Athletes can instantly improve their performance with a little bit of strength training. Most professional athletes integrate the program into their usual workouts and achieve noticeable results. Even sports that rely on speed have athletes hitting the gym to cut a few milliseconds off their time. Packing extra muscle can also lower the risk of injuries — particularly in sports where contact is unavoidable. Add strength training to your usual sports regimen and instantly improve your performance.
Strength is an integral part of sports. Having more strength than your opponent gives you a physical advantage, particularly in team sports or head-to-head competitions. One great example is women’s tennis. In the 90s, Venus and Serena Williams dominated their competitors through sheer physical strength, proving that speed and technique were not enough to win games. The sisters faced each other in nine championship matches, including four straight runs from 2002 to 2003.
Following these superstars’ cue, women’s tennis players started working out to reduce the physical disparity. Eventually, strength training was integrated into their regimens, and new players are now fitter and stronger than the past generations. In basketball, the sheer physicality and strength of LeBron James earned him a spot at the top together with Michael Jordan. The NBA players of today are bigger and stronger, as the physical aspects of the game have become crucial in most matchups.
Focus on Specific Muscle Groups
While a general increase in strength is important, different sports can require a particular focus on certain muscle groups. A quarterback will need more power in his throwing arms, while a kicker will need that power on his legs. Of course, focusing on certain muscle groups doesn’t mean forgoing all others. Imbalance can be more detrimental than helpful, especially since synergy among the muscles in your body is essential for peak performance. Opt for 10-12 reps instead of going for one repetition at maximum load. Train for both strength and explosive power by mimicking particular movements in your sport. If possible, work with a sports trainer who can make sure your workouts are both safe and efficient.
Build Your Core
A strong core is essential for peak physical performance. Your abdominal muscles act as your body’s shock absorbers and main fulcrum that coordinates your upper and lower body. Strong core muscles increase your endurance, particularly in sports that require constant running or jumping. Balance and stability are also enhanced, leading to fewer falls and potential injuries. The usual sit-ups and crunches are effective in building core strength, especially when paired with planks. Dynamic movement is great for strength, but the static plank focuses on holding tension and increasing endurance. A strong core also improves your posture and gives you prominent abdominal muscles, or what they call a six pack.
Start your workouts with a proper warm-up — and no, stretching is not a warm-up. Stretching puts tension on cold muscles, increasing the chances of injury. Warm up your muscles through dynamic movement that mirrors the movements of your intended workout. Make sure to learn the proper techniques before performing a routine. Get a trainer if possible or work with your coach and get some pointers.
Don’t forget to drink water consciously during your workouts. Perspiration is unavoidable during strength training sessions and dehydration can impede the efficacy of your workout. Perform mild stretches after your workouts and soak in a cold bath to relieve the soreness in your muscles.
Limit your strength training routines to once or twice a week. More workouts won’t necessarily increase your strength faster as your body needs time to heal. Make sure to get enough sleep after your workouts. Your body needs deep sleep to transition to its anabolic or healing phase, when it makes use of the available protein to heal and build muscle.
Track Your Results
Note your progress through an app or a notebook. Aim for incremental improvements every week. An extra one or two reps or an additional five pounds to your lifts can have significant impacts as time goes by. Your improvement in the gym should be mirrored by improvements to your overall performance. Track your lap times or use a sports radar gun to note the changes in your throwing, serving, or punting speeds. Seeing solid results should increase your motivation as well as confirm the validity of your training.
Take your workouts off the track or the court and spend a few hours a week at the gym. Getting stronger can give you a leg up on your competition while also reducing your chances of getting injured.