Should Strength Athletes Try Bobsled? (with Paul Rabic)

Today I’m talking a buddy of mine — and occasional training partner — Paul Rabic. Like a lot of folks in the strength space, Paul has a multi-sport background. He discovered CrossFit some time after, and now, literally in the past year, he’s qualified to become a member of the USA Bobsled Team. He’s now prepping to compete in his first-ever international meet. We chat switching sports, what it means to build yourself into a powerful athlete, and why bobsled is looking for those athletes specifically. How has adapting to a new winter sport changed Paul’s approach to training himself and his clients?

Paul Rabic BarBend Podcast

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Tao talks to Paul Rabic about:

  • Paul’s athletic background (1:40)
  • Getting inspired by watching the 2022 Winter Olympic Games (5:13)
  • Why cold emailing coaches actually worked (7:30)
  • The combine metrics Paul had to train for (9:30)
  • Bobsled push camp (12:30)
  • How a bobsled squad actually comes together (14:00)
  • How does a national team get picked with so few chances to run courses? (17:00)
  • Watching “Cool Runnings” and the very real dangers of this sport (21:00)

Relevant links and further reading:


 I was like, “OK, we’re four years out from the next Olympics. I am going to train for this as if it’s real.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast, where we talked with the smartest minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by


Today I’m talking to a buddy of mine and occasional training partner, Paul Rabic. Paul has a background as a multi-sport athlete, and then like many others in the strength space these days, he found CrossFit a few years ago, and now, literally in the past year, he’s transitioned sports. He’s a member of the USA Bobsled Team, and he is prepping to compete in his first-ever international meet.


We talk about transitioning sports, what it takes to be a powerful athlete and why bobsled is looking for those athletes specifically, and how adapted to a new winter sport has completely changed Paul’s approach to training himself and clients. I hope you enjoy.


Paul, thanks so much for joining me today. I’ve had the pleasure of working out with you a couple of times. The first time I worked out with you, I didn’t know for the entirety of the time that you’re training to make an Olympic team, so that was always a little bit of a surprise. I was like, “Oh, this guy’s pretty fit. He’s pretty fit off the street.”


You’re a lot more than just that and I want to get to where you are today. First, let’s talk a little bit about who you are, your athletic background, and what sports you have played up to this point.

 Sounds good. I appreciate you having me on the podcast. It was great getting to know you a little bit the past couple times we worked out. What’s funny is when we were chatting yesterday, I was like, “Shoot, don’t talk to him too much. Let’s save the conversation for today.”


Athletic background, I grew up playing all sorts of sports like soccer when I was four years old, into basketball in the winter season, football in the fall. Then I transitioned to lacrosse in the spring, played ice hockey up until freshman year of college.


I always bounced from sport to sport and I did that because I was like, “I want to have fun.” Little did I know as you got older, every sport got serious. Looking back, my biggest regret is not committing to one long enough.


I have the most supportive parents in the world. I absolutely love them. They’ve always been like, “Do whatever you want. Do what makes you happy.” I wish there was somebody that told me, “Hey, if you stick to something, you can pursue greatness,” because I didn’t even know that was an option as a little kid.


Then, as I bounced from sport to sport, always just average or slightly above average, but I never played one long enough to actually do anything with it.


Then, as I went into college, started getting into fitness a little bit more, started exercising. Did your typical bro split of like chest tris, back bic, and never legs.


Then, I found the sport of CrossFit. That was humbling because it was like OK.

David TaoDavid Tao


What year was this? I think whenever anyone discovers CrossFit, it’s always good to know what era of that arc people found it in. Because it was very different in 2010, than you know 2018.

That is true. Actually, I learned about it in 2018, so I was on the latter half of it, like probably peak years, as you would say. That’s when the fittest on earth documentaries came out.


I remember watching it on Netflix and being like, “Wow, these guys can deadlift 500 pounds, but also run a five-minute mile.” I was like, “All right, that’s what I want to do.” I don’t want to be just like one thing, I want to be good at it all.


It was like, looked up a CrossFit gym, dropped into the box, got humbled by 40-year-olds, and every modality possible, and I was like, “OK, there are a lot of weaknesses that I can attack,” mostly being lower body strength because I didn’t do it for the past four years prior to that.


