Many thanks to NAC’s support team member Nick Folker from BridgeAthletic for taking a few minutes to talk about his background, the philosophy of BridgeAthletics, and provide insight on maximizing each athlete’s training! Check out their website bridgeathletic.com for even more information on what Nick’s program is all about.
- Tell us a little about your career as an exercise specialist and how your background with swimming has played a role in shaping what you do at BridgeAthletic
Prior to Bridge, Nick was the Director of Aquatic Performance at Cal Berkeley for 10 years, where his teams won 7 NCAA National Team championships in 7 years. He has also coached 35 Olympians and 22 Olympic medalists in 4 Olympic Games. Nick grew up in South Africa excelling in cricket and rugby before pursuing a career in swimming that took him to the 2000 Olympic Games. Nick received his BBA in Marketing/Management from the University of Hawaii and his M.S. from Cal State East Bay.
- Explain the background and philosophy behind BridgeAthletic and their involvement with developing athletes of all levels.
As Olympians, professional athletes, and coaches, we understand the work it takes to win the championship or get to the podium. Having seen first-hand the difference access to great coaching can make, we want to make that competitive advantage available to every athlete, everywhere. Each BridgeAthletic program is tailored to the individual athlete and customized based on that athlete’s stroke, distance, competition calendar, training experience, and more. Based on each individual’s goals and an initial assessment that grades an athletes flexibility, mobility, and strength, training programs build on that athlete’s strengths and improve their weaknesses, leading to stronger, more resilient athletes.
- At NAC, our program focuses on a long-term development process. How does BridgeAthletic coordinate this philosophy in their training regimen to help develop athletes in a long-term approach?
Every BridgeAthletic training program is both periodized and progressive. Periodization in strength training refers to the planning of athletic training with the goal of optimizing peak performance for the athlete’s major competitive events throughout the year. Progressive training is the long-term approach that develops and continuously challenges an athlete through the years as they develop from youth to high school, collegiate, and even professional levels. For younger athletes looking to transition into strength training, BridgeAthletic programs mainly consist of bodyweight-only exercises that develop technique and build a baseline level of stability, mobility, and strength. This introduction to strength training also promotes a healthy strength-to-bodyweight ratio, in which athletes learn to develop the strength they need for their own weight and their event(s). As athletes grow and mature, BridgeAthletic programs begin to incorporate external resistance into their strength training. Bodyweight strength exercises remain a critical component of the athlete’s strength program, while various resistance exercises help stimulate continued muscle growth. As the athlete enters the later years of high school and college, more challenging power lifts are added into the program to continue the progression and keep the athlete developing. Similar to the NAC philosophy of long-term gains, BridgeAthletic focuses on progressions in training, which are necessary to continue building strength throughout an athlete’s career.
- Apart from the BridgeAthletic workouts and swimming practices, what would you suggest for athletes to help maximize their training for performance?
Recovery is one aspect of sports that separates the elite athletes from the rest. The best athletes dedicate time and attention to their recovery, not just in the minutes following competition or training but also in the other 20+ hours of the day. Proper recovery demands a multifaceted approach ranging from the passive components like sleep and stretching to active components of rehydration, refueling, and foam rolling. To be successful, you must treat your recovery with the same attitude as in training: set goals and be consistent. After every workout or race, spend time stretching and foam rolling to reduce soreness in muscles the next day. This is especially important in season when peak performance must be repeated day in and day out. For young athletes, whose bodies recover quickly, this is a good habit to develop early though the length of time needed on the foam roller may be shorter than older collegiate or pro athletes. No matter the age, the majority of growth and recovery comes while an athlete sleeps. Being disciplined about bedtime can make a huge impact on training and performance gains. Finally, proper nutrition can keep an athlete fueled and ready for repeated peak performance. Some keys here are to always refuel within 30 minutes of finishing a training session or major race as well as focusing on a balanced diet that provides the energy needed to achieve the stated goals. For more in-depth information on recovery, sleep, and nutrition, check out the BridgeBlog .