Top 6 Exercises For Athletes

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Top 6 Exercises For Athletes

Talking about the best exercises every athlete should be doing we have to think about what athletes need. If we have a field hockey player, a lacrosse player, a swimmer, a football player, a wrestler, a shot putter, or a basketball player, we have seven different sports that are different, executed, and played in different ways. So if we are to lump all these sports together and have to determine the best exercises for all the combined athletes, we can start with the need for technical coordination.


We need technical coordination because of the need to train maximal rate of force development. We will also try to improve mobility and the ability of open-skilled athletes to improve their chaos coordination. We also need to focus on transient speed, the speed that is in line with being agile and is typically seen in wrestlers and basketball players. We will also need a bit of isolation so that we can develop stability and structural integrity for athletes.


Knowing that all the above-mentioned aspects are key to developing a variety of athletes, we can look at exercises that cover all of these key characteristics. 

1. Snatch

Every athlete needs to do this movement even though many coaches are resistant to teaching because they believe it is too hard. It isn’t too hard. It has been my experience that many football players learn how to snatch easier than they learn how to clean. Because they are so tight in their wrists and upper backs they find it easier to put the snatch in position than it is to front rack the bar in a clean.

best exercises for athletes

From an adaptation perspective, we know the snatch targets the posterior chain, lights up the hamstrings on the pull, the quads will light up on the finish, the athlete learns chaos coordination and how to coordinate rapidly, the reflexive strength improves, the drop time from a snatch enhances central pattern generators because of the speed of the movement, and we also know that once athletes get proficient enough in the snatch technique mobility improves throughout multiple joints. We also learn the skills of co-contractions when performing the high-speed movement of the snatch.


As a high-speed movement, every athlete needs to be doing the snatch. This doesn’t mean every athlete needs to be doing full snatches. There are plenty of snatch variations to be utilized to improve overall coordination.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

There is nothing Bulgarian about the split squat. I hate that everyone calls it the Bulgarian split squat. At Garage Strength, we refer to it as the single-leg squat.

One of the reasons I like to use the single-leg squat is that it provides a cheat code for developing the posterior chain. The single-leg squat forces the body into an unstable position that then helps to improve stability. The single-leg squat also enhances overall coordination and drastically improves structural integrity by targeting imbalances and asymmetries. We can also target the hamstrings and glutes together very well. Few people can execute a single-leg squat and not be sore in their glutes and hamstrings the day after. The movement wakes up a lot of different parts of the body. Last but not least, the single-leg squat improves mobility in the hips, glutes, and quads.  


Make sure to do single-leg squats at least once a week for four to five sets of up to five reps on each leg.

3. Bench Press

The bench press is a key upper body movement. I’d also consider replacing this movement with a pull-up if push came to shove. I mainly lean towards the bench press because it is a very fast twitch movement that can be trained as a poor man's technical coordination exercises if manipulating the reps properly and using high-speed variations like pad bench or unbroken reps the movement can elicit a very positive response. 


I love the bench to increase max strength in the pecs, shoulders, and triceps. All key muscular groups for athletes. Upper body strength makes a difference. The bench press can improve max strength, power, and hypertrophic gains. 


A lot of people may bring up mobility suffering from doing too much bench pressing. However, if the athlete is snatching the whole time, their thoracic mobility will be enhanced. Let’s just say the bench press is a phenomenal exercise if the right rep ranges are pinpointed and the right way to manipulate the rep is targeted as well.

4. Front Squat

People might not like this movement because it beats down the ego. Some people may cry about not being able to get to the front rack position. To keep it short, put in the work to develop the front rack, and the rewards of the front squat pay off tremendously.


I love the front squat because it carries over very well to jumping. Research also shows us that the front squat is a key indicator of speed. Also, our unilateral strength was covered with the Bulgarian split squat and the front squat covers our bilateral strength. The front squat is also a little easier on the knees, improves the back squat, improves ankle mobility, enhances dynamic trunk control, and transfers very well to multiple sports.


For any athlete unable to achieve the front rack position, we can have them do a classic bodybuilding front squat or zombie squats. I recommend having athletes do zombie squats because athletes tend to magically be able to get into a front rack after dealing with the difficulty of a front rack. 


Super long-limbed athletes do not need to be front squatting 350 to 400 lbs. They need to be front squatting enough weight to improve their mobility, help with their landing, and increase their dynamic trunk control. 

5. Hurdle Hops

What would a list of exercises be without a plyometric movement? Everyone knows that plyometric movements are tremendous for creating power and explosiveness and hurdle hops are one of the simplest while giving the most bang for the buck. 


Hurdle hops require rapid coordination, tremendous breaking force to decelerate the body, and extreme amounts of power to reaccelerate the body to launch over hurdle after hurdle. The ability to decelerate contributes greatly to an athlete's capability for chaos coordination potential. The ability to reaccelerate is the impetus behind transient speed development. In addition to all that great athletic transfer, the act of jumping asks for co-contractions to transpire. 

6. Dumbbell Incline Press

With so many lower body movements, we needed to have another upper-body pressing movement thrown in the mix. Enter the dumbbell incline press. 


Dumbbell movements are great for targeting asymmetries in the body and serve as a great tool to enhance stability throughout the body. The incline press also serves as a nice variation to have in the toolkit. The potential manners to utilize the dumbbells when performing an incline press are near limitless. Just make sure to use the dumbbell incline press as an athlete to add size, muscle, strength, and explosive capabilities to the arms and chest. 

Recap

By understanding the benchmark goals, we can know where we need to go with each movement. Regardless, we can use variations of all of these movements to enhance chaos coordination, improve transient speed, gain greater mobility, and increase absolute and relative strength. Just make sure to know what type of adaptation is being looked for with each scenario.   

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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