We all go through it.
You have to sprint or jump to catch something being thrown by you, you go to jump in and play some touch football, pick up basketball, etc. and you realize how long it’s been since you’ve done something athletic and you just can’t keep up or perform like you used to.
It’s been quite a few years, you can really feel the lack of pop in your step.
For most of us out there, once we get past high school, our time spent doing athletic activities takes a pretty big drop.
In the case of those who kept up doing more athletic options into their young adult years – those who played a college sport, got involved in rec sports or intramurals – you got a few more years of athleticism.
This happens for a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we just gradually do less and less athletic based things.
Many people get into a groove of just trying to be healthy, look good in a bathing suit, or to get really strong.
There isn’t anything wrong with these things, but getting hyper focused on them does come at the expense of other factors.
When it comes to physical activity to be healthy, improve aesthetics, or getting strong, it doesn’t require much complexity – be consistent, train your total body frequently, and progress over time.
In contrast, staying athletic takes a bit more than that.
There is a ton of merit in being at a good bodyweight, being healthy, and being strong, but these things don’t inherently allow you to move fast, change direction, or be stable in different positions.
How do we overcome this?
We put together a list of our top recommendations to keep you feeling athletic – or get it back!
Let’s get into it.
If you’re looking for a starting point, jumping should be on the top of the list.
As we age we progressively lose our power, and jumping puts a huge emphasis on power.
There is no best jump variation, just find one to start and gradually try other variations in time.
If you’re looking to learn more about jump variations, we covered a beginner’s guide to plyometrics in this article.
If most people envision an athlete, someone who does some sort of sport with a huge component of sprinting usually comes to mind.
Sprinting is a close second to jumping when it comes to athleticism.
We would probably argue it’s actually higher in athleticism than jumping, however it does have a lot more prerequisites we would recommend before getting into it.
As awesome as sprinting is, not everyone should jump right into it. (pun intended)
Given the high speed demand it has, if you haven’t sprinted in the last 5 years at all, you’d better build your way up – well everyone who isn’t regularly sprinting should build their way up.
Most people would be best off doing some remedial drills like Butt kicks, High Knees, and A skips for a couple of weeks for 5-15 minutes on a regular basis.
After that, doing a few weeks of a gradual build into your percentage of effort would be ideal.
As well, the vast majority of people would be best off cutting their top end effort just a bit short of full effort.
Instead of going guns blazing max speed, putting in around 90% effort.
You see, when people are putting in top speed effort, thats when we see the highest rate of possible injury, and we don’t get much benefit from it over 90%.
Week 1: 3 sets of 20m sprints at 70% effort
Week 2: 3 sets of 20m sprints at 80% effort
Week 3: 3 sets of 20m sprints at 90% effort
Week 4: 3 sets of 30m sprints at 70% effort
Repeat to desired goal
3. Fast feet
When it comes to high level athletics, how fast you move your feet does not make a big difference – it’s all about how much force you put into the ground, and then doing that quickly.
Why then do we make a strong recommendation for fast feet?
Being able to move your feet fast requires that you TRY to move quickly and be reactive in the effort.
This is something we often lose without being in a more athletic environment.https://vimeo.com/365999003
It doesn’t take much, just doing it as part of a warm up or right before getting into some jumps or sprints.
Doing just 2-3 sets for 10-20 seconds is usually more than sufficient if you’re doing other things like jumping.
4. Move in different planes
Let’s be real here, the vast majority of gym goers live in the sagittal plane.
We have no problem with that – it’s a good place to be and if you had to pick only one of the planes of motion to focus on, most people should pick that one.
However, life and sport doesn’t live there and we need to be able to function beyond it.
This can be a simple change that has a profound impact.
Starting to include more exercises such as lateral squats or lunges
Or performing movements like the rotational lunge where we start to combine a rotational movement with a sagittal movement.
These could be done in your warm up, or as accessory movements to start progressively including more dynamic options.
5. Lift faster
There’s a saying in sports “Speed Kills” and it is very accurate.
When we look at the most successful athletes, we see that it is usually the one that can have the quickest action.
Lifting faster can help in improving your rate of force development, which is a major component of being able to move faster.
It is only one piece in the puzzle, but it is an important one.
In coming weeks we are going to be doing an in-depth review of the research on lifting speed literature, so be sure to watch for it.
6. One leg or one arm
The majority of times that we need to act in an athletic environment, we will do so with some sort of stance or positioning that requires one arm or one leg to either be used separately from the other, or more than the other.
It is a rarity that you see people with a symmetrical bilateral stance or grip for very long when doing activities.
By training more unilateral activities you can ensure that you are more competent with each side, as well as being able to build your trunk through greater ability to control motion around it.
A few of our favorites are:
Single arm rows
Single arm presses
Single leg deadlifts
Plus so many more!
If you’re looking for a program that puts together these different factors for you in a nice package, be sure to check out the programs that we offer!