Your exercise choices should improve what you do outside the gym

What you do in the gym matters to what you do outside it.

When you make exercise choices at the gym, are you thinking about what you enjoy the rest of the week? Whether your weekend involves a round of golf with your friends, a long ride on your road bike or social yet competitive tennis match, are you helping or hurting your performance?

Being active on your days off helps clear your mind of the stress of the work week, maintains good energy levels, makes life more interesting and helps you keep a healthy look. So you know what you want to do. The question is, during the work week, what can you do to make sure you’re going to be able to enjoy your time off activities.

Exercise choices depend on what you’re going to ask your body to do later.

What exercise choices help LeBron dunking a basketball?The benefits of weight training for athletic activity are obvious. Just watching the athleticism of LeBron James, Annika Sorenstam, Christiano Ronaldo or Venus Williams and hearing them talk about their training routines shows that. But are endless repetitions of a barbell chest press going to help you drive the ball over 250 yards? Are working those “mirror muscles” going to help you return a wicked slice serve? Beyond that, will working out the way LeBron James does really benefit George Hincapie when he’s riding 150 miles in a day? I’ll give you a hint… the answer to all three questions is NO. What you do for your structured physical fitness has to match your unstructured play time.

How can your exercise choices impair your recreational activity?

I’ll use myself as an example. This last year I took up indoor rock climbing as a recreational hobby. During one stretch of weight training, I was working on continuously increasing my weights, allowing my repetitions to go down to increase maximal muscle strength. One day I was doing a particularly heavy set of barbell curls, with a low number of repetitions. The next day I was at on the rock climbing wall and way too quickly, my right biceps gave out. I was done climbing for the day. I immediately realized what I was doing in the gym was not benefiting what I was doing outside the gym. It was a real eye opener.

Since my primary recreational activities are tennis and rock climbing, workout out for maximal strength or maximal muscular development are actually a hindrance to what I enjoy. Now, no matter what phase of training I’m in, whether stability, power or even kettlebells, I’m always working with an eye on endurance. Gone are the sets of 6-8 reps and in are sets of 14-16 reps, or even higher numbers of repetitions when using the kettlebells. On top of that, for power training, vertical leap isn’t an important aspect of tennis but agility and quickness are. So the best power exercises for me involve agility drills involving rapid direction changes and sprints.

The same can be said for any activity. If you’re really into long hikes on steep trails, you’ll want to work on endurance training for your glutes and calves but speed drills won’t benefit you. If you’re a triathlete, your workout path will be determined by the length of triathlons you do, sprint, olypmic or iron.

Whatever activity you enjoy, make sure you’re spending your time at the gym in a way that will help, not hinder you.


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