Every team has someone who crushes it in the weight room and whose performance on the field reflects the progress they make on their drills and lifts.
You can bet that most—if not all—athletes who are at the top of their respective sports are beasts in the weight room. This isn’t some genetic gift. Some people may be stronger or faster, but anyone can work hard to maximize his or her potential.
We asked elite strength and conditioning coaches to identify the common traits they see in the best athletes with whom they work. They named six things the best athletes have in common. If you emulate them, you may get more out of your training program than ever before.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Your Weaknesses
The best athletes don’t focus only on what they are good at. Just look at Tom Brady, who was notorious for his lack of speed. Brady dedicated the past off-season to improve this area of his game, even though he’s already one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
“It’s easy to focus on what’s easiest or what you’re best at,” says Mike Robertson, co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST) “But if you’re serious about being the best, you need to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. For example, if your conditioning stinks, make that a priority.”
He says, “Quite simply, the best athletes have all the physical tools in their toolbox. Make sure to train everything in the gym and you’ll see an immediate difference on the field or court.”
2. Cultivate a Growth Mindset
“Success is bred from a growth mindset. Greatness is not about how an athlete deals with success, but about how they deal with failure,” says Brandon McGill, director of sports performance at STACK Velocity Sports Performance.
All athletes ultimately fail at some point, but the best ones are prepared to fail and have the tools to recover and thrive. “Failing fuels intensity and drives them to dig deeper and get better,” McGill says. “These are the athletes who come into the weight room knowing what they are there to accomplish. They possess a quiet intensity that sets them apart.”
3. Warm Up Correctly
Pete Holman, director of Rip Training at TRX and former U.S. Taekwondo National Champion, says he can tell if someone is successful in the weight room simply by watching how he or she approaches their warm-up.
He says, “The warm-up not only mobilizes joints, but also activates the core and primes the central nervous system for more aggressive work. It is a time for the athlete to let go of any thoughts or worries from the day and cultivate a mindset towards progress and growth.”
This is not a time to go through the motions—we know many of you do. It’s a precursor to getting your body and mind right for what’s to come. Holman advises that all warm-ups include cardiovascular conditioning, dynamic flexibility, low-level agility and balance. “This will increase your performance, reduce the risk of injury and set the tone for an outstanding workout,” he says. Here are the warm-up steps you can’t miss.
4. Avoid Distractions
Bryan Meyer, owner of B Myer Training (Altamonte Springs, Florida), says that his best athletes are locked in when it’s time to work. “Some athletes talk and joke when they aren’t working. But they always focus when it’s time to perform the exercise or movement,” he says.
Everyone gets in his or her zone differently, so you need to find what works for you. But one common thread is to avoid distractions. Meyer recommends never checking your cell phone, staying engaged in what you are doing and listening to and communicating with your coach.
5. Don’t Seek Shortcuts
“I’ve found that the most successful athletes don’t go out of their way to seek out shortcuts,” says Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance (Hudson, Massachusetts). “They get their program and they follow it. They don’t skip certain exercises because they don’t like them, nor do they ask for alternatives.”
6. Practice Consistency and Discipline
This one may seem like a no-brainer. The best athletes consistently work out and experience the best results. “The way the phenomenon of ‘training’ can fully take effect is through repetition,” explains Lee Boyce, owner of Boyce Training Systems. “Developing the discipline to stick with a program, hit the weight room and follow an exercise routine without deviating, skimping or dropping out is the key to success.”
Joseph Potts, director of sports performance training at TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning (Kansas City), suggests that consistency means more than completing all of your workouts. It applies to your entire approach to training. Potts says, “They are consistent in their attendance, effort and dedication to getting better.”
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