I don't know everything. I don't pretend to. But I've been training athletes, especially football players, for a long time, and there's one rule I've seen prove itself true over and over again. It's really quite simple.
If you train soft and cushy, you're going to play soft and cushy.
Period. Plain and simple.
Why do I say this? Because I'm really tired of seeing coaches hand out these cute little Med-Ball-Drops-plus-some-Planks workouts and telling their players that they will get them ready to play. There's no way a routine like that is going to make you strong and fast enough to play most sports—especially not football.
People talk about yoga and Pilates and all kinds of other training methods that are supposed to be the new way to go. I have news for you: Nothing, and I mean nothing; can replace the benefit of a heavy barbell across the back of your shoulders.
I recently was at a fairly large football camp (which shall remain nameless), where there were plenty of coaches (who also shall remain nameless) talking about training. And as I was listening, it occurred to me that they all seemed to be talking about some sissy drill that this pro athlete does, or how that pro athlete never lifts. Guess what: You are not a pro athlete. If you were, you wouldn't be reading this (or be at a camp, listening to coaches yammer on).
Although .00001% of all athletes might be born with superhuman strength that they can hone with bodyweight moves and bunny hop drills, odds are that for you to reach your potential as an athlete, you need to hit the weights. And you need to hit them hard.
The best non-sport-specific training you can do to become a better athlete takes place in a gym. Years ago, a coach told me that almost any program will work so long as you use heavy weight and work really hard. And you know what? He wasn't far off. We make the best gains when we lift hard and fast and consistently do so. Those cute little workouts may be good to mix in once and awhile, but if your foundation isn't build on big exercises performed with big weights, you're not going to reach full speed on the field. I guarantee it.
So what does work?
Yeah, I just said it, but I'll say it again: Athletes must hit big heavy compound movements such as Squats, Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Sled Drags and Pushes—and anything else that recruits a lot of muscle all at once. For your upper body, you must do Military Presses, Close-Grip Bench Presses and Back Rows, and do them all with heavy weights.
Staying on Schedule
You have got to go hard and work out in a no-nonsense fashion. You can't stand around talking, doing a set here and there. You have got to be rock solid in your approach. Take precisely the rest intervals your plan calls for, no more, no less. Cut the crap. You can yap with your friends later. Get in, go hard and go home.
While the right exercises matter, the real secret to making gains is getting after it in the weight room. Your training environment should be a serious environment. You should go about it with an attitude. You must build a persona that is intense if you want your game to be intense. Every athlete I have ever worked with who was worth his or her salt has trained with intensity.
Building the Plan Around You
At my gym, Ultimate Advantage, we make the program fit the athlete. We do not try and make the athlete fit the program. We tailor our programs to the athlete's needs and goals. You should do the same. Don't train out of a magazine. It does a football or basketball player zero good to follow some bodybuilding routine.
All of our athletes, regardless of sport, work out a minimum of three days per week. Most of them are in the gym four days a week. We only go max twice a week, once for the upper body, once for the lower body. On the other days, we work for speed strength or rep strength.
If you want game, you got to build it. That's done one pound at a time in the weight room. So if you hear people talking about some cute little soft workout, let 'em talk. You're going to lift hard and heavy, and when you meet those other folks on the field, wish 'em luck. They're going to need it. You'll be stronger. You'll be faster. Because you've put in the work—the right type of work.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock