Do you want to become a better athlete, play forever and live a high quality of Life?
Regardless of your age, sex or background having certain abilities can help you excel in both sport and life, as well as become or maintain your abilities to be an independent and resilient human being.
Before i go any further I want to mention that I have borrowed a lot of these ideas from the great Dan John, who has probably had the biggest influence on me as a coach and PT. I have pulled these from his various books, podcast interviews and articles. I highly recommend checking him out on all of these platforms yourself which I will share links to below.
This article is to demosntrate some standards that all human beings should be able to do in order to perform their best on the course, in the field, and in any aspect of life as well as be able to live a long, high-quality, independent life. As well provide some ideas on how to improve any areas that you may limited in or just wnat to get better with.
These are things, that in reality, we should all learn to do as kids and continue to do as adults, especially as we age. Although, today alot of these skills are missing in kids and defintiely things we lsoe as adults. If you are not prusuing these skills you will lose them.
Some of these are quantitative or qaulitative tests that you can do and some are just general skills to pursue over time.
Below is a list skills and abilities that everyone should posess regardless of age for optimal performance in sport, function, independence, and safety.
1. Be able to get into a deep squat, hold for 30 seconds, then come out.
This will ensure you can always get up and down from any seat. In my opinion this is something that you should practice daily. If you cant get into a deep squat, start by holding onto something to support yourself and slowly working yourself down while supported. Once you can get into full ROM supported try to slowly progress to unsported descent, hold and ascent over time.
2. Stand on 1 leg for 10 seconds.
This is a basic level balance assessment. If you cant do it then the best way to work on this is by standing on 1 leg periodically throughout the day. I also recommend focusing on single leg biased strength exercises like lunges, split squats, single leg RDL's and step ups in your training.
3. Standing Long Jump equal to your height.
This is the ability to long jump a distance equal to your height. For athletes, I set the standard at height plus 10%. Either way having the baility to jump and safely land is key to optimal performance and survival. if you want to improve this then focusing on performing lower body strength and power training and jumping/landing drills and exercises.
4. Pick up and carry at least half your bodyweight.
Having the ability to safely pick up and carry heavy objects will always be a usefull skill. Whether it is being able to help a friend move or getting your gorceries into your house from the car. On top of this heavy carrying will help you build core and grip strength necessary for atheltic performance in all sport. You can train this by picking up one or two heavy dumbells. kettflebells, farmers walk bars or a trap bar from the ground or elevated surface and walk for a distance. The goal would be to at least work up to half your bodyweight total with an ultimate goal of being able to carry your body weight.
5. Get up and down from the floor and breakfalling
Having the ability to get up and down from the floor is a very obvious necessity to longevity, survivial and independence. There are a few studies out there correlating the ability to do this with longevity and quality of life as well. Whether we choose to get down there on purpose or have a fall and end up on the floor having the ability to get back up is crucial. This is another skill that IMO you need to work on daily. The best way to work on this is to simply practice doing it. If you have to start by using assistance from a piece of furniture then that is fine but have the goal of progressing to the point where you can get up and down on your own with no assistance. For those of you that can already do it then perfroming the the turkish get up regularly is a great way to maintain and build that ability. Lastly, performing a full body strength training program will help build and maintain the strength necessary to do this.
When it comes to breakfalling this is essentially to learning how to fall. This is taught extensively in ju jit su and other martial arts as well as tumbling and gymnastics but is a skill that all humans should work on and possess. Essentially you learn how to fall while protecting you most valuable parts (head, neck etc) and lessening the chance of major injury. This is something that is best worked on with a qualified professional at first.
6. 3-mile walk.
This is to ensure basic cardiovascual health and mobility especially as we age. On top of that going for a daily walk has a plethora of other phsyical and mental health benefits. If you cna easily do a 3 mile walk and want to progress the challenge, which i highly recommend, then you can do things like adding weight via a vest, backpack, ankle weights and heavy hands and/or explore different surfaces like gravel, hiking trails, sand up and down curbs, uneven ground and stairs. I recommend going for a daily walk for every client that I work with.
7. Sprint 20 yards minimum.
Having the ability to sprint is not only crucial for optimal performance in sport but also survival. Being able to run away from a threat at high speed is something realistically that we can all encounter in our lives. The best way to work on this is by, you guessed it sprinting. If you havent sprinted in a long time then start slow and make sure you get a good warm up in. The sprint speed is relativele to each persons condition but having the goal of improving speed will ebenfit you in all aspects of life. If you are new to sprinting, find a good coach that can teach you the basic sprint mechanics and show you how to progress into a safe sprinting program. Also performing a full body strength and conditioning program will help support this ability as well as many others.
8. Fight (defend yourself).
While i dont condone violnece having the ability to defend yourslef is a key skill especially in today's world. While outside of my skillset I recommend finding some way that suits you to learn basic self defense skills. On top of that becoming a more agile, stronger, more powerful, and better conditioned human being will extend your chances of survival and escape in any threatening situation. I.E. it will make you harder to kill
This is going to be a very wide topic but I wanted to address it because it is something that I see less and less in kids these days and almsot non existent in adults. The basic idea of play is gaining and maintaining the basic skills needed to be a well rounded athlete and human being. These are skills that should be taught to us as kids and that we should continue to pursue as adults. This includes things like swimming, crawling, sprinting, climbing, jumping, throwing, kicking. I also include leaning the basic human movements of squatting, lunging, hinging, pressing, pulling and carrying in this as well. In the end. the more physical skills that you possess the better you will perform in any situation in life especially in sport.
Basic Human Strength Standards
These are some basic human strength standards on top of the abilities above that I set for the golfers and baseball athletes that I work with. That being said they are probably pretty good standards for any human being of any age. The improtant thing to take away is the prusiuit of these numebrs and getting as close as you can even if you cant get there.
1x bodyweight bench press- being able to bench press a weight equalt to or more than your bodyweight with good form
5 strict pull-ups - being able to perform 5 pullups through full range of motion (full arm extension at bottom and chin above bar at top)
1.5 to 2x bodyweight deadlift - being able to deadlft a weight 1.5 to 2x your bodyweight with good form
1x to 1.5 x bodyweight squat - being able to squat your bodyweihgt to 1.5 x your body weight with good form through a full ROM ( one caviat is that full ROM will differe for everyone, not every one has to squat to where thier but touches thier heels wiht this weight but at elast getting to 90 degrees of knee bend is a good standard to shoot for)
.5 to Body weight carry - having the ability to pick up and carry half to full bodyweight for distance.
Golf and Baseball specific skills
For golfers, some other activies that you want to focus on is spending time swinging a golf club as fast as you can. Also spending time on swing and skill work related to the game is a key component to better performance. This will be specific to those with a golf perfromance goal but are both key parts of improving that. For baseball the same thing goes for spending time throwing and swinging a bat as fast as you can as well as developing the other skils of the sport. On top of this for both sports we emophasize heavy strength training, full body mobility, jumps, med ball throws and slams, and heavy strength training.
These may all seem very overwhelming. The key that I want you to take away from this is to test your abilities in all of these areas. In the areas that you are limited in spend time focusing on improvement until you reach satisfactory proficiency. In areas that you perform well in still pursue them but you won't need to do it as frequently. The important take away is the constant pursuit of these skills. You should always be testing and challenging yourself in mulitple areas for as long as you live.
Dr. JP Guidry DPT TPI
Where to find me:
Dan John References
Blog Articles and Websites