There's a pretty good chance that, at some point, you've envied the physique of a pro athlete. Who hasn't? While the Arnolds of the world get plenty of attention for being inspirational, the truth is that other types of athletes across various sports—football, basketball, soccer, boxing, you name it—have done just as much if not more to get lifters into the weight room.

When we imagine these athletes training, we don't imagine them spending an hour camped out on the cable cross-over machine. We imagine them performing dynamic and explosive movements that highlight and improve their skills. After all, if you want an athletic physique, the saying goes, you need to train like an athlete.



But what does that really mean? Most of us don't get a chance to regularly hang out in NFL training centers. Of course, if you're training for a specific sport, there are going to be some big differences between how you train and how other athletes train. A defensive lineman is going to do things a basketball point guard won't, for example. If you're trying to develop general athletic ability, however, there are a handful of attributes that must be prioritized.

At a minimum, an effective athlete should have a balance of strength, explosiveness, and conditioning. Seems simple enough, but how do you put it all together? With a program that uses the right balance of heavy lifts, fast lifts, and a time-proven approach to conditioning.

Many Pieces, One Puzzle

On face value, building strength, explosiveness, and conditioning together is simple: Lift something heavy, do something explosive, and run a little. Boom! You're an athlete. Unfortunately, it's not that easy in practice. You need to have a plan, and that plan starts with building strength.

Any lifter worth the chalk on his or her hands knows you won't build a strong physique by only doing triceps kick-backs and calf raises. On the other hand, you can't just max out on the big lifts all day, every day, either. So you start out with movements that develop overall strength effectively: squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls. Then you need to program them the right way: heavy enough to stimulate strength, but not so heavy that you constantly crush yourself.

Build An Athletic Body In 8 Weeks!

In this program, you'll focus on two different types of explosiveness: speed strength and strength speed.

Explosive lifting is similarly crucial, particularly when it comes to maximizing the growth of type II muscle fibers. However, training those fibers isn't as simple as "lift faster." In this program, you'll focus on two different types of explosiveness: speed strength and strength speed.

In simple terms, speed strength refers to moving as quickly as possible with a lighter weight, whereas strength speed is all about moving a heavier weight as quickly as you can. For example, speed strength might be a medicine-ball throw, while strength speed could be a power clean. Working both is essential to developing an athletic physique.

The final aspect of our trifecta of athleticism is conditioning. To the average gym-goer, conditioning might simply mean throwing in 20 minutes of jogging on the treadmill after lifting. For the athletic-minded lifter, however, conditioning is much more than that—and much tougher.



In the most basic sense, every athlete has both aerobic and anaerobic systems—yes this can be further broken down, but for our purposes, this simple distinction will do just fine. Aerobic generally refers to lower-intensity work such as slow running, walking, or cycling; anaerobic is typically higher-intensity work such as sprinting or lifting.

Contrary to what some internet gurus have been trying to say recently, development of both systems is vital to overall athletic performance and maximum physique results.

Putting It All Together

Of course, it's not enough to just say: "This is what you need to train." You need a plan that challenges you in the right ways and at the right intensities, particularly when the goal is to develop multiple attributes at the same time.

Build An Athletic Body In 8 Weeks!

 

The program below utilizes a block approach. The first month is an accumulation block, which means it has higher volume with comparatively lower intensities. You accumulate volume over the course of the month.

The second month is an intensification block, which places a higher focus on developing maximum strength. This approach extends to the conditioning element of the program as well. You'll notice that the accumulation block places an emphasis on aerobic conditioning, while the intensification block focus on anaerobic development.

Now let's get down to the part you probably skipped ahead to anyway!

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Phase 1: Accumulation/Aerobic Block

Energy System Training

One day per week (after lifting or on a rest day)



  • Running: 1.5-2.0 miles for time.

One day per week (after lifting or on a rest day)

