There is a lot of terrible, ineffective advice out there for sportsmen and/or athletes when choosing gym exercises. A common sight is for athletes to be executing subpar lifts, and wasting their time, energy, and effort on movements that won’t turn them into the best possible athlete.

Best Gym Exercises For Athletes

The best exercises for athletes

Box Front Squat

— or any squat that emphasizes knee flexion for that matter.

I prefer the box front squat over other squat variations as a gym exercise for athletes for a few reasons:

  1. It mimics several movements on the sporting field
  2. Since lighter loads are handled, it is less taxing on the central nervous system, less potential spinal compression is experienced, and it is kinder on the lower back and connective tissue
  3. The pause on the box removes any rebound out of the hole and recruits more type IIb fast twitch muscle fibers for greater carryover onto the field

Progressive overload is easy on this exercise, but keep the reps and sets low to avoid burning yourself out.

Push Press

This movement does wonders to increasing explosive power, emphasizing the sought-after triple joint extension — ankle, knee, hip — that it so crucial to myriad movements in many competitive sports.

The overhead press also carries over to several movements from throwing, punching, to tackling in contact sports and handling supramaximal overhead loads.

The triple joint extension at the initial phase of the lifting portion can help to increase one’s vertical jump and initial sprint speed.

Hang Power Snatch

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This is, hands down, one of my favorite exercises — period. It is the least technically demanding Olympic-style lift — but it is devastating for leaving your opponents biting the dust.

Your entire posterior chain, core, arms, forearms, traps, rhomboids, etc, will all get an explosive work out.

This is a hinge-pattern movement, so you can use it as a supplementary exercise to kettlebell swings or deadlifts. This exercise aids tremendously with increasing broad jumps and acceleration.

Weighted Chin Up

Another exercise that is criminally overlooked by many athletes, the weighted chin up boasts a host of benefits for several athletes looking to pack on size, protect their shoulders, and all-in-all become a better athlete.

Weighted chin ups can help loosen up tight shoulders and thus prevent injury. They can also assist in loosening many upper body muscles as well as decompressing the spine after heavy squats and deadlifts.

Weighted chin ups also target the core and forearms greatly adding to improved grappling strength in sports such as MMA, rugby, and American football.

They should be a staple in every athlete’s workout program.

Barbell Bench Press

I know that this exercise is a cliché, but its effectiveness can’t be understated for athletes. Often dubbed the king of upper body exercises, the barbell bench press, when executed properly, can stimulate most upper body muscles.

The bench press yields awesome carryover to more physical athletic movements such as throwing, punching, striking, fending, handing off, and even increasing arm swing speed when sprinting.

There is also significant strength carryover to be mined from the bench press, if it is not your favorite movement. Increasing barbell bench press strength will carryover to other pressing movements from dips to incline dumbbell press.

Explosive Bulgarian Split Squat

This particular movement focuses on the first step in a sprint. Many athletes covet the ability to put on the gas and step away from their opponents or even gain an immediate advantage over other in a foot race.

Most who practice this movement, will find that in a matter of weeks, their acceleration speed markedly improves.

This gym exercise can directly carryover into bounding and single leg jumps.

Glute-Ham Raise

One of the biggest mistakes many athletes are guilty of is overtraining their quads in relation to their hammies. As a result, many of them experience hammie tears. The local gym owner — a soccer player and crossfitter — suffered a similar fate by neglecting his hamstrings.

This exercise won’t only counteract quad development from squatting, but it’ll also strengthen the posterior chain, adding to top running speed potential and enhanced acceleration.

Perform the concentric phase slowly, feeling a burn on the way down. Use bands/chains to add resistance to the movement.

Seal Row/Chest-Supported Row

As above, this exercise is the best antagonist for pressing movements. Many athletes may inadvertently train their way into muscular imbalanced and blight their athletic performance or even accrue unnecessary injuries.

A good rule to follow is a 1:2 push-to-press ratio for optimal shoulder health. While pressing movements can help immensely with throwing a ball, putting a show, launching a discuss, and delivering a blow, overtraining the front deltoids can let to postural imbalances which can be redressed by a surfeit of pulling movements.

Seal Rows, while marginally better that the supported row, can add slabs of muscle to the upper back and arms. They can carryover to pulling movements on the field such as tackling and grappling.

Russian Rows/Minesweepers

This is one of my favorite core exercises. While it will also spike your heartrate, it will work your entire core in a manner that mimics a multitude of athlete movements from tackling, throwing, sprinting, sidestepping, jumping, and many more.

Ensure good form when completing the movement by avoiding excessive weight loads.

You can use this movement as a finisher to any workout of your choosing.

Losing Bodyfat

A lot of people reading this can afford to lose a few pounds to become a better athlete.

The ideal sweet spot for an athlete’s bodyfat percentage is hotly contested with some going as low as 9-10% all the way to 14%.

Many people have a tendency to underestimate their bodyfat percentage by a few percentage points.

By losing bodyfat, you’ll be able to run fast, jump higher, sidestep more elegantly, and dominate your opponents like never before — in most sports.

Your biomechanics for most athletic movements will improve as you lose bodyfat. While a little strength in the gym may be sacrificed, you will become better at your sport of choice.

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