Nick Folker Leaves Cal to Reach Bigger Audience with BridgeAthletic Fitness Tech Company

Nick Folker has resigned from his role as the strength & conditioning coach for the Cal Golden Bears to focus on his independent training ventures. Those ventures include his F.A.S.S.T. personal training program and a new project, BridgeAthletic – an innovative mobile training platform.

In other words – Folker has developed a reputation as basically synonymous with dryland training for aquatics athletes through his work with the Cal men’s and women’s swimming, diving, and water polo teams. The South African native has been with Cal for 9 years, including through all 5 swimming & diving NCAA titles, a 2011 NCAA runner-up finish in women’s water polo, and 2006 and 2007 NCAA Championships in men’s water polo.

See the videos below Nick did with SwimSwam contributor Chris Morgan in April of 2012:

When we caught up with Folker over the weekend to discuss the move, he was immediately caught up in the near-nostalgia about the Cal program; with its resume of success during his time there, that is an understandable sentiment.

Nick Folker, co-founder BridgeAthletic, trains Cal Olympic swimming stars Natalie Coughlin and Nathan Adrian (Courtesy of B.A.)

Nick Folker, co-founder BridgeAthletic, trains Cal post-collegiate swimming stars Natalie Coughlin and Nathan Adrian (Courtesy of B.A.)

“Leaving Cal has been one of the toughest decisions in my life,” Folker said. “Moving on from the world class aquatics system I have helped build over the last 9 years is by no means a light-hearted decision. The relationships and memories created with the coaches and athletes I had the absolute pleasure to work with will always be important to me.”

Though what Folker does is, on a shallow level, a very physical endeavor, part of what made his time at Cal so successful is his ability to build relationships with the Cal coaching staffs and to understand the mental process that the development of a high-level athlete must necessarily include.

“It takes a very special student-athlete to excel at Cal, in all facets of the collegiate experience,” Folker said. “I have cherished being a part of the development and success of hundreds of athletes throughout their collegiate career. Working with Dave Durden to prolong the careers of the post-collegiate “pro” group at Cal (Natalie Coughlin, Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin, Tom Shields, Damir Dugonjic, Martin Liivamagi), and allowing them to to compete at the highest level is very, very special to me.”

For Folker, though, it was time to reach to a broader audience.

“I feel that a large number of swimmers, myself included, would have had more successful, prolonged careers by implementing a thoughtful strength program,” Folker said. “Over the last 9 years at Cal, we were able to offer our athletes exactly that, and now, with BridgeAthletic I am working to empower a much larger group of athletes by giving them access to world class, sport specific training programs.”

And so BridgeAthletic is born. It is centered around a cloud-based phone app and a website, that provides customized training routines, data tracking, and leaderboards and rankings that allow athletes to compare themselves to teammates – a key to the system. The system either allows Folker’s BridgeAthletic staff to produce workouts, or for athletes’ coaches to input them – which could be a huge tool for club and high school coaches, for example, when swimmers go on vacation.

BridgeAthletic, mobile banner


“Mobile computing has created a tool that these athletes can use to access information like never before,” Folker explained of the company concept. “With the truly phenomenal team we have assembled at Bridge, we’re building a platform that will leverage these tools to empower athletes to train optimally.”

The program is designed for what Folker knows best – elite athletes in high school, college, professional ranks and especially elite masters athletes, given Folker’s belief in using training to help extend careers. It centers around the idea of very specific workouts, as compared to the general fitness routines that many of these programs are struck with.

“Upon moving to the US on a collegiate swimming scholarship, I assumed that all my frustrations would be a thing of the past–surely the US colleges would have swimming-specific weight workouts and tracking systems,” Folker said of his experiences coming from Rugby-mad South Africa.

Nick Folker, co-founder BridgeAthletic, trains Cal Olympic swimming stars Tony Ervin, Nathan Adrian & Natalie Coughlin (Courtesy of B.A.)

