Should You Train Like Pro Athletes?

This past week, I was heartbroken as we lost one of our minor league players who chose to pursue training on his own, mostly because Brian Wilson does his own workouts. He wanted the same freedom to choose random training times and movements, citing the success of this San Francisco Giants relief pitcher. Later on this same week, one of our baseball players wanted to perform extra bodybuilding exercises, an isolation movement meant to gain sheer muscle size rather than any specific athletic function. His rationale was a video of Albert Pujols performing a similar exercise. It begs the question, are these athletes great because of their training or in spite of it?

The answer is not simple, but certainly the response is no. These athletes’ success is largely due to 2 major factors, DNA and the perfection of the sport skill such as pitching and hitting. The third and last vital piece of this puzzle is their physical preparation, and unfortunately worthless without great parents and knowledgeable sport coaches. And when it comes to physical preparation, the best advice is to follow what we know, science. We are just unaware of professional athletes’ genetic contribution, as well as their relative acuity at sport specific skills.

So let’s review a few crucial training components

  1. Programming

Everything should be geared towards increasing and balancing GRF (see Sparta Point 12/8/10). The bodybuilding exercises mentioned above are not as efficient as squats or other total body movements in improving your force production into the ground, which results in more speed in any direction as well as reduced injury risk from balanced energy absorption (see Sparta Point 3/8/11). In fact, exercises like biceps curls can even inhibit your range of motion which will result in less power (see Sparta Point 11/17/10).

  1. Environment

Key aspects of your environment are your peers, coaches and fellow athletes that keep your workouts accountable and grueling, yet fun. Another important environmental aspect is the time, specifically circadian rhythms, as you need to train at similar times each day, like going to bed and waking at the same time. Such patterns will allow your body’s hormones to be released optimally and provide the best ergogenic effects (see Sparta Point 11/2/09).

  1. Consistency

Sprinting, jumping, and weightlifting are all simple skill or strength movements, and their execution improves with repetition, allowing more speed and heavier weight over time. With this greater intensity during training, a larger stimulus is provided, which is crucial in more trained athletes with higher thresholds for improvements (see Sparta Point 2/24/10). Therefore changing exercises every week, or each offseason, will impede this linear, or perhaps greater, curve of improvement.

Another baseball example, flush runs, started after Roger Clemens was famed for performing these longer jogs after his baseball starts (see Sparta Point 12/31/08). However, would this logic encourage us to drink more alcohol like Mickey Mantle or others who have succeeded despite off-field problems?

Rather than asking what professional athletes do to train, follow their skills, and perhaps family tree, but let the science guide your physical preparation.