Is your gym routine helping or hindering your sport?
The majority of people I surveyed, who play an organised sport, also hit the gym a few times a week. In most sports players are encouraged to do gym based training to enhance their sport but with no specific guidance what's happening in the gym might not be improving what's happening on the pitch, in the pool, on the bike etc. In fact it may well be causing problems. You want to drop kick like Beauden, jump shot like LeBron or backhand like Serena? So why do we all go to the gym and train like Arnie?
Without specific direction for our sporting goals, it's not surprising we fall into training patterns more akin to body building and weightlifting, mistaking these specific sports for the broader industry of strength and conditioning.
While there is nothing wrong with this training per se, it's not optimal if your priority is to enhance sports performance. i.e. increasing your 1RM bench or growing your bicep to the size of a galia melon wont necessarily make you a better athlete.
How can you train better for your sport?
Above all else be very clear with your goals for training. You cannot build an effective program if you keep moving the goal posts. So if you are in the gym make sure you know exactly why.
Here’s a list of reasons (conscious or unconscious) you might be stepping into the weights room.
- To increase muscle mass
- To loose weight
- All your buddies go to this gym. You’re just here for the banter.
- To build strength
- To increase muscular endurance
- To get a temporary increase in muscle size AKA a “pump” before you head out on the town, in the hope of attracting a member of the opposite sex.
- Injury rehab or prevention.
- To enhance sport performance
- You dislike the people you live with so you’re trying to kill an hour after work before you have to go home.
- To increase cardiovascular endurance
- To help manage stress/ mental health
- You enjoy staring at yourself in the mirror
- You enjoy staring at others in the mirror
- To assert your masculinity, or strong independent femininity, by loading up a barbell heavier than the person next to you.
- Instagram content
Every single one of these goals is perfectly valid. You may believe some are less honourable than others but I'm not here to judge. The important thing is that you are honest with yourself about why you’re there. Many training programs can serve several goals at once so it is ok to have more than one but keep it realistic and don't let other intentions creep in and sabotage your progress.
Once you have your goals you need to build a program to meet them. Here's some general advice on how to do that.
- Look at the basic movement patterns you use most frequently in your sport. Look for exercises that incorporate those types of patterns and include them in your workout.
- I highly recommend including at least one weighted single leg exercise in any gym program. If you have had any significant leg injury or your sport involves any time on one leg, which includes running of any kind, this should be a non negotiable.
E.g. single leg deadlift, Bulgarian split squat, step ups etc.
- If sports specific functional development is important to you, prioritise compound exercises (bench, chin up, rows, squat, deadlift) and functional training (sleds, bear crawls, landmine press, plyometrics). Keep isolated accessory exercises for targeting specific areas of weakness towards the end of the work out.
- Consider speaking to a good strength and conditioning coach or sports physio with experience in your sport. Explain your goals and your needs and work together to create a proper program. This can be costly but we are not talking about one to one sessions twice a week for 6 months. This is about once off program development with possible check ins depending on how much support you want.
- Research research research! Theres a lot of incredible information out there if you know where to look and how to wade through the nonsense. Be curious, analytical and critical of the sources you use. “He looks pretty jacked, he must know what he’s talking about” wont always cut it I'm afraid.
Stay tuned and get in touch
In due course I will go through some sports specific gym exercises that i regularly prescribe to my own clients so keep your eyes peeled. If you have any specific queries around this topic feel free to get in touch.