Nick Folker, co-founder BridgeAthletic, trains Cal Olympic swimming stars Tony Ervin, Nathan Adrian & Natalie Coughlin (Courtesy of B.A.)

“You can imagine my extreme disappointment in realizing that this was not the case,” Folker added. “Just as rugby was the driving force and revenue-generator behind all sports science in South Africa, football drives the majority of content being used by US strength coaches in the college system. The majority of these folks are hired based on their football expertise and background, and subsequently assigned a non-revenue or Olympic sport to fill their daily schedules. This was absolutely mind-blowing given the dominance of the US Swimming team on the World and Olympic stage.”

“This frustration sparked the genesis of my own swim-specific strength & conditioning system. The system I developed throughout my collegiate and professional swimming career culminated in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, in addition to World Championships and Commonwealth Games meets. Since retiring from swimming, I have added a graduate degree in Kinesiology, and further developed/polished my system. As result, athletes who I have trained have combined to earn 22 Olympic medals, over 50 Olympic athletes and multiple World Championship medals, both long- and short-course.”

And so Folker ventures into a new realm, a more electronic realm, and a broader realm, but one that fits what he’s always believed: that every sport in the world is unique, and needs a unique set of training to achieve maximum performance.

The new service launches in mid November to 10 teams and 300 individuals, with a broader launch coming shortly thereafter.

BridgeAthletic, Tablet banner adBridgeAthletic banner ad, smallTo learn more about BridgeAthletic, go here.

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10 years ago

COACHERIK I just revisited this article to see how BridgeAthletics is progressing I had no intension of coming across as condescending or as a jerk….My apologies if you or anyone else took it that way.

10 years ago

Still not sure what’s up, COACHERIK, was just pointing out that I believe the reader is often to blame for inferring certain things from others’ emails(posts) that were never implied.

Don’t have numbers in front of me, don’t want to misquote, was more than a good deal and worth it. Mind you, we have not used the app, just the program itself, as the app is part of the wider launch, I believe.

Personally, I wouldn’t compare this service to other strength apps(gimmicks), it is heavily content-driven and unique to each user, and created by a team led by arguably the best aquatics strength and conditioning coach of all time.

Hope you find something that works, and no hard… Read more »

Reply to  Peterdavis
10 years ago

When you sign up for more information on the website, they will contact you to answer these questions you are asking. I’d agree with Peter though, sounds like this is much more than a fitness app and more like one of the world’s top trainers in the palm of your hand. So instead of comparing it to an app that doesn’t really offer added value, I’d consider how much top trainers cost per workout or on an annual salary. Ideally this will help those of us who want to provide that level of training but couldn’t before.

10 years ago

Not sure what’s up, PETERDAVIS, but normally people don’t use sarcasm when denoting errors in posts/links/typos unless they are being a bit of jerk about it…

I also appreciate your vouching for this service, hearing from people who have good experiences with it is important, however “competitive” doesn’t tell me as much as a ballpark from the creators does. When searching through the apple app store, the range in weight training apps varies greatly, from free to upwards of $50 (though I did not sift through all the 612 results). I would like to have some kind of idea if I am paying a annual fee, monthly fee, per athlete fee. Approximate annual cost for a non-profit swim club with… Read more »

10 years ago

Not sure what’s up, COACHERIK, but I do know that emails are supposed to be dumbed down, composed with the idea in mind that your reader is humorless, has no sense of irony or sarcasm, and is poor at inferring subtleties like tone and double-meaning. Just something I like to keep in mind, at least sometimes.

10 years ago

Not sure what’s up, SWIMDAD, but do you have to be condescending about a broken link?

10 years ago

Not sure whats up , but is the second link intended to be the same video as the first?

10 years ago

He trained the guy for the surf movie too. Gerard Butler

10 years ago

Going to be a great opportunity for Nick. Spoke with him about his new ventures and he is extremely passionate about his work.The teams who spend the money to use him will receive a great return on investment. Bright future.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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