Improving your sports performance is something all athletes want to do. It is important to remember that each individual’s sport places different demands on the body, which is why having an experienced and knowledgeable coach is essential. There are some clear ways that an athlete can help themselves to perform at their best in both training and competition. Here are 3 tips to improve your athletic performance, no matter what your level and sport.
Firstly, it all depends where you fall on the speed – strength continuum. That is, what attributes do you need and what attributes do you have?
A Muay Thai fighter or martial artist would need greatly different attributes to a powerlifter or strongman for example, and would therefore need to develop different facets of their athletic performance.
To a particular level, strength work helps all athletes regardless of sport. The amount of strength needed greatly varies however, even within similar or related competition, especially when taking into account styles. Consider the strength demands of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who plays a guard game off their back, juxtaposed with a wrestler who likes top control. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter would likely need less absolute strength than the wrestler, and more quickness and flexibility, especially with regards to leg dexterity. Obviously, an athlete’s body shape and current strength level would have a big impact on the style that they use in competition.
3 Tips to Improve your Athletic Performance
Regardless of the sport or athlete, some things always hold true. Here are 3 essential tips to improve your own sports performance whether that’s in the ring, on the field, or on the golf course. Remember that it’s not always the ‘pretty’ or ‘cool’ things that help performance the most, and if you’re training for performance then a bodybuilding style of lifting weights is likely exactly how you shouldn’t be training.
1. Improve your mobility and flexibility
Improving your range and quality of movement is often the fastest way of improving your sports performance, no matter what sport you play. This is because a greater range of movement and flexibility allows you to generate more force and power; think of a golfer’s backswing. If the athlete can bring the club back higher and further, they will have a bigger range of motion to move through when bringing the club down and through before striking the ball. Improving your mobility and flexibility can be achieved easily with stretching, dynamic mobility work and foam rolling.
2. Conditioning and Fitness Levels
An athlete’s condition and level of overall fitness is most important when preparing for competition, but they must be able to perform at a consistently high level in training in order to get the maximum results from their training. A rugby player would need to develop their overall fitness and cardiovascular levels to a much higher level than a powerlifter or high jumper or long jumper, because they need to be able to move around the pitch well for a long period of time. A powerlifter or jumping athlete only needs to be able to produce a very high level of output for merely a few seconds. Consider how you train your overall VO2 max; a rugby player needs to be able to run for a long time, whereas a power based athlete would want to work on very hard explosive movements for a very short period of time.
3. Jump and Lift! To Increase your Power Generation and Overall Strength
As mentioned earlier, all athletes can benefit from increased strength levels. Strength will often result in more power. Lifting weights will improve neuromuscular control and put some mass on your body – essential if you’re playing a sport like rugby. If you are an athlete with a weight class (like a fighter or wrestler) you need to be careful when adding mass. However, you can still benefit from power based training and explosive actions such as jumping and bounding. Jumping helps develop your fast twitch (explosive) muscle fibres and improves your muscular coordination, making it possible to jump higher. When progressed correctly, this can be translated to more powerful movements, better body control and resilience to injury. A great way to improve these base strength levels are incorporating powerlifts such as squats and deadlifts, and in terms of jumping start with box jumps and single leg jumps. Start by including basic strength training in your program, and increase your weight lifted on a weekly basis. For jumping, start with a low box that is comfortable to jump onto, and then every week increase the height of the box.
Bonus tip - Utilise the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) Principle:
Your body adapts specifically to imposed demands. Therefore, you should always periodise your training, in terms of working from a base level general physical preparedness (GPP) training to more specific physical preparation (SPP). Periodisation stops you from training aimlessly and compounds the progress you can make in each training cycle.
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