Probably from 2018, up until this winter up until February, I was mainly training CrossFit. Olympic lifting was new to me, so that was really fun to dive head-first, be a beginner in that aspect.


Then also, just dive into the gymnastics and power output workouts, sustained cardio workouts, and just really trying to become an overall well-rounded athlete without weakness.


Then, that the reason, I stopped CrossFit is now that I’m transitioning to a new sport of bobsled. That’s been a fun endeavor so far.

David TaoDavid Tao

 You’re actually the third CrossFitter we’ve had on this podcast who’s transitioned to bobsled, and every journey has been different. Some people have sought it out specifically.


Some people have just gotten DM’ed on Instagram like, “Hey, you should try out for this new sport.” I’m curious how that ball got rolling for you?


Yeah, so for me, because the Winter Olympics just happened in February, I heard about a kid who competed at the most recent Olympics, Charlie Volker. He played football at Princeton, tried to go to NFL, didn’t quite work out for whatever reasons I don’t know of.


Then, he was like, “I don’t belong to corporate world.” His coach just said, “Hey, you should try bobsled.” Then, two or three years later, he’s in the Olympics.


When I heard this story, I was like, “Wait, you can go to the Olympics without doing a sport your entire life?” Because gymnasts, they’re walking on their hands before their feet.


They’re starting at such a young age and they are competing in their late teens, early 20s. I’m just like, “Wait a second.” It just sparked a light bulb. I didn’t really tell anybody about it, but I went home, did a lot of research into the athletes that competed for Team USA.


Their height, weight, athletic background, how old they are, what features of strength make them a great bobsledder, and learning that they’re all around six-foot, give or take a little bit, around 210 plus in weight, and that they have strong power cleans.


They have fast 40 yard dashes.

David TaoDavid Tao

Sounds like a lot of former football players to me.

Exactly. That there were guys that competed at the Olympics that were 35 years old. I said, “OK, so you can be older. I have a strong power clean. I like to think I’m fast. I’m currently 27.” I started to do the math, and said, “OK, the 2026 Olympics, I’ll be 31. The 2030 Olympics, I’ll be 35.”


I was like I have potentially eight good years in the sport of bobsled. Then, doing more research, I found a virtual combine listed on USA Bobsled website. The combine was dated 2019, so I had no idea if this was active, if it was real.


I was like, “OK, we’re four years out from the next Olympics. I am going to train for this as if it’s real.” I got a baseline for all of the metrics they were testing, which was vertical, broad jump, 40, 10 yard, couple of interview mindset questions.


Then, in the meantime, I started blowing up the coaches’ emails. They were all public on the website.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s just like cold emailing them, be like, “Hey, I’m Paul. Here you go.”

I was like, “I’m Paul Rabic. I’m 27. I’m a powerful CrossFit athlete. I want to know if this combine is real.” This was in March when I started emailing all the coaches and started training for it, stopped doing Metcons, really focused on speed mechanics and just trying to be as explosive of an athlete as possible while also gaining weight.

David TaoDavid Tao

What weight were you at? What is your height and weight? I guess your height is still the same. I was going to say, what were your height and weight and what are they now? Your height is probably the same.


 I haven’t grown any this year.

David TaoDavid Tao

You haven’t stretched out much.

No, I wish I was still growing, but six-foot, and at this point in time, about 200 pounds, 202, and in March, I was 180.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’ve been gradually…The thing is you’re still pretty lean. I worked out with you a couple of times. You’ve put on a good bit of lean mass in that time it seems.

 I never was tracking macros prior to this, and I realized I was really under-eating, especially in LT. I think unintentionally under-eating for the past four years, I gave my body the nutrients it’s probably been dying for.


I just shot up really quick. Now, I’ve been in a little plateau the past month or so, where it’s like, “OK, how am I really going to break through this, put on another 10, another 15.”

David TaoDavid Tao


 I started blowing up the coaches’ emails, every week, every month. This started in March. No one got back to me until June.


The Director of Sport Performance, he replied back and he goes, “Yes, the combine is real. While there’s no deadline, the sooner you can submit something, the better, so you could potentially be invited to Rookie Camp.”


