Physical training for sports

Over the past years, I’ve seen tons of people claiming they train people like athletes, or that actually train athletes. One of the things that usually characterize these adventures is weird exercises. More often than not, trainers try to mimic the movements in that particular sport. While I believe there are differences in how you should train athletes depending on sport – this is not how I’d approach it.


This actually goes hand in hand with my animosity towards the word “functional” – I hate “sports specific” just as much.

Most athletes are relatively weak, and just increasing their base strength will do loads for their performance on the field. You also have to consider the amount of volume you’re throwing at the athlete compared to all the other stuff they’re doing. If you can make them just a little better, you’ve done a good job.

First priority when training athletes (and normal people too actually) is to make them feel good. That simple. An athlete that feels good, performs well. Mobility training as well as prehab is the key here. If an athlete is injured on game day, he’s not making as much money as he could. Your job as a trainer is not to risk anything, but to play it safe – sports in itself has plenty of risk.

That’s the general philosophy. make them feel good first, stronger second. Cardio will more often than not come from practicing their sport. When it comes to specific exercises for specific sports, you generally have to think the other way around – for a throwing athlete you don’t want to strengthen his pecs for example, you want to give him muscular balance, by strengthening his upper back and shoulder muscles so he can stay injury free. Obviously I’m not talking about leaving out movement patterns entirely, but a 2:1 focus on the other side of highly stressed areas is a good start.

You don’t need chains and fancy stuff just because you’re training an athlete. A basic barbell will get you most of the way, and getting any athlete pretty much up to 1-1.5x bodyweight in the back squat will make a huge difference on the field. For contact sports, adding in some weighted carries is a great option too – it’ll harden up the midsection better than anything and improve grip as a nice side effect – things that are valuable in many sports.

Keep it simple, keep it sane. Of course, if you’re too incompetent to teach an athlete a proper squat, pull and hinge it’s easier to let them do pushups with chains, drag sleds from a chain or band-resisted jumps at random. That kind of exercises are often used to hide the trainers incompetence.

  1. Make them feel good (mobility, prehab, attention to form etc).
  2. Make them stronger (progressive overload in the fundamental exercises)
  3. Make them look good (looking good makes you feel good and can help intimidate opponents).
  4. (Do crazy “hardcore” shit for photoshoots to sell magazines and supplements) (Or not).

Have a great week!

One last thing: if you’ve hired a personal trainer that has you do all sort of crazy shit while NOT teaching you basic barbell exercises, you’re wasting your money.

Leave a Reply