Sports Hacks Every Athlete Needs

Athletes | 2/4/20

When people grow up playing sports, they’ll receive all kinds of advice from parents and coaches. A lot of this advice is really valuable and worthwhile. The world has changed, though, and some of this advice won’t be effective anymore.

There are a number of ways that athletes can better their performance. It might have something to do with the diet or it might have to do something with the gear they wear. Here are some easy hacks for athletes looking for optimum performance.

Choking Up May Look Silly, But It Works

barry bonds swinging a bat
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

Remember Little League and the pitcher got two strikes on you? Your coach would quickly yell to you to choke up on your bat. By the time players advance to high school and college, though, many fail to continue doing this.

But choking up is smart because it gives you better bat control and makes it easier to square up on the ball. Elite hitters like Barry Bonds and Joey Votto choke up on every pitch. And Bucky Dent, of course, hit a legendary home run with his hands several inches up the bat.

Chewing Gum Or Drinking Something Sweet Helps Awareness

athlete drinking gatorade
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

There’s no sideline in professional sports that doesn’t feature a huge jug of Gatorade. It’s also common to see athletes running around either chewing gum or stuffing their cheeks full of other things.

It turns out that there is science behind these habits. Not only does Gatorade help athletes hydrate it also helps them to stay focused. The same goes for chewing, which fires up the part of your brain in charge of movement control.

When Playing Defense, Watch The Hips

soccer players fighting for ball
Via Getty Images
Via Getty Images

There are players in every sport who have killer moves to put defenders on their toes. In basketball, it may be a killer crossover move. In soccer, it might be a sweet Diagonal Cruyff.

And as hard as these moves can be to stop, there is one way to ensure you stay in front of an offensive player. Watch their hips. While a player can make feints with their feet, hands, and head, their hips don’t move. That’s where to keep your eyes.

Stock Up On Chocolate And Gummy Bears

gummy bears help athletes
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Chocolate not only tastes sweet, but it also has many benefits for athletic performance. Chewing pieces of chocolate during a sporting event can help thanks to Epicatechin which improves stamina. Drinking chocolate milk following a strenuous endeavor like a marathon can also help aid recovery.

Gummy bears are also a sweet that can snap you back into better performance. During marathons around the world, it’s not uncommon to see distance runners sneak some bears in to help them get to the finish line.

Catch With The Hands, Not The Body

football player catching a ball with their hands
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Every year, during the NFL Combine, the scouts divide the pass-catching players into two different categories, hand catchers and body catchers. While body catchers can be taught better technique, the true hand catchers will be the ones that are high in demand.

Catching a ball is much easier when you track it with both your hands and your eyes. Letting the ball come into your body not only makes it harder to catch, but it also gives the defender more time to knock it away from you.

There’s A Science Behind Grunting

a tennis player grunting during a match
Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Have you watched a tennis match recently? If you have, you may have noticed that there is an alarming amount of grunting going on. Famous grunters in the sport of tennis include Monica Seles, Angelique Kerber, and Maria Sharapova.

Most fans think that this grunting is just due to the players exerting themselves. There is, however, a scientific advantage to it. The grunt changes the perception of where the opponent thinks that ball is and how they should react to it.

Go Back On A Flyball First

an outfielder catching a pop fly
Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images
Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

Imagine this; you haven’t played sports for a couple of years and you got talked into playing for a slow-pitch softball team. And then the coach decided to put you out in right field. The hitter smashes a ball your way and you freeze.

The most important thing to do for an outfielder who’s having trouble judging a ball is to not come in. It’s to go back first, get a look and adjust. You can always come in, but if you over-commit, the ball will sail over your head.

There’s A Free Throw Sweet Spot

shaq taking a free throw
VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images
VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images

Free throws have been the bane of many a basketball player, most famously Shaquille O’Neal. While the center may have been unstoppable, opposing teams could stop him by fouling before he could get a shot off.

Shaq and anyone else who has problems could be helped by a very simple tip. There is a nail hammered in right behind the free-throw line on most courts. Find this spot, and line your dominant hand on it and you will have a direct shot on the basket.

Seriously, Don’t Forget To Stretch

soccer stars stretching on the field
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Before playing any kind of organized sport while you were younger, a coach probably led you through a series of stretches. And back then, your body was young and pliable. It isn’t nearly as pliable nowadays.

With the being said, most adult athletes don’t stretch before they engage in athletic activity. Maybe they think they don’t need it before running a few miles. Or they think they’ll look silly before a pickup basketball game. But in the end, failing to stretch could lead to lingering injuries.

