Alex is a competitive athlete, gym owner, educator and head strength & conditioning coach for Red Schafer MMA in Milwaukee. When it comes to getting fighters and grapplers prepared to compete, Alex has a clear understanding of what to do, why and coordinates well with the athlete & skill coaches involved. He works with a variety of fighters and grapplers and discusses his strategies and methods for preparing each athlete in today’s podcast.
In This Episode We Discuss:
- Interning as a Strength Coach
- Starting his own performance training facility
- Managing the Amateur and Pro Fighters at Red Schafer MMA
- Individualizing Workouts for each fighter
- Optimizing training schedules
- Communicating and Coordinating with skill coaches
- Assessing the athlete on a daily basis
- Structuring the best workout for each athlete.
- and more!
Alex Rosencutter is the owner of Rosencutter Ultra Fitness and Performance (Wauwatosa, Wis.) and a strength and conditioning coach at Greendale High School (Greendale, Wis.). He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with an emphasis in strength and conditioning and a minor in nutrition. Rosencutter is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength & Conditioning Association; a Certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition; and a Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Stay in touch w/ Alex on Instagram –> @alexrosencutter
Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Alex Rosencutter:
COREY: Hey guys, this is Corey Beasleywith Fight Camp Conditioning. And today I’m on the phone with Alex Rosencutter. Alex, how’re you doing?
ALEX: I’m good Corey, it’s great to be here. I’m a big fan of the show and listen quite a bit. So it’s great to be here.
COREY: Awesome man. Well guys, Alex is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, up there in the cold states, but actually we were introduced by Matt Gifford who’s up in that area. And Matt had nothing but good things to say. But he says you’re working with quite a few of the fighters in that area and you’re doing a great job. So we’re eager to kind of learn from you and hear more about what you got going on.
ALEX: Yeah, absolutely..
COREY: Go ahead. I mean, just give us a little like, two cents of who you are and what you do?
ALEX: Yeah, cool. So I’m a kind of wearing multiple hats at a time but the main hat I wear is I am the owner and head strength conditioning coach for Rosencutter Ultra Fitness and Performance which is a semi private [incomprehensible] performance training facility that I have here in Milwaukee. And within that hat I also serve as the head strength conditioning coach for Red Schafer MMAup here where I serve a team of amateur and professional MMA fighters here in the Milwaukee area.
COREY: Nice. So I mean, how long you’ve been training?
ALEX: Yes, I’ve been a known in and strength conditioning field for about the last seven or eight years. And it’s kind of taken me from quite a few different spectrums of the industry, I was [inaudible] and kind of bare bones, getting your skin in the game in terms of working at a public facility and kind of building up clientele.
I started the business back in2013, which started with around 10 clients and has fully blossomed year by year and has grown. And the way I kind of got started with MMA athletes initially was having a woman by the name of Leah Letson, coming to my facility after an ACL surgery, looking to get back into making her professional debut, that’s kind of where I got started and then it just kind of blossomed and trickled down from there so to speak.
COREY: Nice. Now when you get started her I mean [distortion] talking about getting turned into fire. ACL is no joke. But I mean, that’s kind of a common theme from what I hear, you know, people get introduced to somebody or have previous relationships with guys that they compete with, but you do a good job with one person and everybody talks. So if you’re doing a good job, and people come in, it must — speaks of what you’re doing.
ALEX: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of about what you know and word of mouth and that’s the biggest way I’ve kind of grown the business so to speak today and have built the relationships that I’ve built up to this point is, you put your work in and do right by the person and hopefully it trickles down to getting your name out there and doing more work with more people.
COREY: I know you said you’ve been training for about eight years. How did you start? I mean, where did you get your education and people you learned from, that type of stuff?
ALEX: Yeah, so I got my education, a little bit from Clark Universityon [incomprehensible] and then University of Wisconsin-Milwaukeehere in Milwaukee. And so my background is in kinesiology, exercise scienceas well as Nutritional Sciencesfrom those two schools. And when I was at Clark, I served as — I got a little bit of an interactive experience with the strength coach there and then from there, my brother, Nick, he’s actually in the industry as well. He kind of introduced me to some things and I did some work with him. And then guys who have served as a real big influence, at least in my career in terms of learning from them, and then guys like Mike Robertson, Joel Jamieson, the [incomprehensible] of the world, etc, that it kind of really shaped my mindset in terms of how I view training. But yeah, that’s how I got my start, like I said, initially, kind of went out on my own in the public facility standpoint and grew and developed a clientele from there and made a name for myself and now I’m here x years later, owning a facility with well over 100 clients and managing a MMA team as well. It’s been great.
