50 Ways to Become a Better Athlete

Here are some tips to help you or your players reach the next level of their development.

  1. Lift more – The best athletes are in the best shape. There’s no sport where extra strength is anything but beneficial. Get into the weight room and on a real strength program.
  2. Lift less – The flip side is there can be too much of a good thing. Overtraining can derail your progress and increase the chance of an injury.
  3. Lift heavier weights – At some point, you’ll need to advance to heavier weights and lower reps. 8-12 reps only works for so long, if you want to increase your maximum strength, you’ll need heavy weights and 5 reps or fewer.
  4. Lift lighter weights faster – The limiting factor for power development is rarely the strength aspect, but rather time. It’s important to train your neuromuscular system to recruit the stronger Type II muscle fibers as fast as possible.
  5. Lift your body weight – Learn to move your body in space. Pull ups, push ups, plyometrics, etc. Many stabilizing muscles are better trained in this type of environment, where the body is the source of both movement and resistance.
  6. Get bigger – If you’re on the smaller side, get in the weight room, eat more calories, and bulk up. You’ll need it at the higher levels of competition where the athletes are universally bigger and stronger.
  7. Get smaller – If your body fat is on the higher end for athletes (generally above 15-18%, but it depends on age, gender, and sport). Get some help with your nutrition and work on getting leaner. Please, be sure to do this safely and not by starving yourself or risky diets/supplements.
  8. Learn from people who have done what you want to do – There’s no better resource than someone who has been where you want to go. Learn from their mistakes and try not to repeat them.
  9. Stretch more – Full range of motion goes a long way in preventing injury and staying healthy.
  10. Stretch less – Don’t become obsessed with your flexibility, unless it is imperative to your sport. It’s important to maintain elasticity in your muscles for the stretch-contract cycle.
  11. Focus on mobility – Like #9, range of motion is an important area to focus on. Muscles can be flexible, but joints must be mobile in order to move freely.
  12. Put more time and effort into your warm-up – The days of jogging on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes and doing a light set or two of your first exercise are over. Learn a proper warm-up and implement it.
  13. Focus more – Put away your phone and pay attention to the task at hand. If you’re distracted during a game, you’ll get beat. Train how you play – focused.
  14. Think less – Malcom Gladwell did an excellent job describing the difference between panicking and choking in his book, What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures. We choke when we over-think and question our instincts. Clear your mind and let your body do what you’ve trained it to do.
  15. Listen to your coaches – Yes, there are some that don’t know what their talking about, or don’t have your best interests in mind, but they are a much smaller minority than athletes believe. Your coaches want to help you – let them.
  16. Play other sports – This is especially important for younger athletes (high school and under). The more sports you play, the more your body will develop. Areas not regularly stressed in your sport become addressed with cross-training, and you avoid getting burnt out.
  17. Play your sport more – Of course, the further along you are in your athletic life, the more important it is to get more reps. If you play basketball, get in the gym and put up more shots or jump into pick up games. Continue to develop outside of practice.
  18. Sleep more – Sports, and training, put huge demands on the body and require adequate recovery. This is even more true for student-athletes who go through the strain of school on top of their physical demands. Get to bed early, sleep as many hours as you can before midnight, and let your mind & body recover.
  19. Eat more – As I said above, your body needs proper recovery in order to develop. Starving yourself or not getting enough fuel can quickly lead to overtraining.
  20. Eat less – Remember, eat to fuel, not to feed. Don’t put junk into your body or else you’ll get junk out of it.
  21. Find your motivation – Everyone reaches a point where they have to ask if all this work is worth it. This moment comes at a different time for everybody, but acts as an excellent filter to find the truly dedicated athletes. Find what works for you – quotes, posters, whatever helps you fight through the rough patches to reach success.
  22. Do more sprinting – I have yet to find anything as great at developing athleticism than sprinting. Huge bang for the buck – fat loss, lower body strength, lower body power, increased speed, increased vertical – great all around for athletic development. Very few athletes can’t benefit from getting faster.
  23. Go swimming – Not many training programs schedule in frequent trips to the pool, which makes it a perfect change of pace. No-impact, different stimulus, and different demand on the body.
  24. Fight a grizzly bear – Not literally (hopefully), but try something you think you’ll fail at, but have wanted to try. Worst case scenario, you’re right where you started, but you’ve gained a new experience. Best case scenario, you’ve beaten the grizzly and are ready to take on the next challenge.
