The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.
– Vince Lombardi
In a world that promises results overnight, trends supported by fancy gibberish grow popular. They throw around science and before-and-after transformations to back up their product. They complicate things so that you regard it all highly if only from confusion. The bad part of your human nature gives in, and you fall for yet another quick and easy road to success. Instead, this path should saturate with your blood, sweat, and tears.
Although we all differ in potential, the elite put forth effort, day in and day out, to achieve their dreams. Although no secrets exist, I can offer a suggestion toward reaching your goals. Strive for efficiency. You would do well to simplify your program instead of making it more complex. Everything you do should have a purpose. Efficiency means using your body’s limited resources carefully. This allows you to progress, should you work hard enough.
Base your training around THREE PILLARS: Strength, Endurance, and Mobility. Address each in the most efficient way possible. Should you embrace this idea, you will have an edge toward creating the best you. This far exceeds the limit that you likely have set upon it. You can develop a body that looks and works well enough to impress nearly anyone. Athletes will have to drill down further in each major category, but still need to always build upon these three to improve their potential.
Strength is the force your muscles exert. This improves by generating tension with heavy weights. You can use a wide number of possible reps per set. Tension DOES NOT depend on how much exercise you do. It requires just enough that your body needs to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Work hard, not long.
Address the major muscle groups. You only need three basic exercises, a push, pull, and squat. You can use almost any reasonable repetition range, anywhere from 3-30. Beginners would benefit from starting with a moderate range, such as 6-15, and then go whichever way feels best based on preference. You must add weight over time.
These pillars address fitness components, not sports performance. Although growing stronger will make you a better athlete, this differs from developing skills. Your potential for speed, balance, and agility will improve as you grow stronger. Explosive movements rely on the same muscle fibers as heavy movements. Nonetheless, you need to sprint, row, bike, and so on to develop speed. Practice your sport relentlessly.
Unique adaptations take place for every activity. All athletes function as specialists to some degree. Speed, for instance, relies on storing and releasing elastic energy more so than heavy lifting. You need to chisel a little deeper if getting ready for a specific activity.
Endurance means activity for a long period of time. Developing this depends mainly on getting the heart rate up and keeping it there. Long is relative. This takes longer than strength training, but not by much. You can get all the benefits in 3-5 minutes. Intervals are the most efficient method for developing endurance.
If you run marathons, you need to run for very long, regardless of the damage to your joints and the time required. You also need to develop local adaptations to the muscles. Running may improve your overall cardio, but will fail to develop the changes that would occur in the upper body for a swimmer. Generalists can cross-train more often, switching up exercise modes to keep it interesting. Athletes can do this as well, but to a lesser degree.
Mobility work helps you move normally. Unlike the other qualities, this requires a balance. You need not gain extreme mobility. Gymnasts need extreme levels, even if this may harm the spine and other joints. Martial artists may need great hip mobility to kick. Both too much and too little flexibility present risk factors for injury.
This can include stretching for flexibility and general activity that prevents you from feeling tight. If you have tight hamstrings, they pull on your lower back all day long. You will use poor form for lower body movements that further aggravate it. Since we sit too often in society today, stretching can restore normal ranges of motions. Walking and other easy daily activity can also keep you mobile.
Ask yourself if your weekly program develops all three of these pillars. Keep it basic. Aim for efficiency. Do three basic strength training exercises 1-3 times a week and get as strong as possible. Practice 3-5 minute intervals several times a week at the most. Stretch before or after the tougher workouts. Try to do some light activity daily.
As an athlete, you need specific training. In most cases, you develop your potential through these pillars. Then, you just practice your sport. In some cases, you may have to be inefficient since your sport requires it.
All athletes need some work in all the pillars, but may find themselves achieving more in one category. This should occur more so due to their potential versus ignoring any pillar. A football player can train to feel less winded, but will perform poorly during a long run versus someone that trains for it and weighs much less. A marathoner can still gain relative strength, but has less fast-twitch muscle fibers present in explosive athletes.
These pillars form a complete program. You will allot as much time in a week as some do in a single day, should you follow these suggestions. Adhere to these pillars, and gain better results in less time.