Train with them.
It’s that simple.
Of course, you can’t do this all the time but once in a while, even if it’s a very rare occasion you should jump in on a workout to show them that you practice what you preach and lead from the front.
Athletes will always respect a coach more if he is willing to suffer with them. My advice would be to join in on a grueling conditioning day. Because, let’s face it, moving big weight for a few reps is fun. Brutally intense conditioning workouts are not.
Besides, a lot of times when heavy lifting is being done you need to be there every single rep, paying strict attention to detail making sure no one gets hurt. Conditioning sessions usually don’t have the same risk involved so this would make the more practical choice. Unless, of course, you have a large number of coaches per group. Then you could get in on the strength session once in a while as well.
But if you want to instantly earn respect from the guys you train then let them see you doing that nasty conditioning circuit you designed for them. They’ll trust you a whole lot more after that and will be a lot more likely to do what you ask of them without any resistance or hesitation.
I’ve done this for as long as I can remember and it’s always helped me get more out of my athletes. Whenever we had our weekly summer strongman competition days and there were uneven numbers for teams I always jumped in. For some reason it made everyone train harder and like/respect me more. When someone 10-15 years older than you beats your ass in a sled or Prowler race it forces you to pick up the intensity.
I’ll never forget the time a few years back when I was training a group of wrestlers who had been starting to slack off for a couple of workouts in a row. On one particular Friday workout they were more interested in the weekends plans than what we were doing in the gym that day. So I called an audible on the conditioning for that day and cranked it up a notch. Without any preparation I decided to jump right in with them. I was gonna show these punks what it meant to train hard, I told myself.
So we went through a death circuit of Prowler pushes, sandbags, swings, and ropes. I held it together while they were all still there but I threw up immediately after that and again on my drive home. My head was spinning and I barely made it through the front door without shitting my pants. They were obviously in way better shape than I was, although I didn’t let them know it or see it.
But those guys never gave it less than their best effort or questioned anything I told them to do from that day forward. By nearly killing myself in that workout and bleeding in the trenches right along there with them I had earned their respect and forced them to step up their intensity and dedication.
The thing some coaches forget is that you don’t have to be as strong or as well conditioned as every single one of your athletes. If you train a 300 pound NFL lineman and you weigh 210 he probably wouldn’t expect you to out squat him. Nor will he lose respect for you if you do. But you have to be fairly strong and be able to demonstrate a perfect squat (or front squat, or single leg squat or whatever main strength exercise you may use in your program).
If you train a UFC fighter he wouldn’t expect you to be more conditioned than he is; although you could be and it really wouldn’t hurt. It would serve as great motivation if you were. But maybe he’s coming to you for strength, first and foremost because that is his biggest weakness. So ideally, you as a coach or trainer, should always maintain an above average, somewhat impressive level of both strength and conditioning.
You have to set an example and lead from the front.
There is nothing worse than the weak, fat, out of shape strength coach or trainer.
Don’t be that guy.