Workout Routines To Become a Stronger Athlete

Exercise, FAQ, Records

No matter your sport, working out is key to improving your performance. Even if you don’t play any sports, exercise plays a foundational role in your physical and mental health. Because there is only so much time in a day, it’s particularly important to have a routine that targets the essential areas you need to take your game to the next level. The problem is that most athletes have no idea how to do this properly. To solve this problem, keep reading to learn how to build your own personalized workout routine to become a stronger athlete in the areas that matter most to you.

What is strength?

This seems like a simple question, but there are lots of different ways in which an athlete can be strong. Understanding what kinds of strength to improve is an important part of conditioning your body for any sport. According to The American Council on Exercise, there are seven different types of strength. Though all are important on some level for every athlete, but you should build your workout routine around the specific types of strength you are looking to develop.

The 7 Types of Strength

In simple terms, strength is the ability to create force. Of course, there are lots of different ways an athlete can do this. Here is a brief description of each of the 7 different kinds of strength with examples from sports and everyday life. We’ll also include some suggested exercises to improve each one.

Agile Strength

This is the ability to move your muscles in a controlled and powerful way in the area around you. Rather than repetitive motion in a single direction, agile strength is most helpful for moving objects on multiple planes. Parents carrying young children often tend to naturally develop more agile strength. Developing agile strength reduces your risk of muscle sprains and pulls during physical activity.

Suggested Exercises: Box Jumps, Lateral Jumps, Lunges

Endurance Strength

Going hand-in-hand with cardiovascular health, improving endurance strength allows your muscles to use the oxygen they receive more efficiently. By using less oxygen to expand and contract, muscles can accomplish more with the same amount of effort. Often referred to as being “farmer strong,” this kind of strength is important for distance running and high-volume weight training.

Suggested Exercises: Planks, Push-Ups, Kettlebell Swings

Explosive Strength

This is the ability to create lots of force quickly. In order to produce explosive power, your muscles must expand powerfully and contract quickly. Explosive strength is particularly important for sports requiring bursts of intense effort like football and weight lifting. Exercises that improve your explosive strength will also improve your overall coordination and reaction time.

Suggested Exercises: Deadlifts, Power Cleans, Squat Jumps

endurance workouts

Maximum Strength

This is the strength of your muscles when they are fully engaged and working together to push against an external force as hard as possible. Powerlifting is a test of maximum strength. Training that is focused on maximum strength increases your bone density and helps develop stronger muscle fibers.

Suggested Exercises: Bench Press, Clean Pulls, Rowing

Relative Strength

Strength is not always about simply having the most muscle. Many sports reward the ability to generate maximum force per unit of body weight. A person who is light but strong would have high relative strength. For example, a cyclist must be able to generate lots of power with their legs, but excess muscle could slow them down. Relative strength is all about finding the perfect balance between strength and mass.

Suggested Exercises: Pull-ups, Push-ups, Inverted Rows

Speed Strength

This kind of strength refers to a person’s ability to move other objects as quickly as possible. This type of strength is trained using a minimum amount of resistance in fast movements. Speed strength is helpful when swinging an object like a golf club or throwing a ball. Training speed strength helps improve reaction time, coordination, and teaches your muscles to contract faster. You will want the right resistance training equipment to maximize your training so get a good resistance band before you start.

Suggested Exercises: Bulgarian Split Squats, Woodchoppers, Landmine Rotations

Starting Strength

Starting strength is the ability to create force without already having momentum. Examples of using this kind of strength include getting up from a chair or pushing off the starting blocks at the beginning of a race. Training to improve starting strength helps your muscles and connective tissues react quicker and produce more force.

Suggested Exercises: Deadlifts, Squats, Military Press

running

Creating your Workout Routine

A good workout routine is much more than just a series of exercises. Your ability to burn fat, build strength and improve performance depends on your workout as a whole. The exercises you choose, the number of sets and reps you perform and even how you order your exercises all have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your workout program.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all workout program. Getting the most out of your workout time requires a personalized approach that takes into consideration your own level of fitness, how much free time you can dedicate to exercise and your fitness goals. To create a perfect personalized workout routine, keep the following in mind:

Be specific

Rather than just going to the gym for a random workout, you should know exactly what muscles need to be worked out in order to improve the way you want to before you start. It sounds simple, but it is the cornerstone of creating an effective routine. Not only will this improve the quality of your routine and give you faster results, but a mindset that focuses on specific goals and results also makes it easier to motivate yourself to work out.

Be realistic

Sure, we all wish we had the free time to go to the gym for several hours six days a week, but unfortunately, busy schedules make that an unrealistic goal for most of us. You should make sure that you do not put yourself in a position to fail by creating a workout schedule that will be too difficult to stick to. You should also make sure you have one full day of rest every week, and that high-intensity exercise is spread throughout the week to avoid overtraining.

