Train like an athlete - guide for beginners - Jump Lift Spirit

Train like an athlete – guide for beginners

First and foremost, let me just say that this post is geared towards people who want to be athletic. If you aspire to be a bodybuilder, then this advice is not for you.

Anyway, onto the good stuff. As a personal trainer, any client I am working with automatically becomes an athlete in my eyes. That’s how we’ll train.

Even though you may not actually play a sport (or have any desire to), most athletes have very attractive, aesthetic physiques.

For men, think of sprinters or gymnasts. For women, think of tennis players or volleyball players.

It’s my belief that many people want to attain these type of physiques but just don’t know how to go about it, so I thought I’d put this guide together to help some people out.

Read below to find out what it means to train like an athlete, and what guidelines we can follow to make our training programme more effective.

  • It’s always preferable to use free weights instead of machines.

Free weights force our ‘stabiliser’ muscles to balance the weight we are holding while machines do pretty much all of the work for us.

That’s why a barbell squat is so much more difficult than a Smith machine squat – in a barbell squat your body to do so much more than simply push the weight straight up and down along a fixed bar-path.

Plus, free weights are just a whole lot more fun.

  • Whether you’re a male or female, the objective should always be to burn fat and build muscle.

    Training like an athlete will naturally build muscle and burn fat in the right places to make you look lean, fit, and healthy.

    Note: Many females tend to get very worried at the thought of building muscle, because they believe they’ll somehow turn into The Rock.

    I swear weight training won't make you like this if you're a girl..

    I swear weight training won’t make you like this if you’re a girl..

    The truth is that building muscle will produce that ‘toned’ physique most women are chasing, as well as giving shape to the highly prized thigh and bum area.

  • Athletes generally train with compound movements instead of isolation movements.

    A compound movement is any exercise where more than one large muscle group is involved.

    The squat, for example, is a classic compound movement. The quadriceps, abdominals, and glutes are all heavily involved.

    An isolation movement is an exercise which pretty much works only one major muscle.

    An example of this would be a machine bicep curl – only the biceps are working.

    Unless you are a bodybuilder, training with compound movements is the way to give you that athletic-aesthetic look.

  • Good looking abs are a side-effect of a good training programme – not the main focus of it!

    Now onto one of my pet peeves.. abs.

    If you lift weights, eat well, and do cardio (in the right way), abs will appear.

    But doing sit-ups and endless ab exercises everyday will do absolutely nothing to remove fat from your stomach – the only way to do that is to follow a solid training programme.

    Although ab training is still important, we have other priorities!

  • You can’t train hard every day (‘High-Low’)

    If you’re training hard, you need to have days where you really go after it, and days where you ease off. This is known as the ‘High-Low’ style of training.

    For example, if you have a really hard session on Monday, you should take it easy on Tuesday. That Tuesday might just consist of light jogging, walking, stretching, and any low intensity activity (it’s important to still move and not just sit on the couch).

    You need to give your body a chance to recover.

    Beginners who train 6-7 days a week quickly burn out, accumulating endless injuries and a huge drop in motivation.

    Unless you’re an elite athlete who has been training for many years, most people just cannot handle that volume of training.

    So be sure to cycle your intensity – HIGH one day, low the next, HIGH one day, low the next etc.

    I like 4 – 5 days a week training for beginners (which can be increased over time once your work capacity improves). Even someone like myself who has been training for a while can’t train hard every day.

    Make sure you take off at least one full day off every week!

  • Athletes generally don’t take reps to failure

    We’ve all witnessed that scene in the gym where two people are training, and one is shouting ‘ONE MORE!’ at his training partner. It seems like he can’t lift the weight, but somehow he grinds out that last rep in what appears to be slow motion. That’s called ‘going to failure’.

    While going to failure has it’s time and it’s place in training, in my opinion, it’s not for beginning trainees who are not looking to be bodybuilders.

    Your focus for the time being should be on executing all lifts with near-to-perfect technique, building up your work capacity, and avoiding injury.

  • If you’re an athlete, you don’t ‘work out’, you train

    What’s the difference you might ask?

    Somebody who ‘trains’ realises that they key to getting healthy and in the shape of their lives is to track what they’re doing in the gym and always try to improve upon it.

    Somebody who merely ‘works out’ goes to the gym with no real rhyme or reason.They might be doing the same workout every single week, with no improvements or progressions at all.

  • Athletes train their backsides alot!

    The muscles on the backside of the body make up the posterior chain – the lower back, the glutes (butt) and hamstrings. These muscles are very important for athletic performance.

    Most athletes are very well developed in these areas due to the high volume of training they dedicate to these areas. It just so happens that ‘normal people’ can benefit from improving these areas too.

    Many people suffer from lower back pain, and many people are unhappy with how their butt looks. So the answer is to train these areas just like athletes do.

    Anybody who trains with me will attest to how much training we do in these areas!

  • Athletes can use different styles of training

    The beauty of training like an athlete is that you can mix in lots of different styles of training – kettlebells, Olympic lifts, bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc.

    This is why athletic training is so fun to me. There are so many elements to it, so many fun things you can incorporate. All in all, it’s simple, effective, and exciting!

  • You should NEVER end a training session laying on the floor like you’re about to die

I got this one from Martin Rooney. You should leave your training session feeling like you worked            very hard, but not like you’re about to puke or die. Beating yourself into the ground like that is not            cool, nor will it improve your fitness. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Hope this helps guys


To enquire about training, hit me up on

About the Author Mustafa

Leave a Comment: