Get Sport-Specific at the Gym
Tailor Your Workout
Aug. 20, 2001 -- Mary Clare Coghlan just finished competing at
the National Volleyball Festival in Davis, Calif., and expects to play college
volleyball next year. She's been working
out for the past year under the supervision of Mark Hoffman, founder of
ProPrep Athletic Development Services, in Los Angeles.
"You feel really good after your workout and you know
you're in the best shape you can be," she says. "He designs a program
especially for you, looking at what position you play and what skills you need
to focus on."
Mary Clare's father, Ed Coghlan, says, "he's worked magic
with her. She actually works out less than she used to, but is much more
intelligent about it."
Hoffman focuses on serious athletes, ranging from long-term
development for novices to seasoned veterans trying to remain competitive. But
all of us, at all athletic levels, need to think about personalizing our
workouts to match the sports we enjoy, the shape we're in, and our goals for
Cycling Your Workout Regimen
Hoffman emphasizes "periodization" -- which means you
do certain exercises for a portion of the year, and then move on to different
workouts or intensity levels.
"You work in a series of cycles," he explains.
"You're conditioning tendons and ligaments and muscles for heavier work to
come. An athlete might focus on building strength 12 weeks or less out of the
year, for example, unlike bodybuilders who are focused on presentation rather
than performance and would spend the larger part of the year building
Exercises in your workout may be designed to increase
speed, agility, strength, and/or flexibility, says Young Cannon, a master
trainer at the New York Sports Club in New York City. When you're just starting
out, one major focus will be flexibility, because that prevents injury. You'll
stretch before and after exercise, focusing particularly on the parts of the
body used most in your sport.
"A tennis player will work to strengthen abdominals and
lower back, because first you have to strengthen your core. If that's weak, you
won't be able to strengthen anything else properly. Your goal is to do
relatively small movements with good form, paying attention," Cannon says.
"You also need agility exercises, because in tennis you have to move from
one place to another quickly. Of course you also need to work on shoulder, arm,
and elbow movements."
Rich Baudry, PT, a physical therapist at Crescent City Physical
Therapy in New Orleans, has developed a specialized workout for golfers, who
often need to increase flexibility, especially in hip and shoulder
"You need to play within the limits of your particular
capabilities," he says. "If you aren't flexible enough right now to do
a full swing, then you have to shorten your swing while you work to improve
your capabilities over time."
Because workouts can take so many different forms, it's very
helpful to get expert advice. How often do you need to see a personal
"That depends on how intelligent and motivated you
are," Hoffman says. "Do you need to see someone often to kick your
butt, or do you need guidance every six weeks to refresh your
Hoffman recommends asking for recommendations about personal
trainers, just the way you'd ask around when looking for a new doctor.
"Talk to friends who've worked with that trainer and ask whether they've
made progress," he says.