  25. Get more reps in your sport (relaxed) – Remember what first started your passion for sports, they’re fun. Spend some time getting back to having fun with it and not worry about mechanics or perfecting every move.
  26. Learn something new – This can be related to your sport or completely separate. It’s important to keep yourself mentally stimulated and not get complacent with what you know.
  27. Build a support structure – Nothing great was ever built on a poor foundation. Friends, family, coaches, and mentors can provide invaluable resources for your development. If you let them know your goals, you’ll be amazed at the support, motivation, and help you’ll receive.
  28. Try to help others improve – I’ve found that one of the best ways to improve is by trying to help others. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself while viewing someone else.
  29. Watch the best – Take the time to see the best at your sport. Instead of just watching a game on TV, try to study the players. Learn from them and see what you can carry over to your game.
  30. Do more single leg lifts – Most movements in sports are unilateral. Train single leg movements to improve hip and core stability.
  31. Get off the ground – If your sport involves power (hint – they all do), then make sure you’re getting in some good plyometrics. Moderate your total jumps, but be sure to include hops, bounds, and jumps off one and two feet.
  32. Learn to do the Olympic lifts – Compared to the big three lifts (deadlift, squat, bench press), Olympic lifts are the best for power production. The list of benefits are endless and include improved flexibility/mobility, increased power output, and great posterior chain training.
  33. Play above your level – Very important for high school athletes. Sometimes, it’s good to realize you’re place in things. Older, bigger, better players will negate all your strengths and force you into finding other ways to play.
  34. Drink more water – At least a gallon a day. Grab a jug and finish it by dinner.
  35. Take fewer supplements – You don’t need everything GNC sells. Remember, they are supplements and should be supplementing your diet. Eat right and you won’t need to spend hundreds of dollars a month on powders and pills.
  36. Take more supplements – There are a select few I recommend. Get a good  protein supplement (I like Muscle Milk), fish or flaxseed oil, magnesium for before bed, and a good multivitamin. Some extras that are nice, but just luxuries to have, are pure L-Glutamine and some BCAA powder, but there should be enough of both in your protein.
  37. Ask questions – This goes along with several of the above points, try to learn as much as you can. Asking questions of other players, coaches, even players from other sports can provide you new information and insights to improve your game.
  38. Train like you play – Does your sport involve several quick, explosive movements followed by brief rest periods (pretty much all do)? Then why train by running on a treadmill for an hour? Strength, speed, quickness, and power are the key ingredients to an elite athlete, not distance running (unless you’re a distance runner/triathlete).
  39. Get healthy – Go to your athletic trainer or doctor and find a way to get rid of any nagging injuries you have. An injured athlete is an ineffective athlete.
  40. Take some time off – Right after season, step away from the court, field, etc. Give yourself a few weeks to recharge mentally and physically.
  41. Turn off the TV – Years ago, before all of the video games, people were forced to find other means to entertain themselves. Before Madden, people actually played football outside. Crazy idea, but give it a shot.
  42. Do something calming everyday – There’s a lot of stress in this world, be sure to find a calming activity that relaxes you. There’s plenty of time to be stressed, find ten minutes to be calm.
  43. Listen to your body – Not every day will be a great training day. Go off what your body is telling you and take a rest when you need it and push when you can (and you can more than you realize, so keep pushing).
  44. Find a mentor – A good mentor can teach you more than any book, class, or video ever can.
  45. Don’t be afraid to fail – This goes with learning something new. You won’t perfect a skill overnight, but you can get a little better at it each day.
  46. Buy a foam roller – I’ve expressed my love for foam rolling before, but it deserves repeating. Roll out every day and work out any kinks you have. You’re body will feel better after.
  47. Avoid alcohol – Alcohol doesn’t do anything to benefit your body and instead wreaks havoc on your training gains. Decide what’s more important to you, drinking or succeeding in your sport.
  48. Surround yourself with positives – As with stress, there is plenty of negativity in this world, try to surround yourself with as little of it as you can. Positive energy feeds positive results.
  49. Know your limits – You can only do so much. We all have our limits
  50. Try to exceed them – But fear of them can keep you from making gains. Have a gut-check workout. Bust your butt and try to better yourself every day.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments by email, or on Twitter. As always, if I can ever help you or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES


Erson Religioso III, DPT, FAAOMPT

Hey Drew, great job! I will either recommend this post or not recommend it, lol!

Thanks Erson! It all depends on whether they have, or haven't read it! There's always a balance to be found. Hahaha

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