Ask any fitness professional about weight lifting, and you’ll find that almost all will agree that this is one of the best ways to get in shape and improve athletic performance. Strength training has been shown to build muscle, metabolism, strength, speed, power and bone density. Whether this training involves kettlebells, dumbbells, exercise machines, functional equipment or barbells, lifting weights is a fantastic way to sculpt your body, drop unwanted body fat and become an overall stronger person.
There isn’t just one way to lift weights, especially if you’re an athlete. If you specialize in a certain sport, such as running, football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, swimming or mixed martial arts, you’ll perform better if you’re training for your sport.
While basic movements like pressing, squatting, pulling and rotating are required for most sports and should be improved upon in the gym, pay attention to what your sport specifically calls for, because you likely need to use different movement patterns and have different strength requirements compared with a professional bodybuilder.
Here are some helpful tips to make sure you know how to train for your sport:
- Mimic movements: You need to mimic the movements you do in your sport throughout your training program. If you’re a football player, then depending on your position, you’ll probably be incorporating multiple muscles and powerfully exploding toward an object. So don’t copy your bodybuilder friend each gym session and focus solely on single-joint isolation movements (i.e. the dumbbell bicep curl). Incorporate compound movements and a variety of speeds, tempos and intensities to mimic what you do on the field, track or court.
- Go beyond a magazine or website: There are fantastic training guidelines in many magazines and websites. But remember that these are written as a general template without taking into consideration individual needs. Learn the basics, but if you want to truly improve your performance as an athlete, it’s important that you get programming guidelines from someone who specializes in training athletes or has experience working within your sport.
- Don’t neglect traditional exercises: This doesn’t mean you should avoid the exercises performed by bodybuilders. When you utilize single-joint isolation exercises, you can fix imbalances and rehabilitate from an injury/setback. Just make sure that traditional bodybuilding isn’t your primary MO in the gym when training for your sport.