13 Ways To Be More Athletic

While most guys (and gals) go to the gym to look better, I find that when I talk to people, a common theme arises – they don’t want to just look good, they want to be strong and athletic, too.  In short, they want to become monsters.

What’s the point in being all ‘show’ and no ‘go’, right?

This is totally understandable. We as a society glorify our sporting stars, and marvel at their athletic skill.  Not only that, but many a gym goer competes in social sports on the weekend, even if it’s something as simple as touch football.

So why wouldn’t they want to be more athletic?

The thing is, most people don’t know, or have a skewed perception, on how to become more athletic. So I’ve created a simple lists of steps you can go by in order to improve your athleticism.

1 – Add Jump Training To The Start Of Your Sessions – jump training helps improve Rate of Force Development (RFD), or, to put it more simply, your explosiveness. Beginning a couple of sessions per week with 3-4 sets of 5 jumps (be it broad, vertical, box, or whatever you like) will do wonders for your athleticism.


2 – Get Stronger – strength is the foundation of all athletic qualities, and as Mike Robertson puts it ‘a key component to long-term athletic success’.  In fact, it’s not uncommon to see improvements in strength correlate to improvements in all other athletic characteristics (be it speed, agility, endurance, durability etc.), particularly in untrained individuals.

3 – Fix Your Weak Points – we’ve all heard the saying ‘a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link’, right? Well the same is true for the body. If you’ve got a glaringly obvious weak point, such as having the mobility of a crowbar, or having a poorly functioning posterior chain, then you won’t ever be able to perform to the standard of your stronger points.

4 – Improve Your Aerobic Capacity – I have to thank Joel Jamieson for bringing my attention to this one, as I, like many other fitness professionals (and regular folk, for that matter), have to admit to getting caught up in the ‘we only have to train high-intensity intervals for our conditioning, because it closely mimics sporting conditions’, movement. The truth of the matter is that the better our aerobic system is trained, the less we have to rely on our anaerobic system, leaving it free to contribute more power to our movements when we need it to.

5 – Address Your Mobility – mobility limitations are one of the most common restrictions when it comes to effectively learning, or executing, athletic movements. At least 90% of guys that come to train with me need a healthy dose of mobility work, and it always makes a world of difference to their athleticism.  Kelly Starrett says that your goal should be to move like a ‘supple leopard’, and I have to agree with him.

supple leopard

6 – Proper Speed Training Technique Trumps Pure Power – the mechanics of being fast on a field or court are actually quite simple. Making them second nature is what takes time and dedication. Learning, and then ingraining, good technique in what I call linear and lateral speed (or ‘sport-specific’ speed) is paramount for an athlete. An athlete who has good mechanics will be faster, and use less energy, than an athlete who tries to ‘power’ their way into positions 9 times out of 10.

7 – Learn Your Sport – don’t just learn the rules, or basic strategy, but become a ‘student of the game’. How often do you see a 10-year veteran of a sport, who may not be as straight up athletic as his younger opponents, but constantly beats them to vital positions?  It’s because he (or she) has the foresight to a) read a play, and, b) react to it, faster than anyone else.

8 – Do More Single-Leg Training – what’s not to love about single-leg training? It improves mobility in the hips, trains the lower limb stabilises, increases proprioception (understanding where your body is in space), and builds single-leg strength & power, which will increase sprinting speed. It’s also a nice heart-raiser.

9 – Run More Hill Sprints – hill sprints train good acceleration mechanics, will improve running power, and are about as hard of a conditioning session tool that you’ll find – need I say any more?


10 – Lift More Things Over Your Head – there’s not much more athletic than picking something up and lifting it above your head. It’s really one of those true signs of strength, kind of like the deadlift.

11 – Experiment With Gymnastic-Based Movements – the Olympics are about to kick off in London, and whilst I’m sure many guys will label the male gymnasts as ‘feminine’ for wearing tights and rolling around on the floor, I can guarantee you that every single one of them is jealous of the strength, co-ordination, and the bodies that these guys are rocking. Start implementing movements such as handstands, rolls, ring work, front levers, that share their roots in gymnastics, and I’m sure you’ll see the benefits that they have to offer.

12 – Throw Medicine Balls At Walls – I consider medicine ball training to be a cheap form of Olympic Lifting. I say ‘cheap’ not because the tools themselves are cheaper (although they are), but medicine ball training doesn’t bang up your body up anywhere near as much as O-Lifts, do; so you don’t ‘pay’ as much for your improved explosiveness. Sure, it doesn’t carry over perfectly to O-Lifting, but it’s still an explosive movement that involves a weighted implement.

13 – Use More Carries – carries are basically exercises where you carry an implement, (be it dumbbells, kettlebells, sand bags etc.) over a certain amount of distance, or for time. I love carries, because they’re so simple, yet so effective.  They’ll solidify your core, improve your grip, strengthen your legs, as well as improve your strength-endurance. It’s not an uncommon site at the gym to see one of my clients carrying dumbbells up and down the hallway.

So what are you waiting for?  Go out and train the become a monster!

James Garland

James is an educator, frequent ranter, teller of terrible jokes, lover of all-day breakfasts, and the Education Manager for The Fitness Playground. Feel free to tell him whether you loved, or hated, this article below.

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