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How to Achieve an Athletic Build
10 Proven Ways

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 28, 2021

There are no big secrets to carving a functional, strong, perfectly toned athletic physique. Eating healthily and working out consistently is what you need to look like an athlete.

Our expert team has researched, analyzed, and summarized the essential exercising and dieting principles you need to stick to for an athletic build.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • To get a stronger, leaner, and more defined athletic build, it’s critical to hit a perfect balance in building muscle and burning fat simultaneously. The key’s in exercising as athletes do, overloading progressively, and eating well-balanced meals with enough protein.
  • Never underestimate the power of compound bodyweight movements, playing different sports, adequate hydration, and recovery in transforming your physique.
  • It’s all a matter of discipline.

6 Training Principles to Reduce Fat and Build an Athletic Body

men working out outdoors and in the gym

1. Combine Strength Training With HIIT

To build lean muscles faster, boost metabolism, burn fat, generate power and speed, and prevent plateau, experts recommend bodyweight exercises, weight lifting, or similar strength training of different muscle groups.

And these should be done at least twice a week paired with three to four intense cardio workouts or other types of HIIT [1].

Compound exercises you can include in your weekly fitness routine to reshape your upper body and lower body are deadlift, kettlebell swings, bench press, squats, reverse bent-over rows, pull-ups, military presses, and dips.

These functional movements are best combined with swimming, running, brisk walking, cycling, rowing, playing basketball, tennis, soccer, and other sports, rock climbing, sled pushes, treadmill interval sprints, hill sprints, and similar cardio activities.

2. Increase the Number and Speed of Reps and Decrease the Load

When you train to get a more athletic build, you can lift heavy weights or lift lighter weights faster.

“Lighter weight and higher reps during weight training will burn fat and build leaner muscle.” Lucas Catenacci, C.P.T.

Lighter, explosive lifting with moderate weight appears to be more effective and beneficial in the long run.

It stimulates more muscle fibers, decreases the CNS stress to prevent overtraining, keeps your joints healthy, and helps prevent injury so that you keep your workout consistency and strength gains.

3. Apply Progressive Overload

person holding up a gym plate

Progressive overload is an effective strategy for growing strength and breaking through plateaus when building muscles.

When doing exercises, it’s critical to gradually increase the stress on your muscles with each training session.

For instance, if you complete 100 pull-ups or other bodyweight exercises in 5 minutes in one training session, try to do 100 reps of the same exercise in less than 5 minutes next time.

It’s easier for newbies to achieve progressive overload and hit personal records each workout. It gets harder as you grow stronger and get closer to your natural potential and fitness goals.

Keeping a journal helps record all your workouts, reps, completion times, and other details necessary for tracking your growth and progression scores.

4. Mix Effective Total-Body Exercises to Improve Athletic Performance and Get an Athletic Build

To carve an athletic physique, build strength, explosiveness, speed, power, and agility, focus on mixing full-body compound exercises like bench press, deadlift, power cleans, etc. and plyometrics (box jumps, clapping push-ups, and similar movements that increase your ability to run faster, jump higher, and generate power) rather than doing isolated movements as calf raises, bicep curls, etc.

Simple compound movements that can develop all your upper body and lower body muscles include:

  • Push-up
  • Pull-up
  • Sit-up
  • Burpee
  • Lunge
  • Leg raise
  • Jump

All the exercises above are easy to learn and time-saving.

They train multiple muscle groups simultaneously, enabling you to stick to an exercise regimen that’ll give you a functional, athletic physique.

Related: How to Achieve Athletic Legs?

5. Recover Properly

female sleeping with blanket and pillows

To perform at your best during your strenuous training sessions and achieve progressive overload easier to build strength and muscles and carve an athlete’s body, you need to take your post-exercise recovery seriously.

So, make sure you get enough quality, deep sleep every night, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

Consume enough nutrient-rich food at approximately the same time of the day, avoid stress and empty calorie intake from processed fast food, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

6. Make a Commitment and Stay Focused on Your Fitness Goals

Athletes can’t succeed without keeping their focus, motivation, and a positive mindset.

