EliteFTS Spotlight is a weekly feature here on EliteFTS.com where Q&A member The Angry Coach interviews athletes and strength and sport coaches from various disciplines in order to find out more about what they do, how they train and how they do business.

This week’s subject is EliteFTS Q&A staff member and University of Buffalo Assistant Director of Sports Performance Julia Ladewski. Here’s Julia’s official bio:

“Julia Ladewski is in her sixth season at UB as an assistant coach with the sports performance department where she works directly with UB’s women’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and track and field and men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. She came to UB from fellow MAC-member Ball State where she served as a student strength and conditioning coach and earned her degree in exercise science in 2002. While at Ball State, Ladewski worked with the Cardinals’ swimming and diving, gymnastics, baseball, softball, and track and field teams. During the summer of 2002, Ladewski served as a performance specialist at Athletes’ Performance in Tempe, AZ, where she worked with many professional athletes from the NFL, NHL, NBA, WTA and the PGA as well as elite high school and college athletes.”

What’s your background, and how did you get started in the strength coaching profession?

I was an athlete in high school and college, so that got me interested in weightlifting. In college, I actually started out as an athletic training major. I knew I wanted to do something with sports and stick in that field, and after being an athletic training major for three years, I realized that I didn’t really want to deal with the injury part of it as much as improving athletes’ performance and really getting them better. So my senior year, I decided to switch majors, and finish out with an exercise science degree.

I volunteered and worked in the weight room at Ball State, and that really got me moving in the strength field. After I graduated, I spent the summer down in Arizona working at Athletes’ Performance, and that pushed me further into realizing that this was something I wanted to do. It also helped me realize that a college setting was where I wanted to be rather than a private setting. While a private setting was good for making more money, the college setting was what I really wanted to deal with, and it was the age group of kids that I really felt comfortable with and that could really benefit. When kids come into college, they don’t really have a whole lot of experience.

From there, I was hired on as an assistant at the University of Buffalo, and that’s where I’ve been for the last seven years.

You’ve spent some time at Westside?

Yes, I did. I got hooked up with Louie and Dave in 2001. I went down to Columbus for an EliteFTS seminar that Dave was doing, and from there it was just a matter of keeping in touch and learning from those guys, and over the course of the next year or so, I would travel down to Columbus to train, as I really started getting into competitive powerlifting. I would go down there once a month with my husband, who I was dating at the time, and we would go down to train, and just learn, and talk to anybody we could about training.

So, I’ve been in touch with those guys for the last eight years, and it’s really been interesting to see which philosophies have changed and stayed the same, and how those guys continue to use that program not just with powerlifters, but for athletes as well. I’ve seen athletes come out of Westside who’ve really taken the system that’s used, and used it in the athletic field.

Can you contrast Athletes’ Performance with Westside?

Two totally different philosophies. Training with Mark (Verstegen) was good. I learned a lot about some different training techniques. Every coach that was at Athletes’ Performance really had a different coaching style and philosophy. There was a coach there that did utilize some “Westside” principles – the use of some bands and some chains. They weren’t really in the direct sense that Louie would use them, but the concept was there. Some of the other coaches were more of your Olympic lifting style coaches. A lot of the functional training, a lot of stability ball stuff, a lot of single leg work, balance work. We did do your typical squats and bench presses, but I wouldn’t say, unless it was a veteran athlete like some of the NFL guys who were coming in (those guys really focused on those lifts) – but anyone else who was maybe a younger athlete didn’t really squat or bench much at all. They did a lot of variations of those, doing single leg squats or dumbbell pressing. So in that sense it was a little different – not that it’s a bad thing to start athletes out with the basics – but I would say it was a little more of the functional type of training rather than the “Get ‘em in, get ‘em stronger” type.

Do you do any work with the football team at Buffalo?

Yes, I do. My time with the football team is limited because I have five other teams that I’m responsible for, so getting with the football team, especially within the last year or two, is hit or miss. When I can make it, I’m there. When I first started at Buffalo, probably from 2003 to 2006, I was heavily involved with the football team. Some of the other strength coaches at the time, we really all got together and everybody helped with football. Now that we have some new strength coaches in, some of the teams have been shifted around and I don’t get to football as much as I’d like to.