COREY: Nice. Now, what was the girl’s name that you said you started out with that came in that you helped with ACL?
ALEX: That’s Leah Letson, she’s actually participants on the Ultimate Fighter Arena as well.
COREY: Nice. So when she walked in the door and then that obviously through word of mouth led you to fight team that you’re also helping out with. Right?
ALEX: Yeah. So what happened was, Coen Samy working with Leah at that time I mean this is back in 2013-2014 I think. I was also helping out a couple of local jujitsu coaches kind of get over some injuries and they eventually, you know, my work with them eventually led them to referring other competitors and fighters my way as well and it just kind of snowballed from there. And like I said, you have success with one person and it kind of trickles into other areas and bringing more people to your door.
So, the way that kind of happened was the two coaches that I worked with around here in the area, they had some injuries going on and I was able to get them healthy while nobody else really could. And then that kind of trickled into a relationship with Kali “Poptart” Robbins, she’s a Invicta FC athlete, and my relationship with her trickled into meeting Red Schafer, who is a all time UFC guy and he has his own facility out here pretty nice, where he works with a stable of fighters and competitive grapplers and my work with him kind of trickled into hey, we want you to do this for you all of our guys, can we make that happen?
ALEX: So we go over there certain hours every week and run the programming on an individualized scale basis for each competitive fighter, whether amateur professional or even some of their competitive grapplers as well on a weekly basis.
COREY: Cool. Now when you meet — initially when you went into that school and you said roughly, I mean, how many athletes are we talking about here in this facility on that team?
ALEX: On that team that I work with — on that team, I’d say we work with — it’s not as big of a team. So we work with about on any given basis throughout the week about 10 to 15 guys and girls.
COREY: Okay, cool. So you walk in the door, you got 10 to 15 new faces.
COREY: Where do you start?
ALEX: Yeah, so the nice thing with that is that initially, we will — so I don’t believe in kind of grouping people up in terms of what it is they’re doing. If I have the capability to scale things individually for the person, I’m always going to do that. So we’ll have him come in for an initial evalat the facility actually, and we’ll run it through a series of tests looking at things such as joint range of motions and strength, weaknesses, muscular imbalances, and I will look at their movement and then their athletic capacities and capabilities. And then from there, we’re kind of determining and working with the skill coaches, MMA coaches, as well as what their schedule is, you know, a lot of these guys and girls, they’re working jobs on top of their training too, in between fights.
ALEX: So, it creates that on top of their training aspect in terms of their MMA work, skill work, technical work, along with fitting in three to four strength sessions on top of all that is tedious, can be a challenging thing.
So, the first day what we are always trying to do is communicate with the coaches, but along with the athlete as well to ensure that, hey, we have the right amount of stimulus in terms of programming throughout the entire week, and it’s not leaving anything of overtraining, they’re still able to recover. So after our assessment, we’re kind of laying all those details in a place in terms of all right, well, here’s how we’re going to structure our training on a weekly basis. And that’s your arcade, you got a fight in eight weeks.
Well, here’s how we’re going to kind of structure things in terms of creating the right adaptation that we want to be able to see moving forward, up until fight time. And then on the flip side of that, looking at well how to recover — how do we initiate the recovery process coming out of that fight in terms of being able to have good recovery but then also think about the long term game in terms of I we’re going to be able to have our next prep you know, come at this cycle, obviously doesn’t always work as clean as that we are dealing with a cyclical season right it’s there’s no offseason or in-season or anything of that nature, it’s purely cyclical. You might sometimes get a queen eight to 12 weeks with somebody or something is fully scheduled or might just be popped up where it’s like hey two weeks we gotta go.
So it’s constantly being able to manage from the assessments, kind of what we’re looking at, and then how do we implement those factors that we find during their evaluation to say, here’s how we’re going to structure the training.
COREY: Right on. Now most of these guys and girls are training, how many times a day?