  • Running or cycling (slow): 20 min.
Week 1, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Jump Squat
4 sets, 5 reps
Front Barbell Squat
4 sets, 6-8 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
Bodyweight Walking Lunge
4 sets, 15 reps (per leg)
Glute Ham Raise
4 sets, 10-15 reps
Barbell Ab Rollout
4 sets, 10 reps
Week 1, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Plyo Push-up
4 sets, 5 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Paused.
4 sets, 6-8 reps
Pullups
4 sets, 8-10 reps
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press
Perform half-kneeling.
4 sets, 10 reps
Shotgun Row
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 1, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Power Clean
4 sets, 6 reps
Deficit Deadlift
From blocks below knees.
4 sets, 6-8 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
One Leg Barbell Squat
4 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Russian Twist
4 sets, 15 reps
Week 1, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Push Press
4 sets, 6 reps
Chin-Up
Weighted.
4 sets, 8-10 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press
4 sets, 10 reps (low incline)
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
4 sets, 12-15 reps (with pause)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 2, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
5 sets
Jump Squat
5 sets, 5 reps
Front Barbell Squat
5 sets, 6-8 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
Bodyweight Walking Lunge
4 sets, 15 reps (per leg)
Glute Ham Raise
4 sets, 10-15 reps
Barbell Ab Rollout
4 sets, 10 reps
Week 2, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Plyo Push-up
5 sets, 5 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Paused.
4 sets, 6-8 reps
Pullups
4 sets, 8-10 reps
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press
Perform half-kneeling.
4 sets, 10 reps
Shotgun Row
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 2, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Power Clean
4 sets, 5 reps
Deficit Deadlift
From blocks below knees.
4 sets, 6-8 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
One Leg Barbell Squat
4 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Russian Twist
4 sets, 15 reps
Week 2, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Push Press
4 sets, 5 reps
Chin-Up
Weighted.
4 sets, 8-10 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press
4 sets, 10 reps (low incline)
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
4 sets, 12-15 reps (with pause)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 3, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
5 sets
Jump Squat
6 sets, 5 reps
Front Barbell Squat
6 sets, 5 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
Bodyweight Walking Lunge
4 sets, 15 reps (per leg)
Glute Ham Raise
4 sets, 10-15 reps
Barbell Ab Rollout
4 sets, 10 reps
Week 3, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Plyo Push-up
6 sets, 5 reps
2
Paired Set
5 sets
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Paused.
5 sets, 5 reps
Pullups
5 sets, 6-8 reps
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press
Perform half-kneeling.
4 sets, 10 reps
Shotgun Row
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 3, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Power Clean
5 sets, 5 reps
Deficit Deadlift
From blocks below knees.
5 sets, 5 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
One Leg Barbell Squat
4 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Russian Twist
4 sets, 15 reps
Week 3, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Paired Set
5 sets
Push Press
5 sets, 5 reps
Chin-Up
Weighted.
5 sets, 6-8 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press
4 sets, 10 reps (low incline)
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
4 sets, 12-15 reps (with pause)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 4, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
3 sets
Jump Squat
3 sets, 5 reps
Front Barbell Squat
3 sets, 5 reps (75% of Week 3)
2
Triset
3 sets
Bodyweight Walking Lunge
3 sets, 15 reps (per leg)
Glute Ham Raise
3 sets, 10-15 reps
Barbell Ab Rollout
3 sets, 10 reps
Week 4, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Plyo Push-up
3 sets, 5 reps
2
Paired Set
3 sets
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Paused.
3 sets, 5 reps (75% of Week 3)
Pullups
3 sets, to failure (unweighted)
3
Paired Set
3 sets
Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press
Perform half-kneeling.
3 sets, 10 reps
Shotgun Row
3 sets, 12-15 reps
Week 4, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
3 sets
Power Clean
3 sets, 5 reps
Deficit Deadlift
From blocks below knees.
3 sets, 5 reps (75% of Week 3)
2
Triset
3 sets
One Leg Barbell Squat
3 sets, 10-15 reps
Seated Leg Curl
3 sets, 12-15 reps
Russian Twist
3 sets, 15 reps
Week 4, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Paired Set
3 sets
Push Press
3 sets, 5 reps
Chin-Up
3 sets, 5 reps (unweighted)
2
Paired Set
3 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 10 reps (low incline)
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
3 sets, 12-15 reps (with pause)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Lying Triceps Press
4 sets, 12-15 reps

Phase 2: Intensification/Anaerobic Block

Energy System Training

One day per week (after lifting or on a rest day)

  • Running: 8 sets of 1/4 mile, rest 1 min.

One day per week (after lifting or on a rest day)

  • Get up and sprint: 5 sets of 30 yards, rest 2 min.

Note: Sprinting the day before a lower-body workout will impede your performance in the strength training.

