This is a quick post I thought I’d make outlining what I believe to be the 24 keys to athleticism. Despite the name, it’s by no means a fully-exhaustive list, and no doubt you probably have scores of your own points you’d like to add on.
Comment below if you do. Enjoy!
Broad jumps, box jumps, weighted jumps, tuck jumps, hurdles… jumping forces your neuromuscular system to recruit your fast-twitch muscles as fast as possible – this is the essence of power.
(Higher jumpers are often faster sprinters too).
2. Lift (obvious).
Develop your maximal strength by performing your big barbell lifts in the 3-6 rep range, develop more power with lighter weight performed explosively (i.e. dynamic squats).
3. Sprint (obvious)
Mix up your distances and rest times.
Running up hills during the summer will get you in the shape of your life – Vitamin D, ripped physique, supreme conditioning, and muscle. It doesn’t get better than that. I’m in euphoria just thinking about it.
4. Bodyweight exercises are the foundation of athleticism.
Aim to master the basic bodyweight movements, and always keep trying to make them more difficult.
High relative strength is a very reliable indicator of your overall athletic prowess, and it will keep you lean, co-ordinated, and in great shape.
One legged pistol squats and handstand pushups are two advanced body weight moves that I myself am currently working on becoming proficient at.
5. Always explode on the concentric (upward) part of barbell movements – i.e. on the way up during squats. All that slow-tempo lifting stuff is for bodybuilders and will make you slow.
6. Work your core religiously. Without a strong core, you will be more prone to injury and won’t reach your athletic potential.
Planks and hyperextensions a great start if you’ve been neglecting this aspect of your training. More dynamic exercises such as wheel rollouts are even better, and will create a rock-solid belt around your midsection.
7. Train your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings all the time.
Contrary to popular belief, well developed glutes are not only useful for twerking or booty popping- they’re vital if you want to develop electric speed.
Start with glute bridges, and work your way up to hip thrusts with weight.
8. Compound lifts are king – they will give you most bang for your buck and help you develop the raw strength and total-body co-ordination you need to perform on a football pitch, rugby pitch, etc.
9. Include some essential isolation movements for underdeveloped body parts, such as flyes for your rear delts.
10. Olympic lifts aren’t 100% necessary.
They are fantastic movements but often very difficult and time consuming to learn (not that this is a bad thing in any way).
Jumps and ballistic movements (such as medicine ball throws) offer a highly effective replacement, and are probably even better if you actually play a sport.
11. Don’t use machines (especially if you play a sport).
Machines force you into a fixed plane of motion which is neither realistic nor safe. When using free weights, you will automatically adjust the position of the bar into a path that works for your own body, not one designed by the
shit Smith machine.
Furthermore, machines significantly reduce the involvement of stabiliser muscles that are needed for athletic performance and joint health. Not good news for your elbows, shoulders, and knees.
12. Don’t static stretch for long periods before your workout (with exceptions) – holding long static stretches might be detrimental to your power output during your session. Keep them limited to 5 – 10 secs max.
Focus on a dynamic warm-up instead, using CNS activation exercises such as jumps, throws, and KB swings before the main event.
13. Mobilise – learn how to use a foam roller, rumble roller, lacrosse ball, spikes, whip, or whatever gets you off. It is imperative to unloosen tight tissue if you want to maximise your performance and longevity.
14. Drop body fat with interval training. Heavy bag work, sled pulls, prowler pushes, skipping, swimming – just hit it hard, rest, then hit it hard again.
15. Warm up with multiple low rep sets – when you’re working up to a max set, don’t do what YOLOs do and jump straight in to your top set.
Start with the bar and warm up with multiple lower rep sets, taking care not to burn out ahead of the main event.
This is a specific warm up which will prime your nervous system, muscles, and joints for the work ahead.
16. Jump rope often! Superb for conditioning and co-ordination. I can’t recommend skipping highly enough, regardless of what sport you play.
Boxers have used skipping for years to get into fighting shape and keep them light on their toes.
17. Train in all directions.
Add change-of-direction agility work, sprint/jump from unorthodox positions (i.e. kneeling), do sideways step-ups, etc.
Keep your body ready to move in anywhere, not just directly in front of you.
18. Stay active.
Sitting all day is death. It will ruin your posture and make your muscles tight as hell.
Try to avoid using your car and walk as much as possible. Not only will this keep your weight down, but it will keep your body supple and young – those old geezers who walk everywhere often live long, healthy lives.
20. Keep the main part of your workouts short and intense – 45 mins to 1 hour. Training for much longer than this probably means you’re including too much junk in your session or are talking too much in between your sets. The gym ain’t a social club.
On your big barbell lifts, rest as long as you need to, but as you advance through the workout you should try to keep your rest periods shorter,
Get in and get out.
21. Stop going to failure (all the time). Save failure for isolation exercises and movements in which you’re doing 10+ reps. Failure is a tool in the training locker – don’t overuse it.
Too much of it will interfere with your recovery and muscular power – one of the reasons I’m not a fan of constant high rep circuit training.
22. Don’t do garbage like P90X. Just please.
23. Incorporate strongman training into your programming. You can do a whole session of it, or just include some exercises as a finisher.
Farmer’s walks using dumbbells are a savage end to any training session. Strength, endurance, and conditioning all in one exercise.
24. Drink water all the time.
Your hydration status is crucial to your performance, and even a small amount of dehydration will worsen it.
5% dehydration may lead to a 30% decrease in performance. Thirty percent!
Coconut water is an even more hydrating solution than water (albeit more expensive). Aim for your urine to be be clear(ish).
Well there you have it – 24 keys to athleticism which you can start implementing immediately. See you next time.