Skip leg day… or don’t, depending on your routine

If you plan on working out three or fewer times per week, each trip to the gym should be a full-body workout. Otherwise, you will want to break up your workouts to keep yourself from overtraining. However, instead of dividing your workouts by body part, it’s best to split exercises up by type of movement and what type of strength they train. A four- or more-day weekly routine should have separate days for pushing, pulling, and lower-body movements so that you give each area of your body time to rest.

Consider your gym

A workout routine may look perfect on paper, but become a hassle when you go to actually attempt it at your own gym. Of course, it goes without saying that you should not include exercises that you do not have the equipment for, but you should also consider the availability of equipment and layout when planning. If you work out at a busy gym, you will want to make sure to stick to a single piece of equipment as often as possible to avoid having to waste time waiting.

Let’s talk about reps

Depending on which kinds of strength you are targeting, you will want to want to vary the number of reps accordingly. If you are building maximum strength, you will want to only perform 5-6 reps per set with a high amount of weight. On the other hand, training endurance strength is best accomplished by low-weight, high-rep sets.

strength workouts

Don’t forget to rest

Between forty-five seconds and a minute is the ideal period of rest time between sets. This allows your body to recharge while maintaining an elevated heart rate and burning fat. Sometimes more rest is required, especially when lifting heavier weights. Make sure to include the time you spend resting when planning your workout, or you will always feel rushed and behind schedule.

Start with more complex moves first

Because your body gets more tired after each exercise, it’s smart to structure your workouts so that you begin with the exercises requiring complex, full-body motions. Tire flips are a good example of an exercise requiring complex and explosive movement, which makes them a great pick for the beginning of a workout. Simple isolation exercises like bicep curls are best performed at the end of your routine, when your body is too tired to work large muscle groups.

Change it up

No matter your workout, you will need to change it every 8 to 12 weeks in order to keep it effective. Your body takes about 14 weeks to adapt to repeated stress, so continuing the same exercise routine will cause your strength to plateau. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean having to change everything. Regular, small changes are enough to keep your muscles guessing. You can change your pattern of sets and reps or make small variations to your existing exercises.

Make progress

As your strength levels grow, your workout routine will start to get easier. In order to further increase your strength gains, this means you’ll need to increase the weight that you’re lifting so that your body doesn’t fully adapt to these new challenges. On that note, though your exercise routine should always be challenging enough to push your limits, it should never be painful. Just as you should continually increase the weight you’re lifting in order to increase your strength levels, don’t be afraid to back off a bit to allow yourself time to recover.

Bench Press

Example Workout Routines

As mentioned earlier, your workout routine should be tailored to your individual level of fitness, your goals and your free time. For readers who need help getting started, we have three example workout routines to share. These are only a starting point, so feel free to adapt any of them to create your own ideal workout plan that works towards your own unique goals.

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can even mix and match these routines. If, for example, you’re trying to build explosive strength and speed strength, use a variety of exercises from each routine and mix up your weight and rep ranges to meet that goal.

Speed Strength Routine

This workout routine is ideal for a busy executive who only has time to hit the gym three times per week. In this case, they are also an avid golfer. This means they will want to incorporate some exercises that improve speed strength to increase their clubhead speed when swinging a golf club. Because there are only three workouts per week, each one should be focused on the whole body rather than isolating groups of muscles and movements.

A set of free weights is all that is required for this routine. Each workout is designed to target different types of movement and strength. The first workout prioritizes lunges and complex motions. This routine focuses on rotational motions designed to maximize speed strength. While every workout contains core exercises, the final workout of each week focuses exclusively on core strength.

Workout Day #1

  • Push-Ups
  • Butterfly Sit-up
  • Bench Press
  • Lunge Press
  • Clean and Press
  • Walking Dumbbell Lunges
  • Lateral Dumbbell Lunges

Workout Day #2

  • Seated Dumbbell External Rotation
  • Landmine Rotations
  • Seated Rotations
  • Half kneeling Wood Chop
  • Woodchoppers
  • Rotational Dumbbell Press
  • Dumbbell Row

Workout Day #3

  • Plank
  • Bridges
  • Superman Pull
  • Dead Bug
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Dumbbell Plank Drag

Endurance Strength Routine

This workout routine is a good starting point for an athlete training for a sport that is focused on endurance strength like soccer or distance running. For this routine, we will assume that the athlete can commit to four workouts per week. This extra day allows workouts that are a little more focused on specific groups of muscles.

The key to training endurance strength is to do lots of reps at a moderate weight. By doing this, you are training your muscles to be consistently used over a long period of time. This workout routine also mixes in lots of exercises that will dramatically improve your explosive strength.

Each day of this workout routine mixes total body endurance exercises designed to boost your endurance strength with more intense exercise targeting specific motions and groups of muscles. Day #1 includes complex upper body movements, day #2 focuses on hip and rotational movements, and day #3 continues by introducing exercises designed to increase leg power and endurance. Finally, the last workout concludes the week with a focus on cardiovascular strengthening.

