Improving athletic performance is easier than it’s ever been. With recent innovations in technology and training methodology, athletes are doing things we never thought were possible.

But if you’re trying to improve your athletic performance (or do so for others) where should you start? With so many options it can be overwhelming to decide what will be the most effective use of your time.

That’s why we put together this resource. In it, you’ll learn the best methods for taking your training to the next level without overcomplicating things.

1. Vary Your Workouts

For many athletes, functional exercises are the name of the game. Improving athletic performance isn't about sculpting your body or dropping weight for the sake of it. It's about improving your muscle strength, response time, and mental prowess on the field. Functional exercises are a great foundation and should always be a part of your workouts.

Basically, the goal of these exercises is to work out the muscles that you'll be using during the game. Not only can they condition your body to react to different situations, but these exercises can do a lot to prevent muscle injuries.

Drills are important. However, functional exercises should be performed in the gym. This allows your body to experience the muscle stress and stimulation in a way that's not immediately reminiscent of a specific sport.

In addition to functional exercises, it's important to switch things up every once in a while. Performing the same exercises day after day, week after week is not the way to reach your full potential. Your body gets used to that stimulation. This can cause a plateau in your results.

It's recommended that you mix your workout up every two to three weeks. Try performing different kinds of exercises. Do a different kind of cardio and keep things exciting. That muscle confusion can produce some amazing results. Plus, it'll help you stay motivated and stave off boredom.

2. Track & Measure Your Performance During Training

There's no shortage of monitoring equipment out there. Whether you invest in the most advanced wearable or jot down notes with simple pen and paper, keeping track of your performance during a workout is a great way to push your body further.

Hard data is an excellent motivator and will let you know just how much progress you’re making. You can keep track of your progress for a specific activity or workout. Use that data to set small goals. Before you know it, you'll be miles ahead of where you were before.

Modern technology has made it incredibly easy to measure your performance. Fitness watches can act as an informational hub, constantly recording different parameters of your movement. The most advanced gear is capable of measuring running distance, heart rate, exercise reps, and so much more. Push that data to your computer, tablet, or smartphone and you'll be able to analyze it fully.

Many professional athletes take advantage of tracking wearables to fine-tune their performance. It's not uncommon to see athletes going through drills wearing high-tech vests that monitor their motions in real-time. Coaches can then see a frame-by-frame breakdown of what the athlete's body is doing and what muscles are being worked. Workouts can then be modified to address techniques that need improvement.

While you might not be able to take advantage of some of the pricier systems, affordable fitness wearables can provide a ton of in-depth information. You can even record your workouts on camera for later review. Whatever you decide to do, it won't take long for you to notice that something as simple as keeping track of your performance can make a huge difference.

3. Make Proper Hydration a Priority

It should go without saying, but staying hydrated needs to be your top priority during your workout. It's not hard to get dehydrated. Whether you're out on the field or in a cool gym, your body is going to lose fluids through sweat.

As you're exercising, your muscles are producing heat. This increases your core body temperature by quite a bit. Sweating is just your body's attempt at cooling you down.

During a particularly intense exercise routine, your body could lose up to 45 ounces of water an hour. It's important that you keep some water within reach.

Dehydration can happen very quickly. You can start to lose consciousness in the middle of a hard rep and injure yourself. Or, you can experience heatstroke if you're outside.

It's recommended that you drink between 20 and 40 ounces of water per hour during your workout. Drinking plenty of water before and after exercising is also a must. Beforehand, it ensures that your body is hydrated enough to produce sweat. Afterward, the water will help with recovery.

With all that said, you should also avoid drinking too much water. Contrary to popular belief, drinking a gallon of water before you start working those muscles is not a good idea. It could lead to bloating and nausea, which will ultimately affect your performance.

Stick to the recommended 20 to 40 ounces and you should be good to go. If you’re someone who has a history of not getting enough water, addressing this should lead to a pretty significant increase in your athletic performance.

4. Dedicate Enough Time for Recovery

The recovery process is just as important as the workout itself. There are several reasons for this. One, it helps to prevent injury.

Your muscles need time to heal. Every time you exercise, your muscle tissue is experiencing tiny little tears. It's a crucial part of getting stronger and bulking up.

If you choose to work through the pain and don't give your body enough time to recover, you're just asking for an injury. A lack of proper recovery is one of the most common causes of muscle tears and serious injuries. So, don't push it.

Secondly, you need to replenish your store of energy. Muscle glycogen, which is basically the stored form of carbohydrates, is used when you exercise. It's you're muscle's energy supply. During the recovery phase, you can restore your muscle glycogen supply for the next workout.

There are several ways to promote healing and properly recover. The easiest is to just take some rest days. Give specific muscle groups a day or two to recover before you push them any further. You can also avoid intense cardio or not work out at all a few days a week. Just stagger your exercise days to give your body all the time it needs.

Post-exercise stretching is another great idea. While most of us know to stretch the muscles to prevent injury before a workout, not too many people will go to that extra trouble after an intense exercise session. However, a few minutes of stretching can aid the recovery process significantly and improve your athletic performance the next time you’re on the field.

Stretching allows the muscles to cool down slowly instead of abruptly. What does this do for your body? Well, it prevents that awful feeling of muscle tightness and joint stiffness.

A few stretches can keep the muscles pliable. With regular practice, a good stretching regime could even improve your range of motion and give you some better performance results.

If you're looking for a more intense recovery technique, consider getting a massage. Soft tissue massages can make a huge difference in recovery time. Many athletes swear by them.

