How to Become a Worse Athlete: 5 Easy Steps to Failure

When your strength coach pairs you up with a freshman...

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Here at Volt Athletics, we are dedicated to providing relevant, informative, and practical blog posts for athletes and coaches who strive for MORE. For the athletes who go to bed early on Friday nights to be fresh for Saturday morning’s game. For the coaches who spend hours of precious free time studying game film and creating new plays. For those of you out there who show up early, work hard, and stay late—we salute you. But maybe you’re out there across cyberspace thinking, “Nah. That’s not me. I don’t want to get stronger, faster, or more powerful. I’m cool where I am.” Well, today is your lucky day! For all of you content with the status quo, OK with mediocrity, and happy coasting through your training—this one’s for you! Follow these 5 easy steps, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a slower, weaker, burned-out athlete.

Your body releases growth hormone during sleep, so if you're looking to gain muscle, make sure you are getting enough sleep! They have the right idea. 

Your body releases growth hormone during sleep, so if you're looking to gain muscle, make sure you are getting enough sleep! They have the right idea. 

1. Don’t Sleep

Leptin helps tell your brain you're full. Not enough leptin in your body means you'll have a harder time feeling full. 

Leptin helps tell your brain you're full. Not enough leptin in your body means you'll have a harder time feeling full. 

Arguably the easiest step to becoming a worse athlete, this one is also the most vital. Don’t get enough sleep! Most Americans already do this without even trying. But while sleep is important for human beings in general, it is essential for athletes. While you sleep, your body metabolizes glucose, which helps your muscles recover from a hard training session. And your brain secretes a hormone called leptin, which acts as an appetite suppressant. So if you’re getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, your muscles won’t recover as quickly AND you’re more likely to experience weight gain. Awesome, right?! I love that sleep deprivation makes me crave sugary foods that adversely impact my training! But that’s not all—lack of sleep can also lead to moodiness and anxiety, which can affect your performance on game day. And if you want to become a crummy athlete but you really enjoy sleeping, no problem! Just sleep a ton on the weekends. A recent study by the American Journal of Physiology found that people who try to catch up on a week’s worth of too-little sleep by sleeping a ton over the weekend, do not experience any increase in performance compared to people who are chronically sleep-deprived. In other words, you can sleep all you want over the weekend and it won’t make up for bad sleep habits during the rest of the week! Bottom line: don’t sleep enough, and you will DEFINITELY be able to tell a difference in your athletic performance - the wrong kind of difference.

2. Don’t Rest

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You may think this one is similar to Rule #1, but think again. Rest refers not to sleep, but to taking a purposeful break from training. And it’s one of the quickest ways to deteriorate your athletic ability. Taking rest days—complete days when you’re not even doing active recovery or cross-training—gives your body a chance to repair small tears in muscle caused by resistance training, and build new muscle tissue from protein ingested after training. The old fitness adage “Muscles are built outside of the gym” is actually very accurate, as your muscles need a pause from the constant breakdown that occurs when you strength-train in order to physiologically rebuild themselves stronger. By skipping your rest days and going all-out in the gym 24/7, you’ll be on your way to developing symptoms of overtraining: extreme muscle soreness, extreme fatigue, depression, and susceptibility to illness and injury. Neat, huh? So next time your Volt training schedule has you taking a rest day, train anyway! You’ll be the coolest athlete wearing a knee brace, plateauing on your back squat, or missing practice from a sinus infection.

3. Don’t Eat

Yeah, just stop eating. Your body needs the nutrients and energy in food to do basically everything: repair organs, fight off diseases, and build muscle. If you really want to see a decline in your athletic performance, simply stop eating enough calories to maintain your high activity level! Athletes especially need to be conscious of taking in adequate calories from healthy, whole foods in order to fuel their bodies with enough energy to perform. Not eating enough is a simple, easy way to sabotage your athletic career—closely followed by eating the wrong stuff. Meeting your calorie requirements solely with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos will definitely leave you not feeling like sprinting for your full 90-min soccer game. 2,500 calories worth of Oreo milkshake never makes my long runs any easier. But if you’re bent on becoming a worse athlete, and you just can’t give up food, just don’t eat after training. Physical activity depletes muscles of glycogen, made from carbohydrates, so if you want to make your muscles sore and mad, don’t eat anything within 30 minutes to 2 hours after training. Not eating enough also had the added benefit of making you a cranky-pants (just ask my boyfriend)—not super conducive to a team sports environment.



4. Don’t Warm-Up

Coach Jace already covered why warming up before training is essential for optimal training performance, so I won’t bore you with details. Make sure you go into practice, the gym, or the competition completely cold, and you’ll be well on your way to injury and impeded performance. (I used to work for a chiropractor who treated a guy who decided to see how fast he could sprint from a non-warmed-up state, and he tore his hamstring muscle from the bone! Granted, he was forty, but this kind of yucky muscle-tendon stuff would definitely have made him a terrible athlete in his younger days, too.)

5. Don’t Train on a Periodized Program

Volt's periodization programming peaks athletes for their sport at just the right time. DO NOT do this if you hate being amazing. 

Volt's periodization programming peaks athletes for their sport at just the right time. DO NOT do this if you hate being amazing. 

And finally, my last tip to help make you a worse athlete: don’t train on a periodized, customized, sport-specific training program. A periodized program means that your workouts change depending on the day, week, and season of your athletic year—off-season training looks a lot different from pre-season training, because your body needs different types of conditioning for these phases. To train to perform during a given season, you must be using a periodized training program. If you go into the gym and do the same workout, same rep count, same weight, over and over again, your body will stop responding to the stimuli of training and you will plateau—and plateaus make for less-than-optimal athletes! Intentional training, on the other hand, with specific short-term (e.g., muscle hypertrophy) and long-term (e.g., faster 40-yd dash) goals progresses you through physiologically-sound phases of athletic training, which scientifically prime your body for maximum athletic development. Wanting to make this type of periodized training program accessible to athletes everywhere was the driving force behind Volt’s creation, and is central to our mission as a company. So if you’re content with plateaus, stay away from Volt Athletics—we’re a plateau-busting, body-priming machine designed to turn you into the best athlete you can be.

And there you have it! 5 easy ways to be a worse athlete. Practice each one faithfully, and I promise you will never be the best athlete on your team—and that’s a guarantee!


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Christye Estes, CSCS, ACSM-CPT, is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. She is a CSCS-certified strength coach, a certified personal trainer through the ACSM, and a Sports Performance Specialist at Volt.
Learn more about Christye and read her other posts | @CoachChristye