Why Training Like an Athlete Can Benefit Anyone

I work with both elite athletes and general population. I am asked all the time: what are the differences in how you train each group? My answer is simple: NOT MUCH!

Let me explain...

The reality of training athletes vs non-athletes is actually not that different since the principles of training and adaptation don't change regardless of how talented that person is.

Whether working with an athlete or everyday person you have to coach the person in front of you and you must work systematically towards their goals within the constraints of what they are capable of doing.

Some elite athletes have immense movement skill and capacity whereas others don't, despite being world class at their sport. Two contrasting athletes should be given a different prescription regardless of their level of sports performance.

The same is true for the general population. Despite similar goals two clients may require completely different training based on factors such as their training age, movement skill and physical capacity.

This idea of making the programme tailored to the individual is a central principle of training athletes and is missed in many group fitness environments and with many personal trainers who employ their own favourite exercises rather than what is best for the client.

I really believe anyone can train like an athlete because training like an athlete doesn't mean doing the most advanced exercises. In actual fact training like an athlete is all about the best PROCESS.

Working systematically with the person in front of you to maximise their physical potential towards their goals.

When it comes to this. Here are 3 areas I think are really important.

Specificity and session design- Moving towards a specific goal and avoiding stupid stuff!

Athletes are working towards specific goals in their sport. Athlete's don't just 'workout'. There is always clear direction, purpose and a carefully constructed plan.

This is the same for injury prevention. Exercises and loading schemes are carefully chosen to prepare the athlete to avoid injury against the demands of their sport. Furthermore, not every exercise, movement, and load is appropriate for each person even if it is highly specific for performance in their sport.

When I was competing as a 400m runner for example, I found the full Olympic lifts led me closer to injury than performance; whilst for some of my training partners these exercises underpinned their performance on the track.

With this in mind and with 'athletic' type training becoming more popular in gyms now, whilst a session may look athletic it may actually not be taking the client in the direction they need; and may also be leading them closer to injury.

The reality is some workouts and exercises are better than others. I have (almost) never seen an athlete do battle ropes and certainly haven't seen anyone jump over a barbell like you often see in crossfitt style sessions.

Furthermore some of the greatest exercises and toughest workouts are not used by athletes in the way you may think; for example most elite athletes hardly ever heavy barbell deadlift and rarely do killer metabolic circuits. This because the cost you pay is too great compared to the benefit you get back.

Athletes move fast - Reverse ageing and empower!

Almost all sports require you to be faster than your opponent. Therefore athletes train for speed.

Non-athletes tend not to train with explosive movements, instead defaulting to bodybuilding type training, strength training or metabolic circuits. A missing ingredient for those training using these methods is TRUE SPEED or POWER training. Examples of this are maximal jumps, sprints, medicine ball throws, and weightlifting exercises where you go lighter and try to move the bar as fast as you can.

Training for speed also helps you get strong since when you try to move fast you develop your rate of force development and motor recruitment which is critical for strength.

As well as the benefit of this type of training to overall strength and fitness a major benefit for non-athletes is that this type of training is incredibly empowering. Consistent feedback I get from non-athlete clients who train with these type of movements is that they feel energised and empowered for whatever the day brings.

Also a sad reality of life is that as we get older speed is one of the first things to go, compared to say strength or aerobic endurance. Therefore training for speed and staying sharp and explosive literally reverses an aspect of the ageing process. Think about it.. if you ever see an older person moving fast it always looks like they have defied the years!

Improvement through repetition - Seeking constant improvement in every task

The mindset of an athlete is to work systematically and purposefully towards their goals. In every rep they aim to be better.

The workouts are often monotonous using the same key exercises and their variations over-and-again. Athletes see the purpose in mastering the fundamentals and seeking growth even in simple and repetitive tasks.

Running is a great example here. Even seasoned runners with decades of training are forever chasing small improvements in their running technique. Give them the chance, and they will tell you with great excitement that they have just found out something new to do with their stride! (tip: if you want to get a runner talking just ask them about running!)

If your current training programme has too much variation each week, you wont be spending enough time mastering the fundamentals and the constant change wont allow enough time for adaptation to happen.

Embrace the pursuit of better. Repeat the fundamentals. This is how athletes train.

Final thoughts

There are of course a ton of features that make how athletes train unique and a long list of benefits. Too many even for readers who have made it this far!

Ultimately 'training like an athlete' is maximising what your body is capable of towards a specific set of goals.

One of my non-athlete clients set out his goals when we first met and simply wrote "I want to feel CAPABLE".

I cant think of many better goals.

I also think that perfectly represents what training like an athlete means. To be capable in your own body. To push and grow your capabilities. To stay healthy and injury free to allow your capabilities to develop. To devote yourself to the pursuit of increasing your capabilities. To feel empowered because of your capabilities. To stay capable against the years.

Anyone can train like an athlete. I can show you how.

If you would like to learn more about training with Daniel Lavipour or to learn more about 'training like an athlete' please get in touch for a free friendly conversation:


Phone: 07455895933

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