So, forget about all the excuses like bad weather, tiredness, or anything you can think of to postpone or avoid your next gym visit.

Once you start, never give up. Commit yourself to keeping up the healthy habits and do your best to eat a well-balanced diet. Go to the gym at the same part of the day, give 100% when you work out, and be patient because seeing results takes time, dedication, and discipline.

4 Diet Principles to Get an Athletic Body

measuring tape on top of a white weighing scale

1. Maintain Proper Caloric Intake to Burn Body Fat

Although some people claim that a caloric deficit is an absolute must for fat loss, others point out the importance of maintaining an adequate caloric intake to fuel your training, enhance recovery, improve athletic performance, and reshape your figure without losing muscles.

Unless you’re trying to shed pounds for a competition or another similar reason, to build an athletic body, it’s better to eat high-quality, fresh, minimally processed foods rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and carbs (2-4 grams per pound of bodyweight daily) instead of being in a caloric deficit.

2. Eat Enough Fiber and Protein to Build Muscle

bowl of fresh fruits and oat meal

Protein is a vital macronutrient that provides the energy you need to build strength, grow and preserve muscle mass, and burn stored body fat to get in good shape.

Since 10-35% of your daily calories should come from protein, it’s advisable to eat protein from both animal and plant sources like fish, squid, shrimp, lean meat (beef, lamb, pork), poultry (turkey, chicken), eggs, low-fat dairy products (yogurt, cheese, milk), nuts, lentils, beans, and other protein-rich foods.

Also, a protein shake, bar, or similar supplement can be a good protein snack in-between meals, especially during your 30-minute post-workout recovery period to optimally utilize amino acids.

It’s best to eat smaller protein amounts from animal sources throughout the day to maximize its muscle-building and repairing benefits.

Getting enough dietary fiber (28-34 grams/day for men and 22-28 grams/day for women) from oats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is also critical.

Adding more insoluble fiber to your balanced diet prevents constipation, while soluble fiber helps improve your cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

3. Don’t Eliminate Carbs and Fats Entirely

Instead of cutting out carbs completely, the key to preventing muscle loss while losing weight is consuming them correctly to ensure you get enough energy to fuel up intense workouts and enable your central nervous system and brain’s proper functioning.

Experts recommend getting 45-65% of your daily calories from low-glycemic carbs sourced from fruits, veggies, whole grains, quinoa, beans, and legumes.

Also, ensure you consume more unsaturated fats (20-35% of your daily caloric intake) from fish, healthy oils (avocado, olive, or nut oils), poultry, and similar food because fats aren’t athletes’ enemy that triggers weight gain.

Instead, fats are essential for absorbing vitamins, properly functioning immune system and cell membranes, balancing testosterone and other muscle-supporting hormones, curbing cravings, and more.

4. Stay Hydrated

Man drinking from a plastic bottle

Your body needs enough water to function properly and flush out all the toxins so that you lubricate your joints, protect tissues, prevent injury, fatigue, bloating, and similar issues.

Typically, men need around 3 liters, and women need about 2.2 liters of water per day [2].

But when you exercise, you lose more fluid, so you need to drink an extra 400 to 600 milliliters of water before, during, and after workouts to replenish your body’s fluid supply, depending on how much you sweat, how long and hard you exercise, etc.

How Do I Get an Athletic Build?

To get an athletic build, ensure you incorporate the above essential exercise and dieting principles into your everyday routine.

Mix cardio with weight training (higher number and speed of reps, lower load), focusing on dynamic full-body compound movements and applying progressive overload.

Follow a well-balanced diet with a sufficient caloric intake from protein, fiber, healthy fats, and carbs.

Also, ensure you stay hydrated and recover properly.

And when you make a commitment, do your best to stay motivated and disciplined like a pro athlete until you hit your goal.


References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256

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