ALEX: At least two to three in a minimum sometimes four on a maximum. So every once in a while, you’re going to get something you might be doing on a workout a day but that’s very rare. So, one thing I should say is that I have aracer mentality, so what I mean by that is, I can be like, Pablo Picasso and create the finest program that I feel like has all the variables I need to have it, it’s the best program I’ve ever made. I think as coaches we often want to try to have that perfectionist approach in terms of what it is we’re putting together on pen and paper, but when they’re first walking in, the first thing that I’m looking at them is like, okay, well, how are they? How are they greeting me? What’s their body language and what’s their energy level and [inaudible] throughout their warm up process. And right there, I can kind of tell what they’re going to be ready for on any given day. And then on the flip side of that technology wise I’ll have each of our guys utilizing HRP technology, whether it’s through Morpheusor bio forceor omega wave, to keep track of their sympathetic, parasympatheticstandpoint in terms of their recovery.
So just based on those two together in combination, I can kind of get a real good idea in terms of what it is they’re going to need for the day or whether or not we need to back off of anything that we have laid out in our training,
COREY: You know, girls and guys, the athletes that you train and that have Red Schafer, how many times or days are you guys training?
ALEX: So we’re working with them specifically hands on, maybe two to three times a week, but then it also comes to the understanding that they have off time work, such as maybe some energy system development workthat they need to be doing on their own time, and other one to two times per week on their own as well. And we make that through communication understood in terms of, they have the knowledge from the standpoint of what they need to execute and why they need to execute it.
COREY: So you’re in there. I mean, you’re in there two to three days a week, but you’re at their facility. Is that right?
ALEX: Yeah, yeah. So we go into their facility and in some cases, if I’m not working with somebody Red Schafer, or if it’s a fighter from another school or team or whatever it might be, or even sometimes the Red Schafer guys based on the schedule, they’ll come in over into my facility and work with us there as well. So just kind of depends on the time of day we make it work for them.
COREY: But it’s a big advantage. I mean, the fact that you’re going into their facility, the coaches I mean, are the skill coaches around? Are they participating with you guys? I mean, that’s big.
ALEX: No but there is a lot of [inaudible] you know, communicate whatever needs to be communicated to them and they can do the same with us and allow them to be able to keep things on the same page versus, you know, I work with a guy called Rufus sport up here and I’ve worked with a few people from a couple other schools around here too. And the biggest obstacle is having that communication and that line to speak with the MMA coaches and school coaches to say, Hey, here’s what we got going on and checking what you guys got going on because we need to be able to mix and match from a strength and conditioning performance standpoint with what they’re having from a technical standpoint to ensure that they have the adaptation that we’re seeking.
ALEX: So it definitely makes the communication aspect much easier, being able to go in there and being able to talk with Red and talk with the other coaches as well. So it’s good to get that feedback.
COREY: Yeah, absolutely, from all the coaches and stuff that I’ve talked with over the years, that’s a big issue across the board, it’s just having those communication lines open, and being able to communicate effectively and efficiently and what these kids are doing and how hard and how much and all the different factors that come into play, because typically, everybody’s not under one roof. And everybody’s got their own game plan, and kids just end up in the middle get squished. So that’s cool that you have that relationship with Red Schafer and his staff, because I imagine that makes a big impact on his athletes.
ALEX: Yeah, I think it definitely does. We all try to have the best outlook for who we’re working with, right? We try to think and there’s evolving mindset in terms of working as a team with other conditions, whether it’s in the performance setting or as well as coaches, and that shift is being made away from it’s my way or the highwaytype of an old school approach. Right?
So, yeah, in certain cases, when you’re working off site with somebody, and you don’t get to speak face to face or over the phone, or through email with the MMA coaches, and they might not be responsive to what you’re trying to do and it’s not just for MMA, it’s for all sports, and it comes with the understanding that the coach too is probably thinking they have the best outlook for the athlete as well and they’re being an advocate for them more than anything else. And but it comes down to the standpoint of how do we break that barrier down and improve the communication between our strength conditioning coaches, along with technical coaches or skills coaches and how do we break that barrier down in order to improve not only the strength conditioning side of things but also the athletic components of things as well, within the sport.
So I think that’s moving in a positive direction and so we’re going to continue to do so. Yeah, I can definitely say that I have a beneficial setup at this point.