I was like, “Great, when is Rookie Camp, and what are your top guys doing for these metrics?” He replied, he said, “210 plus in weight, 32 plus inch vertical, and a four, five, 40.” I wasn’t too far off from these.


I was like, “OK, I’ll submit something in the next couple of weeks, was able to hit all those metrics.”

David TaoDavid Tao


 Except for weight by the way.

Except for weight, yes.


David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] Sorry to call you out on that.

That was one metric I did not hit, and I’m still trying to hit. Submitted everything, and then went right back to blowing up emails. Submitted everything probably the first week of July, and then no one got back to me, and then August 1st, Director of Performance again replied.


He was like, “Sent me an official invite for rookie camp. That was two weeks later and that was starting the 14th.” That was like, “OK, you need to get a background check. It could take two weeks to clear so I suggest you do it today.”


I was like, “OK, let’s get on this, and then a whole bunch of other procedures,” but then I got invited out to rookie push camp, where…


David TaoDavid Tao


Where was that?

That was in Lake Placid, New York, up at the Olympic training center. They have an ice house up there so you’re able to push a sled on dry land, but then also in the ice house because, for the sport of bobsled, since a lot of people don’t know about it, it’s just all about acceleration and going from zero to a 100 as fast as you can.

David TaoDavid Tao

I just want to give context to listeners. I worked out with Paul literally yesterday. There were six people working out and for the last part of the workout, we split into groups of two and did this sort of race, right, where one component of it was sled pushes.


My team was ahead when I got to the sled pushes, and I was in the same like, he is Paul and by the end, my team was way behind.

I felt really dumb for a second thinking that I was like, “Oh, I can keep up with…No, I can’t. I can’t keep up with someone who is specifically training to push a heavy object as fast as possible.”


 [laughs] It’s been a big part of my training recently.

David TaoDavid Tao


[laughs] The ice house. Sorry to get us off track. You are at the ice house at Lake Placid, how does rookie camp go? Does anything surprise you and what kind of feedback are you getting?

What’s really funny is that they sent out a schedule for the week ahead of time, so we knew what was…Like we’re going to be pushing on dry land the first couple of days then transition to the ice house and then you see on Saturday, it’s push championships.


We’re like, “Oh, shoot.” You know this is going to be a competition, only the top guys get invited back type of situation so stakes are high. We don’t really know if this is a tryout. If this is like you are going to start training with team USA. We didn’t really know much.


I remember I took an Amtrak to Albany, and they sent the shuttle to pick everyone up from there because people were coming from San Diego, Texas, all over the country. Albany is the closest to the airport.


No one knows what’s going on and it’s kind of comical. It’s just like 10 strangers get picked up in a van, get driven another two-and-a-half hours North up the Lake Placid and it’s like, “All right, we are going to push this week and that’s all we know.”


It was just a crash course overload of how to push a sled because while it is a very simple task, it is very technical. The best example being Olympic weightlifting. It’s like get the bar from the ground to overhead, but to do that as efficiently as possible, is so technical.


You just spend your entire life, years, just trying to fine tune little things to adding on an extra kilo to your snatch, an extra kilo to your [inaudible 13:27] , and it’s the same for bobsled.


It’s like you are going to be really fine-tuning acceleration mechanics, how to push a sled for years before just to take a couple of tenths of a second off.


It was really fun and just humbling to be a beginner again because it’s been a while to be the student, something we haven’t touched on yet as like I’m an independent trainer in New York city.


I’ve been coaching for the past five years so it’s been a very long time since I have been the student. It was such a phenomenal week. To get coached by not just bobsled experts, but Olympians, gold medalists in their sports specifically.


It was one of the coolest experiences ever and my whole mindset that week was, “If I don’t get invited back, my worst case scenario is I got to train like a Olympic hopeful for one week of my life.”


I got to live at an Olympic training center for one-week of my life. I got to wake up and my whole focus is to be better. My whole mindset was just like, “Take every second of this in because who knows if this will happen again.”

We all get picked up by the shuttle, we are waiting for the last couple of people to arrive, this kid walks up. He is like, “Is this the thing for the Olympics?”

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s so much further than the vast majority of people will ever make it in a sport or the closest they will get to competing in something like the Olympic games.

