Passionate about working out? Want to train like a pro athlete, even though you’re not one?
While your local gym might not quite be as fancy as an Olympic athlete’s facility, access to great workout equipment is becoming more and more available, making it easier than ever to train like the pros. Here are 10 ways that you can train like a professional athlete to improve your performance, so put in your pro mouth guard and hit the gym.
Athletes never work out with a cold body, and you shouldn’t either. Exercising without warming up your muscles first makes you more prone to sprains, strains, tears, and other injuries. Spend at least five minutes doing light aerobics work to get your blood flowing, and then stretch out your muscles to prepare them for movements. If you have particular sore spots that are seriously inhibiting your range of motion, try some myofascial release on those spots before your warmup, using a foam roller, tennis ball, or massage stick.
Pro athletes aren’t weekend warriors: they work out nearly every day in order to stay in peak physical condition. If you want to train like a pro athlete, then aim to work out 5-6 days a week to emulate their schedule. However, you shouldn’t work out every day: Professional athletes spend at least one day a week either resting or doing active recovery in order to let their bodies recuperate from their hard training the rest of the week.
Most sports involve using multiple muscle groups at once in complex maneuvers. That’s why many athletes train using compound movements, which (like the names suggest) involve using more than one muscle group. Some common compound movements include squats, deadlifts, and power cleans. These exercises are also very efficient for building muscle and strength because they work so many muscles at once.
Jump training is another workout that many athletes like to do because it prepares them for explosive moments. Perfecting your liftoff and landing technique will carry over to many sports, not to mention reducing your risk of injury. Plyometric exercises such as vertical jumps and box jumps are also a great cardio workout and will get your heart rate going. Make sure to wear proper shoes to protect your feet, and you might want to pop in a custom mouth guard to keep your teeth from jarring together on impact.
Athletes sweat a lot, which is why staying hydrated is so important. Water is the most important beverage that you can drink; taking small yet frequent sips is better than big, infrequent gulps, which are harder for your body to absorb. During your workout itself, you might need to add some electrolytes to your water in the form of a powder, pill, or gel. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and your body can’t always replenish them fast enough to maintain peak performance. If you sweat a lot, or are training in hot weather, be sure to bring some electrolytes with you.
When you’re really sore, you probably don’t want to move, but lying around is the worst thing you can do for stiff muscles. That’s why athletes don’t just sit on the couch on their off days: They practice active recovery or low intensity exercise that helps warm and strengthen their muscles without working them too hard. If you aren’t already practicing active recovery, then incorporate it into your training schedule on your off days to help your body heal faster.
Pro athletes don’t only focus on physical training: They also prepare mentally for competitions. Mentally practicing physical exercises can improve your real-life movements and help you master forms. Athletes also work on mental skills that will help them during competitions, such as awareness and reaction time. If you really want to train like a pro athlete, remember to focus on your brain as well as your body.
Athletes don’t work out in a vacuum: They train with fellow athletes, as well as coaches and personal trainers. If you have the budget for it, scheduling a couple of sessions with a personal trainer can help you take your skills to the next level. You should also get yourself a workout buddy to hold each other accountable and encourage each other. A healthy sense of competition will inspire both of you to push yourself beyond what you would do on your own.
Sleep is critical to training like an athlete. Your body repairs itself while you sleep, so if you’re not sleeping enough, or you aren’t getting quality sleep, then your body will take longer to recover than it should. Fatigue also negatively affects performance, slowing down your movement and lengthening your reaction time. In addition to getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, make sure that you are also practicing good sleep hygiene: Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, sleep in a dark room without distracting light or noises, don’t use screens right before bed, and so on.
Pro athletes use specific gear to train their bodies and help them recover from workouts. The exact gear you need will depend on what training you are doing, but some common equipment that many different athletes use are shoes, sports mouth guards, exercise mats, and foam rollers. Periodically examine your gear for damage and replace it if it can’t be repaired. If you work out at a gym, keep a bag in your car stocked with everything you need so you never have to worry about forgetting.
It takes extra work to train as an athlete, but many people who are passionate about fitness find that their effort is well rewarded by their results. Follow these 10 tips to train like the professionals do!