Workout Like the Pros

What is it that football players and other athletes do to get in shape so they’re primed and ready to go on game day?

They weight train. This should not be a surprise to most. They perform progressive exercise programs composed of specific lifts to develop power, strength, agility, balance, and flexibility.

Having been an athlete, fitness professional, and former coach, it is not a huge mystery which exercises accentuate athletic talent, but I’m always curious about the details. Minor variations in similar training schemes make huge differences, results-wise.

I looked up as many published professional league training PDFs and articles as I could find. I found some valuable themes to implement into my training programs in order to enhance performance and results. After some implementation, trial and error, and many success stories, I am confident that focusing on the following will help you make better use of your gym-time.

1. Compound Movements:
A compound movement involves rotation at two joints. Popular examples are pull-ups, dips, bench, deadlifts, squats, lunges, rows. The best training programs revolve around a few staple compound movements and some variable accessory lifts. The variable lifts should be aimed at improving sticking points in the bigger and heavier compound lifts and protecting joints.

2. Core Strength and Posterior Chain Activation:
A strong core, or trunk, is essential for safe weight-training and peak-performance athletic training. Specifically, your posterior chain. Most people think of abs alone when they think of their core, and they are definitely part of the picture. The biggest and most powerful muscle in the human body is gluteus maximus and it works in tandem with the hamstrings and lower back (erector spinae). Together, these muscles form the posterior chain, which produces the body’s most powerful movement, the hip hinge. The hip hinge is the basis behind deadlifts, squats, and many variations of these lifts.

3. Mobility (foam rolling, stretching):
Mobility is one of the biggest differences between the average weight-trainee and the professional athlete. Athletes and trainees under proper professional guidance always stretch and foam roll. Rolling before or during a workout enhances performance, reduces the chance of injury, improves range of motion, and promotes muscular circulation. It can be used as part of a warm up and many clients find it relieves tension, as an added bonus.

4. Rest and/or Active Recovery:
I love the idea of working out every day as much as the next fitness enthusiast, but the truth is, that is not in anyone’s best interest. Exercise is a physical stress to the body. The body adapts to this stress, which is the whole magic behind progression, but it needs time to recover too. A day per week is ideal as a norm to shoot for. Doing a normal cardio activity at a very low intensity is a great way to get active on your recovery day.

5. Full-Body Workouts:
Most people go to the gym to improve their aesthetic appeal and it often leads them to work specifically (and in some cases only) on the areas they wish to improve. I was guilty of this myself when I started lifting. The most effective training programs work the whole body using compound movements on a regular basis. This even goes for people who wish to improve a specific body part. Adding lean tissue all over produces a better physique for any body. Specific areas can always be addressed through accessory lifts when desired.

Some of the most physically fit people out there are athletes. At every local gym, there is equipment you can use to train just like they do and get fit, healthy, and strong.