Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


Starting Strength Athletes: IRT Professional Robbie Collins

An Interview

by Jared Nessland, SSC | August 20, 2019

robbie collins racquetball photograph kevin savory

[photograph by Kevin Savory, KSphotography, used with permission]

Robbie tell us a little about yourself and your racquetball career:

I am 28 years old, born and raised in Makakilo, HI. I got into racquetball through my parents. They started playing racquetball with the other neighborhood parents when I was about 6 years old. The parents would take turns taking the kids to the park so the others could play. Eventually the other parents stopped playing and I started hanging around the courts. I officially started playing at 10 years old and played my first tournament at 11.

I played racquetball all through middle school and high school along with soccer, cross country, and golf. I continued to play competitive golf and racquetball into college, and during my sophomore year of college decided to pursue competitive racquetball exclusively. My goal was not to be a pro, but to see how good I could become. After graduating from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2012, I started my pro career in 2013. I have been ranked as high as 9 in the world and currently sit 20th on the International Racquetball Tour. I am going into my seventh full time season on tour.

What do you see other players on the IRT tour doing for training?

The general training methods I see other players using on tour are bodybuilding, functional training, and CrossFit. A handful of them have managed to get strong and powerful through CrossFit, but some of these have dealt with injuries as well.

What is your training background and how did you come across Starting Strength?

I began lifting weights in high school. The varsity soccer coaches showed us the squat, bench, and power clean my freshman year in high school. Like any good freshman I did that for about a month and stopped. After that I would do some leg presses, dumbbell work, push-ups, and pull-ups during high school because, of course, that was better than barbell work. Our star soccer player hurt his back doing deadlifts during my sophomore year and none of us were ever going to do that!

I continued to do more of the same through college until my senior year when I went to a racquetball camp in Stockton, CA. There was a group of young pros all around my age that were helping coach the camp and then training together at the end of the day. I asked if I could jump in one day, and after that workout I knew that if I wanted to compete at a pro level I needed a more structured off-court training.

I went home and started training at a local strength and conditioning facility where I was doing some barbell work and a lot of single-leg work. I continued to go there every offseason for my first 5 years on tour. The problem was that I was living in California during the long pro-racquetball season (September-May) and I was not training the same way for the other 9 months of the year.

I first came across Starting Strength in late 2013 after seeing a squat tutorial from Rip on YouTube. While I was doing squats and deadlifts in my workouts, no one had ever really taught me how to do them properly. This started my journey into barbell training.

robbie collins raquetball photography by kevin savory

[photograph by Kevin Savory, KSphotography, used with permission]

What drew you to Starting Strength?

After watching more videos and reading articles on Starting Strength, I bought Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training and Practical Programming for Strength Training. The way everything was laid out made so much sense to me. It was the first time I saw training logically explained. I went through an LP on the Squat, Deadlift and Bench. Like every very smart athlete I didn’t do the program (incline bench instead of Press and rows or RDL instead of power clean, since I was very smart and training at a commercial gym), but in spite of that still got a lot stronger, and I had the best stretch of my career to that point. I was sold.  I have kept up with everything related to Starting Strength ever since.

Why did you decide to do online coaching?

After that season I continued to strength train and have more success on the court, but I began to run into problems. I didn’t know how to program for myself after running out of novice gains and beginning intermediate programming. I started to use a HLM program based on Bill Starr’s book The Strongest Shall Survive, but it only took me so far and I didn’t know where to go from there. I was also starting to incorporate some Olympic lift variants, and after those novice gains I definitely didn’t know where to go.

At that point I began to look online for coaches in my area. After looking through the SS directory I saw a name that was familiar to me: Jared Nessland. I had met Jared at a racquetball tournament a couple years before but had no idea he was a Strength and Conditioning coach, let alone an SSC. I emailed him on the spot and eventually went up to Sacramento to see him. He helped give me some programming ideas and helped with my technique in my lifts. In fact, the first time I went to see him I hit an effortless PR on my power clean with his coaching.

I continued to make some progress through that next season, but another season went by I realized I needed more direct coaching. I asked Jared if he could help program my entire off-season and in-season training, as not only was he an SSC and a Division 1 strength and conditioning coach, but he also played racquetball. He agreed, and off we went.

What has been your experience with Starting Strength and online coaching as an athlete? How has it improved your game? What have you noticed on the court?

There are 3 things I expect from my off-court work for racquetball:

  1. Injury prevention/avoidance
  2. Hitting the ball harder
  3. Moving faster on the court

With Jared’s coaching and the SS method I had the best season of my career. Jared was able to help me have my best offseason ever and set PRs in every lift going into the season. Then in season, he was able to program for me so that I could continue to inch forward my training utilizing plus sets and setting rep PRs so that by the end of the season I was stronger and more powerful than I was at the beginning. Hitting the ball harder makes all the difference on the court.

