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The Perfect Workout Design For Athletes

How should you structure your session at the gym? First, it’s important to point out that going to the gym or exercising at all is a win for most people. Too many people know the benefits of exercise but take little action.


However, if you’re an athlete looking to make the varsity team, get a college scholarship, or even go pro, just going to the gym isn’t going to cut it.


No Exercise < Random Exercise < Structured Exercise < Individualized Structured Exercise


Faster. Stronger. More Explosive. Your goal is to accomplish these three things every training session. Every athlete benefits from being faster, stronger, and more explosive. Use the weight room to become a better all-around athlete, and practice time to become a better hockey, soccer, lacrosse, etc. player. Master the basics. Use this post to guide you through your workout plan.


60-Minute Training Session

1. Mobility & Activation

2. Speed

3. Power

4. Strength

5. Accessory

 

Mobility & Activation

The beginning of each session should consist of a well thought out warm-up. While hopping on the treadmill or stationary bike can do the job, there is a more effective approach, which will enhance your overall training results. Mobility describes the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion (ROM). Someone who has good mobility may be seen as flexible and can move joints in the intended way pain-free. Mobility drills are typically performed in a slow and controlled manner as you are attempting to work through positions that your body is not familiar with.

 

Heel Clicks


The goal of improving mobility is to build comfort and resiliency in various positions that you may experience during sports or day-to-day activities. Often times the body is put in a compromised position when you run into an opponent, slip on an ice patch, etc, resulting in injury. While we can never eliminate the risk of injury, having a strong, mobile body decreases the risk considerably.

Activation describes the contraction of a desired muscle and goes hand in hand with mobility as you are moving actively through the ROM. Meaning that you cannot just grab your toes, hold for 20-seconds while you stretch your hamstrings. The goal with activation is to target key muscles for that training session. If you plan on performing heavy back squats, adding exercises that activate the hips would be recommended. If bench press is on the menu, throw in some shoulder activation.

 

Plank w/ Shoulder Taps


Along with your mobility and activation, a general full-body warm-up is great!

 

Speed

How do you get faster? You move fast more often. Break out the cones, find a partner, or grab a sled. The number one priority is to MOVE FAST. In sports the key speed variable is acceleration. Whether you play football, basketball, soccer, or any other team sport you very rarely sprint for more than 20 yards. So, you need to get to your top speed as fast as possible.

The acceleration phase requires large amounts of horizontal force production (you are trying to move your body forward, not up). Try the exercises below for 3-4 sets of 2-6 reps:

- Broad Jump

- Push-Up Starts

- Bounding

- Sprint

- Kettlebell Swings


If you have the space, we would highly encourage performing maximal speed work (100% sprints) over 40-60 yards as well. The faster your ‘top-end’ speed, the more room you have to accelerate.

The common theme? All these exercises are performed at 100% effort every single time. This doesn’t change for your next emphasis…

 

Power

A simple Google search of ‘most powerful athletes’ gives a list of names many of us would agree with. Names like Bo Jackson, Lebron James, Mike Tyson, Usain Bolt, to name a few. But what makes these athletes the ‘most powerful?’ Power is a combination of speed and strength, or in other words, the ability to exert force at a high velocity. If acceleration is the ‘1A’ attribute for athletes, power is ‘1B.’

The ability to produce force over a given amount of time is described as the Rate of Force Development (RFD). Athletes who can move their own mass, or an external load (opponent, bat, barbell, etc.) the fastest are typically the most dominant. Hence the list above.

By consistently training both speed and strength, you are training the two components of power. To specifically train power, take your ‘speed’ exercises and add a light load or take your ‘strength’ exercises and lessen the load so you can move it fast. Perform 2-4 sets of 3-6 reps.

So why aren’t the strongest athletes always the most powerful? Science. Maximal strength exercises like 1-Rep-Max efforts are often very slow, strenuous efforts as the athlete recruits as many muscle fibers as possible. In experienced strength trained athletes this process takes longer than in experienced power trained athletes. The difference in recruitment of muscle fibers is milliseconds, but when compounded makes all the difference in the world. The solution to being strong and powerful? Train fast. The optimal percent of your maximal load ranges from 30-80% depending on the lift, so do you research and find what feels best.

Once you’re done moving heavy things fast, slow it down just a tad and get a good dose of strength training.

 

Strength

Strength is the ability to move an external load, irrespective of speed. Building strength is crucial for athletes in all sports but can look very different. A football player needs the strength to withstand a bone-crushing hit from an opponent without getting hurt while a sprint needs just enough strength to be able to maximize their power output.

Having a baseline level of strength is vital for athletes of all ages and abilities. Muscular strength improves athletic performance, decreases risk of injury, improves mobility, and can have additional benefits outside of sport as well.


Strength training for most athletes incorporates a combination of maximal muscular strength and muscular hypertrophy based on the time of year/season. Maximal strength typically involves 3-6 heavy sets of 1-5 reps (note only athletes experienced in strength training should perform exercises near their maximal level). Conversely, hypertrophy training often involves 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps at a slightly lower, but still fatiguing, weight.

- Deadlift

- Bench Press

- Chin-Up

- Split Squat

- Row Variations

The specific needs of athletes vary greatly, so be sure to consult a strength or sports performance coach if you have questions about your personal athletic development.

After a heavy dose of strength training, mix in some much-needed accessory work.

 

Accessory

This is your chance to do what you want to do. Feel like you need your daily arm pump? Burn out those bicep curls. Have a history of ankle sprains, and want to do everything you can to prevent another? Do some ankle stability work. Accessory training is meant to ‘fill in the gaps’ that are missed by strength training.

If you notice that one side of your body is stronger, it’s a good idea to perform unilateral (one-side at a time) exercises to ensure that both sides get an equal stimulus. It is very common for athletes to develop a ‘dominant’ side and favor that arm/leg on the field. For the purposes of athletic development, it is optimal to keep both sides of the body similar in terms of each of the four components discussed so far. Not sure what to do? Try some of the exercises below when you would typically rest between sets.


 

In-Line Pallof Press


Single Leg Squat to Box


4-Way Hip Stability


Plank Walkouts


100+ more to choose from. Need help? Reach out today for a free assessment!
 

Phew. Now go home and recover. Eat something substantial, get a good night’s sleep and please don’t just do arms again tomorrow.


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