COREY: That’s cool. That’s good to hear. I mean, that’s not always the case, but I’m starting to hear it more and more. And I think that a lot more of the coaches they are pulling people together, educating and giving people information and I think the more that we do that on an individual basis, like you’re doing with your coach, your team and your athletes and stuff, but also from kind of a global perspective, I guess, so to speak where, we were able to go to UF CPI in June and they brought, I don’t know 40, 50 coaches in and skill coaches, strength coaches, everybody and everybody gets to hang out, get to know each other and I think that the more they do that, the more it will help because everybody it does become more like a professional team where they have a variety of different coaches all coordinating for the best interest of that athlete. So that’s cool. That’s good to hear. So I mean, so you said you see your guys and girls two to three days a week on average. When they are coming and after all the eval and stuff like that, when they come in for a workout, I know every workout is going to be a little bit different. Each person has a little bit different goals, but from a 40,000 foot view, I guess, so to speak, what’s the average workout look like? They walk in the door. Where do you start?
ALEX: Yeah, so the first thing they’re going to come in is, I have a philosophy that whenever they’re first coming in, they’re always going to be starting with some type of corrective work. So what I mean by that is, their dynamic warm up is going to entail things such as some soft tissue mobility release workwith like SMR, foam rollers, lacrosse balls, Tiger tail, that type of stuff to inhibit any possibly overactive tissue that might be limiting movement and performance.
And then I kind of combine my corrective exercise techniques along with thePRI methodstandpoint. So, the first thing you’re going to start with, like I said is the SMR work and then they’re going to go into some PRI drills that are working on breathing, positioning the pelvis and a rib cage and the diaphragm and activity of the diaphragm in order to reset their position and the posture.
And then after that standpoint, they’re going to move into some more dynamic workthat’s focusing on getting specific areas activated and turned on that might not necessarily be the case for the given athlete as well as to shut some areas off that might be needed for the athletes and then getting them into more dynamic based movements to get their heart rate up, their core temperature up and introduce some difference in terms of planes of motion what they’re going to be looking at for that given day. So that’s kind of what their warm up looks like. And it will last by anywhere from about 15 minutes or so.
And then right after that, they’re going to move into some power reactive work. So I think the one thing that a lot of times the coaches, when we think about power reactive we think about like one direction. However, when we look at what having a spore, we also need to think about transverse plane. So, they’re typically loading up with some transverse plane power development work with some med ball rotational drills, or that’s from the standpoint of being able to stabilize against the rotation or actually producing it in different positions. So they’re working on that stretch shortening cycle, around the anterior lateral corethere to work in developing that power output and the way they load it and produce it from a biomechanics standpoint to help improve carrying over into their striking.
And then after that point, after they’re done with their power reactive work, they’re going into their strength work, and then their energy systems work. And then after all that, that will kind of bring it back down into some PRI workand some SMR workto kind of kick-start the recovery process. So that when they’re going into their workouts for the next day, we have a much greater influence and impact on how they’re walking out a session and they’re not all jacked up from what they just did there, you know, starting to reestablish that vagal toneand that parasympathetic responsein order to kick-start their next day, and then keep their training moving forward.
So that’s kind of what an average session typically looks like but, like I said, depending on a given day, we might have to use that [inaudible] strength and go in a completely different route.
COREY: That happens all the time.
COREY: But the one thing that caught me and I want to make sure everybody’s clear on it is you did mention the PRI work that you do in the beginning and end of each session. Can you explain that a little bit more, so everybody’s on the same page?
ALEX: Yeah, for those that aren’t familiar with PRI, it’s the postural restoration Institute and their viewpoint is working around the whole process of breathing and breathing like anything else is actual movement.And over time with faulty movement patterns, faulty postural patterns and positioning, we can get out of alignment. And then our breathing suffers because we can have spent time in favorite positions that allow us to move a little bit more efficiently or allow us to breathe air in, whether or not that’s dysfunctional or not.
So the whole concept of PRI work is that we’re are utilizing different techniques to help reset posture and position and the functioning of the diaphragm in order to help them breathe, bringing in more hair more efficiently and more air out. But then also on the flip side of that being able to help them reposition and get neutral around their pelvis around the rib cage, which then therefore helps from a proximal but distal standpoint adjust the performance of what we’re going to be out putting.
And then on the flip side of that with the diaphragm, we’re also looking at the ability to control parasympathetic and sympathetic response. So it’s a really great tool because we think about it, you can stretch this you can inhibit that you can activate that. But it’s not really going to make a difference unless we take care of position first.