Workout Day #1

  • Push-Ups
  • Body Weight Squats
  • Front Lever Twists
  • Plank to Push-Up
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Barbell Roll-Outs
  • Dumbbell Chest Press

Workout Day #2

  • Seated Dumbbell External Rotation
  • Woodchoppers
  • Rotational Dumbbell Press
  • Seated Rotations
  • Lateral V-Ups

Workout Day #3

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Walking Lunges
  • Body Saw
  • Squats
  • Barbell Snatch

Workout Day #4

  • Cardio Only – 60 minutes of running, swimming, or cycling on an indoor bike

Explosive Strength Routine

Our final example workout routine is designed for a serious athlete training for peak performance in a high-intensity sport like wrestling or football. For this advanced routine, we will assume that the athlete is able to work out 6 days per week and has access to a professional-quality gym or workout facility.

In addition to plenty of training to benefit endurance strength, maximum strength, and agile strength, this workout routine puts its primary emphasis on creating explosive strength. If you want to gain mass in addition to strength, you will want to do the following exercises with fewer reps at using more weight. If your focus is creating maximum strength relative to your muscle mass, you will want to do more reps using a moderate amount of weight.

Workout Day #1

  • Push-Ups
  • Barbell Sit-Ups
  • Front Lever Twists
  • Plank to Push-Up
  • Barbell Roll-Outs
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Landmine Rotations

Workout Day #2

  • Seated Dumbbell External Rotation
  • Woodchoppers
  • Rotational Dumbbell Press
  • Seated Rotations
  • Lateral V-Ups
  • Hanging Straight Leg Raises
  • Barbell Hip Thrust

Workout Day #3

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Power Cleans
  • Push Jerk
  • Leg Press
  • Squats
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Box Jumps

Workout Day #4

  • Plank
  • Dumbbell Plank Drag
  • Superman Pull
  • Dead Bug
  • Straight Leg Lifts
  • Medicine Ball Hollow Body Holds

Workout Day #5

  • Push-Ups
  • Dumbbell Jump Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Barbell Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Incline Bench Press

Workout Day #6

  • Seated Dumbbell External Rotation
  • Kettlebell Single Arm Deadlift
  • Kettlebell Row
  • Dumbbell High Pulls
  • Kettlebell Snatch
  • Wall Hip Bangers
  • Kneeling 1-Side Loaded Hip Rotation

Heavy Lifting

Creating Your Own Workout Routine

While it’s likely you will need to make adjustments to the above exercise routines to fit your own fitness level, goals and free time, hopefully looking at the examples above has gotten you thinking about structuring your own workout routine in the right way. Remember, improving performance is not only about putting in the effort, but it’s also about making sure you use your effort in a smart way.

Here are some tips for making sure you get the maximum strength increase from your own workout.

Be Consistent

The best workout routine is the one that you actually do. Don’t commit yourself to a routine that is too intense or requires more free time than you are willing to commit, that only serves to set you up for failure!

Learn the Exercises!

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is a very important piece of advice. If you are performing your exercises incorrectly, then not only is it likely you will not get the full benefit of the exercise that you are doing, you are also risking injury. Of course, 1-on-1 personal training is the best way to learn the correct form for any exercise, but there are also several great online resources like the exercise guides at bodybuilding.com.

Warm Up, Stretch, and Cool Down

Before beginning any of the workouts listed on this page, you should make sure your body is prepared for strenuous activity by doing a light exercise like jogging for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning any strenuous exercise. Once you have warmed up, you should make sure to stretch in order to improve muscle flexibility and reduce your risk of injury. Finally, cool down by walking or stretching for 10 minutes after you work out in order to safely return your body to a resting state.

Don’t Forget the Cardio

While the advice here has mostly been about increasing the strength of your muscles, your cardiovascular system plays an important part in your overall strength. No matter what exercises you choose to train. It’s important to make sure you get at least 30 minutes of moderately-intense cardio a day, five days a week.

Eat Right

When building strength, what you eat is just almost as important as the exercises you do. Making sure you get the proper amount of carbohydrates to fuel your body throughout your workout sessions. If you’re looking to build mass, be sure to consume enough protein, and be sure that your diet contains enough micronutrients to keep you in tip-top shape.

Listen to Your Body

Once you get started, it’s tempting to go harder and longer than you have ever gone before. Momentum like this is awesome but make sure you don’t overwork yourself too much and get burnt out or injured. Following your routine closely and making consistent gains is what will ultimately yield results in the long run. Make sure to also protect your knees with quality braces, hands with the right gloves when lifting, and body with a nice exercise mat.

Keep Switching It Up

Over time, your body develops a resistance to repetitive strain, making the same exercises less effective. You can avoid allowing your body to get used to your routine by regularly switching up your set and rep numbers, as well as the weight of what you’re lifting.

Stick With It!

It’s called a “routine” for a reason! Your workout provides the most benefit when done regularly.