Sports Conditioning Tips

Read these 19 Sports Conditioning Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Exercise tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Jump Training

Let's see...Tennis, Basketball, Baseball, Football, Soccer, Racquetball, Volleyball, Track, Wrestling, Squash...these all have a common theme in that one has to utilize some sort of 'jump' movement to excel at them. Jumping is an essential part of so many sports, so let's learn how to do it a little better.

To get good at jumping, start from the basics which would technically be an Explosive Squat. Why? Well, jumping really is a squat with power used to push you up with your lower body, moving you from the ground to above it, and upon landing again going into that squat. It is the utilization of the muscles in your lower body to propel you above where gravity is pushing you. So, for starters go read My Blog and learn how to execute a proper squat.

(Go read it... ... ... ... ... ah, you read it. Let's continue.)

To practice jumping, begin by jumping in place from a squat, exploding from your lower body to push you up, then (most importantly) landing in a squat. When you land again in a squat you prevent intense impact on the joints of your lower body, especially your knees. Once you get comfortable with that, begin jumping onto steps or platforms, making sure that you are clear of others. Once you become comfortable jumping up, also jump down, still landing in a squat. Quickly you will notice much more explosive strength in your legs allowing you to: jump higher, get lift quicker, sprint faster, accelerate quicker and perform better in sports.

Lastly, some people will say that working on jumping vertically will decrease your ability to sprint faster. That is just stupid, because the beginning of a sprint is a forward jump (but since your leaning over, it's actually vertical). How about this - to put that silly rumor to rest, try it on yourself. Go sprint and time yourself today, then practice jumping vertically for 3-4 weeks, and then sprint again. If your time doesn't improve, then you are a liar because you did not practice jumping for those 3-4 weeks.


Utilizing Medicine Balls

Medicine Balls can be used for a variety of different things. Everything from making explosive movements tougher to doing best to balance while moving them/throwing them in different directions. I am going to go over a few great ballistic exercises you can do with Medicine Balls.

First on the list in Jump Squats with a medicine ball. Hold the medicine ball in your hands with a hand on either side of the ball, with it at your chest. Perform the squat (look at my Blog to learn the Squat exercise), then explode up into a jump. Begin to extend your arms upward after you begin to ascent of the jump, and when the peak of the jump hits your arms should be fully extended above your head. Bring the ball back down to your chest on the descent and go into the next jump. This is specific for most sports and teaches the legs and arms how to work quickly/explosively. This is great for anyone who wants to be in stellar shape.

Another one of my favorite requires a partner and a good amount of space. It's a Ballistic medicine ball throw while balancing. Stand on one foot and hold the medicine ball behind your head with both hands equally on either side of the ball. From behind your head, throw the ball at your partner while staying on that one foot (yes, you could both do it at the same time). Make sure that as you perform the movement you stand as tall as you possibly can, throwing with mighty force. At no point should you put your foot that is up down (until you're done the desired amount of reps of course). Switch feet. This is a great balance workout, great for your core (abdomen, glutes, low back) workout, and you are training your arms/shoulders to work quickly and powerfully.

Hope that helps a bit. Medicine Balls are always good because you really have to grip them for them to stay in your hands. If you belong to a gym, ask a personal trainer to show you some other medicine ball exercises you could do.


Functional Sports Training

Anyone heard of Herschel Walker? If not, he won the Heisman trophy and played in the NFL for 11 years, and was a 2x Pro-Bowl selection (amongst many other things). He trained functionally for his body, meaning he did mostly body-weight exercise.

His workout consisted of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, crunches and sprinting. That's it. And by 'that's it', he would only do around 2,000 push-ups, 3,000 crunches, 1,500 pull-ups.....!!! There was a competition in the NFL while he played to figure out who was in the best shape. They had a whole workout planned for some of the most in-shape athletes in the NFL, utilizing lots of machines to see who was in the best shape. Can you guess who won? Herschel Walker. He trained functionally, and saw incredible results.

What this means for you and whatever sport you play is that you need to train functionally, and I know I have spoken of this elsewhere. Train your body to be the strongest it can be for your body. Who cares how much you can bench press? It would be much more functional if you could do 2,000 push-ups, and oh my goodness would you be strong! Utilize movements that are specific for your sport, and then when/if you train in a gym, make sure you are doing lots of hard exericses with your body weight, staying away from most machines. You will be better at your specific sport and stronger than ever.

Are sit-ups or crunches harmful?

Cautions with Sit-ups

Full sit-ups can be a problem because the hip flexors attach to the lower spine, so doing a lot of sit-ups can cause or worsen low back pain. This is why crunches, which engage the abdominals but do not involve the hip flexors, are usually recommended. Crunches are safe for most people, but you should never do any exercise that causes pain.


Increasing jumping abilities

Increase jumping ability: If you want improved body control, muscle strength and overall fitness level increase then you want to increase jumping abilities. Along with your usual workout you will want to add a plyometric exercise program, these are workout exercises to help you train, tone and increase your ability to jump and give your body an overall better sports conditioning workout. Plyometric exercise works your entire body including nerves, muscles and tendons. This type of exercise will benefit you whole body, improve your speed, power and agility. Plyometric exercises also benefit the neurological components in your body, which is great for overall health, stamina and strength. These types of exercise can increase risk of injury, so please ensure you have the physical strength and flexibility that is needed to complete this exercise regimen. Technique is very important, so you may want to consider a trainer to help you ensure that you are physically prepared for this level of sports/athletic training as well as making sure your techniques are within safe a proper range to help keep you from injury.

What do I do if I think I´m getting overtrained?

