How Top Athletes Train

(and how it can benefit even the most casual gym goers)

You don’t have to be an elite athlete (or even a terribly athletic person) to benefit from the framework of a professional training routine. That’s because the key aspects of how the pros exercise can translate to just about any scale. It’s why we’re fans of the 80/20 principle—the theory that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. If you tweak just a fraction of your routine for the better, you’ll influence the vast majority of your outcome for the better. Here are a few cornerstones to maximize every hour you spend at the gym.

Compound exercises

Compound exercises are a great way to get maximum bang for your buck. Think squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses—any exercises that use multiple joints and muscle groups at once. Studies also show that incorporating a resistance band into your workouts can as much as double your gains, so this can also be a great addition to boost up your workout routine.

Mindset

Our mindset is built on the interactions of our habitual thoughts and emotions. The more our habitual thoughts align with outcomes in our reality, the more we begin to see our habitual thoughts as truths, and the more we perpetuate them—for better or for worse. If you develop the mindset that you can achieve any physical goal you set your mind to, your chances of achieving that goal increase. A good example of this is how Olympians use visualization to help them secure their next personal best, or their next big win.

Hydrate

When you’re dehydrated, you’re more prone to stiffness, pain, and injury. This is because your fascia—the connective “sheets” that hold your muscles and organs in place—become “glued” together. For optimum hydration, just water isn’t enough. Supplement your 8 glasses per day with electrolyte beverages, coconut water, or a simple squeeze of lemon and pinch of sea salt to boost absorption.

Rest and recharge

Your recovery routine is just as important—if not more so—than your training routine. Improper recovery not only leaves you more prone to injury and setbacks, it can also compromise your body’s ability to build and maintain strength, muscle, and limberness. So, get a good 7-8 hours of shuteye, dial in a solid active recovery routine (such as daily stretching, rolling, or yoga), and don’t be afraid to take a true rest day. Sometimes, slow and steady really does win the race.

Buddy up

Pro athletes often train with a coach, team, or personal trainer. Not only does this keep you accountable, but studies have also shown that working out with a friend or group can boost both motivation and results. Having a professional weigh in on your workout can also help boost your form and efficiency, and give you tools and tricks that can help inform your workouts moving forward.