How to Train in the Gym for a Sport

Sport and Fitness go hand in hand. For the majority of sports, you have to have at least some degree of physical fitness and ability to perform at a decent level no matter what standard you are playing at. And because of this, the never ending question that always seems to go around is ‘How do I train to be better at my sport’ whether it be a team sport such as rugby or football or a an individual sport such as tennis or golf.

Well my friends, you are about to find out.

Let’s Get Specific

The single and most important thing to make your training as effective as possible it MUST be specific to the sport you are playing. Whether it be the level of running you do or the actions or movements that are required, the exercises you do need to have a translation into a real game scenario.

For example, say you play Basketball and you want to improve you jumping height. Think about in a basketball game what scenarios would you need to jump high and in what manner? You would do a standing vertical jump for when you are under the basket waiting for a rebound and you will also do running vertical jumps for when you go for a lay up or run back to block a shot.

Therefore, you must do exercises that replicate these movements, strengthen the muscles used AND work on improving your technique.


Lifting Weights the Right Way

Now when it comes to building bigger muscles and getting stronger, a lot of people tend to train the wrong way for a sport. While getting stronger is generally better for most sports, you will typically see the most strength and size training in people who play contact sports such as rugby and american football.

Where most players trip up with weight training is they train too much like bodybuilders (Chest Day, Arm Day, Leg Day etc, Isolation Exercises), rely too much on machines and will do the typical 3 sets of 8-12 reps which is ok up to a point, but it has major limitations.

Free weights should be the primary choice for any sports person.

For someone who is brand new at lifting weights, any sort of weight training will have a positive impact on sports because the increases in strength and muscle size will make such a big difference to their overall playing ability. However, after several months the progress you see from bodybuilding training won’t really have a great amount of match day application.

Think about it, in what sport will you have to do 4 sets of 12 reps on overhead cable extensions or 3 sets of 20 reps on machine leg extensions? Absolutely none. How will using  machine to do an exercise in a single plane of motion transfer onto the pitch on Saturday afternoons? It won’t.

Instead, we need to be mainly focusing on strength training from compound lifts such as bench press, squats and deadlifts and power based movements such as cleans and snatches. Isolation exercises are important too, but are lower down on the priority list.

So What Sort of Programme Should I Do?

That’s the big question isn’t it. And the answer is: It all depends on your sport, position (If applicable) and goals.

If you’re a badminton player and want to improve speed across the court and increase the power at which you hit the shuttlecock then you’re going to want to do lots of very short sprints, some endurance running as the game last a long time and exercises that mimic the motion of hitting the shuttlecock.

You get the idea.


So there you have it, a basic guide to training for a sport. Keep it specific and always be thinking about the real game applications.

For fully bespoke training programmes which are specific to your sport and goals, feel free to email us at!

‘Loving my bespoke, tailored an sport-specific training plan from Iconic Athletics – session 1 of phase 1 completed!’ – Ian Mitchell, Great Britain & England Australian Rules Football Player


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