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  †SPEED †STRENGTH †ENDURANCE †POWER †AGILITY These are the 5 pillars of fitness on which every athlete's accomplishments sit. Whether y...






These are the 5 pillars of fitness on which every athlete's accomplishments sit. Whether you're a recreational player or an aspiring sports person, here's how to push your boundaries and raise the level of your game.


Pure strength is an asset on the soccer (or hockey) field only if it allows you to activate the muscle you have. Learn to tap the full capacity of your muscles and you'll become a dominant force in any sport.

THE SQUAT is ranked the single most important exercise for sports and the best predictor of total-body strength. Try this the one-repetitionmaximum squat test. Set the safety bars on your squat rack and grab a couple of spotters. Then load the barbell with the heaviest weight you can squat at least six times, but no more than eight. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Gradually decrease number of reps and increase weight. Your goal is to boost your one-rep max to more than 100 pounds. Can't do it? Here's how to push your limits.

PREP YOUR MUSCLES. If you're new to weight training, you'll need to strengthen your connective tissue and improve your muscular endurance before you take on the heavy weights  both to prevent injury and to improve performance.

For example do 5 pushups, 5 crunches, then 5 split jumps (from a lunge position, jump straight up, switch legs in midair, and land back in a lunge). Rest for 30 seconds to a minute, then raise that number to 6. Repeat, steadily increasing the number of reps to 7, 8, 9, etc.

REST YOUR MUSCLES. To grow stronger, you have to train more muscles fibers to fire. Yes, that means heavier weights, but it also means giving your muscles longer breaks to recover fully between sets to perform at their max. Try the 5x5 method. For any exercise, use the heaviest weight that allows you to do five sets of five repetitions. Rest for a full 2 to 2½ minutes between sets.

BENCH THEM. In sports, your leg muscles have to support your body weight in a variety of positions, whether you're lunging to your left or planting on your right. Use the single-leg squat to develop sports-specific lower-body strength. Stand on a bench with your left foot planted firmly and your right foot hanging off, your toes pointing up. Hold your arms straight in front of you and bend your left knee, keeping your torso as upright as possible. Lower your body until your right heel almost touches the floor. Push yourself back to the starting position and repeat as many times as you can. Do four or five sets with each leg, resting 3 minutes after each.


Sports speed isn't just about maximum velocity. It's also about how fast you can accelerate and decelerate  that is, go from standing still to your top speed, and vice versa  think soccer forward. And because every tenth of a second matters, even small improvements can make a major impact on your performance.

THE 50-METRE DASH is one of the best measurements of speed and acceleration. Get hold of partner and a stopwatch. Mark off 50 metres on a track or grass field. Get into a comfortable stance  a four-point sprinter's stance is typical  and instruct your timer to start the clock as soon as you move. The clock stops when any part of your chest crosses the finish line.

Your goal is to do the 50-metre dash in under 6 seconds. Can't do it? Here's how to push your limits.

GET A RUNNING START. Mark a starting line and a finish line 25 metres apart. Begin running about 25 metres behind the starting line and progressively build up speed so you're at top speed as you pass it. Maintain that intensity until you cross the finish line. Rest for 3 minutes, then repeat for a total of two to four sets. This drill reinforces the running mechanics and acceleration you need to switch gears and pick up speed when you're already in motion. Do this workout twice a week, resting at least a day after each session.

SPEED UP. To develop fast starts, try this ball-drop drill. Have a workout partner stand on a hard surface, holding a tennis ball at eye level. Stand about 5 metres away in a three-point stance. When he drops the ball, sprint and catch it before it bounces a second time. Have him move back a metre or two and repeat the drill until you can't get to the ball in time.

WORK YOUR CORE. Abs are critical to speed. Strengthen yours with this situp routine: Lie on your back and rest your heels on a wall so that your legs are straight and at a 45-degree angle to the floor; extend your arms straight above your head. Lift your torso and touch your toes, then rotate to the right and touch both hands to the floor. Now rotate to the left and touch the floor on that side. That's one repetition. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds, rest 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat. Stop when you can't match the reps of your previous set. Perform this workout two or three times a week.


The better your physical condition, the bigger your edge in every sport. The ability to resist fatigue and outlast your rivals ensures you'll outperform them when you need to put in that little extra effort.

