Rob Madden focused on his physiotherapy career goals, and his determination was rewarded – he is now professional boxing champ Anthony Joshua’s physio, and F1 driver Lance Stroll’s performance coach! We caught up with the Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist to discuss working with AJ, fight week, routine, workouts, bulking-up, mental health and mindset.
Rob Madden Interview By Ben Farrin
Hi Rob, firstly thank you for your time. I’m really interested to hear from you. Maybe you could start by letting us know how you got into the coaching and physio industry?
Thanks for speaking to me, it’s a pleasure. At the age of 16 I was torn between following my passion for human movement and anatomy or music. I decided to gear my A-levels towards studying physiotherapy at university. Later on, I went on to further study into strength and conditioning and other aspects of health and fitness.
You work alongside pro boxer Anthony Joshua as his physio – how did you land such a brilliant job?
I was working at the Centre for Health and Human Performance and my close colleague Dr Mike Loosemore introduced me to Joshua as he was starting his pro career in 2013.
What’s it like working with AJ and can you give us any insights into his preparation before a fight?
AJ is an incredible individual and certainly one of the most positive and hard work people I have ever met in my life. There is a great team surrounding him and working with him is very enjoyable. He is always thankful for the support he has and is a great team player. Preparation before a fight comes down to making sure he gets enough rest and good quality nutrition and his body feels fresh. Generally, all of the hard boxing training gets done prior to fight week but he will do a few sessions on the pads to sharpen up closer to the night.
Can you tell us what the journey has been like as you’ve been working with him since 2013? Is it all health and fitness related or have you enjoyed any crazy times with the champ after any of his victories?
Some incredible moments for sure! There is naturally a real professionalism surrounding AJ but we all get on really well and he also has an amazing group of friends and family. We have had some great dinners together celebrating the victories but the truth is even after a fight we don’t leave the venue until about 3/4am so everyone is just about ready for bed then! AJ doesn’t really drink much alcohol or party hard; he loves to be around friends and family and enjoy some good food and laughs. Sometimes the odd game of poker and I generally take his money!
AJ lost his previous fight against Oleksandr Usyk but the rematch is on! What are you going to focus on doing differently, if anything at all, for the next fight?
Really that will be up to him and his coaching team to work out. The medical performance team will reflect on what went well last time and what we can do better to keep him at his best.
What would you say are the most important things to consider when bulking up? Can you give any specific muscle exercises or tips?
There are 2 main factors that hold equal weight of importance:
- There needs to be a large enough strength training stimulus throughout the week / month from a balance of both heavy loads (e.g., 80% 1 rep max at 5 reps x 5 sets) and also enough reps and sets (hypertrophy training e.g., 12 reps x 6 sets @ 70% 1RM).
- There needs to be enough carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats in the diet. As a rule of thumb, there should be a minimum of 1.5 x body weight in protein in grams. So, if you are a 70kg male looking to gain 3-4kg of lean muscle mass then you need at least 100g of protein a day. This is best spread out across 3-4 meal portions (1 of which could be a protein shake).
Heavy lifting and hypertrophy work can be confusing for gym goers. Both are important. Heavier lifting of big muscle groups such as the deadlift, back squat and chin-up will evoke a spike in testosterone and growth hormone levels which are important when wanting to gain strength and lean muscle mass. Hypertrophy allows muscles to be repeatedly overloaded causing micro-damage and repair which over time adds cross-sectional area of new fibres.
One of the best online resources to learn more about all thing’s strength training is here: https://sandcresearch.medium.com/what-is-muscle-growth-and-how-does-it-happen-b7f7cd68ee34
You helped incorporate Pulseroll massage products into AJ’s recovery routine. Are you able to talk about vibration technology and the benefits it has on the body?
Foam rollers have been around for years and recently we have seen increasing popularity in massage guns. We have been using Pulseroll’s range of brilliant products for several years now and it forms part of AJ’s warm up and cool down as well as on recovery days. By adding vibration to your rolling routine this adds over 20% extra benefit on increasing range of motion. You can find out more here: https://pulseroll.com/blogs/blog/what-is-foam-roller-why-use-it
You’re also Lance Stroll’s performance coach! You must live an extremely interesting and jam-packed life! Can you give us an insight into the top qualities required to make it as a Formula 1 driver?
It is a busy job but I share the role with one other coach which helps offload from some of the crazy travel! F1 drivers are extremely fit. They must be able to withstand high G forces in the neck and core as well as have strong fit cardio-vascular fitness. This high level of fitness is not only important for the stress of a race but also the stress of constant travel around the world. F1 drivers obviously need many years of high-level experience in other smaller racing cars before they can step into the high demands of an F1 car.
What kind of work is it you do as Lance Stroll’s performance coach? How much is fitness and strength related versus mindset for example?
My main focus is on keeping him physically fit and healthy. We work all year long but in the off season is where we do a lot of our harder pushing work (Dec – Feb). During the season when you have back-to-back races it can be harder to get a lot of training in and you also have to prioritise rest after races and long flights. So, all year round it is a balance of pushing and resting and trying to stay on track to deliver week in and week out.
In terms of your own mental health, outside of work, what do you do to maintain a healthy mind and how often do you keep fit yourself?
Great question! There have been times in my career where I have worked far too hard and not prioritised my own health, leading to burn out or illness. With clients, I always refer to 4 pillars of health; physical, mental, nutrition and recovery / sleep. So, I do my best to maintain as best a routine in each one. When it comes to mental health specifically, I do not meditate right now but I do really think it helps. ‘Mindful activity’ is important to me where I do not look at my phone or think about work. Normally I achieve this mindful state if I am doing one of my hobbies such as playing golf, snowboarding or poker and definitely when I am outdoors with my daughter. My advice to everyone, would be to always have some part of your day detached from technology. Even if it is for 10 minutes, but ideally a minimum of 1 hour is best.
They say for success you should surround yourself with positive people. Who are the top 3 positive people in your life?
My wife, my daughter and my best friend.
As a final question, what one piece of advice would you offer to students who dream to land their dream job?
Set yourself 1 clear goal and it does not matter how big it is. Find a mentor (this could be a parent, a lecturer, a business person or a person you look up to). Together, carefully and meticulously work out the steps you would need to take to work your way up to this dream job. Stay positive and always believe in yourself and you can achieve great things. Life is never plain sailing and will always bring challenges and
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