Five Ways To Be More Athletic and Improve Recovery

Be More Athletic

If you’re like me, you’re constantly bombarded by articles and images of all of the cool stuff we should be doing. We all want to be more athletic.  We also know that athletes pay attention to mobility, conditioning and recovery along with strength training. But adding all of that seems like a recipe for four hour workouts. As a busy parent and small business owner I just don’t have time for that.  So how to get it done? Use animal movements and old time strongman movements as a warm up, do mobility work between sets and as a cool down, use strongman movements as a finisher. Walk after every meal for 10 minutes. If you do all of that for sixty days, you’ll move better, feel better and sleep better. Do it for six months and you’ll be stronger than most of the people you know.

Use Animal Movements and Oldtime Strongman Lifts As A Warm upSteinborn squat while wearing my Justified Belligerence Tee

We all know that we’re supposed to do a general warm up for 10 minutes before lifting. Most of us prefer to skip it because it’s boring.  So why not swap that ten minute treadmill session for leopard crawls, crab walks and jumps? I’m a big fan of oldetime strongman movements, aka the stuff you see in black and white photos with guys in leopard suits and impressive mustaches doing. Those guys were gorilla strong and much more flexible and injury resistant than we are today.  I’ve been exploring these exercises pretty good results. But programming them in was a problem until James Fuller suggested that I just use one arm deadlifts or one arm snatches as a warm up for regular deadlifts, one arm snatches and bent presses and side presses as a warm up for upper body work. I only do a couple of sets of five but it works out pretty well. If you’re curious about the movements, I suggest you check out Strongman Archaeology on Facebook or Instagram.

Do Mobility Work Between Sets

I stole this one from Dan John’s blog post on Minimalist Stretching and Mobility.

dan john doing a Windmill Stick stretch

notice how similar this looks to the bent press picture above?

He pointed out that most of us tend to waste the 45 seconds to two minutes between sets either talking or looking at our phones.

That doesn’t sound like the athletes in any real sports practice I’ve ever watched. Imagine a boxer getting ready for a fight and looking at his phone between rounds of sparring! Or a football player checking his Instagram likes between plays in practice. Instead of wasting that time, how about stretching or foam rolling? For example, pair your warm up sets with mobility work.  Nothing fancy but doing a Windmill Stick like Dan John in the picture on right will work wonders over time.

Use Strongman Movements As A Finisher

This is one of my favorites. One reason we like strongman competitors is they seem to be the most well rounded strength athletes, able to pick up just about anything and run off with walks are an athletic movement  So if you want to be more athletic, it stands to reason that you should emulate some of their habits. Just pick a strongman movement and do it at the end of your workout. Keg carries, overhead carries, yoke walks, farmer carries . . . the list is seemingly endless. Just do it for time or as many rounds as you can handle. Your upper back, grip and conditioning will drastically improve.

Use Static Stretching As A Cooldown

The same people who skip the general warm up usually skip the cooldown. Well, you shouldn’t.

marisol swords does yoga to improve her powerlifting

click on this picture for a list of helpful stretches to enhance your strength and recovery!

Part of the journey to be more athletic includes having the proper range of motion for every movement you have to do. Stretching improves your range of motion when done properly. Static stretching is also a good way to make sure your heart rate has returned to normal and start preparing you for the next training session.  Besides, if you just finished some strongman finishers, you should only feel like laying there for a few minutes anyway. This is just a way to make laying there more productive. If you followed my suggestion about mobility work between sets, you should be able to stick to just stretching the body parts you worked during the session.  Another suggestion is to use full range of motion barbell and dumbbell movements instead of regular stretching. Good examples are dumbbell flyes, the kettlebell armbar, straight arm pullovers, straight legged deadlifts or this could also be a good time to hit up some yoga poses. After all, you’re at home so who’s going to see?

Walk After Every Meal for Ten Minutes

Because fat isn’t sexy. It just isn’t.  This may shock you but our ancestors who were in much better shape than we are, didn’t do HIIT. They just walked everywhere. Stan Efferding pointed out in a recent Rhino’s Rant that frequency is better than intensity when it comes to conditioning. So walking for ten minutes multiple times a day is better than running like a maniac for twenty minutes. And you can walk five minutes there and five minutes back fairly easily. When I was in boot camp, part of the reason we lost weight so quickly is we were forced (yes, forced) to walk to and from the chow hall for every meal. My son is now active duty in the Marines and he estimates that he gets about three miles a day of walking from place to place on top of actual PT sessions. This keeps him lean fairly effortlessly.

Do all of these for 90 days and see if you’re not moving, feeling and performing better. Do it for a year and strangers will ask you for workout advice in the grocery store. You’ll be more athletic and best of all, this is a sustainable lifestyle, meaning you can do all of this long enough to trade personal training sessions for a discounted rate at the nursing home of your choice.

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on