The biggest mistakes made by athletes! | Josh Kennedy

Over the past few articles, we’ve been looking at how you can take your health to new levels with the RIGHT type of exercise.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 1:14 pm
FX Fitness co-owner Josh Kennedy
FX Fitness co-owner Josh Kennedy

If you need this, or know someone who does, make sure you go back and check them out!

We’re not done yet though.

There’s still a few areas I need to cover: performance and body composition.

Next time, we’ll take a deep dive into how to train and diet for body composition change (how to get that 6 pack, and how those amazing 8-week transformations happen!).

First though, this one is for the athletes: from professional to weekend warrior.

Today, we’re looking at what are the biggest mistakes made by athletes training to improve performance, and how to change things for MAXIMUM RESULTS!

These principles stand across different sports, different people, different levels and different schedules.

So, Let’s dive in.

#1 Skipping the Basics

This is by far the biggest mistake made by most of the athlete’s we see when first starting out a programme.

Despite their years of training, there are a couple of key elements that are seen by athletes as “less important” because they’re less fancy, but things EVERYONE should be doing.

Some of the “training specific” principles that are skipped will be covered next, but for this, I mean the absolute basics for health.

Remember, being fit and lean doesn’t automatically make you healthy. Good nutrition and lifestyle management are a must.

This ultimately leads to better recovery, higher levels of adaptation, less illness, more training time, and a better mental state.

Needless to say, cover the basics, and performance will rocket.


Performance nutrition, supplements, and pre/ post workout meals are important, sure, but first off, focus on the fundamentals.

We see people skip to the latest FAD, or asking which new supplements will have the biggest impact, without a reasonable foundation of nutrition.

Before looking at supplements, here’s where to start.

Have a reasonable energy intake for your activity, and follow our “six habits” of eating more veggies, including protein with most meals, staying hydrated, minimising “junk food” and minimising alcohol intake.

Habit 6 is simply to track your intake, with photos, written logs, apps, or however you like, but records can give some crucial information about your nutrition.

This means when things aren’t going well, you can look at what area’s are obviously deficient in your diet, which is often the easiest and most effective changes to make.

Lifestyle Management

Often, too much stress and too little sleep have a huge negative impact on training, recovery, health, and ultimately, results.

For the most part, it’s the low-level daily stressors that have the biggest impact long term.

Traffic, deadlines at work, etc. Make sure you’re putting time aside each day to manage low level stress.

Walk, read, meditate, or relax however works best for you, but take yourself away for a couple of minutes.

The impact this will have to keep stress levels under control will be HUGE!

Training to manage stress is counter productive for performance. Training for performance should be focused on improving performance.

Exercise as stress management is fine, but make sure it’s not getting in the way of the targeted training or adaptation.

This is why you should have plenty of options for stress management that don’t include intense physical activity.

The last but by no means least area to discuss here is sleep. You can get by on a couple of hours a night, and short term, this is fine.

Again, appreciate you won’t be at your best. Long term though, as an athlete, sleep is crucial for both performance and recovery.

Make sure you practice sleep hygiene (dark room, relax before bed, appropriate temperature, etc), and prioritise getting enough!

Stressful life events

Sometimes, we all have stressors in life that will be out of our control.

When this happens, make sure you’re aware that less sleep, worse nutrition, and higher levels of stress will have a huge impact on your ability to recover, so pull back the training.

Working out may be a great way to take your mind off things, but no max efforts during these times until you feel like things are back on track.

#2 Ignoring Overload

Once the lifestyle and nutrition basics are covered for overall wellness, we can look to the most important “training principle” to think about. Progressive OVERLOAD.

The idea is simple. Keep the worst specific to the adaptation you want (more on this later), and do more of it (lift heavier, move faster, jump higher, more reps, run further, etc) in a progressive manner throughout that training phase.

Then recover, rest, and go again, but with the progression based on the NEW and IMPROVED fitness level (whatever this means to you).

By far the most effective way to stay on top of this number 1 principle is to have a well-designed training programme. Some types of training are not compatible with each other, so working “hard” without any real direction can lead to a hell of a lot of work with VERY LITTLE to show for it.

Remember, the progression should be targeted towards the adaptation you want as well as the level you’re at.

A second principle, accommodation, means that the most advanced you become, the more target the training needs to be to move forward.

This is why what worked for you as a beginner in the gym will have less and less impact as you progress - it may even be making your key performance worse!

#3 Mismanaging recovery

No pain, no gain. It’s all about the grind. Good snippets of motivation to get you through a tough set, but pretty ridiculous when it comes to making progress.

Sure, we need to put in targeted effort, but we also need to manage recovery to allow high performance and minimise injuries.

These are the two key areas that are lost on those who are all about hard work.

Training for performance often means we need to work at higher intensities, and recovery from this can take time, often 48-72 hours.

If we try to use these “hard” training sessions every day, we end up causing two huge problems:

1. We hugely increase our risk of injuries, both overuse AND acute injury.

2. We aren’t fresh enough to work at a true “high intensity” to boost performance in the areas that need it (strength, speed, power), so end up getting very little training effect from a lot of work.


So you can only train 2-3 days per week?

Of course not. You SHOULD work hard, but you should also work smart.

Alternating high intensity and low intensity training sessions and managing the lifestyle factors above, alongside working through an intelligent programme will supercharge your performance over time.

#4 Misunderstanding specificity

The final mistake is huge, but it’s not on you. Unless you’re a coach, then it’s 100% on you.

We spoke about specificity earlier. Your training should target the specific adaptations you need to improve in your sport.

This is often misinterpreted, and new coaches think everything needs to be highly specific to the sporting movements.

If you’re not careful, training is focused on a lot of fancy looking drills, that don’t develop the qualities that are the key to performance (for example, foundational strength).

Sometimes, these transfer exercises are great - I know I use them a lot when looking at speed and power development - but they are only a part of the plan.

A hell of a lot of work is focused on developing underlying qualities.

Strength. Specific endurance. Muscle action. Mobility. Movement skills.

Developing the foundational qualities that allow performance excellence is a key stage.

Skip this, and you’ll always be limited.

So, athletes and coaches. Reflect on your training. Are you making any of these mistakes?

If so, we can help you to take back control, and maximise performance through FX Performance club.

I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, where we discuss body composition training, why the priorities are different to that of performance, how to combine the two, and how to finally get that 6 pack!