10 Must Do’s To Stay Athletic (Part I)

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Today’s guest post comes courtesy of former Cressey Performance intern, James Cerbie. As the title suggests it’s all about how to maintain athleticism, which is something that will hit home for many former athletes, weekend warriors, and Al Bundy-like people who like to bask in the glory of their high-school and college days.


What does it mean to be an athlete?

Sure, there’s getting all the girls of course.

Kidding…kidding…we all know there’s more to it than that.

So what is it?

The thrill of winning, the rush of competing, the butterflies before a game, the anticipation of a daunting challenge, the brotherhood (could be sisterhood but I’m speaking from my own experience), the pain of defeat, the constant drive towards perfection…it’s hard to say.

Being an athlete, to me at least, encompasses all of those things and more.  It’s truly a way of life, and hard to rid yourself of once you’re so called playing days are over.

Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t seem to recognize this.  Once you leave college or professional sports, you’re thrust into a world that almost looks down on being an athlete.  They’ll just tell you:  “Oh, you had your chance.  Your playing days are over.  It’s time to hang up the cleats and begin your slow decline into decrepitude.”

Whew, doesn’t that sound fun?

It truly pains me to see this happen, and I see it happen a lot—people who were once exceptional athletes who have fallen off the tracks, and are now mere shadows of what they used to be (it honestly reminds me of animals locked up in captivity, but the animal is you and captivity is being locked behind a desk all day).

Don’t get me wrong.  The chances of you being able to maintain your fitness level from college, pro’s etc. is highly unlikely.   This is merely due to the fact that it’s no longer your major commitment.  You have a job, perhaps a significant other, and a life to live.  You just don’t have 20 plus hours a week to commit to training, practice and the sorts.

BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay athletic…so here are 10 must do’s if you hope to avoid turning into a desk slob.

1.  Take Care of Movement

Focusing on how well you move may be boring, but it’s essential.  Without good movement patterns, you are setting yourself up for failure in two big ways.

First, increased risk of injury.  It should come as no surprise that if you move poorly you are more likely to get injured.  Instead of things rolling, sliding, gliding and staying where they’re supposed to, they start banging, pinching, and putting pressure on places they shouldn’t—this is called compensation.

Here’s a simple example:  Say you have poor scapulohumeral mechanics.  In other words, you’re not very good at maintaining the position of the humeral head in the socket in coordination with scapular movement.

As opposed to keeping the humeral head centered in the already small glenohumeral socket (it’s like a golf ball sitting on a tee), it may glide forward and start cranking on the long head of your biceps (ever had pain on the front of your shoulder?).  Although that example is WAY oversimplified, I hope it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Second, and the seller for most people, is decreased performance—big time muscles are taking a break while the smaller, less capable muscles carry the brunt of the load.

The human body is like a machine, and to guarantee health and maximal performance you have to make sure all the pieces are balanced, strong and in the right position to function optimally.

Action Item:  Get assessed and have someone fix your movement woes.

2.  Lift Heavy Stuff

Please don’t stop lifting heavy things (unless you have an injury or don’t move well).  The benefits it brings about are second to none, and are so essential to long term health and functionality.

I wrote a whole blog post just on this topic a while back, so instead of repeating myself, I’ll refer you here if you want to learn more

Action Item:  Lift something heavy at least once a week.

3.  Sprint

If you’re like most athletes, you can’t wait to drop sprints from your workout regiment. You’ve been doing them your whole life, they suck, and you can’t wait to throw them behind you forever.

Sorry to break it to you, but sprints are necessary.  Similar to lifting heavy weights, sprints are one of the best ways to optimize your hormonal response.  In other words, there appears to be a minimum required threshold of intensity for your body to start dumping things like testosterone and HGH into the bloodstream.

This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective and is backed up in the research.  I’d recommend checking out this article if you want to read more about the many health benefits brought about by sprinting.

Action Item:  Get outside and run at least once a week.  Think hill sprints, 40 yard sprints, 60 yard sprints, 100 yard sprints etc. etc.

4.  Jump

A large amount of athleticism comes down to your rate of force development—how quickly you can generate force.  The only way to maintain and improve this quality, is to do things that require you to generate force as quickly as possible.  Jumping is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

Here’s an easy example:  your absolute strength level is like a pool of water.  The bigger the pool the more strength you have.  The size of the pool, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you can draw out a lot of water at once or do it quickly.  It just means you have the potential to do so.  Jumping, and a host of other exercises, teaches you to draw out a lot of water and to do so quickly.

If you want to stay explosive and powerful, jumping is must.

Action Item:  At the beginning of one workout a week, jump onto something 10-20 times.  I’m not talking about just hopping around through, like really jump.

Note from TG: check out THIS article on common mistakes when it comes to box jumps.

5.  Be Agile

What do you think happens to your joints during athletics?  In particular, during the planting and cutting portion?  Sure you may have some wear and tear (a lot of that goes back to the movement piece though), but your joints adapt to the stressor being placed on them.

They gain the ability to absorb force and help you change direction without your knee going one way and your body going the other.  Similar to jumping and sprinting, this is one of the first items to fall by the wayside at the conclusion of playing competitive sports.

Unless you’re constantly being chased by dogs, cops or maybe even zombies, it’s highly unlikely you’re getting this stimulus in your day to day life.  Can you imagine someone sprinting down the sidewalk of a major city trying to cut, juke, dodge and avoid all the pedestrians?  It doesn’t happen.  Thus, you have to go out of your way to make sure it does.

If not, then say bye-bye to any “agileness” you once had.

Action Item:  Do t-drills, 20 yard shuttles and other actions that involve planting and cutting in a rapid fashion once a week.

And that’s it for today. Check back tomorrow where I’ll discuss the other five keys to stay athletic.

About the Author

James Cerbie, CSCS, Pn1, USAW, Crossfit Level 1

James Cerbie is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Precision Nutrition, USA Weightlifting and Crossfit.  He has worked with athletes from the middle school to professional level, powerlifters, olympic lifters, and Crossfit athletes alike.  He’s the owner of Rebel Performance and currently works as a strength and conditioning intern at Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training.

P.S.  He would love it if you hung out with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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