The recent football transformation at Buffalo has been astounding. As someone who’s been involved, what do you think are the main reasons behind their success?

I think in just a football sense, the main thing is trust and belief in the coaches and the system – whether it’s the football system or the strength training system, the kids over the years have learned to trust in it and believe that it’s going to work. And I think Coach (Turner) Gill has done a good job of instilling that in these kids and saying, “If you guys just stick with the plan, and do what you’re supposed to do, we’re going to get better.” Coach Gill is not your typical football coach in that he doesn’t get out there and yell in kids’ faces and beat kids down negatively. He’s really not that kind of coach. He really works with the kids and really wants to see them get better, and doesn’t need to yell at them on a daily basis. For him, that seems to work. The kids have responded. And in the weight room, the strength coaches that we have in there, starting in ’03, we’ve had the same system of training – your basic Westside type of training has been implemented. Even though we’ve had three different strength coaches over the last five years, the same system has been used, so the kids have been able to stick with one style of training and see that it works and that they’re getting stronger and faster.

If coaches come and go too fast in a college setting, and you don’t have that set style of training for more than 3-4 years, it’s hard to see results. The kids that are there are just bouncing between training philosophies, and never really have a chance to believe in anything. That’s something that’s helped us in the weight room – the consistent style of training, and the kids have really grown to trust in it.

Let’s get to your training philosophy. How do you train your athletes?

Starting out, I want to take a couple of basic movements and see what athletes can do and how they move – squats, lunges, pushups, pull-ups, a lot of your basic bodyweight exercises. After a year or two, depending on how the athlete develops, we start moving into different variations of the squat. Typically we stick with the box squat, but we might do a safety squat bar, or instead of benching, we might do floor pressing, or some different variations of that. So it really depends on the athlete, and how the athlete is developing. I still think it’s important to stick with some of the sport movements, the single-leg movements, really focusing on the injuries that are prominent in that sport.

For example, my swimmers are constantly doing shoulder rehab work, upper back work and lat work, really focusing on the area around the shoulders. With my soccer players, we’re working on preventing any knee, ankle and hip injuries, doing a lot of posterior chain stuff – glute-hams, reverse hypers, back raises. I’d say the exercises we use are typical of the Westside type of training, but it’s low key, and it’s toned down a notch, because a lot of the athletes we get coming in are really low level and really haven’t had a lot of experience, so unless you’re talking about the football team or even the wrestling team – kids who may have had some experience coming out of high school – the majority of the athletes we get don’t have any, so I think it’s really important to start them off on a basic level with your basic exercises teaching them good technique first, and then building off of that.

What does Elite Fitness Systems mean to you and your program?

EFS is a company that we have a long standing relationship with. Having known Dave for almost 8 years now, I know his company is one we can trust. Our program goes to EFS for almost all of our equipment needs. And our staff goes to EFS for educational reasons too. Elite's Q&A staff is so extensive that we are using the site to learn from the different lifters and coaches that are featured. I think it's important to learn from all avenues in the strength field, and Dave provides a wide variety of people to learn from.

What’s your advice for anyone looking to break into the industry?

The biggest thing with people that want to get into this field, what they need to do is to get in with anybody they can to start off. They can volunteer, whether it’s at a high school, a college, even a private place – get your foot in the door by getting in some volunteer hours. If you’re studying it and majoring in it, try to get in some hours at the weight room of your school. If you’re getting you masters degree, try to get a grad assistantship with a school that has a good strength program and has good strength coaches. I think that’s the biggest thing – getting in as many volunteer or internship hours as you can.

Talk to people at different levels. Sometimes we get stuck on only talking to people of the same philosophy as us, but I think it’s important to talk to people who have different philosophies. So if you’re a conjugate training person, talk to someone who does Olympic lifting, or talk to someone who does functional training. Even though you may not agree on everything, you may be able to pick up different things and develop your own style of coaching. By no means do I do everything the same way that Louie Simmons would or that Buddy Morris would, but I’ve picked up things from every single coach I’ve talked with and worked with, and I’ve developed things that I believe work, and my own style of coaching that I think really helps the athletes I work with.