Learn From the Best (53 tips for sports training)

Mike Robertson recently shared 53 random thoughts about training athletes that are nuggets of gold.  Enjoy:

1. Work to build 5-Star athletes – Speed, Strength, Stamina, Skill and Suppleness.

2. If you aren’t training at some point during the year to get stronger, you’re missing the boat.

3. Don’t bother training for “speed endurance” if you haven’t trained for speed, first.

4. Don’t bother training for “power endurance” if you haven’t trained for power, first.

5. Think of power as a spectrum – high-load, low-velocity on one end (i.e. Olympic lifts or speed squats/pulls) and low-load, high-velocity on the other (runs, jumps, med ball work).

6. If your goal is to make athletes, forget about weight room numbers. Focus on exercises and mediums that will carry over to the sport/field.

7. Train deceleration first. You must be able to stabilize and control coming into a cut if you want to explode out of it.

8. The best athletes in the world aren’t just the fastest to contract, but the fastest to relax.

9. You must understand the type of athlete you want to create, first, before you even consider writing them a program.

10. Quads can be built on a field or court. Glutes and hamstrings are built in the weight room.

posterior chain
posterior chain

11. Teaching an athlete to exhale may be the greatest tool you ever put in their toolbox.

12. Learn how to squat and deadlift. Don’t like the back squat? Front squat instead.

13. The foam roller is your friend. Whether it’s pre-workout, post-workout, or in the evening before bed, just like American Express says, “Don’t leave home without it.”

14. Try using half-kneeling and tall-kneeling positions in med ball work to train upper body power along with core and trunk stability.

16. Box jumps are a great tool to work on jumping technique, while reducing the eccentric stress of landing.

17. Break your warm-up into two sections – a “corrective” section (if necessary), and a movement or athletic section.

18. Every athlete should have a flexibility or mobility reserve. And trust me, you don’t want to see what happens if they don’t have it.

19. Just because they run, jump or cut on one leg doesn’t mean that’s all you have to do in the weight room. Big lifts like squats and deads better represent the forces involved in high-level sports, and should absolutely have a place in your training program.

20. All energy system development works on a continuum, called the power-capacity continuum. Do you need to be super powerful for short periods of time? Or do you need to go for days on end? Most team sports athletes lie somewhere in the middle.

21. Stop trying to build the perfect program. Instead, build a good program, follow it to a “T,” and then improve upon it in the future.

22. Athletes are tri-planar animals, but that doesn’t mean their training should start tri-planar. Instead, master the sagittal plane first.

23. If you’re not assessing your athletes, you’re guessing. The IFAST/Diagnosis Fitness assessment examines orthopedic/joint health, neutrality, gross movements, isolated movements, manual muscle testing, speed, strength, power and endurance.

24. Let kids play.

25. Overspeed treadmills suck.

26. Give me anyone who hasn’t trained before and I can drop their 40 time .2 of a second and put an inch on their vertical.

27. Show me someone who can do that with a well-trained or elite athlete, and that’s someone I want to learn from.

28. Always work to develop and refine your filter as a coach.

29. Seek out the best coaches and learn from them. If you want to be the best, money, travel and time should not be limiting factors.

30. As a coach, write everything down. Keep notes on training sessions, and review those from time-to-time to adjust and make small, incremental changes in your programming and coaching.

31. Believe in your athletes more than they believe in themselves.

32. Strength has a spillover effect. The greater your strength, the more potential you have to build speed, power, and even endurance.

33. Great athletes are often great in spite of their movement quality.

athlete burnout

34. Little Johnny won’t care when he’s 30 that he played on the All-World-7-Year-Old travel baseball team. He will care if he’s got a blown out elbow and back, though, and can’t play with his kids.

35. Great coaches see similarities in movement across all athletes. There are common denominators – look to identify them.

36. The next generation strength coach/physical preparation coach won’t think of themselves as a “weights” guy or “speed” guy. Much like Mixed Martial Artists no longer specialize in one discipline, our field will merge to build better athletes, versus ones that are amazing with one physical quality.

37. You’re only as good as your program.

38. Your program is only as good as your coaching.

39. Adhere to Zatsiorsky’s 3-year-rule: Kids should work on body weight exercises and very lightly loaded movements and skills for the first 3-years of their formal training. In other words, they shouldn’t be maxing out their first week (or first year) in the weight room.

40. One of the best things you can give a young athlete early-on in their career is autonomic balance (i.e. the ability to shift between sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system dominance).

41. It’s dumb to use a conditioning test that doesn’t mimic the energy systems required to play your chosen sport.

42. Tracking recovery is a game changer. I use the BioForce HRV with all my elite athletes, as it removes the need to periodize the program. Instead, I can customize on the fly based on how an athlete is responding to training.

43. If you can’t use a tool like HRV, plan a deload every four-to-six week. Four weeks for more intermediate/advanced athletes, six weights for younger athletes.

44. Great athletes have great hips. Train them to be mobile, stable, strong and powerful.

45. Taking that a step further, the best athletes can maximally flex one hip, while simultaneously extending the opposite hip (i.e. hip separation).

46. Integrate, unify and tie the body together with upper body exercises like push-ups and inverted rows.

47. Stop focusing on exercises, and worry more about performance.

48. “Look Good + Feel Good = Play Good.” – Joe Kenn

49. For overhead athletes, work from the inside out. Make sure you have a base (ribcage/thoracic spine) for the scap to rest on. Then, put the scap in the right place. Last but not least, tie the ‘cuff in and you’re golden.

50. If you have to extend to go overhead, you can’t go overhead safely and effectively.

51. Towards the end of the off-season, make your energy system training look as close as possible to your sport, while still working within smart work:rest intervals.

52. Tempo work (202 or 303 cadence) is awesome not only for slow-twitch hypertrophy, but improving joint stability and motor control as well.

53. Don’t train an athlete like a(n) ________ (powerlifter, Olympic lifter, sprinter, etc.). Train them like an athlete.


Mike knows more about strength and conditioning than you and I put together.

Seek out those doing what you’d like to do.

Then pay attention.


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