12 Tips for Improved Athletic Performance, Part 1

David Justice, AYC Health & Fitness Certified Personal Trainer

David Justice
AYC Health & Fitness
Certified Personal Trainer

I want to talk about something that is relevant to every athlete – improved performance. This post will focus on the physical side of things while the second entry will take a look at the mental side.


  1. Eat More

Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion states that Force = Mass x Acceleration. Why am I starting off with a Physics lesson when that was literally the only C I got in all of high school??

Because it’s relevant.

The bigger you are (mass), the harder you will be able to throw (force). While this doesn’t mean that all 6’4” 230lb pitchers should be throwing 96mph, chances are it does apply to you. When you gain weight, you’re increasing your mass. Multiply the added weight to the acceleration you had been producing previously, the force on the other end of the equation goes up. That’s not theoretical – that’s simply the math of how things work out in this regard.

Here’s a recent tweet from Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance: “22 MLB pitchers w/ 30+IP this year have average fastball velos of 97+mph. Only 3/22 are under 200lbs. If you’re sick of throwing 77mph, EAT.”

Rule of Thumb: Most teenagers have metabolism rates that are absolutely through the roof, which means they need to eat more than the average person in order to maintain/gain weight. Try Googling “how many calories do I need to eat per day in order to go from xx pounds to xxx pounds?” and use one of the calculators that comes up from the search results. It will vary from person to person and will also factor in the amount of physical activity you’re currently subjected to.

And WHAT you eat matters. Don’t eat junk. Eat real, mostly unprocessed food. You want the most nutritionally dense food you can find. Plants, nuts, seeds, whole grains. Here’s a link that scores foods on the basis of how nutritionally dense they are. Check it out.

  1. Recover Better (Sleep & Drink more)

Sleep More

Getting teenagers (and even many adults) to go to bed at a reasonable hour has always been a tough thing to do. Now throw in smart phones, tablets, and laptops to the mix and that exacerbates the problem even further. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep has proven to be detrimental to an individual’s ability to function at a high level both physically and mentally. Less sleep equals lower athletic performance.

The research journal SLEEP recently conducted a study that revealed inadequate levels of sleep “show declines in split-second decision making” while well-rested individuals “showed increased accuracy” under the same testing protocol. Further, their research shows that that a lack of sleep leads to “the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time.”

Rule of Thumb: Depending on who you’ll ask, you’ll likely get a wide range of responses as far as recommendations for how many hours you should be sleeping each night. Some believe that teenagers and young adults require 9+ hours per night, but that’s difficult to achieve in this day and age. As a general rule of thumb I’d say shoot for 7-9 hours and figure out what works best for you.

Drink More

Your body is composed of roughly 60% water. Which means staying hydrated is extremely important. In fact, under the most dire of circumstances, you would need water several days before needing food in a do or die situation.

What role does proper hydration play in relation to the body’s functions, you ask?

First, it regulates your core body temperature. In instances where you haven’t been drinking enough water, your body will start to overheat, which puts hefty amounts of stress on the body’s energy systems and vital organs. When your body is working overtime just to regulate its temperature, this will negatively affect both your performance on the field and your recovery off it.

Second, proper hydration helps to regulate your blood pressure. This promotes a steady and consistent heart rate, which keeps the physical stress internally to a minimum. When not kept in check, elevated blood pressure leads to inflammation and additional processes that hurt your performance and recovery.

The third and final component is that proper hydration assists in the movement and transport of essential energy nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats which the body uses as fuel and sustenance. When you take in sufficient amounts of water, these processes are far more efficient and less taxing on your body – elevating your performance on the field and maximizing your recovery.

Rule of Thumb:

  • Before Exercise
    • 1-2 hours: 8-16oz of cold water
    • 10-15 minutes: 8-12oz
  • During Exercise
    • 5-10oz every 20 minutes
  • After Exercise:
    • Within two hours: at least 24oz
  1. Play multiple sports

I’m not going to quote anybody or present any facts or statistics here because this one is simple – in order to be the best you can be at your chosen sport, you need to maximize your potential as an athlete. For a baseball player, that doesn’t necessarily mean fielding hundreds of ground balls or spending hours in the batting cage (although your coaches will definitely love that work ethic!). What it means is playing other sports during the offseason like football, basketball, or soccer that challenge your body in different ways than baseball does.

Think about it. The four sports mentioned above are fundamentally different from one another in a variety of ways. If you only play baseball year round, you aren’t really exposed to the starting, stopping, jumping, and changing of direction that you’ll see out on the basketball court. If you spend time during the offseason improving on skills that are front and center in your sport of choice, you will notice improvements in aspects of your game such as base running, ability to change directions out in the field, and your overall conditioning and levels of athleticism.

Rule of Thumb: For you local KC guys out there, play GABL during the winter. I was never particularly good at basketball, but I played from 7th grade through 12th grade and loved every minute of it. Not only was it great for keeping me in shape for the baseball season, it’s an awesome way to let some steam off if you’re a competitive person.

  1. Make the most of your offseason

Here’s that age-old “do as I say, not as I do” segment in today’s blog for you.

I remember back when I was 16, 17, 18 years old and trying to get recruited to play baseball at the D1 level. Every year, I would play the spring season for my school, the summer season for a traveling team, and the fall season with another traveling squad. I always felt like if I took one season off, either my abilities as a baseball player or my chances to get recruited would fall off a cliff. Looking back now, neither one would have occurred and my body would’ve thanked me for the additional time off.

In the 10+ years since I graduated high school, baseball training methods have come a long way.

Between more concentrated workout routines, stricter pitch count limits, and an increased level of the understanding proper nutrition and recovery plays, it’s night and day compared to what things used to be. After an epidemic of Tommy John surgeries and shoulder issues, we as an industry have discovered better ways to prepare baseball players both on the field and behind the scenes in places like the weight room.

We’ve also learned that less is more when it comes to throwing. If you’re a pitcher, don’t be afraid to take 3-4 months off from throwing during the fall and early winter to give your arm time to recover from the beating it took during the spring and summer months. You won’t magically forget how to throw hard. If anything, you’ll come back throwing harder the next season if you’ve done your due diligence and spent the offseason doing productive things like eating right, working out, and getting enough sleep.

Rule of Thumb: Spend the offseason away from your sport. Either play another sport and/or spend the time in the weight room working on getting bigger/stronger/faster in preparation for next season. Focus on eating right, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep as well.

  1. Know when to back off

Another simple one here – there’s a difference between pain and injury. Figure out what your threshold for pain is and what you’re comfortable dealing with. If it’s the offseason and you tweak something, it’s probably not going to be a big deal. Shut it down for a few days (or weeks) if necessary and come back 100% ready to go. If something happens in-season during a practice or game, you may or may not be able to play through it. Talk to your athletic trainer or doctor for their advice, and then give it a go if you’re up for it.

I hope you learned something valuable from today’s post! Keep an eye out for part 2 in the days to come. If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to me. Here’s more info on how I work with youth athletes.

Please contact David at 913.593.1708 or David@aycfit.com for more information.

If your son or daughter is committed to improving their skills, our Sports Performance Program may just be the perfect fit.

We utilize a Small Group Personal Training setting with no more than 4 athletes training together at a time. This allows us to provide plenty of individual attention along with customized workouts tailored to the goals of each individual.

These sessions take place 6 days per week and are ongoing so you can start at any time.

Here’s a schedule.