15 Strength & Conditioning Tips for Serious Athletes

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Here are 15 strength & conditioning tips to help you improve as an athlete

You gotta be strong and powerful in order to sprint fast

Strength & Conditioning can be a game-changer when it comes to athletic performance. When all other things are equal, the bigger, stronger, and faster athlete usually comes out on top. But with so much information on training out there, one might be a little confused about how to best train for their sport. So here are 15 strength & conditioning tips to help you improve as an athlete.


Think about the qualities you require for your sport

1. Don’t just train blindly! Different training modalities produce different results. Always think about the qualities you need as an athlete of your sport and the role you play in it. Take a piece of paper and think about your sport for a moment and list down different qualities that you think you might need in order of priority.

2. Some common athletic qualities include:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Power
  • Technique
  • Mobility

On the other hand, some not so commonly trained (but still important) qualities might include things like armor building, pre-hab, reaction time etc. There are plenty of things that an athlete might need to be successful in his/her sport.

A NBA point guard requires a large number of athletic qualities to excel

3. Different sports might require different numbers of these qualities too. A powerlifter only requires absolute strength and technique. We can compare this to a basketball point guard who might require speed, agility, lateral quickness, reaction time, strength, and so on. A sport that requires a number of qualities would have to better balance the training of these qualities in the training program.

You probably don’t have to be powerlifter strong to be good at your sport

4. We also have to think about the relativity of any quality in relation to our sport. While an elite heavyweight wrestler is strong, his bench press max might be a warm-up for an elite powerlifter. However, what is optimal for the powerlifter is not optimal for the wrestler due to the different nature of our sports. So if you’re trying to push your training hard to improve any quality, beware of going beyond what is optimal for you that you compromise on other important qualities.

5. If you are a beginner athlete, it will be beneficial for you to be exposed to many different qualities at a low level. Do some strength training, run, jump, do some ladder drills, play some sports. This will help you learn a variety of movements and build and better understand different qualities to set a good foundation. This is also known as General Physical Preparation (GPP).


Focus on movement and not muscle

6. When you are selecting exercises to do, don’t think about training for muscle groups. You are not a bodybuilder! Instead, think about movement. There are 7 basic movement patterns to perform:

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Hinge/Bend
  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Rotate
  • Gait (Moving from point A to B)

Work on the movements which help improve your strengths in your sport but also on the weaknesses in order to help preserve balance.

Snatches are a good way to develop power, but will they be too complex for your athlete to pick up

7. Some exercises might look cool and fun, but always ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • Will it help you in your sport?
  • Is it simple to learn?
  • Are there simpler ways to get comparable benefits?

Example: A high pull or kettlebell swing can be used in place for the olympic clean if the athlete has no time to learn and get proficient at the movement. Forcing the athlete to learn a complex movement might take away valuable time and energy from practicing his/her sport.

Trap bar deadlifts can work just as well as a conventional deadlift to build pulling & hinging strength

8. While the big 3 barbell lifts of bench press, squat, and deadlift can be highly beneficial in building strength and power, they are not the only way for athletes to train. There are also plenty of other suitable alternatives such as floor pressing, bulgarian split squats, trap bar deadlifts. Do what is best for your body and your sport!


Strength is an important component for all athletes

9. Three easy tips for you to build more strength without impeding on your athletic training:

  • Lift heavy
  • Keep your sets and reps low
  • Stop your sets and workout before you get too fatigued
Chasing the grind in the weight room will take away from training well in your sport

10. Too many athletes like to chase the grind in the weight room. Remember that the bar is a means to the end, which is to get better at your sport. Stop trying to test yourself against the barbell! That is what your sport is for! A good strength training program should deliver great results without taxing too much of the athlete’s time or energy.

11. When training for strength, focus on a limited number of compound exercises and perform these exercises 2 – 3 times a week. Good examples of such main exercises can be the:

  • Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press
  • Weighted Pull-up
Lift heavy but ensure that you rest enough in between sets

12. Lift in the 2 – 5 repetition range and always rest from 3 – 5 minutes between sets. This allows you to keep fresh between sets and better recovery for your muscles and nervous system. Remember, the goal is to get stronger, not to get a mean pump!

13. You don’t have to max out if you are not a powerlifter! Maxing out and trying to set a PR is usually not beneficial for your sport. Needlessly maxing out often can cause injury and great strain to the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Testing is not training. Remember, the next step off a peak is always down!

14. Quality is more important than quantity. Even though you might be able to do more repetitions, focus on giving your all for the repetitions that you have to do. Once the quality of your movements starts deteriorating, consider cutting the set short or even stopping the whole workout.

Work on your weaknesses and focus on quality work!

15. Be sure to do your accessory work to help build on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. But the same principle applies, don’t go HAM and take away valuable energy and recovery from the thing that matters most, training your sport!


These 15 Strength & Conditioning tips can be applicable to almost any athlete. Try out some of them and work on them for some time. You will see yourself making good progress in the weight room and in your sport! Drop me a dm at @strongertmrtraining if you need more help on your athletic Strength & Conditioning program.

Check out some other posts to help improve your athletic performance:

Building an Athletic Core with Anti-Rotational Exercises

Strength & Conditioning Tips for Grappling

Strength & Conditioning For Brazilian Jiu Jutsu: A Needs Analysis

Author: Leon Tan, CSCS

I'm a certified Fitness Coach with a degree in Sports Science. I am passionate in Health, Fitness and helping people become a better version of ourselves.

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