5 Ways to Improve or Maintain Your Athleticism

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

There are at least an equal amount of people who ruin their athleticism through their strength training efforts, as there are people who improve it.

The majority of guys who have been training for more than a decade have worse athletic ability than they did ten years earlier. It’s sad but true.

Many typical training protocols will slowly but surely ruin your athleticism. The overemphasis on maximal strength, the shortened ranges of motion, the imbalances created, the injuries accumulated…

It all adds up and one day before you know it you tear a hamstring playing a leisurely game of beach volleyball or blow out your back helping your mom move a thirty pound loveseat.

When people see you move on the dance floor at your sisters wedding they laugh and count their blessings that they never started weight training so they would never have to move like you, ya big doofus.

OH! Look atcha now.

Popped an Achilles trying to do the running man during Bust a Move while the alcoholic stock brokers and sixty year old ladies next to you get down all night without a care in the world.

Everyone wonders what all that training is good for as you’re rushed off the floor on a stretcher.

Thanks for putting another black eye on the game, pal.

Train like an athlete.”

It’s a popular, buzzword-ish concept these days. But what does it mean exactly?

If you play a sport it’s pretty obvious that one of your main goals during each offseason should be to improve your athleticism. In my opinion it’s as equally important for everyone who doesn’t play a sport to do the same.

It’s commonly known that when you age you lose your ability to perform explosively and move freely into athletic positions without pain or restriction.

I’d argue and say it’s more of a case of allowing yourself to lose those qualities that enhances the aging process and leads to your first rocking chair purchase.

Unless it’s Movement Based it’s Not THAT Athletic

Some people believe that training like an athlete means you squat instead of leg press.

While I agree that those seeking enhanced athleticism should steer clear of machine training there is nothing exceptionally athletic about performing a squat. It’s the first major movement pattern you mastered as an infant.

Since then you have probably screwed it up a bit and may not be able to do it as well but there is nothing exceptionally “athletic” about taking two steps back and squatting down.

It’s commonly performed millions of times per day in crappers worldwide.

I’m not knocking the squat, of course; it’s a great exercise that will do more for you and will incorporate far more muscle groups, and requires more hip and ankle mobility, along with core strength and stability than any machine.

Just don’t think that just because you put a bar on your back instead of lying down on the hack squat machine that you are magically going to become Jerry Rice.

Exercises like the handstand pushup, overhead squat one arm row all enhance your ability to perform athletically (provided you don’t do anything stupid or injure yourself). However, these are all exercises where you remain in a stationary position.

To really improve or maintain your athleticism you have to move.

It’s as simple as that.

No matter how “functional” an exercise may be deemed, if you remain stationary when performing it there is still a huge component missing.

Below are 5 ways to maintain or improve your athleticism.

1) Jump

Every training program should include some type of jumping.

Low level jumps like bounding, hopping and skipping rope can be performed quite frequently.

I’d recommend jumping rope at least three times per week, if only as part of your warm up. 

Intermediate level jumps should also be performed fairly regularly, but unlike the lowest level of jumps you should be concerned with counting ground contacts.

Do 5-6 sets of 3 reps, two or three times per week.

Advanced level jumps like depth jumps and landings should be performed less frequently and in blocks of 2-3 weeks before deloading and switching to another lower level jump.

2) Sprint

At least one or two days per week you should be getting out and opening it up on a field, beach or hill.

Sled work is great and I consider it irreplaceable in my training programs, but sprinting is far more athletic and needs to be included.

3) Change Directions

If you simply sprint in a straight line your athleticism will slowly decrease over the years because breaking and cutting will have been ignored.

You need to incorporate change of direction drills.

These don’t have to be fancy. Just grab a bunch of cones, set them up and sprint to them in random patterns.

The most basic is four cones in a square. Sprint to the first one, side shuffle left to the next one, back pedal to cone four and side shuffle right back to cone one.

If you use your imagination you can come up with some more without me listing them all here. These drills should last no more than ten seconds per set and can be performed once or twice a week.

4) Use An Agility Ladder

Now before people get up in arms and accuse me of being some “functional” dude let me explain. I actually believe that the agility ladder is more useful than non-athletes in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s than it is for those who are regularly competing.

The reason for that goes back to what I discussed earlier- most people don’t move quickly anymore once they stop playing a sport and that contributes to accelerated aging. The agility ladder is a perfect warm up for any workout just because it gets you moving your feet quickly again.

It’s not going to do much for Cam Newton but I have seen it help the 45 year old office worker who’s been sitting on his ass the last 15 years.

5) Incorporate Loaded Carries

Nnot many activities can qualify as more functional than picking up something heavy and carrying it.

You can use any implement you can think of such as barrels, sandbags, kettlebells, steel briefcases, water filled stability balls, a yoke, whatever. A

nd you can carry them in a zercher position, two hands overhead, one hand overhead, with two hands at your side, one hand at your side, one hand overhead and one at your side, unevenly loaded, in the racked position, on your back, etc. etc.

Pick one and do 3-5 sets of 20-40 yards once or twice a week.

I would also consider a walking lunge a form of weighted carries if performed in a non-traditional way such as with a log or sandbag over one shoulder.

To crank it up a notch you could even hold a kettlebell in the opposite hand of that which you are holding the sandbag over your shoulder with. (Just please don’t do these until your knee stability is up to par).

People often argue that single leg training is more functional but how much athleticism is required to do a stationary split squat or step up?

Does your training program include all of those components?

If not I can almost guarantee you that you are not doing the most to maximize your athleticism and many of you are probably losing it.

Don’t go into battle unprepared.

And don’t get carted off the dance floor at your sisters wedding.