Want to jump higher and sprint faster? You’d be hard-pressed to find an athlete who would say no to this question. That’s why you come to STACK looking for the most cutting-edge training methods to improve these essential athletic skills.
Yes, you can and should optimize your performance with your training. But there’s one simple way to guarantee faster sprints and higher jumps that many of you overlook.
And that’s losing weight.
A 2015 study recently highlighted by strength and conditioning researcher Chris Beardsley looked at two groups of track athletes. For four weeks, one group cut 750 calories per day while the other group cut 300 calories per day by limiting their carb and fat intake.
After four weeks, the 750-calorie group lost an average of just under 5 pounds (about a pound of that was muscle) and the 300 calorie group lost just under a pound (about half of that was muscle).
The researchers then tested the athlete’s vertical jump height and 20-meter sprint. The 300-calorie group did not show any improvements but the 750-calorie group increased their jump height by about 6 percent and decreased their sprint time by 2 percent. This may not sound like much, but that’s an additional 1.8 inches on a 30-inch vert or .09 seconds off a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
Not too shabby for losing just few pounds.
What’s particularly interesting is performance improved despite a small loss of muscle mass. This shows that it’s OK to lose some muscle when trimming weight as long as the majority of the weight loss is from fat.
So what should you do? Here are a few tips to properly lose weight as an athlete:
Determine if you have weight to lose. Are you already lean? Do you need a few extra pounds on your frame to play your position at a high level? Will a small increase in speed and jump height benefit you on the field? These are the types questions you should ask yourself and should lead to a definitive reason for trimming weight, such as maximizing your numbers for an upcoming combine.
Don’t try to lose weight during your season. You can’t be running low on fuel when you have a schedule jam-packed with practices, workouts and games.
Find a diet and training routine that works for you. Although the successful group in the study cut 750 calories a day, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. If you’re not restricted by time, you can trim your calories by 300, 500 or however many works for you. Just make sure to follow these 7 nutrition rules for athletes. It’s also possible to increase the intensity of your workouts or add some extra conditioning to help with the fat loss process.
But don’t make major changes to your workouts. Remember, you’re an athlete and you need to train to improve sports performance, not grace the cover of a fitness magazine. Unless you have tens of pounds to lose, you may be able to do the exact same workouts and simply rely on your nutrition. If not, try adding some supersets, circuits or conditioning after your lifts to burn extra calories.
Don’t jog. For whatever reason, the first thing people do when trying to lose weight is jogging. Don’t fall into this trap. Jogging will beat up your body, slow you down and may cause you to shed more muscle. There are other better ways to lose weight, like focusing on your diet and lifting weights.