So, you know, a simple example might be we have, the athletes, they’re in a 90 90 position on their back with their feet flat up on the wall. And we might be teaching them how to properly inhale through their diaphragm and properly exhale by pushing on a balloon to get their internal obliques kicked on and directed it down is turned on and reset the rib position. So basically, what you’re doing in a nutshell is, getting the athlete neutral. And then from there, they’re going to have better performance and functioning and movement from that point. So they’re really really great coursework for any type of continuing education that coaches might be looking for, but that’s kind of what we’re looking at doing.
COREY: Cool. Awesome.
COREY: I mean, you got your school you got your guys you’re working with, you’re seeing those guys two or three days a week, coming in, you’re doing a good variety of different things depending on where they are at, making sure they’re staying healthy, but also performing at the highest levels. What are some things that that you’ve seen over the years working with these athletes that are maybe stepping stones or learning point and has the way your approach or has your approach changed over the last few years by having some experience? Like are there things you’re doing today that maybe you know, the things you did in the past that you don’t do anymore? Or vice versa?
ALEX: Yeah. Yeah. I think the biggest thing that I guess I’ll say is like it’s probably just a mishap that I see fighters typically making is that they’re trying to always push, push, push, push, push and drive themselves to the crown, and they are [inaudible] think that high intensity work has to be done all the time. Or they get more workouts. I used to kind of be in the mindset when I was younger that, hey, more stimulus is probably better, versus nowadays I’m really trying to look at, well, what are the adaptations that we are really going for? And then how do I communicate that to the athlete in terms of, hey, this is how it’s going to carry over and your performance not only in practice, but when you’re fighting that person in the [incomprehensible] right next year.
So, really what I try to do now is I try to look at it really from a microscopic standpoint. First in terms of central and peripheral factors. So what that might mean like, from a central standpoint, like if I’m working on oxygen transport and delivery, most of their conditioning is going to look at the standpoint of say like cardiac output workinvolving circuits or just a single movement, along with peripheral adaptations, which might be how the muscle tissue utilizes oxygen, which might be working on like their fast twitch fibersin the oxygenative capacity, other fast twitch fibers that’s going to be more peripheral.
So basically, I combine that from a strength standpoint, which might be working at repetition ranges of say, you know, 12 to 20, in combination with lower loading, and combine that with their energy systems work, which might be looking at cardiac output, so, and then I try to communicate that with the coaches in terms of, hey, these are the adaptation that we’re working on. We don’t like too much of competing demands. So how do we implement it there for them? And I think what I kind of want to bring this back to is like, if I’m touching, looking at something like this from a microscopic level, I’m stepping back and I’m communicating to the [inaudible] at macroscopic level, in terms of, hey, this is what this means, and this is how we need to do it, more isn’t necessarily good.
Sometimes you gotta be kind of going up, down, up, down and giving yourself the right amount of stress. And I try, I think the biggest thing that I’ve kind of changed my mindset on is that communication factor like how do I make that usable to the athlete? And how do I listen to them. So if they’re coming in and they’re super down, and their body language sucks, I’m not just going to do the workout, I’m going to explain to them, hey, we need to back off. And this is what we need to work on and why so I think it’s kind of two-fold. I’ve improved on the communication aspect of it to the athlete and what I’m trying to do with them, and then also being able to have that mentality of like, Hey, we don’t need to do this today, like we can back off and we can do something else and still get a lot of bang for our buck out of it.
COREY: So it sounds like you got a really good thing going out there in Milwaukee and you’re taking a very intelligent approach, not only from your training, but also just coordinating with the other coaches and really helping your athletes out at a very high level. For anybody that’s wanting to find out more about what you’re doing and stay in touch, what’s the best way for them to do that?
ALEX: Yes, they can go to any social media channel and just search my name Alex Rosencutter, and you’ll be able to find me there on Instagram. I’m mostly putting out a bunch of content throughout the week, whether it’s training related or anything related to training or nutrition. And then if you want to email me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn, start up a dialogue or you want to chat about something that’s cool, too.
COREY: Cool. And guys, I’ll be sure to put a lot of those links down below. So if you wanted to stay in touch with Alex, just click below and I’ll have all those links set up for you. And Alex, again, I appreciate the time and sharing the stuff like that and I look forward to hearing from you more.
ALEX: Hey Corey it’s great to be here man and I look forward to more talks in the future. Thanks.