Why You Should Not Workout like an Athlete

Athletes have some of the most attractive figures on the planet. Do you need to train like one to look good too? No, here's why.

In college, I trained for football for hours on end. There were all of these sports skills that I needed to get better at. If I had a block of time and enough energy to train, it usually happened or I could be falling behind.

Playing defensive line, I had one job, get to the quarterback. That's a pretty simple right? Here's what that might look like on one play:

  • Getting out of my stance
  • Engaging the player (s) across from me
  • Performing a pass rush move (if in fact it was a pass)
  • Closing the gap between me and the passer if there was space and a clear path
  • Tackling the quarterback

Now, I wasn't an amazing athlete, so this sequence didn't happen a ton in college. You practice all of these different skills broken down bit by bit, thousands of times on top of working out.

With all of that time I spent training, surely I looked good right? Nah.

You want to look athletic but, does that mean that you have to train like an athlete? No, the best athlete's can't afford to care how they look.

How Athletes Workout and Why it's different

Athletes primarily train to get better at their sport. Each sport has a specific set of rules, positions, either on a team or as an individual, requirements to perform well at that position and schedule. A volleyball player trains completely different than a basketball player.

Want nice calves? shoulders? arms? Well if you happen to get those as an athlete as a result of your training, that's great! If not it might interfere. Have you seen a baseball player with really beefy arms? No way.

Athlete's may workout 4-6 times per week for 1.5-3 hours on top of training for their sport and conditioning. The average personal training client may workout 2-4 times per week and may or may not do additional conditioning.

If it does not get you better at playing your sport, you can not afford to spend time on it.

What things do Athletes spend time Working on?

In the weight room:

  • Upper body strength and power
  • Lower body strength and power
  • Core strength and endurance
  • Muscular endurance required in the sport
  • Exercises related to sport specific actions
  • Grip and Neck work

Sport Specific Activities:

  • Sport specific conditioning
  • Drills
  • Techniques
  • Executing sport specific strategies as an individual
  • Sport specific strategies with teammates

Recovery and Other techniques:

  • Flexibility
  • Mobility
  • Stretching
  • Balance
  • Hand eye coordination
  • Rehabilitation
  • Correctives for rehab or prehab
  • Mental Conditioning

Speed, Agility and Moving in Space:

  • Sport specific agility
  • Change of Direction
  • Maneuverability
  • Sport specific aerobic conditioning
  • Speed training
  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration
  • Plyometrics

With all of these requirements, you can see why being an athlete is a full time job. In football we also spent ~20 or more hours a week in meetings or watching film.

Not having to do all of these things to look good is great news! You have to do less overall and less intense training to reach your goals. Most importantly, it leaves you more time for things that are important to you and your own job.

So what do you need to do?

How should You spend Your Time Exercising?

In the weight room:

  • Upper body strength and endurance
  • Lower body strength and endurance
  • Core strength and endurance
  • Exercises you enjoy that fit your body and don't beat you up
  • Full ranges of motion to keep flexibility and mobility

Out of the weight room:

  • Playing and having fun
  • Balance
  • General Conditioning
  • Plyometrics-maybe

Extra Credit:

  • Stretching
  • Rehabilitation
  • Correctives for rehab or prehab
  • Mental Conditioning-would help with your life and job
  • Power training appears to be very beneficial for all ages

Those are the things that you should be investing time in on a regular basis. One other thing that athletes have to account for is the time of the year that they're in their best shape.

If during the winter, you don't feel like going on a morning run, that's okay. If you have to stay in shape for your sport, you most likely have to suck it up.

As long as you're doing a majority of these things, and eating right, you can rest assured that you're getting the best results for you.

Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.