By Adam Drake
The chance of becoming a professional athlete is somewhere in the neighborhood of .02 percent. An immense amount of factors need to line up perfectly for someone to achieve this highest echelon of professional athleticism. Each athlete has their own story and their own journey, but the one thing all pro athletes have in common is that they trained their asses off to get where they are.
While we may not have plans to be a nose tackle in this year’s Super Bowl, we often look to these sports giants for training tips, in the hope that a small percentage of their fitness regimen will help get us in tip-top shape. In that pursuit, we’re looking at five different professional male athletes — and the unique ways they train for their sports. (Don’t worry, we will tackle a female athlete edition sometime soon!)
Laird Hamilton – Pro Surfer
Professional surfer Laird Hamilton has spent the last few decades redefining what the world considers big wave surfing. His finely tuned body is a testament to healthy living, days spent playing in the ocean, and rigorous exercise. As you’d expect, some of Laird’s best workouts are done underwater.
He suggests starting by treading water to warm up, at times using just your arms and then your legs. From there, grab a 10-pound weight and sidestroke from one end of the pool to the other while keeping the weight extended over your head, and repeat with your other arm. A harder exercise that Laird recommends is placing a 10- or 20-pound weight against your chest and swimming the length of the pool underwater.
For more workouts from Laird, check out his amazing tips on Men’s Journal.
LeBron James – Pro Basketball
There may be no larger athlete on the planet than LeBron James. Arguably one of the best to ever play basketball, LeBron’s feats on the courts in Cleveland and Miami are the stuff of legend. Stan Kellers, the current Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Cavaliers, gave some insight into the king’s workout regime to Men’s Health.
First and foremost, make the medicine ball your friend. Stand next to a wall and hold a medicine ball over your head, then bend your knees and quickly bring the ball to your waist. Follow this by lifting the ball over your head while trying to hit a target on the wall. Pause for a few seconds and do it again. Kellers recommends working on core and calisthenics, chest exercises like incline and push-ups, and squats and lunges.
Rory McIlroy – Pro Golf
The golfers of old were just as proud of their long drives as they were of their beer bellies. But with advances in equipment and training, today’s golfers are anything but out of shape. Rory McIlroy, golf’s newest superstar, worked with trainer Steve McGregor to develop a training regimen and add 20 lbs. of muscle mass since 2010.
The key to Rory’s workout is commitment. He trains five days a week, 90 minutes per day, combining weights, treadmill, sprints, and swimming. McGregor stresses the importance of varying workouts. He changes up Rory’s workouts every 6 to 8 weeks in order to keep the golfer fresh and not to overuse certain muscles.
To read more about Steve McGregor’s workouts for Rory, check out his article on Golf.com.
Tim Howard – Pro Soccer
The goalkeeper for both the United States national soccer team and Everton FC is, to say the least, intimidating. The “Secretary of Defense” is known for his intensity and physical fitness, and his performance in this year’s World Cup is the stuff of legend. And while a lot of his talent comes from years of practice and determination, there’s a large component that comes from his workouts.
As Tim told Details Magazine, a lot of his fitness comes from a Paleo diet that helps him build muscle while staying lean. Several mornings a week, Tim will do “fasted cardio” which involves a brisk walk before breakfast that burns fat. His late afternoon workout is a superset routine in the gym that involves two or three exercises that allow muscles to fatigue and grow.
Frank Gore – Pro Football
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore has had an incredible few years. But the football star, like every other player in the sport, knows he constantly has to fight to keep his job. Taking this to heart, Frank told NBC Sports how he trains by boxing.
At his favorite boxing gym, Frank both takes and hands out punches. Boxing helps get the heart racing, increases speed, and helps Frank deal with the tackles he faces on the gridiron. Additionally, his coaches have created a tent that simulates high-altitude conditions by pumping in air that’s lower in oxygen. His coaches claim he has knockout power, and his punches come quick, if he were ever to pursue boxing!
No matter what sport you’re training for, or what your fitness goals are, there’s a pro workout out that will inspire you. Have any ideas on new or creative ways to workout? Let us know in the comments section.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.