Week 5, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Standing Long Jump
3 sets, 3 reps
2
Barbell Squat
4 sets, 4-6 reps (high bar)
3
Romanian Deadlift
4 sets, 8 reps
4
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Reverse Lunge
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Reverse Crunch
4 sets, 20 reps
Week 5, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
3 sets, 5 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Floor Press
4 sets, 4-6 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
4 sets, 8 reps (mixed-grip)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Push Press - Behind the Neck
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Face Pull
4 sets, 15 reps
Week 5, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
4 sets
Power Clean
4 sets, 4 reps
Deficit Deadlift
4 sets, 4 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
Dumbbell Step Ups
4 sets, 10 reps
Band Good Morning
4 sets, 15 reps
Pallof Press
4 sets, 10 reps
Week 5, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Power Jerk
3 sets, 4 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Wide-Grip Pull-Up
4 sets, to failure
Dumbbell Bench Press
4 sets, 8-10 reps
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Dumbbell Incline Row
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
4 sets, 15 reps
4
Paired Set
4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Curl
4 sets, 10-12 reps
Seated Triceps Press
4 sets, 10-12 reps
Week 6, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Standing Long Jump
4 sets, 3 reps
2
Barbell Squat
4 sets, 4-6 reps (high bar)
3
Romanian Deadlift
4 sets, 8 reps
4
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Reverse Lunge
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Reverse Crunch
4 sets, 20 reps
Week 6, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
4 sets, 5 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Floor Press
4 sets, 4-6 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
4 sets, 8 reps (mixed-grip)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Push Press - Behind the Neck
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Face Pull
4 sets, 15 reps
Week 6, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
5 sets
Power Clean
5 sets, 4 reps
Deficit Deadlift
5 sets, 4 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
Dumbbell Step Ups
4 sets, 10 reps
Band Good Morning
4 sets, 15 reps
Pallof Press
4 sets, 10 reps
Week 6, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Power Jerk
4 sets, 4 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Wide-Grip Pull-Up
4 sets, to failure
Dumbbell Bench Press
4 sets, 8-10 reps
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Dumbbell Incline Row
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
4 sets, 15 reps
4
Paired Set
4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Curl
4 sets, 10-12 reps
Seated Triceps Press
4 sets, 10-12 reps
Week 7, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Standing Long Jump
5 sets, 3 reps
2
Barbell Squat
4 sets, 3 reps (high bar)
3
Romanian Deadlift
4 sets, 8 reps
4
Paired Set
4 sets
Barbell Reverse Lunge
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Reverse Crunch
4 sets, 25 reps
Week 7, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
5 sets, 3 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Floor Press
4 sets, 3 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
4 sets, 8 reps (mixed-grip)
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Push Press - Behind the Neck
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Face Pull
4 sets, 15 reps
Week 7, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Paired Set
5 sets
Power Clean
5 sets, 4 reps
Deficit Deadlift
5 sets, 3 reps
2
Triset
4 sets
Dumbbell Step Ups
4 sets, 10 reps
Band Good Morning
4 sets, 15 reps
Pallof Press
4 sets, 10 reps
Week 7, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Power Jerk
5 sets, 4 reps
2
Paired Set
4 sets
Wide-Grip Pull-Up
4 sets, to failure
Dumbbell Bench Press
4 sets, 8-10 reps
3
Paired Set
4 sets
Dumbbell Incline Row
4 sets, 8-10 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
4 sets, 15 reps
4
Paired Set
4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Curl
4 sets, 10-12 reps
Seated Triceps Press
4 sets, 10-12 reps
Week 8, Day 1: Lower Body
1
Barbell Squat
3 sets, 5 reps (high bar, 50% of Week 7)
2
Romanian Deadlift
3 sets, 10 reps
3
Paired Set
3 sets
Barbell Reverse Lunge
3 sets, 10 reps
Reverse Crunch
3 sets, 20 reps
Week 8, Day 2: Upper Body
1
Paired Set
3 sets
Floor Press
3 sets, 5 reps (50% of Week 7)
Weighted Pull Ups
3 sets, 10 reps (mixed-grip)
2
Paired Set
3 sets
Push Press - Behind the Neck
3 sets, 10 reps
Face Pull
3 sets, 15 reps
Week 8, Day 3: Lower Body
1
Deficit Deadlift
3 sets, 5 reps (50% of Week 7)
2
Triset
3 sets
Dumbbell Step Ups
3 sets, 10 reps
Band Good Morning
3 sets, 15 reps
Pallof Press
3 sets, 10 reps
Week 8, Day 4: Upper Body
1
Paired Set
3 sets
Wide-Grip Pull-Up
3 sets, to failure
Dumbbell Bench Press
3 sets, 10 reps
2
Paired Set
3 sets
Dumbbell Incline Row
3 sets, 10 reps
Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
3 sets, 15 reps
3
Paired Set
3 sets
Incline Dumbbell Curl
3 sets, 10-12 reps
Seated Triceps Press
3 sets, 10-12 reps

Notes and Tips

The final week of each phase of lifting calls for reduced volume and intensity, and the final week in Block 2 omits explosive movements. Respect both of these changes! These represent your deload weeks, which allow you to take advantage of the hard work you've been doing through the all-important concept of supercompensation.

Basically, that means that you've beat your body up for a few weeks, and by giving it an easier week during which to rest, it will bounce back stronger than before. This also sets you up to go into the subsequent phase fresh and ready to hit the ground running.

Along the way, make sure you're resting enough to keep hitting your big lifts. Ideally, you should keep one rest day between the second and third lifting days.



When it's all said and done, this is two months of hard work that will leave you stronger, faster, and looking more athletic than before. However, don't try this program if you are cutting, as the workload and intensities will not match up well with a calorie deficit. This is an excellent program for a mass-gain or maintenance phase, however, and yes, it can be put to good use during the offseason if you are an athlete.

Now stop reading and start lifting!

About the Author

Christopher Smith, CSCS

Christopher Smith, CSCS

Chris Smith is a strength coach from New York City and the founder of Train Better Fitness.

View all articles by this author

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