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3 clever methods to increase your sports performance [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 13, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Sports performance

3 clever principles to increase your sports performance

These are three principles of looking at programs which I gathered through trial and error doing marathons and strength training. As I am doing most of my programming by myself and I like to think I am ambitious, this might help you, if you do not have access to a coach or want a second opinion by someone who tries a lot of stuff. Filling the gap, introducing volume or speed have always helped me to take my performance to the next level depending on the situation.

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You are very ambitious. You have some spare time and your current fitness program works. You have managed to motivate yourself, get to the gym regularly and keep your diet in check. Still, you would like to do that little bit more of training to gain the edge. How to outperform the competition ? How to stay healthy whilst doing it ? What can you add into the mix to get even better ? 

Michael Phelps had a simple answer to that question. Just do twice of whatever you do. He must have gotten something right, as he is one of the most successful Olympians of all times. Scientists follow a different approach and do the same thing over and over again and only change one little thing whilst meticulously measuring and observing the different results. The first approach is not very clever but works. The second one is clever, but puts you under a lot of stress as measuring and adapting takes extra time if you do not have a team around you to take the workload. 

As an average being with limited time and resources, there must be a way to harness these two ideas and simplify them for you. But how to go on about it, if you do not have a lot of subjects to test your theories on or just do not have the time because you are not sponsored by the Unites States of America to swim all day. I personally found three ways to look at your current regime and make it even better. Applying these principles I fixed my bench press to squat ratio when I was bench pressing and squatting about the same weight for my one repetition maximum, trained around a tennis elbow and severe back pain to come out even stronger after rehabilitation. Here are my thoughts to help you succeed:

  1. Fill the gap
  2. Introduce volume 
  3. Introduce speed

The three ways to increase your sports performance

To fill the gap you do not have to look far. Most fitness programs I have done work on a three days a week schedule. As we have already established that you are one of the few who wants to do even more take an honest look at your program. My marathon running programs usually lacked a strength component while my powerlifting programs usually lacked a speed and/or mobility component. Here you are applying the scientific approach mentioned earlier. Find the weak link in your program and fix it by introducing a fourth work day with fitting exercises and test whether it improves your performance on your three core days.

Volume in this context means a relatively long time of exercise based on your current program. If for example, you are a sprinter who does 8x400m with 200m rest in between during the week, because your strongest distances are the 200m, 400m and 800m than your fourth day of the week would be a (relatively) long distance run of 1 - 5km on your fourth day. The goal is not to set a new record, but to get your body used to a volume that is longer than a couple of minutes to have less fatigue during the week. If you apply this to the lifting world you would introduce a fourth day in which you do 5 sets of ten repetitions instead of the usual 3 sets of three on weekdays. 

Speed applies the same thinking, just the other way around. When i introduced the concept of speed to my marathon training by doing more fartlek runs or negative splits on long runs on the weekends, my overall performance got a real boost. Fartlek runs are runs in which you incorporate sprints into your 5k, 10k or half marathon runs. Pick a tree, street lantern or other landmarks randomly on your 30min to one and a half hour run and sprint towards it as hard as you can. Spice up the run as needed without getting "lung burn". Negative splits have the goal to run the second half of your distance faster than the first half. For example, if you aim to run 10k in 60 mins for training purposes then you would set yourself up to run the first 5km in 40min and the second 5k at least better than 40mins, ideally in 20 minutes. (World record 5km is around 15min). To apply the concept of speed to lifting you would work with 50% to 60% of your one repetition maximum and 8x2 to 10x2 focusing in explosiveness. Here you might want to incorporate chains and bands. This helped my to move my squat from 120kg to 150kg on Jim Wendler 531 in combination with principles from the Westside method. 

Remember that your fourth day on which you fill the gap in your program is not an all-out maximum performance day. It is a complimentary day to fix the weak links in your main program and should be treated as such. If your fourth day limits your ability to perform in your main areas, scrap or adjust it accordingly. 


There are many ways to skin the cat. I personally found the best ways to improve overall performance is to work on your weaknesses outside the regular routine. The more professional you become, the more likely it is that your weaknesses will become the limiting factors of performance. 

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