As a competitive athlete, you regularly run the risk of making a mistake that could potentially cost your team a game. Although they are somewhat embarrassing, blowing coverages or making errant passes are things you can easily bounce back from. However, the same can’t always be said for training mistakes. These can ultimately sabotage your workouts. Training the wrong way contributes to muscle imbalances, limits flexibility and opens you up to suffering an acute injury–all of which can lead to more chronic problems, such as tendonitis and lower back pain.
In an effort to avoid these outcomes, I thought it would be helpful to identify the most common training mistakes many athletes fall victim to. Take a look and see if you’re guilty of any of the following infractions. If you are, arm yourself against them. Avoiding them will yield much more enjoyable and effective workouts. You will be absolutely amazed by how much more productive your training becomes.
1. Failing to Warm up Properly
Walking into a gym or out onto a field and doing a couple of half-hearted static stretches is a mistake of epic proportions! Before you engage in intensive strength training, or speed and agility work, a proper warm-up is required.
As any of today’s top athletes will tell you, going through a thorough “movement prep” is an absolute must prior to any type of physical conditioning. Such preparation features lots of dynamic stretches and muscle activation drills. The warm-up drills shown in the above video increase body temperature and blood flow; improve active range of motion around the joints; and excite the central nervous system, getting the body in a much more physically prepared state for running, jumping and lifting.
2. Focusing on Quantity Over Quality
The recent popularity of “boot camp” style workouts has many athletes more concerned with how much work they can do. Instead, training should focus on how well you perform the movements. An even more important consideration is how appropriate they are for your stage of development and body type.
Using high repetition plyometric and Olympic lifts, tire flipping, sled dragging and other explosive interval drills, many athletes are treating workouts as a way to test the limits of what their bodies can endure.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard. But the whole point of training is to create an overload that forces physical adaptations to improve size, strength and speed. If the overload is too great, your body won’t recover sufficiently. You will not only fail to improve, you will become more susceptible to injury. Bottom line: focus on doing less work but doing it well, rather than trying to cram in as much as possible.
3. Imbalanced Workouts
Because exercises like the Bench Press, Squat and Pull-Up are so popular, many athletes unknowingly create muscle imbalances. Over time, such imbalances can negatively impact your ability to move efficiently.
If you don’t work on balancing physical development, you’re asking for trouble. Start prioritizing exercises like Rows, Reverse Flys and External Rotations to strengthen your upper back and rotator cuffs. While you’re at it, shift the focus of your leg workouts to strengthening your glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors as a unit, which can be done with Deadlifts and Stability Ball Leg Curls. Strengthening the muscles in the back of your body, known collectively as the “posterior chain,” is one of the best ways to guard against knee injuries. Also, pay regular attention to maintaining good posture. Before long, this approach should yield significant benefits in terms of both performance and injury prevention.
4. Neglecting Recovery and Regeneration
Without question, this is the single biggest training mistake that athletes make, especially high school athletes. Failing to recover from one workout to the next invites burnout from overtraining and dramatically increases the potential for injury.
Regularly use foam rolling, post-workout static stretching and other recovery aids like contrast showers and ice baths. They help rejuvenate your body so you can hit it hard again the next time you train.
The roller literally helps “iron out” knots and adhesions that develop as the result of intense training and chronic overuse. Post-workout stretching is a great way to coax your muscles to relax and return to their resting length. Add either a contrast shower (alternate between 30 seconds hot and 30 seconds cold for six cycles) or an ice bath from time to time. You should notice that you’re bouncing back much quicker between workouts.
Of course, good old-fashioned common sense also plays a role here. If several consecutive days of hard training leave you feeling tired and sore, take a day off! It’s more important to recover between training sessions than to adhere to some pre-determined schedule.
Photo credit: Bodybuilding.com