Though leagues like the NFL and NHL aren’t particularly popular internationally, North American sports leagues have extensive fanbases across the continent. Combined with the MLB, NBA, and even MLS (soccer), and there’s a riveting season to follow no matter which time of year.
The NFL has the biggest championship game with the Super Bowl, which over 100 million viewers tune in to annually. Meanwhile, the MLB has the highest attendance rate, with almost 70 million spectators back in 2019. For context, the second-highest was split between the NBA and NFL with around 17 million total.
And with sports betting mobilizing in both the US and Canada, there’s added interest and engagement from fans. With new states launching online markets each year, sports betting in Arizona and other areas come with sign-up bonuses and other promos. In fact, some NFL stadiums will soon include betting lounges.
But not everyone wants to watch or bet on pro sports—some also want to train like the athletes they see on TV. Barring expensive equipment and world-class trainers, how can the average sports fan train like a pro? Keep reading for tips from each top league.
From the NFL: Reps Over Weight
Of all the leagues, the NFL tends to require the most bulk. This is often a challenge for athletes that need to keep their weight high, which leads many to crank up the weight during their lifting sessions. Instead, Johhny Parker, a conditioning coach that spent 23 years in the NFL, recommends increasing reps instead.
The idea is to create high-force outputs that will create minimum strain on the joints. This is particularly important for athletes aging into their 30s, as their joints will be more susceptible to inflammation and pain.
From the NBA: Free Weights Over Machines
Strength coach for the LA Lakers, Tim DiFrancesco, has one tip when it comes to building all-around strength: keep it simple. Previously, weight machines were a critical piece of any pro trainer’s fitness regime. Today, they’re treated secondary to free weights.
There’s one important caveat here: whether looking to do deadlifts or something a little tamer, always strive for a correct form. When free weights are used well, they strengthen the spine, rotator cuff, and hip muscles—but when they’re done poorly, they’ll wreak havoc on the lower back.
From the NHL: Legs First
Hockey players need to be explosive, which is why Jaromir Jagr, a former NHL star from the Czech Republic, focused on building his conditioning routines even up until he retired. His exercises targeted his legs and lungs by using resistance weights for dead sprints on the ice.
The takeaway here isn’t to strap on heavy resistance vests or ankle weights. Instead, he says targeting his legs helps him keep his momentum during exercises. By focusing on high-intensity workouts, they’ve been able to keep their fitness going—literally by working from the ground up. After all, it’s hard to accomplish anything on the road or in the gym if someone’s legs start wobbling.
From the MLB: Discipline Over Technology
As one of the more data-heavy leagues, many baseball fans might be tempted to over-emphasize a fitness tracker. While fitness trackers, worn physically on the body to log important stats like heart rate, acceleration, and more, can help someone build out a routine, they aren’t a substitute for good old-fashioned hard work.
Head team physician for the New York Yankees, Dr. Christopher Amad, says that improvements to strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance can be easily built up over time by using simple methods rather than fad diets or hardcore workout routines. The idea is to target specific areas rather than jump into a demanding exercise.
This is particularly relevant for the MLB, as athletes often go into training with the goal of hitting a 100-mph fastball or picking up their sprinting speed. Oftentimes, strengthening the core is more effective than something like a barbell donkey squat or a zombie squat.