THE 300-METRE SHUTTLE RUN is a great measured of sports endurance. Compared with traditional tests of stamina  a 3-K run, for example  it better gauges the type of endurance that's required for most sports.

Set up two cones 25 metres apart. Sprint from one to the other, then back again. That's one repetition. Do six continuous repetitions, for a total of 300 metres, as fast as you can. Then rest for 1 minute and repeat. Your goal is to do the routine in under 90 seconds. Can't to it? Here's how to push your limits.

BUILD ENDURANCE FOR COMPETITION. Run 10 plays of random length for 2 minutes, a 10-metre run to the right, hustle back for a 10-second rest, then a 30-metre zig-zag, and so on. Integrate this drill into your workout once or twice a week, and work up to three 2-minute sets of 20 to 30 plays, resting for 30 seconds after each set.

GO THE DISTANCE. Set a goal  3K in 12 minutes, for example, which is doing 1 K in 4 minutes. Then find the longest distance over which you can maintain that pace it could be 1½K in 6 minutes or 800 metres in 3 minutes. Run the appropriate distance, and then rest for 1½ times the amount of time you spent running. Repeat the process until you can no longer maintain the target pace. After each set, reduce your rest periods by 15 seconds.

BUILD ENDURANCE AT HOME. Strapped for time? Try this bodyweight exercise. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms hanging in front of you. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, squat quickly until your fingers touch the floor, then push yourself up to the starting position. Perform as many reps as you can in 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Aim for four sets in 2 minutes, and work your way up to eight sets. 


Build explosive strength and power by training your muscles to activate faster.

THE STANDING LONG JUMP is one of the best measures of total-body power, because it requires dozens of muscles to fire at the same time.

Stand with your toes on a line and your feet shoulder-width apart. Dip your knees, swing your arms forward, and jump as far as you can. Your goal is to land more 5 feet from starting line. Can't do it? Here's how to push your limits.

BOX IT. Boost your leaping ability with box jumps. Place a sturdy, kneehigh box 6 to 12 inches in front of you. Set your feet shoulderwidth apart and jump onto the box. Step back down to the starting position, and repeat for a total of six repetitions. Rest for 3 minutes, then do another set. Perform two or three sets every 4 days.

DO THE DRILL. To improve total-body power, try the reverse scoop toss. Stand holding a medicine ball with your arms, hanging straight in front of you. (Use a ball that's roughly 10 percent of your body weight, or substitute a piece of firewood.) Squat, and then quickly explode up with your legs, swinging your arms up as you heave the ball over your head as far as you can behind you. Do three reps, 2 days a week.

SPRINT SHORT HILLS. Contrary to popular belief, hill sprints don't just improve leg strength. They're a great way to build explosiveness, because you have to drive upward with your whole body. Your sprints should last no more than 10 seconds  it's difficult for your muscles to maintain their maximum power output any longer than that  on hills inclined no more than 10 degrees. (Steep hills slow step time, decreasing power production.) Build up to 10 sprints, resting 20 seconds after each, three times a week.


Agility allows you to change direction at any moment, to stay on your feet when you should have fallen. It requires balance, quick reactions, and body control  all skills that can be systematically improved.

THE T DRILL measures your ability to change direction while you're moving at your top speed: Set up cones or towels in the form of a T: 10 metres for the stem and 5 metres out to each side. Start at the base of the T. Sprint to the top, side-shuffle 5 metres to the left, side-shuffle 10 metres to the right, side-shuffle 5 metres back to the middle, and then backpedal down the stem.

Your goal is to do the whole routine in less than 12 seconds. Can't do it? Here's how push your limits.

PLAY MIRROR, MIRROR. Find a partner and stand facing each other, 15 feet apart. Ask him to run forward, backward, and side-to-side randomly for 15 seconds. Your task: Copy his actions.

Do six sets, resting for 45 seconds after each, every other day. After 2 weeks, add two sets.

DO THE 45°. Go to a badminton court and stand at one end of the service line. With knees bent at 45 degrees, shuffle to other end, touch the corner, and return. Go as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat. You're training to absorb force when you decelerate and stop, and to generate force when you reaccelerate.

IMPROVE YOUR FOOTWORK. Mark off 10 consecutive 2-foot squares with tape. Now, hop as fast as you can through the squares for 10 seconds. Mix it up  one- and two-legged hops, forward, backward, and sideways  each time through. Do 10 sets, resting for 45 seconds after each, several times a week.