Athleticism Part I: What is it?


The concept of athleticism is much on my mind, largely because of what I heard at the NSCA Endurance conference several weeks ago.  (Look here, here, here and here for my rundown of the conference.)  Coaches Jay Johnson and Tim Crowley specifically made statements to the effect that good endurance athletes are first good athletes.  Whatever type of training that’s needed is then added on top of that athletic foundation.

I’m a cyclist and I’ve taught Spin so I am in no way telling people that they shouldn’t ride bikes, but….  something I notice when I’m near a Spin studio is a lot of people exhibiting a stark lack of athleticism: hunched shoulders, protruding neck, externally rotated feet… I often also notice a hobbling gait, a general sense of stiff immobility and I often hear complains of back pain, knee pain and the like. Pedaling a bike for 45 minutes is maybe the one and only thing a lot of people in this scene can do.

When I go by the yoga studio I notice something similar but in this case, I see people who may be quite mobile (maybe too mobile) but they certainly don’t all look particularly strong or powerful. Go to the weight room and you can observe people moving in very restricted ranges of motion. Are they strong? Maybe but that strength is typically limited to the range of a poorly executed bicep curl, 1/2 squat, or hunched/shrugged lat pulldown. Mobility? Absent. Agility? Ha! Balance? Who needs it when you’re sitting on a weight machine? Rampant aches and pains? You bet!

The point here is for most of us, the slice of athletic pie we’ve cut for ourselves is very narrow, very limited, repetitious and does nothing to expand our general abilities as humans to navigate an unpredictable three-dimensional world. In other words, we lack athleticism. (BTW, I have been this person. Until lately, I specialized probably too much and haven’t spent a lot of time expanding my athletic abilities.  That is changing!)

But, what is athleticism?

This definition mentions physical skills or capabilities, as strength, agility, or stamina. Coach Vern Gambetta discusses athleticism here. I’ve thought about it and here’s my list of what comprises athleticism:

  • Full, pain-free range in the joints

  • Mobility in 3 planes of motion (sagital, frontal, transverse)

  • Stability in 3 planes of motion (same 3 planes as above)

  • Ability to manage forces through the core

  • Adequate strength for the task

  • Speed

  • Coordination/dexterity

  • Adequate endurance for the task.

  • AWARENESS!  None of the above are possible without it.

In the next post I’ll discuss my strategies at increasing my and my clients’ athleticism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *