I can easily run 8 to 10 miles and immediately hit the gym to train the legs with a heavyweight workout and still feel good. But am I fit? It looks like it, but am I athletic? I found out the answer to that question when I started to do mixed martial arts and play tennis… No way! When you have to put together agility, speed, power, strength, flexibility, endurance all at once is when you really know what an athlete is made of.
However, something that has truly helped me run faster and hit a ball powerfully has been lifting weights. Even athletes that I’ve worked with appreciate the importance of lifting weights more as they age.
Show Me the Moves
Summer is the time where everyone goes outside and engages in sports. From tennis to swimming, these are the moves that you should incorporate in your exercise program to take your sports to the next level.
Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym; and TJ Lopez, certified and strength and conditioning couch, recommend:
a) Tennis: The most important is the base and the core workout. Tennis is not about the arms as it is about transferring energy from the bottom up. Do rotational medicine ball lunges: on a standing position while holding the ball at chest level with your arms straight, take a step back while you rotate the torso to the outside part of the leg that you have flexed – trying to reach the floor with the ball and then move up to standing position. If you have a partner, you can throw the ball to the partner while you are rising up. Likewise, lateral lunges help to generate power from the hips.
b) Running: Holland encourages runners to try this combination: Stepping onto knee-high step and then doing single leg jumps for 30 seconds. Lopez advises to take a rest since these pros want to run every day. This a repetitive sport, so cross training with some weight lifting and stretching programs will help.
c) Cycling: Weighted lunges are one of the best exercises for this sport. Also, strengthen the gluteus with a pistol squat or one leg sit squat: Sit back using one leg and raise up until you fully contract the gluteus. When sitting, try to barely sit but not to use momentum either. It should be a very controlled movement.
d) Swimming: Tie a rubber tube or resistance band in front of you and hold a handle in each hand. Bend at the waist, and raise arms in front of you, facing the band. Pull each handle, one by one, down to your hip, keeping your arms straight. Then switch arms.
What If You are Not Into Sports?
a) Aerobic types of workouts: To perform better in your next group class or any type of cardio machine, Holland suggests doing intervals, jumping jacks or jumping rope in your cardio mix. Manipulate the rest ratio. Start out 1 to 2 and then move to 1 to 1.
b) Crossfit: The kettlebell swing is a must! Legs wide, both hands on KB, bring underneath you and swing to shoulder height. Bending knees as you swing down, butt back, and keep your back straight using a neutral spine.
c) Yoga: To improve in your asanas, work on basic stretching and balance. Try the single leg toe touch: Stand on right leg and bend the right knee slightly, pick up left leg off the ground as you raise it behind you, reach down to touch the ground in front of you.
Note: All the exercises mentioned to improve your sports can be performed in 2-3 sets of 10-12. This will depend on your fitness level and goals though.
Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.