Massages from a professional masseuse can help to realign muscle tissue, reduce inflammation, and get rid of tightness. Plus, it improves the circulatory system.

After intense exercise, lymphatic fluid builds up in the muscles. It's a common cause for muscle stiffness and cramps. Massages can mobilize the lymphatic fluid, essentially flushing it from your system.

At the same time, your blood will have an easier time flowing around your body. As a result, your heart can pump oxygenated blood and essential nutrients directly to your sore muscles to speed up the recovery process.

If you don't have the time or budget to get a professional massage, don't fret! You can always use a foam roller. These inexpensive accessories are great for performing a self-massage.

Most rollers are fitted with thick grooves and unique surface designs. They make it easier for you to target specific muscle groups and painful connective tissue. All you have to do is place the device on the floor and roll your body over it. Your weight will do all of the work for you.

5. Train Your Brain

You may have heard the phrase, "The mind is the body's most powerful muscle." While the brain technically isn't a muscle, that powerful saying has a lot of truth to it.

In fact, training your brain is one of the most effective ways to improve your athletic performance and gain an advantage over the competition.

Here’s why:

Sports and athletic endeavors aren't just about well your muscles perform. Most sports rely heavily on your mental abilities as well. For example, football, soccer, and hockey players have to make thousands of split-second decisions, and any one of them can drastically impact the outcome of the game.

This means if you want to improve your athletic performance, you need to train your brain as well! Many of these devices take advantage of visual stimulants. Performing mental exercises involves responding to the stimulant as quickly and accurately as possible.

There are many sports vision training tools available that can improve your athletic performance, but Reflexion offers a proven and convenient array of exercises that are on the cutting-edge. When you combine it with the ability to track your progress, you have a very powerful tool at your disposal.

While it may not seem like you're doing much at first, it won't take long for you to see the benefits. Cognitive performance exercises are being done by professional athletes all over the world to help improve response times, visual accuracy, memory, and so much more.

6. Fuel Your Body the Right Way

You are what you eat, right? For some, improving athletic performance can be as simple as eating the right foods. Obviously, peak athletes are on much stricter diets than your average Joe. To push your body as far as it will go, you need to eat healthy foods at the right time.

It all starts in the morning. Instead of chowing down on sugary cereals and unhealthy fast breakfast foods, you need to eat a healthy supply of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A hearty breakfast in the morning provides plenty of fuel for your muscles while also giving you the energy to start our day.

When you're planning your meals, it's important to avoid simple sugars and simple carbs. Instead, go for healthier alternatives like complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbs, like high-fructose corn syrup and many ingredients in junk food, are notorious for causing that dreaded mid-day crash. That's because the carbs are broken down very easily in your body. This results in a rapid blood sugar spike.

You'll experience a quick boost in energy but unfortunately, it won’t last. After a few hours, you'll feel lethargic and weak, which isn't great for athletes who want to push the limits.

Complex carbs like whole-wheat foods, wholesome vegetables, legumes, and more, break down a lot slower. This regulates your blood sugar and keeps your glycemic index relatively low. So, you'll have a steady supply of energy throughout the day.

Knowing when to eat is also important. It's recommended that you eat 3 to 4 hours before you hit the gym. A high-protein meal with complex carbs will fuel your workout. After you're done, eat again.

The goal of your post-workout meal is to replenish nutrients you lost and speed up the recovery process. As we mentioned earlier, you lose a lot of stored energy during your workout. Plus, your muscles experience small micro-injuries.

To support your body, eat plenty of protein and complex carbs. Ideally, you'll want to eat up to 80 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein. It can be a bit less if your workout wasn't super strenuous. Generally, a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein can do the trick.

7. Consider Adding Some Supplements to Your Diet

There's no shame in introducing supplements to your diet. Sometimes, you can't get all of the essential macronutrients you need from your meals alone. Supplements provide those important vitamins and minerals to keep all of your body functions in check.

You can't perform well if your system isn’t running optimally. So, supplements are a great way to ensure that you're as healthy as possible to do what you need to do.

Daily multivitamins are readily available at most grocery stores. They can provide you with a healthy dose of Vitamins A, C, D, E, B12, and more. Plus, they include essential minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.

If you're looking to try supplements that are specifically catered towards athletic performance, you have no shortage of options. Healthy performance-enhancing supplements are perfectly safe and legal for you to use. They can help you out during your workout and significantly increase your athletic performance.

During your workout routine, ergogenic supplements are a good option. They can help provide you with a boost of energy, neutralize the buildup of lymphatic fluid, and increase the oxygen supply to your muscles.

There are also supplements that you can take to help build muscles. They improve the muscle protein synthesis process, which results in more strength and bulk. Some examples include HMB, HICA, and PA.

Finally, you can use recovery supplements. Things like glutamine and arginine have been known to help restore energy supplies and keep the immune system nice and strong. While supplements aren't necessary, they can do a lot to help you achieve the results you're after.

Wrapping Up

Improving athletic performance doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the most effective methods are actually quite straightforward.

Using these tips as the foundation of your training strategy will yield significant results no matter if you’re an athlete, coach, or gym owner.

If you’d like to learn more about number 5 and start incorporating cognitive training into your game plan, we’d love to talk with you.

The benefits athletes are seeing from this form of training is mind-boggling, and it’s one of the quickest ways to gain a massive advantage over the competition. Get in touch with us here to learn more.

Reflexion is not intended to diagnose, treat, or mitigate any disease or condition. It is not intended for use in treating concussions and other brain injuries and has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for such uses.