What you’re doing wrong in the gym – and how simple changes can help you become the athlete you’re meant to be
Performance coach Mike Robertson is the founder of Robertson Training Systems in Indiana, USA, which has helped athletes and clients from all walks of life get fitter and achieve their performance goals through personalised programmes and a series of fitness books and DVDs. He talks to MF about his three foundations of training – efficient movement, smart strength training and aerobic conditioning – and how you can use them to maximise your athletic capabilities.
Moving on up
I’ve seen people work tirelessly in the gym to get bigger or stronger, only to see minimal if any gains in performance. The reason? Poor quality of movement. The body is built to work as an integrated unit, but if something’s not right – such as bad breathing patterns or a lack of core strength – it’ll ruin your efficiency.
You must be able to move well before you try to move powerfully. In the early stages of training a client, I focus on improving movement by strengthening their anterior core and abs with moves such as kettlebell pull-overs or an exercise I call ‘wall press abs’. I also get them to exhale fully. Try emptying your lungs and holding for four or five seconds – it’s surprisingly challenging and practising it will make your breathing far more efficient.
Most clients are shocked when I won’t let them squat or deadlift for the first month of training. But when they return to those moves they set personal bests within weeks because their movement is more economical. From then on, I’ll start including subtle variations – such as adding chains to the bar during squats to increase core strength gains and lifting speed – so that they keep progressing.
I don’t believe in ‘sport-specific’ strength work, because there is nothing more specific than actually playing your sport. All the guys I see in the gym trying to mimic sports movements with bands and weights are wasting their time. If anything, it detracts from their performance.
Your brain has an image of how a particular movement – throwing a punch, passing a ball – should feel in terms of speed, strength and power. When you use something that alters your body’s ability to do that, such as a weight, you change the motor programme, which is counterproductive. Instead, give your body the underlying foundation for better performance by opting for classic exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, lunges, rows – anything that helps you build a bigger, stronger engine.
Use gym training to offset any imbalances your sport creates. Many soccer players I work with have huge quads but their posterior chain – glutes and hamstrings – is practically non-existent. Training them in the weights room gives me an opportunity to strengthen their weak areas [see box below].
Don’t neglect your …read more