5 Routes to Greater Athleticism
Muscle & Fitness
Use elastic bands. Free weights and machines are great, but the key to any effective sport-specific program is diversity. Elastic bands provide a different type of resistance than free weights and should be employed occasionally in your training to promote a well-rounded program. For one, bands provide variable resistance – the more the band is stretched during the concentric (positive) phase of each rep, the greater the resistance. Moreover, on the eccentric (negative) phase, the elastic band literally pulls your hand down (assuming you’re doing an upper body exercise), and resisting that pulling action places a great amount of stress on the muscles.
“Resistance bands are a vital tool in improving athletic performance,” say Ryno. “They can produce the same effect as traditional weights, but unlike free weights and machines they’re infinitely variable in direction as well as resistance.”
Ryno’s reference to variability of direction means this: Whereas with a machine your path of motion is predetermined, and with free weights the concentric phase pretty much needs to go against the pull of gravity (straight up), bands can be anchored not just to the floor (by standing on them) but to any solid structure to create the line of pull you desire. (Visit TOBands.com to purchase bands and see different exercises that can be performed with them.)
Correct imbalances. Muscular imbalances are a natural byproduct of virtually any sport. Gymnasts’ biceps are often overdeveloped in relation to their triceps (not to the mention their lower bodies). A rowers’ back muscles can easily overpower his or her pecs. You get the picture. However, such imbalances can be corrected in the gym.
“Prolonged exposure to any sport will produce sport-specific muscle imbalances,” says Ryno. “There’s no easy answer to eliminating muscle imbalances; the only way to prevent them is with correct strengthening and flexibility exercises. For example, in cycling the quadriceps may be highly developed while the hamstrings are not. So when developing a strength circuit for a cyclist, you must include two key exercises – the lying leg curl and the single-leg Romanian deadlift.”