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Rob Schwartz, M.Ed, CSCS, CISSN Rob provides the Strength and Conditioning for eight Olympic Teams; focusing on the sports of Boxing, Wrestling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Synchronized Swimming, Taekwondo, Judo, Karate and Diving. Within each sport are multiple disciplines/teams for a total of 22 National Teams. He also is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for professional boxer and lightweight world champion Adrien Broner. Prior to joining the United States Olympic Committee in 2009, Rob served for three years as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Northern Arizona University (2006-09). In his last year there, Rob witnessed seven of the 13 teams become conference champions and another two reach runner-up status.
Rob’s strength coaching career began in 2000 at his alma mater, Bowling Green State University; from there he took a position at the University of Houston (2002-03) where he attained his Master’s in Health and Human Performance. Other stops have included the Cleveland Indians (2003), Tulane University (2003-04) and Velocity Sports Performance (2004-06), where he was director. Rob has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA Weightlifting, USA Track and Field, and the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Also he is a member of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association as well as the Young Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning? Thirteen years. 2. What is your training style/methods regarding training? The most important ability is availability. My overriding philosophy is to establish proper movement mechanics and correct recruitment patterns in order to reduce the risk of injury in training and competition. The next two areas I prioritize are equally important; movement skills and appropriate energy system development. Especially with combat athletes, creating angles and maximizing speed is crucial for scoring and defense, while positioning determines how effectively the athlete can use the strength/power we build. Energy system development has to occur in correct proportions.
For instance, it is common when I start training a combat or acrobatic athlete to realize they have great aerobic development, even beyond what they need, yet they become gassed during intense engagements or rounds. At this point I will shift their training toward anaerobic pathways, while maintaining the aerobic base. In terms of weight room work, I utilize a multi-joint Olympic-based approach. There is a set progression for how to teach the athlete to squat, clean/snatch, jump/land, press, etc. Each athlete is progressed differently; it is based off their movement competencies and how coachable they are rather than their strength, speed, and athleticism. 3. How has this training style/method evolved over the years? There have been three major adjustments—tiered system, conjugate method, functional and postural assessments with individualized corrective exercise programs. Combining these aspects into the program has yielded greater performance outcomes with lowered rates of injury. Although it is hard to measure, I get great athlete buy-in and I really feel that is partly attributed to continual improvement. The athlete not only sees their strength, power, and speed improve, but that they are able to progress to more complex tasks in their training.
4. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why? Scott Kellar has influenced me the most, without question. I was an assistant under him at Bowling Green State University and then the University of Houston, where he created a graduate assistant position for me. He taught me that to be a great coach it takes discipline, intensity, integrity, and a relentless dedication to excellence.
You have to demand those things of yourself before you can expect them of others. Even more, he is the greatest motivator I have ever seen. Athletes believe in him as he always tells them what they need to hear, he delivers praise and critique very honestly—that has been a lesson I try to live by.
5. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with? Each athlete has their own corrective exercise program, which typically will take about 10 minutes per day. If their functional/postural need is greater, I will have them do extra sessions. Beyond that, I regularly communicate with the sport coach and ATC to get their input on the athlete’s performance needs and concerns they may have. Some of the athletes have individualized programs while others are given slight modifications to their regular program.
I do not mind doing special programs for the athletes, the only stipulation is that these programs are usually more demanding and require greater commitment. If I am going to provide a specialized program, they have to commit to their nutrition, recovery, rehab, etc. Often getting them to behave in this way is just the stimulus they need to progress.
6. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning? I think it is professional collaboration. There is a lot that we can learn from one another. Open communication and idea sharing with message boards and social media are invaluable tools for us all. It is important to express our views in an intelligent and respectful manner and to avoid demeaning remarks.
7. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field? The most valuable resources are others in the field. I often choose what I read or presentations I attend based on the advice of coaches I know. Additionally, I have learned the most from doing site visits, having coaches visit here, or simple phone calls. I prefer to get out and see the what, the why, and most importantly, the how of other programs.
8. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming? Sport-specific is the peak of the pyramid; however, general physical preparedness is the base, and a wider base leads to a higher peak. We spend the majority of our time developing the fundamental athletic skills and qualities. Many of today’s youth are skilled in their sport but are underdeveloped athletically; therefore, enhancing their athleticism will improve their performance in competition. As the athlete becomes more highly qualified, I will increase their amount of “specific” training, but I make sure to never cease aiming to improve their basic athleticism.
9. What is your favorite tool in your toolbox? It is hard to say favorite, but in my current situation, I have to say bodyweight and partner strength training. This is because I work with a lot of athletes that travel internationally and may not even be in a country with a weight room for months at a time. It is important that they have the knowledge of bodyweight training and the appropriate progressions.
For this reason, combat athletes should do a lot of partner lifting. For wrestlers, I will use a mat and a strength program that involves lifting a partner in basic strength movements designed to imitate lifts from positions they will be in during a match, as well as some manual resistance training.
10. What are your five favorite exercises? In no particular order: 1. Olympic-based combo or complex lifts2. Front squat3. Deadlift variations (Dimel, RDL, trap bar, snatch grip, etc.)4. Shoulder prehabilitation (YTWLs and band face pulls)5. Prowler runs
Technically that is more than five, but it gives you an idea of the types of exercises I put into a typical cycle.
11. What advice would you give to young coaches who are just starting their careers and want to follow in your footsteps? 1. Show up early and ready; a coach needs to be intrinsically motivated.2. Earn responsibilities by doing the unenviable tasks well and without being asked. Never wait to be told to clean, set up equipment, etc.3. Embrace the opportunity to learn. Assume you do not understand everything your boss is doing and ask questions. 4. Always remember that loyalty and trust are paramount. Always present what your staff/program is doing as the best ever. 5. It is never about you. Strength and conditioning operates behind the scenes and our greatest reward is pride in helping the athletes, coaches, program, and community.
Good read. Coach Schwartz is a great coach.