intensity would vary, as would rep and set schemes and sequence of barbell lifts).

I thought the program was perfect to prepare for the SFL, but whatever program you do, make sure it’s focused on the lifts covered at the certification.

7-Train safe.

If you know anything about RdellaTraining, you know we’re all about training safe.

Train strong, but train smart and don’t get hurt as you prepare for the SFL.

Incorporate mobility work, get your techniques down, listen to your body, and know when to back off if you need to.

Training through injury is a hard thing for athletes and fitness enthusiasts (because we don’t want to take off, we want to keep training and pushing through), but we’ve got to be smart and know when our bodies can’t handle an exercise.

Remember, pain is a signal that something is wrong, so train safely, and do your best to minimize risk for injury during your training preparation.

Here’s a revolutionary tip you probably haven’t heard before (I’m being sarcastic).

If something hurts, don’t do it.

If you have a long term plan with your training, learn how to keep it safe.

I hope this information was helpful and if you know others that can benefit, please share it.

If you have additional questions about this, I’m here to help.


Make sure to join the email list for news and updates about some great new things coming!

Enter your email in above to join a community of passionate fitness enthusiasts.

  • Mike
    Posted at 17:40h, 31 October Reply

    Great write up Scott! Definitely keeping in mind for later development!

Post A Comment

  • No spam and unsubscribe at any time.

Immediate Solutions For The 3 Most Common Problems