T Nation

5 Differences Between Athletes and You - Article by Brad Kaczmarski, C.S.C.S.


I wrote this a little while back, but I guess TC didn't run it, so I'll give it to you guys for free, enjoy! There is a part two that I'll follow up with outlining the exact opposite, similarities. - Brad Kaczmarski, C.S.C.S.

5 Differences between Athletes and You

Most of the people who come to this website enjoy sports. We love the competition and the raw physical talent exhibited in things like football, basketball, baseball, etc. Weather we were athletes or not, it's easy to get motivated by these athletes in our own training. In reality there are many similarities to how athletes and you train. But this article isn't about that, instead, it's about what you need to do differently to reap the rewards in your life. They hopefully both have a general philosophy. Hopefully they both have short and long term goals and work there way towards them.

  1. The More movement you get in a day, the less you need in the gym and vise versa.

Mike Boyle will kill me for this one, but don't take it too literal. Most people think that athletes need to do a ton of crazy movements that simulate or enhance sports movements and you only need to do body part training. I'm here to say that I think that is actually the inverse.

Athletes not only lift weights, they also do conditioning, do specific skill practice, do team practice, get massages, acupuncture, do GPP, etc. Some even have sports physolcolgists and visualize sports movements in their heads. You most likely, on the other hand, workout for 30 minutes to 1 hour a few times a week, then sit in a car to get to work, to sit at an office for 8 hours, then sit in a car to get home, and sit on a couch. Now obviously that's a generalization, not everyone has that lifestyle, but you have more in common with that than the athlete's daily agenda. So for the athlete, who does all that movement, is it necessary for them to mimic more movement in the gym? I don't think so. Instead, they use that time to put a bigger engine in their cars, to quote Kelly Baggett.

On the other hand, the less we get all those things in our daily lives, the more we need to get proper and extensive movement in the gym. Our goal should be to get proper movement though weight training. We don't have time to do all the other things that the pro athlete does, so we need to take advantage of our time in the gym and multi-task. This doesn't mean doing stupid things with pink dumbbells. Instead it means doing things like A. C., Mike Boyle and I recommend doing in previous articles. The General theme is this: The less movement you get in your daily life, the more you need to get during your training, and vise versa. So for you, you are the ones who need to add primitive or primal patterns into your training along with your bench press, rows and squats.

  1. Work between 65 % and 95 % the majority of the time.

Track Coach Charlie Francis has said numerous times that he has power athletes train at or above 95% and at or below 65%. He says that everything between; 65-95% are unnecessary to train and don't help speed and power athletes. While I think he may be correct, I think the inverse is true for non professional athletes (a.k.a. YOU). Training above 95% for non-athletes is just asking to get hurt and training below 65% is probably unnecessary (think of the dude with the fanny pack walking on the treadmill for 45 minutes). But working between that range seems optimal because it allows adaptations to occur and it's not too intense to create injuries (if done correctly). Charlie's athletes do a ton of GPP at or below 65%, so they still create a base and generate work capacity. He then uses the above 95% to train and bring out performance numbers. You, most likely, don't have the luxury of that kind of time, genetics, and joint and soft tissue healthy to handle that. But you can handle working between 65% and 95 %. This still gives you variety in your intensities, all the while gaining both higher and lower level work.

  1. Train for the Long Hall, not to peak in your 20's.

Athletes train to maximize a peak at a pretty early age (mid twenties is early when the average life span is mid seventies). Whenever I watch pro athletes play, I'm always jealous of there speed and power, but when I watch retired athletes move, my jealousy quickly disappears. Most are fat and out of shape. Even more walk with limps and are in constant pain. Sure there are exceptions Shannon Sharp to name one, but thatâ??s not common. For you, your,career span shouldn't be 3-10 years and then retire, instead it should be to continue to have new goals and improve throughout our entire lifetime. Our goal should be to feel better every year. Our idols should be people like Jack Lalanne or my personal athletic hero Dr. Shea, who swam masters after college and right up to 3 weeks before he died, at age 89. Our goals should be, to be as vital as possible for as long as we live, regardless of how long that is. If I can be active up to the day I die, then I truly lived a quality active lifestyle and will be happy with what I did with my athletic life. You are lucky in the respect that your livelihood and paycheck donâ??t require you to destroy your body early on. Take advantage of that and always strive to feel and perform better.

  1. Athletes train more than they perform, you don't.

Athletes lives are inverse of your. They can use their time training hard and then use the rest of the day to recover. In reality, they only have to perform for an hour or so every game and games vary from a few times a week down to once a week. Your life is NOTHING like that! You have to workout during the day if your lucky, then you have to spend the rest of your day performing at your job, with your family, living your life, etc. Therefore, it does you little good to smash yourself in a training session and be wiped out for the rest of your day. Yes there are times that's useful, but that's another article. Instead, you should be benefiting from your workouts in your life with enhanced energy, vitality, stamina, confidence and emotional renew. If you are spending every day exhausted and cranky from your workouts, then you need to re-examine your life goals and plan.

  1. Athletes have to have a narrow focus, but you don't.

With the exception of Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and a few others, athletes have to focus on one sport and usually one position. This means countless repetitions doing the same thing. You on the other hand, have the luxury of doing whatever you want, whenever you want to, training wise. Take advantage of that! Throughout your training life-time, (hopefully 50 plus years) train for different things, different ways. You can practice being a strength-based trainer, a power based trainer, you can work on endurance for a period of time as well . You can combine elements for a mixed, well-rounded program. You can train to be the best you can be in a slow pitch softball league, a masters swim meet, or a seasonal alumni golf tournament. You can train to be ripped at a buddies wedding or summer beach season or you can get jacked for a class reunion. Hopefully life is long. And the beauty of it is that you can train for dozens of different things in your life. I recommend that you do it. Why limit yourself to one training style and goal when you've got your entire lifetime to try new methods for new fun and exciting goals. You are not limited to a narrow focus like the pro athlete. Have some fun with that!

  • Brad Kaczmarski, C.S.C.S.


Good article. I have mainly been training like a powerlifter for a while but am doing a sprint triathalon in july. My main focus however is australian rules football. My last game I suffered a minor tear of my right MCL but it is much better now. I hope to get my C.S.C.S. after I get my BA.


This was a good read!


Good read. everybody should read this. I very much like the long term view.


That's a bummer on the tear. Good luck on the C.S.C.S., it's not perfect, but it's a good start and needed to get jobs in the field.


Thanks, I appreciate that. I hope you enjoy the follow up as well.


Thank you. I think to many people that are young focus too much on the now, and not enough on the future. I hope you enjoy the follow up to this, I will put it out soon.


I agree 100% with you, and for this very reason I started a discussion board where I do my best to promote these views, it is only in Norwegian. Too many young lifters are impatient and take shortcuts to achieve success, without considering the consequences.

So I am glad there are more people with the same views as me.

-- stallion