Training like an athlete. Is it necessary? No.
Is it fun? Sometimes.
Can it help you stay fit/healthy so you can be ready for whatever life may throw at you? Absolutely.
As we age out of our sport playing years, many people also begin to shy away from athletic type exercises. It would be amazing to be able to play in adult soccer, baseball, and lacrosse leagues, but most people have trouble finding the time for this on top of work, family, and their current gym routine. So how can we train like an athlete in the gym?
While there is nothing wrong with non-athletic training, it often does not cover all of the bases in terms of power, strength, and injury prevention. Strength and cardio, two of the most common components of a modern, aesthetically focused training program, are extremely important but are only two of the many qualities of athleticism. So what does “training like an athlete” look like? And how can it help you?
4 basic principles to follow in order to train like an athlete are
Doing drills or lifting weights with speed
Getting off the ground (jumping, skipping, hopping)
A simple way that I incorporate speed work into my training program is having two days a week that my warmup is “SAQ” (Speed, Agility, and Quickness). These can include sprints, gassers, lateral shuffles to sprint, change of direction work, and cone drills. Medicine balls slams are another great movement that works speed and power production.
Hop, Skip, Jump
When was the last time you skipped? Hurdle hops, jumping, and power skipping are great drills to make your training more athletically focused. At Made2Move Charleston (located in Ethos Athletic Club), we have sports performance coaches training teams for their sport 7 days a week.
Luckily, this means we have a plethora of equipment like boxes, hurdles, and sleds to complement your training regimen. If you don’t know where to even begin with this equipment, these coaches are highly knowledgeable and willing to help, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you see them or our Made2Move PTs in Ethos.
Agility can be defined as “the ability to move quickly and easily.” Working footspeed, change of direction abilities, and through multiple planes (moving forwards, backwards, and laterally) are all effective ways to train for agility. Training agility is also a great way to improve one’s coordination and reactive ability.
A study evaluated a 6 week agility based training vs. a traditional, linear military training program. Researchers found that “Physical agility training is as effective, or more effective, as traditional linear running in enhancing general physical fitness. Further, it is likely more effective than linear running in enhancing specific measures of physical and cognitive performance, such as physical agility, memory and vigilance” (Walker et. al 2011).
Many sports require athletes to backpedal to track the ball, get back on defense, or see the space behind them. However, as we get older, how often do you see people backpedaling or backwards skipping in the gym? While moving backwards seems like a useless skill, “it is still critical for independence in daily life, e.g., when stepping back in front of a forthcoming vehicle, when opening a door, when backing up to sit down” (Dewolf et. al 2021).
As senseless as backwards moving sounds, a person’s ability to move backwards has been correlated with fall risk. This is because locomotive patterns and neuromuscular changes tend to change as we get older. Simply incorporating some backwards skipping or running into your warmup is a powerful tool to maintain athleticism as we get older.
As with any training program, there should be balance between the type of movements you do. Don’t start sprinting every day and neglecting your squats and deadlifts. In balancing our training focuses, Generation Iron states, “Don’t discard athletic performance for aesthetic muscle. Don’t avoid building quality muscle because you think it will hinder your athleticism. Marry both together and it’s sure to be a long lasting relationship.”
At Made2Move Charleston, we believe that training like an athlete does not have to be complicated or exhausting and could start with incorporating something as simple as power skips into your warmup. Getting back to the basics of moving weight quickly, being agile, and moving backwards are great ways to maintain strength, speed, and power as we age.
Training does not have to look like “x sets of y reps” every session. Performing non-traditional movements like power skipping and change of direction drills are ways to keep training fun, as well as maintain your athleticism through adulthood. Looking to make your training more athletically focused? Reach out to email@example.com today to set up an initial consultation!