Interview with Adrian Rothenbühler

11. February 2020

He normally stays in the background when his athletes strive for success. However, following Mujinga Kambundji’s great success at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, he, too, was caught in the spotlight. Adrian Rothenbühler won the award for «Trainer of the year».

What does this award mean to you? Can you give us insights into your thoughts and emotions?

It’s a somewhat lengthy story: when I was informed that I was among the selected 10, I first needed to get used to the idea because this was something I definitely hadn’t expected. It was then important for me to clarify with the people in charge as what term I would use in the race for this title. We thus agreed on the terms coach/consultant to Mujinga Kambundji and not trainer. When I finally learned that it was quite certain I would make it into the first three, I started to come to terms with the title and look forward to the evening.

For me, the award is gratification and recognition for that which I have achieved over the last 10 years. Not only with Mujinga, who served as a kind of door opener here, but with many other athletes. It was such a great pleasure to be honoured at the Sports Awards and to experience it with my wife.

You were a decathlete yourself and have now been a trainer for a good 15 years. How would you describe your training philosophy?

My training philosophy places the focus quite clearly on people. Not only the athlete, but the person and their environment are of interest to me. This is why I cannot coach everyone, because it quite simply needs to fit together. In my case, this close relationship brings success, on the one hand, and the disadvantage of not being able to distance myself on the other.

In terms of the training-specific issues, I underwent the classic form of development: I initially thought you needed to train as much and as hard as possible. I know now that this is not the case, and it is far more a question of applying the principles of physiology. I therefore always consider which physiological adaptation I want to trigger and then set the appropriate training stimulus and specifically observe the necessary recovery time. I place particularly high weight on the latter, because we are constantly learning more about how the nervous system works and recovery is correspondingly important.



You coach athletes from different sports disciplines in strength training. In your eyes, what are the three most important keys that lead to success, regardless of the sport type?

  1. Strength is always required for each respective sport. I need to consider which areas need strength and then train these accordingly, to ensure I can run faster, throw further or jump higher.
  2. Strength training is always associated with long-term development. I therefore need to think about what I want to trigger at which point in time and what I need to do on the way to the goal, to ensure I can even achieve this.
  3. You have to understand the type of sport to know what it needs. I need to consider, among other things, at which angles and for how long the power needs to be produced and design the training accordingly.

Strength is fundamentally an important success factor in sports. What should endurance athletes take heed of?

First and foremost, one myth needs be clarified: each athlete does their own strength endurance training in the target sport. For example, runners complete hill runs, and cyclists cycle up mountains. There are then two trainable aspects: muscle performance (maximum strength) and protection against occurring forces (prevention).

I increase the potential with maximum strength and can therefore generate higher muscle performance. And with prevention, I protect the body against occurring repetitions in endurance sports.

You can basically put it like this:

  • For amateur athletes, the focus is on prevention, whereas competitive athletes need to think about maximising their potential.
  • The higher the demands – regardless of the level of performance – the greater the focus is on maximising the potential 
  • The shorter the distance, the more crucial the muscle performance.
  • The longer the distance, the more I need to protect my body.  

Do you have an insider tip you would be willing to share with us? 

There are – I believe – no big training secrets anymore. You can perhaps restructure the individual stimuli and adapt them to the individual. But then that is about it. However, what I do consider to be an «insider tip» is skilful combinations, on the one hand, and clear separations on the other: this means planning training stimuli so that they support each other, provide room for adaptation, and can fully develop.

This, by the way, is what takes up most of my time as a trainer. When I do something, I give it a lot of thought to ensure that, on the one hand, there is room for the various stimuli and, on the other hand, the adaptations can occur.

Foto: ZVG