Lifting Misconceptions

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"More is always better."

If that's what you think about lifting weights, you're going to hinder your athletic abilities rather than help them. Here are a few common lifting misconceptions that can lead to over-fatigue, stress, injury and lack of production on the field.

Only lift heavy. I'll be the first to tell you: strength training is necessary to become a better athlete. But you have to focus on movement patterns and speed of movement, not just the amount of weight you lift. If you continually lift heavy, you'll overtrain, hurt your performance and increase the risk of injury.

Big muscles are the most important. Too many athletes overemphasize training the largest muscles, but this can also lead to injury. You have to train the small, stabilizing muscles, like your rotator cuff, feet, calves, hips and core. Work your entire body—from feet to fingertips, left to right and front to back—leaving no area untrained.

Lift six days a week. Unless you're a bodybuilder, don't lift six days a week. If you want to be strong, fast and athletic, you need to lift no more than four days a week. Focus on your lower body and core two days a week; emphasize your upper body, speed development and/or movement mechanics the other two days; and work on flexibility every day.

Chest and arms. Many athletes spend too much time on their upper bodies and arms—the "mirror" or "beach" muscles. To be a great athlete, start at your feet and work up. Leg strength and balance are critical to athletic success. Arm work should be supplemental to your workout—not the focus of it. Hit your arms at the end of a workout for that final pump that we all love to feel.

Rest is for the weak. Rest is not a four-letter word. It's the time when your body recovers, changes and improves. Every week, take one day completely off; if you have a high-intensity week, take two days off.

Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10 [San Diego, Calif.], trains LaDainian Tomlinson among other pro athletes.

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