How to Train Like a Professional Athlete

a man lifting weights

Working out | Source: iStock

Professional athletes usually have it pretty dialed when it comes to their fitness routine. After all, it is their job to stay in peak performance shape year round. According to Mac James, M. ED, CSCS, you too can train like a professional athlete. James is a nationally recognized strength, speed, and conditioning coach, personal trainer, body-worker, motivational speaker, and founder of Future of Fitness in Crofton, MD — a world class facility that provides personal training, strength and conditioning, therapeutic massage, and body work. Having worked with an impressive list of elite professional athletes, including NFL MVP’s, Super Bowl Participants, Pro-Bowl athletes, and Olympic athletes, James is the real deal when it comes to training people whose livelihoods depend on it. But don’t just take our word for it — NFL superstars like Brian Westbrook of the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, and Darnell Dockett of the Arizona Cardinals all agree — James has what it takes to propel pro athletes into even greater success.

Here, we’ve got James’s answers to some common questions when it comes to training like a pro:

The Cheat Sheet: Serious athletes often abide by vigorous training sessions. What might a training schedule look like for an athlete playing professionally?

Mac James: Professional athletes have a lot of physical strain put on their bodies. So they have to work out hard to immolate the required stress that they will endure in competition. Depending on the sport, many pro athletes will work 4 to 6 times a week.

In many cases I break my athletes’ workouts up based on body parts and desired work. An example of a typical week of offseason training for my Pro Football players is as follows: Monday Lower Body and Field conditioning, Tuesday Upper Body and Field Drills, Wednesday Active Recovery, Thursday Explosion and Hills, Friday Total Body Strength and Massage/FST.

CS: For men who aren’t professionals, but still want to achieve the same caliber results, what are the best exercises to do so?

MJ: For men who aren’t pros but want to try to achieve that caliber of results, they need to first understand that nutrition is most important. These athletes have enough muscle that the food they consume is burned up pretty fast by their high metabolism.

But exercise wise you should definitely do Squats of any version, Bench press either Barbell or Dumbbell, Shoulder Press Dumbbell or Barbell, Curls Dumbbell or Barbell, Tricep Rope Pushdown, and Crunches for your core. This is good for beginners and will lead you to some more advanced movements.

man training at the gym

Training | Source: iSock

CS: For adults with busy schedules who don’t necessarily have a ton of time to devote to working out, what are your tips for maintaining a healthy workout regime?

MJ: I am a firm believer that you should work out first thing in the morning. It will set your day for greatness and prevents you from having things come up to derail you from your workout. Working out has to take precedence in your life in order for you to achieve great results. I would really suggest hiring a personal trainer to design a program with your goals in mind. This way you will be able to follow a professional program that has your injuries, workout times, available equipment all taken into consideration.

CS: Professional athletes often have access to the best personal trainers round-the-clock, but that’s not necessarily the case for most people. For a person with limited resources, when would you absolutely recommend investing in a personal trainer?

MJ: I think individuals with chronic injuries should definitely hire personal trainers to prevent further injury. I also believe that if you are getting serious about training and want to go to a higher level you should hire a professional. If you can afford to see them 2 times as week this is a great baseline. This will allow you to have 2 high quality workouts a week and if the trainer is good they will be able to give you a workout to continue the days you are not with them. Remember every workout should be moving you closer to your goal.

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