Do’s and Don’t of Building Muscle for Athletes

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Fitness IconsMost sports demand athletes to be fit, fast, strong, and sometimes just big. Football is a great example of a sport that needs all these things for the athlete who plays to be successful. However, many athletes are not well-informed on athlete nutrition or how to build muscle properly. This blog focuses on building muscle, what not to do, and how to build muscle for performance.

  • Girls who play sports: Have you heard strong is the new skinny? Well it’s true, you might not think about gaining muscle as much as losing weight, but the truth is the more muscle you have the more calories you burn and the fitter you will be.

Strength Training for Athletes

It’s almost impossible to imagine it today, but there was a time, many years ago, when athletes avoided strength training like the plague for fear that it would make them slow and “muscle bound.”


Fortunately we have realized this is a myth. Every athlete on the planet, from tennis players and golfers to football players and wrestlers, participates in some type of strength training program.


Building Muscle the Wrong Way for Sports:


Many athletes set goals of getting bigger muscles, and they instantly think of Bodybuilders.


“You might think, perfect I want to look like a body builder and be that strong, I will just use them as an example. Eat what they eat and lift how they lift.”


Hold the phone, stop what you’re doing, and listen up!


Lifting and eating like a bodybuilder won’t get you working muscle for sports.


What exactly do I mean by that? athletes are not bodybuilders. The training is not even remotely related. If you use bodybuilding methods with an athlete the chances are he will move more like Jay Cutler the Mr. Olympia competitor and less like Jay Cutler the NFL quarterback.


And that definitely isn’t a good thing for sports.


Why does this happen When Building Muscle?

Bodybuilding training actually increases your body’s ability to store glycogen in your muscles. The extra fluid from glycogen can not contract or produce force. Making all that muscle you gained utterly useless. All it will do is make you look good in a bro tank and slow you down. Plus you will exhaust yourself quicker when performing.


Ever notice how a lot of the biggest, most jacked up, muscular fighters seem to gas out rapidly? You always hear the announcers talking about how “those big muscles blow up.”


If you actually want to be able to run plays, jump, sprint, or muscle up on a baseball for more than a few seconds without blowing up and gassing out you need to steer clear of that type of tissue.


Athletes need to focus on Myofibrillar hypertrophy without the increased ability to store glycogen. Put plainly, focus on  dense contractile muscle tissue. This type of muscle can produce force. This type of strength and muscle won’t weigh you down!  


How to Gain Muscle for Athlete Performance

Gaining muscle and getting stronger is important for athletes. Instead of hitting the gym like a good old-fashioned bodybuilder, try a workout program that has variation, and encourages a combination of strength, cardio, and gymnastics. If your overall goal is to get stronger for your sport without losing any of your performance abilities then you will need constantly varied functional movements. Which means you need to workout in a way that will actually develop your body and your strength to optimally perform.

As an athlete you need to be fast, strong, flexible, balanced, and able to last cardio wise. One way to achieve these types of results is by doing CrossFit. We know it might seem like a fad, cult, or rip off (cause it can be expensive). But if you really want to see results and want them to translate on the field then we highly recommend finding a gym or coach near you!

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A little more about Natasha Hawkins...

Experience: Division 1 Fastpitch Softball player at San Jose State. Degree: B.S in Marketing and Advertising Certifications: Certified Level 1 CrossFit Trainer Interests: She loves the way the brain works and how personalities and attitude can create a warrior of an athlete that will always persevere and make success for themselves. While she is not a certified nutritionist she studies and practices the Paleo diet and Zone eating. Quirk: I am an avid archer and hunter. Yup, it's true. I have shot archery since I could walk, and hunted with my Dad since I was born. I also have a sister (Cheridan Hawkins) who is a stud pitcher for the Oregon Ducks Softball Team and is on the Junior Olympic Team. My youngest sister Charli Hawkins trains with me at CrossFit and is also a catcher on the 12U California Grapettes. Follow Natasha on Twitter: @NatashaBHawkins