- Head Coach at West Point in charge of Army Powerlifting since 2003
- NIKE Football and Sport Camp Coach
- SPARQ Top certified Speed Trainers and certified SPARQ Ratings Coach.
- Certified member of the Westside Barbell coaching staff
- Creator and head coach of the Ultimate Athlete Training Program
Coach Rick Scarpulla, creator of the Ultimate Athlete Training Program, is a highly sought after and hugely successful coach working with and training top athletes on a daily basis. He is considered by many as one of the nation’s best in the field. As both athlete and coach, Coach Scarpulla has studied under and is affiliated with some of the world’s top speed and strength coaches and athletes — from the youngest athletes all the way up to Olympians and NFL professionals and more — for over 30 years. He still studies daily to continue to improve his education and is always striving to improve his knowledge and skills.
Coach Scarpulla shared with us his insights into CrossFit and the importance of a primary focus on training as an athlete before becoming a specialist.
As an athlete, I have been a strength athlete for about thirty years and have been competitive for twenty-five of those years. I am still competing as a Master’s athlete in the 220-lb weight class. Although I have not competed in the last year and a half, hopefully in the spring I will be back again. With gear, my bench is around 600lbs, and my raw bench is at 440 lb. That’s at a bodyweight of 206.
As a coach, this is my 11th year as the head coach of the Army PowerLifting team at West Point. I am a certified Nike/SPARQ coach, and I am also a certified Westside Barbell coach. I am lucky to have been working with athletes all day every day for the las 15+ years at my Training Center in Orange County, New York — one of the top Training Centers on the East Coast.
I also do lots of work with the Special Olympics, working on powerlifting and training. Athletics has given me so much in my own life, so it is very important to me to give back to other communities as well.
This is a good story, actually. It was a few years ago when Louie Simmons [of Westside Barbell] called me up to tell me that he was doing some powerlifting certifications for CrossFit. He tells me, “It’s all the kind of stuff that you’re doing…” At first I was thinking that it was something like Insanity or P90-X, and he said, “Not really.”
Many people — including myself — think my Ultimate Athlete program is absolutely the best program for functional CrossFit training.
At my facility we call “met-cons” warrior training. There was a strong CrossFitter who visited us and told us we should rename our warrior training “death-cons.” True story.
You need to become an athlete FIRST, and then become a sport-specific performer, such as a CrossFitter, a football player, a soccer player, a swimmer. You will perform better if you focus on athleticism first, then sport-specific skills.
So for example, let’s say we had 200 athletes and wanted to test them in strength, speed, agility, endurance, reaction, and whatever other physical tests we can think of. If we took the top 10 athletes out of the 200 and had them compete against the bottom 10, the top 10 will always win. Why? Because they are better athletes. Athletes are built, not born.
Every single sport practices situational play — you don’t play the whole game over and over at practices. Baseball players work on turning a double play from third base; football linebackers practice dropping into coverage in the flat; swimmers work the start off the blocks. CrossFitters need to approach the game similarly and work “situational” parts of their training to practice a start, middle, and a finish.
You have to work on becoming a better athlete in order to become a better CrossFitter, no question whatsoever. If you are faster, stronger, more agile, and have better endurance, your CrossFit performance will increase.