Training >> Browse Articles >> Fitness Training and Health


5 Routes to Greater Athleticism

5 Routes to Greater Athleticism

Muscle & Fitness

Phenom athletes like LeBron James and Olympic legend Michael Phelps employ all the tricks of the trade when it comes to training for their sport. Here are five sport-specific training tips to add to your program, courtesy of Jim Ryno, owner of LIFT, a private personal training facility in Ramsey, New Jersey ( and former trainer to the likes of professional athletes Hershel Walker (NFL), Ron Harper (NBA) and Tommy Maddox (NFL).

When in doubt, go big. Training for sport isn’t about doing endless sets of biceps curls or even calf raises. Compound, multi-joint exercises need to be your top priority. Go ahead and do 1-2 exercises each for biceps and triceps near the end of an upper body workout, but when in doubt, do bench presses, squats and power exercises like cleans and plyometrics instead of single-joint moves. More specifically, Ryno suggests that full body movements that are directly related to your particular sport should be your highest priority. For instance, a long jumper will get more out of lower body plyometric moves than heavy bench presses.

Add a weighted vest to your workout. One great way to add resistance to non-lifting exercises like sprints, plyos and other bodyweight exercises is to supplement weight via a weighted vest. According to Ryno, a good rule of thumb is start out with a vest that’s approximately 10% of your bodyweight, as a vest shouldn’t compromise speed, form or safety.

Editor’s note: Try adding your turnout gear to your routine for a supercharged workout.

“A vest can be easily used to add resistance and increase power development into almost all of your explosive movement work, including plyometrics, sprints and standard jump training,” says Ryno. (Shop for weight vests at

In the aforementioned sport-specific program, a vest can be added to such exercises as split lunge jumps, speed skaters and pull-ups, as well as to cone agility drills. Feel free to ease into it by adding the vest to only your last set of each exercise, then go up from there as you get used to the added resistance.

Utilize a foam roller. Aside from strength and power, two aspects of your training that need to be addressed are muscle recovery and flexibility. The former will allow you to experience continued gains in the gym instead of breaking down, and the latter will help improve overall athleticism and prevent injury. One way to enhance both is to use a foam roller as a means of giving yourself a massage – the technical term for this being SMR (self massage release). (Foam rollers can be found at and many other retail fitness outlets.)

Massage, say, the hamstrings following a grueling leg workout is as simple as placing the roller on the floor (either in your gym’s stretching area or at home) and moving it up and down the muscle firmly. “The foam roller,” says Ryno, “will help to improve blood flow [to the muscle being massaged] and increase flexibility.”