You’ve been working out for your sport and doing everything right: changing up your exercise program at least once a month, drinking a lot of liquid before and during your workout, keeping track of how much you’re increasing the amount of weight you lift.

But you’re still not getting any better! Why not?

It could very easily be the fact that you’re not lifting the right weights for the right number of repetitions. Just going to the gym and hoisting a few dumbbells for the typical 12-rep, five-set routine won’t cut it if you want to move up on the competition. You have to connect the way you train to the requirements of your sport.

For example: a baseball player, basketball player or golfer all have to make just one very powerful shoulder movement. The baseball player does it at bat or when pitching, the basketball player does it when trying to sink a basket or throw the ball, the golfer uses it for a backswing and to control the club.

So why would these athletes ever bother lifting 15 reps of moderate weight? Because they use their muscles constantly in lighter movements, they should be doing 20 to 30 repetitions of light weights. But because they need one very powerful movement to hit, throw or swing, they need to train for that with three or four reps of heavy weights, moving as fast as possible, and constantly working on getting quicker and lifting more — in other words, building power for that telling moment.

A runner makes hundreds, perhaps thousands, of repeated steps, depending on the distance of the race. Road training is excellent practice. But at the end of the race, when the end is in sight, those tired, worn out runners pick up the pace and sprint to the finish. The runner who doesn’t have that energy in reserve will feel a sour sense of defeat as others get ahead.

So if you’re a runner, you don’t just train by miles. At the end, when you’re most tired, you also do some training sprints; getting your body used to the fact that it will have to do this in a race.

A cyclist needs to have a smooth and circular pedal stroke. If you do tri’s or road races, are you losing out because you’re not as strong when pulling the pedal up in back? If so, your training must include hamstring and glute work, the two muscles most involved in bringing the pedal back around to the top again.

Think about the kind of training you’ll need to be a stronger cyclist. It’s not limited to 12 or 15 reps of heavy weight, because the pedal you’re pulling up isn’t heavy, and you do it a whole lot more than 15 times. Yes, you need the strength of the typical 12- to 15-rep workout, but you also need to train cycle-specific. That means hamstring curl sets with many reps, perhaps even more than 50, with very light weights. If you train on a stationary bike, you might even want to wear five to ten pound ankle weights for half an hour or so.

You do need to use the typical general training program at least once a week. But like the elite athletes who have expert trainers to design their sports-specific programs, you need to do the conditioning that will help you be a better athlete in your own sport. Yes, it’s good to have a program that gets you in shape — whatever that means — but your main goal is to be in the best shape for your sport. That may take only a little planning, but the payoff will be the biggest thing your competition has ever seen.


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