Pro athletes are able to exemplify excellence by elevating their mindset, training and nutrition. If you want to train like a pro athlete, train with higher levels of intensity, explosiveness and effectiveness.

Thinking like an athlete:

Internal drive: Top athletes possess a strong internal drive to excel. They find joy in overcoming progressively tougher challenges. When it comes to long term success in athletics, motivation in itself is not enough. For all of us, motivation rises and falls based on how we feel in the moment. To keep pushing forward and consistently performing at high levels, athletes tap into a strong internal drive within themselves that enables them to maintain discipline in their training and diet for the long run through the good and bad days.

Clarity of purpose: Top athletes have clarity of purpose for their training. The stronger your clarity of purpose and the stronger your sense of urgency – the higher the levels of consistency, intensity and focus you will have in your training. How do you develop clarity of purpose? Know why you’re training and make it compelling.

Positive vision: Top athletes are positive thinkers – and they visualize achieving what they want to achieve. Visualize accomplishing your goals and be confident that you have exactly what it takes to get there.

Perseverance: Top athletes never give up. They value temporary failures because they get to discover where they can improve to ensure that they succeed in the long run. Top athletes don’t get discouraged even if they fail over and over again – they simply reflect, adapt and keep pushing ahead. They focus all of their energy on their goals and hold an irrevocable belief that they will achieve those goals.

Committing to excellence: Top athletes exemplify excellence. Athletics is one of those rare pursuits that engage, inspire and empower people in every part of the world in a way that most pursuits can’t. So, when you train, also exemplify excellence in your training.

Training like an athlete:

Train with intensity: Your training sessions should be efficient and focused on building maximal amounts of strength, speed and endurance. Ā When you train with high levels of intensity you’ll perform athletically at higher levels of intensity without fatiguing. Lift heavy. Take shorter rests between your sets. Superset exercises. For cardio, do hill sprints or 100 meter sprints.

Train with explosiveness: Increase the tempo of movement in your core lifts – squats, deadlifts, bench press, back rows, pull ups, etc. For example, on the bench press, as you lower the weight, do it slow and controlled, pause, and then from the bottom explode it back up again. This will develop power – the ability to fire your muscles quickly and move a weight explosively. The more power you develop the more force you can attack a weight and athletic movement with.

Train effectively: To maximize athletic performance, develop the muscles that contribute the most to athletic performance. These are primarily the muscles on the backside of your body – the upper and lower back, glutes and hamstrings as well as the shoulders and quadriceps on the front of the body.

Principles to note when training for athletic performance:

1. Master body weight movements: Be able to proficiently do pull ups, push ups, parallel bar dips, leg raises, planks, body weight squats, lunges etc. Having a solid foundation in body weight movements helps you to effectively progress to the more complex weight training movements.

2. Train your back twice as much as you train your front: This is known as the 2:1 pull to push ratio. Most people train the front or push muscles more than they train their back or pull muscles – for example, they spend more time training the chest and neglect to sufficiently train the back. However, the back or pull muscles tend to be the more functional of the muscles in the body. Having weak back, glute and hamstring muscles diminishes athletic performance and can lead to injury in the long term. So, put more effort and volume into training your back, especially in the horizontal plane with rowing movements.

3. Train your legs with both double leg and single leg movements: You want to train legs with double leg movements such as the squat and leg press to maximize strength. You want to train legs with single leg movements such as lunges and step ups to maximize hip stability. Having a strong and stable hip is essential for optimal lower body athletic movements and long term injury prevention.

4. Train shoulders with double and single arm movements: You want to train the shoulders with barbells to maximize strength and with dumbbells to maximize stability. You also want to sufficiently train your rear delts. Having strong and stable shoulders is essential for optimal upper body athletic movements and long term injury prevention.

Sample athletics oriented routine to help you get started:

Day 1 (72 hour between training days)

Power cleans – 5 sets x 5 reps
Barbell squats – 5 sets x 5 reps
Incline bench press – 5 sets x 5 reps
Barbell bent over rows – 5 sets x 5 reps
Parallel bar dips – 5 sets x failure
Dumbbell back rows – 5 sets x 5 reps
Pull ups – 5 sets x failure
Cable seated rows – 5 sets x 5 reps

Day 2 (72 hours after day 1)

Romanian deadlift – 5 sets x 5 reps
Leg press – 5 sets x 8 reps
Push ups / pull ups supersets 5 sets x failure
Hamstring curls – 5 sets x 10 reps
Cable seated rows 5 sets x 6-8 reps
Cable lat pulldowns 5 sets 6-8 reps
Dumbbell shoulder press 5 sets x 6-8 reps
Dumbbell back rows 5 sets x 6-8 reps

Days 3 (72 hours after day 2)

Dumbbell lunges 5 sets x 10 reps
Barbell front squats 5 sets x 5 reps
Barbell bent over rows 5 sets x 5 reps
Dumbbell incline bench press 5 sets x 5 reps
Cable seated rows 5 sets x 6-8 reps
Overhead shoulder press 5 sets x 6-8 reps
Dumbbell back rows 5 sets x 6-8 reps
Pull ups 5 sets x failure

Things to keep in mind when training for performance:

Listen to your body: Strength training for athletic performance entails lifting heavy weights with high levels of intensity. Core movements such as power cleans, deadlifts and squats tax the muscles and nervous system more. So, get in tune with your body, monitor how you feel and give your body more rest if that you feel you need to.

Sleep: Get sufficient amounts of sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will have a hard time recovering from the physical stress of high intensity training. This could lead to exhaustion and it increases the risk of injury.

Diet: It’s crucial to get high enough protein, essential fats and complex carbs to fuel strength training for athletic performance.

Actively and consciously elevate your mindset, training and nutrition and you will be performing at your highest levels.


Insights and motivation on fitness, food, travel and lifestyle through posts by a Swedish-Pakistaniā€“American Lawyer and Pro Athlete.

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