Overreaching, Overtraining

Overreaching symptoms are the first sign you're doing too much exercise or sports training. You may feel fatigued, lose enthusiasm for working out, not perform well, or have lingering colds. Athletes who work out twice a day are especially at risk. If you cut way back on your training, you may recover in 2 or 3 weeks. If you push through, you may reach an chronic overtraining condition, which can take up to a year for full recovery. Check with your coach or doc to help evaluate whether you're doing too much.

How can I use my mind to help my sports performance?


An important skill for any athlete is visualization. You can improve your technique and performance by visualizing your golf swing, tennis stroke, competitive dive, etc., the way it should be. Many runners and swimmers do mental drills--they visualize the whole race the way they plan to do it. Visualization may also help speed recovery from injury, as you visualize the tissues healing faster.

How much does my mind affect my sports performance?

Train Your Mind

Training your mind for sports is almost as important as training your body. Mental conditioning is often the difference between winning and losing or a good performance and a poor one. If you need to calm yourself down for your event, practice deep breathing or centering. Visualize your successful performance to heighten concentration. Use your imagination to psyche yourself up with whatever works best for you.

What does stretching have to do with sports performance?

Sports Stretching

Stretching to improve your flexibility can improve your sports performance. For instance, if you are more flexible and have greater range of motion, your tennis racket or the head of your golf club will travel farther, increasing the force with which it impacts the ball.

How do energy systems affect my sports training?

Energy Systems

Most sports, especially team sports, are anaerobic, with short bursts of activity. The aerobic energy system doesn't kick in until 3-5 minutes of continuous activity. Train the energy system you need for your sport.

Football and basketball players, for instance, need to do short-to-moderate sprints and intervals, and have little need to run long distances.

Aerobic sports, like long distance running, endurance cycling, distance swimming, triathlon, mountaineering, etc. require long, sustained training routines.

Soccer players benefit from aerobic training, and tennis can have both aerobic and anaerobic components, depending on how you play.


Rotational Movement

Most sports require some sort of rotation during the motion. For example, baseball players generally just rotate in one direction when they hit (unless they bat both ways). This can sometimes cause pains in the body, especially the lower back and hips. Regardless, make sure that for sports conditioning you are getting rotational movement both ways so that one side of the body does not become terribly dominant. For sports, you want to be in the best shape possible, so make sure your body can function very well in all areas, not just on one side.

Why should or shouldn´t I weight train during my sports season?

In-season Weights

You need to schedule some weight training even during sports season. Especially for women athletes, just doing your sport won't maintain strength, and you will need that toward the end of the season. But keep these workouts minimal, as hard training will break you down further than your sport already does. One set of 15 to failure, per body part, should be enough for maintenance during the season.

Why do women get hurt in sports more than men?

Training for Women Athletes

Women athletes suffer more injuries, especially to the knee, than men. Hormonal and biomechanical reasons have been proposed to explain this, but new research indicates lack of conditioning may be the key. Women typically do not have the same amount of experience with fitness and sports as men, because they have only recently been given encouragement and opportunity to participate.

Women athletes, no matter how talented, should work on general conditioning before getting heavily involved in their sport.

Will massage complement my training?

Using Massage

Massage can be a great addition to your training routine, but make sure you get the right kind of massage. Somebody who specializes in sports massage is probably your best bet. Avoid getting a deep tissue massage the day before an event, or you may be too sore to do your best. And self- massage is better than no massage.

How can I evaluate my aerobic fitness?

Recovery Time

UC Berkeley Wellness Letter has a great sports conditioning test. To measure your fitness, check the time it takes your heart rate to return to its resting value after strenuous exercise.

First, cool down. Then, after 1 minute, your heart rate should fall by about 12 beats per minute. The quicker the better, usually 1-3 minutes. If it takes longer, you can improve your fitness through vigorous aerobic exercise training.

What should I watch out for when going to the mountains?

High Altitude Sports

Skiing requires preparation beyond checking the weather up there. If you are going to ski, climb, or otherwise exercise at altitudes over 5000 ft, get to the higher altitude as early as you can and give yourself time to acclimatize before vigorous exercise. Two days should be your minimum conditioning time if you are going to compete.

How can massage treatments could help baseball players?

Massage for Baseball Players

Many athletes find that massage helps them relax and loosens their muscles. Baseball players do a lot of sprinting, changing direction, and quick throwing, which can stress the joints and tighten the muscles. Along with a good stretching program, massage can help retain or improve range of motion. Some players will feel that massage helps more than others do. It's important to find a massage therapist trained in sports massage.

How should I train for triathlon?

Specific Training for Triathletes

Do your triathlon training in conditions as close to those of the race as you can. If the running part is going to be on trails or roads, don't train on the track. If the swimming is in a lake or ocean, do at least some of your swimming drills there. And do your bike riding on hills or flats, as appropriate. Even if you live where it's flat, you can train for hills by riding road overpasses and riding into wind.


Workouts to jump higher

Workouts to jump higher: Plyometric exercise is one of the best programs to help you increase jumping ability and improve your sports conditioning. With proper guidance and training you will increase your jumping ability and increase your overall health and well being. There are many advantages to plyometric exercise: toughens tissues, improves circulation, improves and stimulates your nerve cells while contracting muscles for rapid muscle tone, contrast and strength in a short amount of time. With all of this in mind your training and exercise regime will produce a better overall health, strengthen and increase your ability to apply force in a more efficient, effective and rapid manner. As with all new exercise programs you will want to ensure you are healthy enough for such a rigorous exercise program. Without the correct action, movements and techniques you could put yourself at risk of injury. If you are unable to safely participate in a plyometric exercise you may consider other exercise regimes which include deep knee bends, deep knee jumps and jump rope. This will at least start you on the path of preparing for the more intense regimen of plyometric.

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Nicholas Frank