Train like a Champion

Lolo Jones during the USOC Media Summit ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Harry How/Getty Images

Athletes look to gain weight. Newton’s second law is responsible for this desire. Mass x acceleration=force. Force, for reference purposes, is defined as strength or energy as an attribute of physical action or movement.

Bottom line, size matters when it comes to power.

It’s no coincidence that men in MLB who strike the ball hardest, are physically imposing and that the offensive lineman in the NFL who protect the ball carriers are not small in stature. Lebron James at 6-8, 250 pounds, by way of example, is far more powerful than say, Jamal Crawford at 6-5, 200.

That’s not to say that smaller men and women don’t have pop. I remember the super slim BJ Upton putting on a power display in batting practice that rivaled another teammate of mine, the substantially larger, David Ortiz. BJ, however, was more an outlier than the rule. Generally speaking, bigger, stronger and faster –  in many sports – is the Holy Grail.

It stands to reason that athletes looking for power would also be looking for mass.

Lolo Jones knew that pushing a bobsled would require more overall strength than her track career has demanded of her. The 250ish-pound, two-woman sled won’t move fast by itself.  So she packed on a well-publicized 20 pounds to prepare to compete in the upcoming Sochi Olympics.

What’s the best way to train to put on weight like a champion? I posed this question to Adam Friedman, CSCS, CNC. Adam has trained pro athletes across all sports, including Olympic Gold Medalists.

“The healthiest way to gain weight for competition is to have a holistic approach, and give an athlete as much time as possible to do it slowly.” Adam shared with me.  “It’s important that weight gain, first and foremost, does not impair athleticism in particular speed and agility. So adding pounds is best done over time to allow the athlete to adjust and maintain body control.”

I understand this concept quite well. I entered professional baseball at age 19 weighing 190 pounds, and gradually over the next five years added several pounds of muscle a year peaking at 215 at age 25.

My formula was simple; I kept a food diary and added quality calories as I increased my training load.

“It’s really an experimental process from individual to individual to keep increasing calories per meal, and the number of meals per day over time until the desired weight is achieved.” Friedman says.  “The proper ratio of protein, carbs, and fat also needs to be consistent. “

In an effort to acquire accurate data and to appropriately make adjustments, keeping good notes is paramount to success when it comes to gaining or losing mass. Journaling of food intake is the ideal way to aggregate this information.  Whether an athlete is working with a nutritionist, this process can make or break them.

Weekly weigh-ins and body composition tests go a long way to both motivate and accurately gauge progress.

As a player, nothing made me want to train and eat than feeling stronger and knowing that I was growing. In my mind, I could feel that weight, that power in the batters box. Confidence is, in my opinion, the No. 1 factor in successfully competing at the highest level. The talent is so close across the board that any edge, like more lean mass, translates to competitive advantage.

In the gym, an in-depth, progressive strength program will pair beautifully with the nutritional component to produce the athlete’s desired results. The program will and must be specific to the athlete’s sport and no cookie cutter approach makes sense.

“The program will need to include components of traditional explosive power exercises for sport to target the fast twitch muscle fibers, and also some exercises dedicated to hypertrophy volumes for the slow twitch fibers,“ Friedman reminded me.

There is more than one way to skin a cat, but a natural approach, without the use of unnatural supplements and or performance enhancing drugs is absolutely possible and advised.

Make no mistake; there are no short cuts to putting on mass for competition. Devotion over a longer period of time is my suggestion to accomplish athletic goals naturally and with extraordinary results.

Lolo Jones then, must have been a woman on a mission. Kudos to her and all the athletes out there with big dreams.