Strength + athleticism
Everyone can benefit from developing strength, but for an athlete, success is about more than just being strong in the gym.
If you’re a powerlifter, then squat, bench, and deadlift until the cancer whistles on the mountain. If you are a weightlifter, do snatches and jerks over and over.
But if you are a competitive athlete looking to get stronger while maintaining other critical traits such as power, speed, mobility, and overall athleticism, then your exercises are as follows.
1 – Lifting the bar to the chest
Weightlifting exercises are excellent at building power and explosiveness. Can these qualities be developed with the help of medicine ball or jumping exercises? To a certain extent, yes, but they are more focused on the “speed-power” side of the spectrum.
Barbell Curls are a great tool to improve or maintain explosiveness and power. Both floor and hang lifts will do.
The exercise technique is not easy, so it’s best to learn it.
2 – Front squats
If you are an athlete, then you need strong quads. Quads are critical not only for improving your vertical jump but also for landing properly, stopping, and changing direction.
However, quads are just the beginning. The front squat is a terrific exercise for the front core as well. You could be completely exhausted, but still, do the last rep of the squat with the barbell on your shoulders? Front squats won’t work.
If you have weak abs, work out a 2-3 month cycle of front squats and you will be surprised how much stronger and stiffer your torso will become.
Front squats also improve mobility. This exercise is guaranteed to maintain the mobility of the ankle, knee, hip, and thoracic spine. Make it the backbone of your strength program.
3 – Deadlifts with a trap bar
The importance of the deadlift cannot be underestimated. But the factor of mobility (which traditional deadlifts do not promote) can be important for athletes, and their posterior chain muscles may not be strong enough to safely and effectively perform traditional deadlifts.
The sumo deadlift will also not work in this case, as it forces you to take a not quite athletic position.
This is why trap bar deadlifts are the ideal exercise.
When using the raised handlebars, you can get into a position with a fairly vertical shin and slanted body. This combination makes the trap bar or Dead-Squat ™ bar deadlift a prime exercise for the back chain muscles.
If you work with athletes, then you know that often their back chain muscles are not stronger than Gwyneth Paltrow, but they should have strong glutes.
Also, if the athlete has a lack of mobility, the trap bar deadlift is a great starting point. It allows you to load your hips while solving other mobility problems.
4 – Bench press with a narrow grip
If your arms (or elbows) are apart, and someone tries to push you out of place, then you will lose. But if the elbows and arms are firmly pressed against the body, then leverage can be increased and the legs and torso can be more effectively connected to each other.
The close grip bench press is an ideal exercise for building upper body strength. I know that the bench press has a bad reputation, but still, a clear power advantage over opponents speaks in favor of this exercise.
5 – Push-ups from the floor
As great as the narrow grip bench press is for developing the upper body, it has its drawbacks. The biggest problem with the bench press is that even if the core and lower body are tight, they are often the limiting factor in performance.
While the narrow grip bench press is great for the upper body, it does not tie the strength of the upper and lower body together, and heavyweight push-ups do.
Correctly done push-ups with a rigid body and a neutral back position will excellently load the front muscle chain.
Try the following little tricks to develop your core muscles even better:
- start the exercise from the top position;
- exhale powerfully;
- lift your head so that your neck is in a more neutral position.
Another huge benefit of doing push-ups instead of bench presses is stability at the shoulder blades.
When doing bench presses, the goal is to pull your shoulder blades back and down. They are stable, but this is a very static kind of stability. Push-ups are similar to real sports movements, as you have to actively control the position of the shoulder blades.
Instead of just pinning them back and down, make sure they move in the right way and are in the right place at the right time.
Finally, the floor push-up is a closed chain push-up movement, i.e. it excellently builds the strength and stability of the muscles of the articular bag of the shoulder girdle.
Next time, instead of warming up your shoulders with various rotational movements with your hands, do 2-3 sets of quality push-ups. You will get more value and look better.
6 – Pull-ups
In most sports (and strength training programs), the bench press is essential. One has only to look at the posture of someone who presses constantly, without balancing the presses with working out the upper back, to understand why this is a problem.
Such athletes are on the brink of disaster. Pull-ups, however, will help bring balance to the equation.
They also develop the lower trapezius muscles. These muscles are not only the main stabilizers of the shoulder but (along with the upper trapezius muscles and the serratus anterior) form one-third of the muscle force pool that provides shoulder rotation.
The key to this exercise is to focus on touching the bar with your chest (as much as possible) and actively pulling the shoulder blades down.
Tip: If the time you can devote to strength training is limited, then at least part of it should be devoted to strengthening the upper back. Pull-ups will be of immense benefit and should be a staple of your athletic strength program.