 I was just so grateful to be there the entire time, taking every opportunity to just express my gratitude to the coaches and the time and energy they take to put together that rookie camp because it is a lot of work behind the scenes.


They held two camps, you only had to attend one of the two weeks, and then after the rookie camp, after the push championships on Saturday, they ended up inviting back the top two rookies from each camp. They ended up inviting four guys out of the 16 that were there.


Also, to get to that combine, they did a very good job of selecting the athletes. Everyone that was there for the rookie camp was well deserving of it, like incredible athletes.


I thought they assembled the Avengers because they…I guess the previous years, they invited larger groups, like 20 or 30, but this year they were much more selective.


There’s already a big cutoff from virtual combine to rookie camp and then another huge cut from rookie camp to national push championships, which is the most recent camp I was at in September.


That is where returning Olympians come back, returning development athletes, and then a few rookies all come together the beginning of the week. We do an in-person combine, testing your sprints of 15 meter, 30 meter, 45 meter, flying 30, that’s four.


Then, they test broad jump, short toss, three-rep max back squat, and one-rep power clean. There is eight things they are testing on Monday, the start of the week, at 100 percent effort, huge shock to the body.


Tuesday, you have completely off. Wednesday, you do individual pushes. You only do three pushes, one from the back, one from the side, and then the third gives you an option to make up. It’s like if you feel you can improve on one of those positions, you get a third attempt then they take your two best times.


After that, Thursday is rest day. Friday, Saturday, you do combo pushes. Friday was two men, Saturday was three men, and they start to see, “OK, who pushes really well together? Who might be the strong link? Who might be the weak link?” They’re starting to craft the national team that they’re going to send on the World Cup.


Then, after that, what would typically happen next is they would have team trials at the end of October. This year they had to switch it up a little bit because they are doing maintenance work on the Lake Placid track so that they are unable to have time trials.


Normally, they wouldn’t name the national team until after time trials, but this year they had to get creative, use the data they collected from the national push championships, but then also use data from last year for pilots.


Then, they named the national team. Top guys, top two sleds go on the World Cup. Next in the ranks, they put together teams to do the North American cup, which is what I have the opportunity and privilege to go on this year, which I’m really excited about that I get to compete because being brand new to the sport, I actually have never been down a bobsled track.


David TaoDavid Tao

You mentioned that yesterday and that’s so insane. I do want to back up a little bit. Out of rookie camp, you were one of the top two qualifiers out of these 16, correct?


Yes. Out of one of the top four.

David TaoDavid Tao


One of the top four out of the two different camps. Your first big competition is the North American Cup. When is that? Where is that? Will you actually have a chance to go down a bobsled track before you show up to compete at the North American Cup?

Yes. North American Cup takes place in Park City, Lake Placid, and Whistler. Those are the three tracks in North America and all the countries will come in and compete.


We’re flying out November 7th, so that we have about seven days to actually practice going down a full track. Pilots get some runs, driving down a full track, and then we get some practice loading into a sled and going along for the ride.


After that first week, it then transitions into the True North American Cup race, where there’ll be the two-man and four-man events.

David TaoDavid Tao

 Are you doing two-man and four-man at this point? Do you know?

Honestly, not sure.


We’ll find out when I get there. For pilots, it actually takes them a little longer to develop in the sport because you have to learn and memorize every single track in the world. It’s not that many, but it still requires a lot of time and practice. There’s only a small portion of the year where you can actually race.


In order to be a qualified pilot for the national team, you have to race on five races, three different tracks in two years, they call it a 532. Until pilots get more experience, they actually start with two-man. There’ll be some brand new pilots there that are only racing two-man.

David TaoDavid Tao

Got it.

There’ll be some pilots that are racing two-man and four-man, and then going as a push athlete, a breakman one of the guys in the back. I’ll hop in and step in where they need me.

David TaoDavid Tao


Got you. Throughout this process, how many times have you watched “Cool Runnings?”


Only once.

David TaoDavid Tao




I’ll be lying if I said I didn’t watch it.

David TaoDavid Tao


Favorite scene from the movie. Come on, now that you have a little bit more exposure.


