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10 Ways to Train Like a Professional Athlete

Build muscle, gain speed, and improve agility with these tips from top trainers.

Take your fitness to the next level with these 10 ways to dominate on the field and in the gym.

Two top professional sports trainers share how to build muscle, gain speed, and increase agility so you can quickly improve athletic performance—no matter what your sport is.

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1. Relax & Release

Myofascial release is deep-tissue work that deactivates painful muscle knots and adds suppleness to your body. You can do this yourself by using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, softball, golf ball, or massage stick. “Make smooth passes and if you happen to feel a knot or tightness, roll out that point for a little to get that specific area to relax,” says Joe Kenn, C.S.C.S., head strength and conditioning coach for the NFL's Carolina Panthers. “That muscle group is going to fire when you’re doing your movement.” Having tight glutes will hinder your ability to squat, bend, and jump," Kenn adds. Do tissue work before workouts to prepare for action and post-workout for recovery.

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2. Activate Your Muscles

Bands do wonders for your body. Muscles contract and react to the band’s resistance, which gives you the ability to stabilize joints. Kenn suggests a vertical pull to activate muscles after self-myofascial release. “Stand on a band, grab it with two hands, do a front raise all the way up over your head, then drop the arms to midlevel to form a T. Raise your arms back up overhead, do an overhead shrug, go back to mid-level, and repeat.” 

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3. Turn the Lights Out

When you sleep you slip into an anabolic (muscle-building) state that's optimal for growth. “Your ultimate goal would be a quality night’s sleep between seven and nine hours,” says Kenn. “If you have a full work day ahead of you before you go to the gym, I would highly recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep,” he adds. Whether you train in the morning, at night, or both, be sure to get some quality zzz's.

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4. Focus on Compound Movements

Compound movements such as power cleans, squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts use multiple joints at once—more muscles are used, so more muscle can be gained. Kenn recommends ground-based movements. As the name suggests, these are moves that have your feet on the ground for majority of the time; your body learns to absorb and apply force through the ground. “In terms of squatting, I would rank the front squat as No. 1 because it puts you in a more upright posture which is more conducive to the position that you'll get in for most starting stances [in sports].” Get low and perform the moves with correct technique for full-body strength gains. 

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