What were your PRs prior to starting online coaching and what are they now?

LiftPost 1st run LP (Jan 2015) Prior to Starting Online Coaching (May 2018) Current

Squat

275x5

315x5

355x5; 360x3x3

Deadlift

315x5

335x5

375x5

Bench Press

175x5

195x3

195x8

Press

Didn’t do

135x3

135x5x5,127.5x5x5

Power Clean

Didn’t do

176x1

205x1

Bodyweight

170

175

176-180

robbie collins racquetball photograph by kevin savory

[photograph by Kevin Savory, KSphotography, used with permission]

During our end-of-the-year review meeting, one thing that stuck out to me that you mentioned was that the past year of training will allow you switch racquets (going from the 165T to 170T) for next season. Can you explain that to the readers and the significance and what you can expect with the change in equipment?        

Using a heavier racquet will give me more power in all my strokes. Being physically able to swing that racquet the entire season was a concern at the start of my last season, so I decided on the lighter one. I loved playing with the lighter one, but knew I was sacrificing some power on my forehands, backhands, and drive serves (a strength of my game). With the amount of work I’ve put into the weight room with Jared I'm confident my game will thrive with the heavier racquet.

Your season starts in September and runs through the end of May. You have tournaments every 3-4 weeks. Tell the readers what a normal tournament week looks like, and what a week (and day) looks like during a non-tournament week.

During a normal tournament week, Monday is my strength training session. Usually power cleans or snatches, lighter squats or 5x3 speed squats, and bench or press and a pull. Other than the squat none of the other lifts really get much lighter. This gets me feeling my best come tournament time on Thursday.

A normal week looks like:

  • Monday – Strength training session 
  • Tuesday – Drill for ~1 hour
  • Wednesday – Travel day (try and hit on courts upon arriving)
  • Thursday – Tournament Starts, Round of 64 in the afternoon, Round of 32 in evening
  • Friday – Round of 16 in the morning and Quarterfinals in the evening
  • Saturday – Semifinals (morning or evening depending on tournament)
  • Sunday – Finals (if not Saturday night) and always a travel day

The most challenging thing for me has been playing two matches on Thursday – being in good enough shape to play a match, have a short recovery, then play a much tougher draw a few hours later. Then having a short turnaround (usually playing well into the evening, recovering, finding food, getting back to the motel really late at night, etc.) and having a very tough draw in the round of 16 the next morning. Due to my current ranking, this is usually a top 8 player in the world and usually the number 2 player in the World.

During a non-tournament week or block, I will lift 3 days a week. All the basic lifts get done during the season. This keeps me performing my best the entire year. If I can string 2-3 weeks of training together, I know I can make some improvement during the season. If I have a bunch of tournaments, then it’s a matter of maintaining the intensity in the off weeks, staying patient, and waiting for the next string of weeks to put a training block together. It looks like:

  • Mon/Wed/Fri – Morning strength training, evening drill session (30 minutes – 1 hour)
  • Tue/Thu – Morning footwork and drill session (1 hour minimum), evening play
  • Sat/Sun – One day on court and one day of rest

This gives me around 7 sessions with the racquet in my hand. If I’m feeling particularly beat up I’ll take both Saturday and Sunday off, or Thursday and a weekend day off. Throughout these weeks I’m also on the court teaching lessons, which is one of my primary avenues of income.

Speaking of income, is it possible to make a full time living playing professional racquetball?

Only 2 or 3 of the top guys can really make a living only playing racquetball, and it’s not lucrative by professional sports standards. When I was first starting out, one of my coaches told me I had the talent to play on tour, but if I wanted to do it full time I was going to have to hustle. This means going to all the Pro stops, getting some sponsors, doing camps and clinics and demos, selling products from my racquet sponsor. You really need to string together 4 or 5 different revenue streams to make it work.  It’s never been truer than right now, with the state of the game of racquetball. I also teach lessons and coach the Junior program to help supplement my income.

What are some of your goals for the upcoming year?

Continue the work I am putting into the weight room with Jared and on the court with my coach Jim Winterton and with my mindset coach Adam Saucedo. I have some specific weight room goals that I would like to hit before the season starts and some on-court goals, but I’m going to keep those to myself at this time.

Any closing thoughts or anyone you would like to thank?

Racquetball is an extremely underrated sport. My hope after reading this article is that you go to your local gym, bring your friends and family, and give the sport a try. You will not be disappointed. Lastly, I would like to thank my sponsors Gearbox Racquetball and the Reaching Your Dream Foundation for supporting my racquetball career.


Robbie Collins is a professional racquetball player living in San Jose, CA. You can follow all the action on the International Racquetball Tour on Facebook and/or Youtube page where all Pro stops are streamed live. You can follow him on Instagram @theycallmebubba. If you are interested in sponsoring Robbie, you can email him at: RC101190@aol.com

Discuss in Forums




Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.