…and where Jonka kisses the egg, you got to kiss the lucky egg. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Need my egg coach, coach. That’s one of the first movies I watched during the beginning of COVID. By the way, it was that and my cousin Vinny all these like 90s comedies, these classics. Absolutely had to watch.


OK, I’m going to ask you straight up. Are you nervous about going down a track? Because I’m thinking about to Cool Runnings and John Candy’s character says, “Your bones don’t break in a bobsled, they shatter.” Are you nervous at all?


A little bit. I’m sure I’ll get more nervous when I’m lining up to actually push this lead and it’s time to hop in but everyone says that the ride is so much rougher than you can imagine.

David TaoDavid Tao


Think how bad it is. It’s worse of that.

Yeah. They’re like, “Have you ever been a car crash?” I’m like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “OK, imagine that for an entire mile.” I’m like, “OK.” They’re like, “You’re going to come out with bruises, cuts, you’ll get concussions throughout the season.” I’m like, “OK.”


I accidentally group chat with a bunch of guys and said, “As a newbie, is there anything I should pack that wouldn’t think of?” They said, “Mouthpiece, Dramamine if you get motion sick, car sickness, burnt vests, any padded shorts.” They’re like, “It’s a lot.”


I’m excited. Yes, I’m definitely nervous. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao


Tricks of the trade. I’m curious if you’re training for this sport. Has your personal, the training that you do as an athlete has influenced your knowledge of movement and has all been reflected in you working with clients?

Absolutely. How you said at the beginning, it sounds like, “A lot of football players.” It sounds sport built for football athletes, which is true, there are some football guys but there is a huge track influence. There are a lot of track athletes that get into sport because they’re just fast.


One thing other coaches said is that you can never be too faster bobsled. It’s like, “What do I work on after this camp? What should I be improving on?” You can never be too fast so get faster is always thanks.


Not having a track background, my training, the past three months has been a lot of speed mechanics, and I’ve been learning the difference between top speed and acceleration.


I’ve been learning a lot of different explosive plyometric exercises for horizontal power and vertical power, and that has carried over to definitely training some of my clients. I’m like, “Wow. They can definitely benefit from this.”


It’s like this isn’t just for performance-driven athletes, all walks of life, they should be able to jump, they should be able to drop until lunch comfortably. They should be able to run from point A to point B, without stumbling over their feet.


Also, a huge component of that is just balance and coordination, and then working with a lot of gen-pop individuals, seeing that, “Oh, wow. The balance is use it or lose it,” and it’s humbling and it also surprises them when I say, “Let’s do an inverted reach or single-leg RDL,” and they’re jumping all over the place.


It definitely has influenced my own training, but then also my style of coaching because it’s just something that I think everyone can benefit from.

David TaoDavid Tao


That makes a lot of sense. Paul, where is the best place or the best places for people to follow along with you, your training, your work with clients, maybe some of the workouts we do together in the future after you get back from camp though I think it will be a little while. All that good stuff.

Best place to keep up with me is definitely on Instagram, am the most active there. You can find me at pr_performance__, because pr_performance was probably a very high-demand name, but that is one of the most active.


That’s where you can keep up with, not only my journey of pursuing bobsled, but also my journey of coaching clients and like you said, our workouts together.


David TaoDavid Tao


[laughs] You’ll see, if you want to see someone not have great sprint mechanics, look in the background of some of Paul’s videos and you’ll find me flailing.

I really appreciate it. I appreciate you sharing some of your journey. I learned a lot about you in this episode. I appreciate you not giving away all the good stuff in our conversation yesterday.

David TaoDavid Tao


That was very smart, and I look forward seeing what you do in this sport and beyond.


Thank you. I really appreciate it. I’m excited to see where things go. One of the biggest things is that people will joke around that I’m an Olympian and I always have to correct them, because that title is well earned and it is such a privilege.

 I don’t want to say it on here. It’s like I am not an Olympian, I’m an Olympic hopeful. I’m somebody who is definitely setting my eye on the prize and pursuing the games, but not there hopefully yet.

David TaoDavid Tao


Appreciate you clarifying, and when I record the intro to this, I promise I won’t give you accolades you haven’t earned yet, because I’ll be very excited for when you do. Thanks so much, Paul.

Thanks, David.