When we train athletes, the goal is obviously to make them better in their sport. Whether it directly leads to athletic enhancement, or if it makes the athlete more injury resistant.
While we will teach and work through many different exercises throughout a program, there are a few exercises that are staples and will provide the most benefit for the athlete.
Today we want to outline the top 3, and why they are so beneficial.
There’s no exercise that builds lower body strength, hip drive, and core stability quite like the squat.
The positions athletes get in to properly perform a squat are very similar to those of any good athletic position. When an athlete gets stronger in a squat, the athlete is getting stronger in the athletic position.
It doesn’t matter whether the athlete is goblet squatting, front squatting, or back squatting. The squat is the squat and it will make the athlete better.
Coming in a close second, the deadlift is another exercise that builds lower body strength and core stability.
The unique thing about the deadlift is that it preferentially trains the posterior chain (the muscles on the backside of the body such as the hamstrings, glutes, and back). If there is one area that almost all athletes are lacking it is posterior chain strength and coordination.
In addition the deadlift does a great job of training a stronger athletic position. Athletes should work through many different variations of the deadlift, including the kettlebell deadlift, the trapbar deadlift, and the barbell deadlift.
3. Push Press
Every athlete can benefit from becoming more explosive and increasing lower to upper body coordination. That is precisely what the push press trains.
A properly performed push press starts with a lower body explosive push similar to that of a jump. From here, that energy from the lower body is transferred through the core to the weight being held in the arms where it is then pressed overhead.
Timing and coordination is important, as is the explosive push from the legs. In addition, any athlete will benefit from having healthy shoulders, the push press is important to help strengthen and stabilize the shoulders.
The push press can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell, and if using dumbbells, it can also be done one arm at a time.
===> Bonus Exercises / Variations!! <===
The kettlebell swing is a great variation of the deadlift that involves an explosive snap from start to finish. It is very beneficial in helping an athlete develop lower body power.
Rear-foot Elevated Split Squat
The rear-foot elevated split squat (RFESS) is a single-leg variation of the squat that involves getting into a split stance and propping the back foot up on a box or bench. This forces the athlete to train balance because by nature it becomes a single-leg squat.
So there you have it. If we were forced to only be able to train with 3 lifts, to maximize athlete enhancement, these are it. Squat, deadlift and push press...and maybe we would cheat in some swing and RFESS!