Body Image vs. Sports Conditioning: What Needs Priority In The Weight Room?

Athletes should focus on sport-specific goals rather than on building bigger biceps and six-pack abs for the beach. Check out this sports-specific workout from STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

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A killer physique is one of the many byproducts of an efficient training program. But if your workouts are tailored more toward improving your body image than conditioning for your sport, you are headed in the wrong direction this off-season.

It's especially easy to fall into this trap when you're not regularly participating in games and team practices. But being a dedicated athlete means always concentrating on shaping up for your sport—in season or off-season. Your training should be focused on sport-specific attributes—such as core strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, speed and agility—rather than on getting into shape for the beach by concentrating on building bigger biceps and six-pack abs.

If you doubt that getting into peak shape for your sport will also give you a killer body, just look at professional athletes. Need more proof? Check out the following comparison between a sports conditioning workout and a body image workout. Then decide which one will more readily accomplish your goals.

Sports Conditioning Workout

Med Ball Push-Ups with Burpee Combo

  • Assume push-up position with one hand on med ball
  • Perform Push-Up until both arms are straight
  • Roll med ball to other hand; perform Push-Up
  • Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps
  • Immediately follow with 10 Burpees

Single-Leg Squat and Dumbbell Upright Row Combo

  • Hold dumbbell in left hand with overhand grip in front of body at hip level
  • Balance on right leg
  • Keeping weight on heel, sit hips back and bend knee to lower into a Squat
  • Squat until thigh is near parallel to the ground while simultaneously pulling the weight up to chest level
  • Explode out of squat position; repeat for specified reps

Multi-Directional Sprints

Speed Skaters: Keep your center of gravity stationary while hopping from side-to-side, forming an arc with your body. Land on one leg, balance, and hop to the other side.

Plant Stop: Side-shuffle five yards and plant; lean your body back in the direction from which you came while leaning your center of gravity in the direction you intend to move.

Mirror Drill with Partner: Two athletes stand facing each other; one mirrors the movements of the other (this is a great beginning reaction drill).

Sprint, Side-Shuffle, Side Run, Backpedal: Athletes stand in an athletic position facing the coach; coach points in a direction and yells a command about which type of movement to make, then points in a different direction and yells a command for a different type of movement.

Side Lunges and Med Ball Twist Combo

  • Begin in an athletic stance holding ball at chest level with arms extended and feet shoulder-width apart
  • Simultaneously lunge laterally with right foot and explosively rotate ball to the right
  • Bring left foot toward right and ball back to start position
  • Continue Lunges/Twists for specified reps

Elevated Prone and Side Planks

  • Begin in push-up position with feet elevated on bench and hold for 30 seconds
  • Immediately follow with 30-second Side Planks, one on each side
  • Repeat sequence twice more with two-minute rest between

Cool down with Upper- and Lower-Body Stretches

Body Image Workout

In this body image workout, notice that the majority of the exercises work only one muscle at a time. This decreases efficiency, limits potential gains and has a smaller effect on your performance. There's a time and a place for this type of workout, but if you are an athlete, you should avoid it.

Seated Bicep Curls

  • Sitting on a bench, hold E-Z Curl Bar with wide grip and arms fully extended
  • Curl bar to chest, keeping core tight
  • Slowly lower bar to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Seated Tricep Extensions

  • Sitting on bench, hold plate overhead with arms fully extended
  • Lower plate behind your head in a controlled manner
  • Straighten your arms to return to the starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Supine DB Flys

  • Lie on bench holding dumbbells straight over chest with elbows slightly bent and palms facing in
  • Open arms to the side until dumbbells are in line with shoulders and arms are parallel to the ground
  • Using chest muscles, bring dumbbells back to center
  • Repeat for specified reps

Ab Curls

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent
  • Straighten your arms and hold them slightly off the ground with your palms down
  • Exhale and crunch up
  • Extend your arms up and reach them toward your shins
  • Lower smoothly with an exhale

Seated Leg Extensions

  • Assume position on a leg extension machine so that the foot pads are just above your ankles, your thighs are flush with the seat and your back is straight and supported
  • Slowly straighten your legs until your knees are nearly straight to push the leg pad up; do not lock your knees
  • Slowly bend at the knees to return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Seated Leg Curls

  • Select desired weight
  • Assume position on a leg curl machine so that the foot pad is behind your ankles, your thighs are flush with the seat and the thigh pad is below your knees
  • Slowly bend at the knees to "curl" your heels down towards your butt
  • Slowly straighten your legs to return to the start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Seated Cable Rows

  • Position cable at waist height with handle attachment
  • Assume athletic stance facing cable machine holding handles in both hands
  • Pull cable handle to chest; keep elbows close to side
  • Extend arm to return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Seated Front and Lateral Raises

  • Sit up straight on the edge of a bench with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Hold the dumbbells down at your sides with your palms facing in
  • Slowly raise the dumbbells in front to shoulder height
  • Lower the dumbbells back to start position
  • Slowly raise the dumbbells to the side to shoulder height
  • Lower the dumbbells back to start position and repeat


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock