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There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of exercises in use today. Despite the ever-increasing number of exercises and variations thereof, there are five movements that should be at the center of every athlete’s workout regimen; the squat, deadlift, power clean, bench press, and shoulder press. I consider these the go-to movements when your goal is to grow stronger and more well-rounded as an athlete.
The squat is known as the king of lower body exercises and should be a staple in any exercise program. To perform the squat, have your feet approximately shoulder-width apart and slightly ahead of your hips. With the weight sitting across your shoulder blades, descend to until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Push up from the floor and straighten your legs back to the starting position. Squats primarily work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, while requiring tremendous stability in your back and core when performed correctly. The squat builds stability (particularly on the way down) and explosiveness (on the way up). An athlete’s performance will be greatly enhanced due to the increased flexibility and increased level of explosiveness obtained from performing the king of lower body exercises.
The deadlift is an essential but chronically neglected exercise (often in favor of the squat) when it comes to strength training regimens, working your glutes, quads, hamstrings, upper and lower back, and abs. There are many variations of the deadlift, but for our purposes, we will focus on the classic version of this classic exercise. For the standard deadlift you simply grip a barbell just outside of the knees with both hands and stand up until fully upright. This creates tremendous strength and powerful explosion at the hips, which is an asset in any sport you play.
Another exercise I recommend that an athlete includes in their circuit is the power clean. It is a compound exercise, mainly working your hamstrings while also hitting your calves, glutes, back, shoulders, triceps, and forearms, that requires two pulling movements. On the first pull, pull the barbell from the floor up to knee level (think deadlift). On the second pull, explosively bring the barbell from the mid-thigh level all the way up to your shoulders in one fluid motion by extending your hips. Every sport requires power because more power equals running faster, jumping higher, and just flat-out being stronger.
Often thought of as the ultimate test of strength, the bench press is an undeniably important tool to use when building your body for peak physical performance. First and foremost, it is imperative to use good form. With your back flat on the bench and feet flat on the floor, lower the barbell to chest level before pressing the bar up while extending your arms. While the bench press is primarily a chest exercise, it is also effective in working your shoulders and triceps to varying extents based on where you grip the bar. In its most classic sense, the bench press is a simple exercise that can be used to increase raw strength. Overall, the bench press encourages increased power and explosiveness in the upper body and, as a bonus, measures our level of strength over time in a very simple and concise way based on the amount of weight lifted or number of reps performed.
The standing shoulder press, as its name suggests, is primarily used to build stronger arms and shoulders. Sitting on a bench, rest the weight on your thighs before raising it to shoulder height. Once the weight is at shoulder height, face your palms forward and press upward until you are near full extension before slowly lowering the weight back down to the starting position. As with any exercise, ensure the amount of weight you are lifting allows proper form, remaining challenging without forcing you to compromise your technique. By using quality mechanics, the shoulder press will strengthen your upper body, prevent injury, and promote stability in your core.
Together, these exercises will make you bigger, faster, stronger, and better at your sport. Many people only train specific parts of their body, creating not only an unevenly built physique, but opening the door to future injuries and pain. With these five core movements you can hit virtually every angle of your body, adding up to you becoming the well-rounded athlete that you need to be.
Standing Shoulder Press