Coach of the Month

Coach of the Month: Anthony Blubello Contracted Civilian Physical Therapist with the USA Military

Interviewer: How did you get involved in the Strength and Conditioning profession?

Anthony: I was an overweight gamer growing up. I didn’t exercise much beyond occasional backyard sports. In middle school, I realized that my body fat percentage was a barrier to social acceptance. As all young teenagers, I wanted to be accepted more than anything. This jump started my fitness journey. I changed my lifestyle and began exercising regularly to lose weight. As I lost weight, I grew more confident in myself and wanted to learn more about how to continue my progress. I began playing sports, integrating with others in the gym and began to really enjoy pushing my physical boundaries.image_123986672

Interviewer: What motivated you to become a coach?

Anthony: At some point, I stopped training to obtain social acceptance and began training to test my own physical boundaries. Today, my aim is to learn as much as possible about the field of strength and conditioning to help others gain the self-confidence to reach their physical potential.

Interviewer: What is your greatest coaching success story?

Anthony: Over the past 5 years, I’ve been privileged enough to work with a special operations team of the United States Air Force. These operators all rely on their bodies to perform at a high level for their occupation. I was entrusted with their care in an embedded human performance team as a Physical Therapist and Strength Coach. My proudest moment during that time occurred while helping an operator return from a bad parachute jumping injury. His parachute opened very fast during a ceremonial D-Day jump in Normandy, France. The parachute rapidly extended his spine. He suffered a pars fracture and was in extreme pain when he stood upright. He was an avid outdoorsman, climber, and skier who now had difficulty performing daily activities of life. He considered surgery, as well as getting out of the Air Force. He trusted me to personally take over his training and rehabilitation program for several months. Ultimately, he was able to return to duty and has saved many individuals from life-threatening situations ever since. It was an honor to be a part of his journey as he demonstrated the mental and physical resiliency to fight through the injury. It was a coaching/PT memory and relationship that I will always value. He and I grew extremely close over the years that followed, and he ended up standing next to me on my wedding day.

Interviewer: How big of an impact does VBT have on the people you work with?

Anthony: VBT has had a huge impact on my training and the training of the special operators with whom I work. I provided an original Open Barbell to one of the operators I worked with in 2019. I gave him some brief background on VBT, and he took it and ran with it. He did his own research and created an excel sheet that has allowed him to push his PRs with an autoregulation program. After some discussion, he and I began brainstorming some practical implications for VBT with special operators. Since then, I have used it for operators assessing for tier one units to train their power, muscle endurance, and/or absolute strength more specifically. We have also used VBT to build velocity profiles to help prevent operators from overshooting or underestimating their training percentages. This has helped us adjust their training loads for better training adaptations. With that, we have used VBT to better regulate training intensity while operators are performing tactical training abroad. They may be more fatigued due to their operational training and may need to decrease their training intensity. Lastly, we have used it to gradually build back to training loads and prevent them from “picking up where they left off” after a prolonged time away. This has helped us try to mitigate overuse injuries at our unit.

Interviewer: What is a piece of advice you could share with your fellow coaches?

Anthony: I would give coaches the advice to stay humble enough to ask for help from other coaches. I’ve learned from some great mentors over the years. To name-drop a few, Jim Ferris out of Philadelphia, PA (@gymferris), Bill Hartman of IFAST in Indianapolis, IN (@bill_hartman_pt), Jon Herting of Precision Performance in Philadelphia, PA (jonherting_dpt), Steve Pulcinella from Iron Sport Gym in Philadelphia, PA (@ironsportgym), Josh Roar of Senoia, GA, and Grant Seese of Windber, PA. I wouldn’t be where I am as a coach without the help of better coaches.

Interviewer: What is a piece of advice you could share with athletes who are looking to improve their performance?

1) Minimize the things that are interfering with your goal just as much as you prioritize doing the things to reach your goal.
2) Don’t forget lower intensity cardio for recovery and cardiovascular fitness. Even if you are a strength-focused athlete.
3) I’ve worked with a group of individuals with very inconsistent training schedules. It makes a big difference to at least perform some form of loading, either resistance bands or body weight, to maintain your strength.image_6487327

Interviewer: What else would you like to share with our audience?

Anthony: I have kept in mind lately that it is our job as a coach to educate in a way that our clients and patients understand. We cannot force another individual to make a change in their lifestyle if they do not want to. But, If they “aren’t listening” to our advice, it may be that we need to change how we are communicating with them. It is our job to do what we can so that they understand. How we communicate as a provider or coach is totally in our control and it can make a huge difference in someone’s outcome.

“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” Prov. 18:21

You can follow and reach out to me on Instagram @antblubello. I’ve also teamed up with a former special operator to help launch a new page of content for operators on Youtube at @xpjhpo. Keep posted for more to come on that project!

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