As Strength and Conditioning professionals, we have been working with athletes of all ages and sports over the years. We keep hearing a lot of myths and misconceptions about workouts and exercises. As a former athlete, I surely had my own doses of misunderstandings regarding exercises specific to sport. These cleared up when I became educated in strength and conditioning two decades ago.

As a strength coach, it is important to know an athlete’s mind and dispel the false beliefs they may have about lifting weights. It is our duty as S&C professionals to impart the right knowledge rather than the copied information which are free to access through varied sources. An educated athlete is a better athlete for high performance.

READ: Training domain: sport-specific or athlete-defined?

So here are a few incorrect ideas that many athletes have about training.

Soreness is not an indication of hard work

One of the most challenging part of being a S&C coach is to convince the athlete that they don’t need to be taken out of the gym battered after a workout. In fact, the athlete should have residual energy to feel they could have done bit more with the energy level. The workout should leave the athlete refreshed rather than totally crumpled.

The major role of S&C is to improve the quality of movement and efficiency. We don’t go by the adage: “No pain, no gain”, but many athletes still believe in this theory as do some outdated coaches.

From an athlete’s point of view, one needs to understand the quality of work to quantity. Smart training is the key than hard training. Pushing till breaking point in the gym is the shortest way to destruction. There is a very thin line between willpower and foolishness here.

Getting strong is a process

It is not entirely incorrect but all depends on how it is applied to a specific athlete in a specific situation percolating into specific skill and sport. Without building a stable base with stability work, building on strength can be counter productive in an elite athlete. Any dysfunctional movement pattern can become worse by adding load to it. Mindful choice in selection of exercise is critical to have the right strength gains for proper transfer.

Shouldn’t lift the day before or after a game

This is totally dependent on the individual and the sport. There is no thumb rule to say this can or cannot be done. But before embarking on this, one needs to understand their sport, the schedule and more importantly their bio rhythm.

Post-game, a player may feel sore or tired, depending on the intensity of the game. This need not keep the players out of the gym area. In fact, a light workout may help alleviate the soreness and tiredness. Pumping good level of blood flow into the system can help in a better recovery process. The session can be light or moderate depending on the player’s physical condition. The S&C professional needs to be mindful in chalking out the programme and should tweak the schedule for the session if need be. Massage/swim or contrast bath can be used to overcome the soreness and prepare for the next game.

READ: Run faster and further

Pre-game lifting is totally an individual’s choice, but the athlete should have to be cautious of the niggle or injuries that can crop up due to various reason on the day of the game. Mostly many S&C coaches and players avoid pre-game training as part of recovery and focus on tactical or mental planning.


Key to mobility: Athletes start off their workouts with a dynamic warm-up and individualized mobility drills.


Stretching is outdated

Should you be stretching before or after a workout or game? There has been a debate on this question for a long time. All S&C professionals have their own theory around it, but at the end of the day, how stretching helps with the performance needs to documented.

Is it misconception or laziness to skip stretching? Pulled muscles or lack of range of motion or even the recovery process can be attributed to lack of flexibility or no pre- and post-game workout stretches.

Athletes start off their workouts with a dynamic warm-up and individualised mobility drills. They should finish with additional mobility using tubing or power band, specific dynamic stretching according to the skill, and some soft tissue work like foam rolling.

Lift to get big

Social media influencers have been causing havoc by administering funky and vague strength training exercises and giving a false sense of guaranteed improvement in fitness levels. Is that programme tailor-made for you? Will it suit your fitness level increments? It’s become a necessary evil nowadays to follow the programme demonstrated on social media.

Getting bigger and stronger is a long-term process specific to specific goals and sports. This cannot be like a fast food meal. One has to learn not to underestimate an athlete by his or her looks alone. There are athletes who are fitter, faster and stronger than just six-pack athletes. Strong muscles aren’t necessarily big muscles, and vice versa for peak performance. In sport-specific training, quality of movement in multi-direction and the efficiency of movements is of utmost importance for an elite athlete.

This is not to say that you can’t or won’t put on muscle mass when you train. You can and should too. However, when it comes to sport-specific training, movement quality and efficiency are more important.