The strength and conditioning world has been dominated by Bodybuilding and Powerlifting since it's inception. Both these methods are great for getting better at those sports. But they're not ideal for athletes.
Too often we fall into the trap of training like one or the other. We want to get as big as we physically can or as strong as we possibly can. Doing so with no regard to the other athletic qualities is hurting your performance.
In sport, there's basically 10 components of fitness. 11 if you count body composition.
They are strength, muscular endurance, stamina, flexibility/mobility, speed, accuracy, power, balance, coordination and agility.
Then you have to worry about your sport on top of this. This means you have to be the right size and shape to perform for your position and sport. I honestly think that accuracy, agility, coordination and balance are improved at your skills training (although they can be helped in the gym). So we need to focus on the others in our S&C work.
Getting as big as you possibly can doesn't fit into this. Although adding size at different times of the year can be beneficial. And adding weight to someone that is undersized is also useful. But don't make it your whole training plan.
Get as strong as you possibly can is also detrimental because you're compromising mobility, stamina, muscular endurance, coordination and agility. Yes, you want to get stronger, but it shouldn't be your only focus.
So how can you train like an athlete?
1. Drop the bodybuilder split.
Back and bi's don't belong in your program. Separate your training into full-body, upper body/lower body, or push/pull/lowers at different points of the year.
This depends on how much you're training.
Less than 3 days = full body. 7 or more = push, pull, lowers on repeat. I'd encourage full body sessions for most of the year, even if training 4-6 times a week.
In-season = full body.
Stay away from isolation exercises unless you're injured or training 5+ sessions each week. They're a waste of time and energy.
2. Prioritise strength.
Strength shouldn't be the sole focus. But it should be right at the top because it bleeds into the other qualities like speed, power & endurance.
To get stronger, pick heavy things up. Put heavy things overhead. Carry heavy things. I'll be more specific - keep your reps below 5. Do multiple sets, 1-10 is good. I like 3x3, with 3 warm-up sets. 5x2, 2x2, 10x1 are all good
You could stick to the rule of 10 by Dan John. Keep total reps to 10 or less on the heavy lifts. Warm-ups don't count. Use compound lifts such as squats, bench, pull-ups, overhead press, deadlift, split squats etc.
3. Use explosive movements.
Throw, sprint or jump each session (for most of the year). Do these at the start of the session when you're fresh. Occasionally it may be useful to perform explosive work at the end.
Keep the total effort under 10 seconds. Attack it at maximal intensity. Have really long rest periods. Let's say you did 3 box jumps. Have 1 minute to 2 minutes rest. 10 second sprint? Have 3 to 5 minutes rest.
4. Don't neglect mobility.
Being able to touch your toes won't make you slower (sorry Dan Marchesani). It won't take away from your strength gains either. Being "mobile-enough" is important to reducing injury risk and being able to play the sport effectively. If you can't get into the positions required on the field, how are you going to perform?
You don't have to be yoga-instructor-flexible, just flexible enough. You should be able to sit ass-to-grass in a goblet squat, touch your toes, reach overhead and hang from a bar. You shouldn't feel like mobility is the limiting factor on game day.
5. Don't try To replicate movements you see during competition in the gym.
I could speak about this until I'm blue in the face. Trying to replicate movements to be "sports-specific" is a recipe for disaster.
Sports skills are super-specific and learned over years of repetition at training. Performing things like golf swings, or boxing punches with bands and added resistance only takes away from the skill you've spent years perfecting. DON'T DO IT!
There are articles about this on our website.
Follow these guidelines and you've got yourself a pretty good plan.