Do These Three Exercises And Save The Gym Membership

man doing a pull up at the gym
Danila ShostakTASS via Getty Images
Danila ShostakTASS via Getty Images

When you look inside your local gym you probably see people doing some kind of crazy exercise. Maybe they got the idea from a website or made it up themselves, but they’re probably not getting much out of it.

The exercises that athletes really need are incredibly simple and are really easy to do at home or at the gym. The pushup, the pull up and the lunge hit nearly every muscle in the body and will help improve athletic performance.

If You Can Run 5 Miles You Can Run 13.1

a group of people running a marathon
Christian Petersen/Getty Images for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon
Christian Petersen/Getty Images for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

As people get older, they stop participating in sports like basketball and football and start participating more in sports like running. And as people start running more and more, they may set their sights on a half marathon.

The half marathon can be very intimidating for novice runners. But millions of amateur runners get over the hump each year and complete one. It’s mostly a test of belief and endurance. And runners who can run miles unbroken can almost always work their way up to 13.1 with a few months of training.

Pickle Juice Is A Drinkable And Topical Miracle

athlete drinking pickle juice
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Pickles can be a divisive food for many people. Some love them and some hate them. If you’re an athlete, though, learning to love the taste of pickle juice can benefit you in a variety of ways.

Legendary baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan swore by the juice as a remedy for his blisters. The juice can also be drunk by athletes who are developing cramps during an event. The practice has long been known by cyclists competing in races.

Power Comes From The Wrists And Hips

golfer taking a swing
Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Are you a softball player who wants to hit the ball farther. Or maybe you’re a golfer who wants to add some yardage to their drive. When you’re in the gym, you should skip curls and bench presses and focus on the wrists and the core.

There’s a reason why the world’s best golfers and hitters don’t have huge biceps. Their power comes from their wrists, forearms, and hips. When these guys are in the gym, they’re focusing on workouts that blast their core.

Wipe Your Shoes While Playing Basketball

a basketball player wiping his shoe
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you play a fair amount of indoor basketball, you may notice that it can be quite slippery. Despite the best efforts of custodians, basketball courts are often filled with dust, especially on the playing floor.

In order to play your best, you should be wiping this dust off your shoes whenever you get the chance. In addition to keeping you grippy and strong, it can also prevent the types of knee injuries that could keep you on the shelf for a while.

Crossfitters Need The Right Gear

gym goer lifting a bar
Alec Gary / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Alec Gary / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Crossfit has become one f the most popular ways for people to get fit. People who are entering into their 30s and 40s are often astonished by the increase in strength and the way their bodies look.

But be advised, your throwing around plenty of heavy weights and that could lead to injury. Wrist wraps are a great way to protect you while lifting heavy and could also save you a couple of blisters from the pull-up bar.

Different Races Require Different Techniques

sprinters running a race
Will Russell/Getty Images
Will Russell/Getty Images

Regardless of how fast you are, or how far you can run, there are always techniques that could help you be better. And depending on if it’s a sprint or a long race, the advice could be very different.

If you are running in a sprint, it’s essential that you keep your head down in and make sure that you stay in your lane. If you are running in a longer race, you can keep a close eye on the runners ahead of you and track behind them.

Your Diet Matters

butcher holding meat
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

Back in High School, you could probably eat whatever you wanted and it would have no effect on your athletic performance. But as you get older, food plays an important role in how your body responds.

And different diets will have different effects depending on your sport of choice. Many of today’s endurance athletes prefer a ketogenic diet that allows them to burn ketones for fuel rather than carbohydrates. Other runners still swear by a high carb diet. You have to find what works for you.

Your Shoes Matter Too

close up of athletic shoes
STR/AFP via Getty Images
STR/AFP via Getty Images

Feet are going to be pretty important to your athletic performance in pretty much any sport. And it is also important for you to understand which shoes are going to offer you the most protection.

Way too many people are still picking out their footwear depending on whether they look cool not. But if you participate in running or basketball, its best to go to a specialized store, get measured and get the shoe that will be best for you.

Loosen Your Grip When Throwing A Football

tom brady throwing a football
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

I’m sure you want to throw a football in a really tight spiral. When you teach your kids to throw a football, you want them to throw a really tight spiral, too. The science behind making a ball fly like that calls for you to relax.

Rather than gripping a football tight, you need to loosen up. NFL pros like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers all hold the ball in a different way, but they always hold it gently.

Keep Your Toenails Well Groomed

athletic shoes on the court
Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

This should be a pretty easy, common sense one, but for many people, this habit isn’t always followed. Keeping your toenails clipped can have more than one benefit.

When your toenails are properly groomed, the toe of your running shoe will last longer. The athletic socks that you paid for will also stay in good shape and not need to be replaced so often. And of course, it will prevent you from grossing people out at the beach.