It takes a full-time commitment to be a competitive athlete. To be successful, you need to work around the clock—not stop when you leave the gym or practice field.
Too many athletes fail to realize the importance of commitment. And it often leads to them to unknowingly sabotage their own training progress. Throughout my career, I've noticed these three key mistakes made consistently by athletes, regardless of the sport.
Failing to Plan
You will never get results just by showing up at the gym. Training progress can only be achieved if you have a well-designed plan.
Each workout needs to be mapped out with session goals and set exercises. Athletes should never go into the gym without knowing exactly what they're about to do. (Learn How to Develop a Periodized Workout Plan.)
Think of it this way—if you're too indifferent to devote time to plan, maybe you're too lazy to reach your full potential.
Overloading Instead of Progressively Overloading
There is some truth to the idea that you must continually lift heavier weights to make strength gains. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
You never want to overload yourself when strength training. It can only lead to injury. Instead, you need to progressively overload your training. This means each week, increase the load on selected exercises in your training plan. (See how to do this with Building a Safe Plyometric Progression.)
When using this method, do not force yourself to lift heavier than the programmed weight for the session. Equally important: always use proper lifting form and technique. The numbers will take care of themselves.
Not Training With Sport-Specific Sets and Reps
It's a standard exercise protocol to specify sets and reps. What many athletes fail to do is tailor sets and reps to their sport.
Maxing out on reps can lead to oxidative energy system use, best for endurance training. Lowering reps and increasing weight leads to the use of phosphagen system, better for strength and power training.
Take a look at your sport. If it is designed for power and speed (e.g., football or basketball), keep rep counts to a minimum of one and maximum of five. This will help with strength and power development. If the demands of your sport are more similar to cross-country running, increase your reps and time in selected exercises.
This is the most critical area of training. Yet athletes frequently fail to grasp its importance.
In my mind, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. I think the post-workout meal supersedes it, because it allows you to gain muscle, refuel and properly recover. Protein helps rebuild muscle, and carbohydrates help replenish the energy needed for your next training bout. (See Elevate Your Game With Pre-and-Post Workout Nutrition.)
After a vigorous workout, your best choices are protein shakes or meals balanced with the right ratio (4:1) of carbohydrates to protein.
Protein shakes have become popular because they are digested faster than solid food. A protein shake could speed up the start of your muscle rebuilding process. But eating a regular meal is better if you finish a workout around mealtime.
Do not take my above comment as an excuse to skip breakfast. It is still a very important meal. I'd rank it as the second most important. Breakfast literally breaks the fast your body has been going through during sleep. A solid breakfast will help to energize your body for the long day ahead. (See what your favorite pros eat in Pro Plates: Breakfast.)
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