If you’re an athlete looking to see ultimate progress in your sport of choice, it’s important that you’re taking into account what you’re doing in terms of cross training. While it’s definitely key that you devote a high amount of time to practicing the skills involved in the sport directly – during sporting practices – it’s also important that you spend time away from the field, ice, court, or track in effort to build your muscles and physical capabilities stronger.
By doing so, when you then move back to your sport specific practice sessions, you’ll see performance improvements.
Strength training can be an excellent way to improve your athletic conditioning, building you into a better athlete. In order to reap the most benefits from any given strength training session however, it’s vital that you know the top exercises to perform.
Let’s walk you through the best seven exercises that you can be doing in the gym in effort to generate more overall sports conditioning.
Exercises That Increase Athletic Performance
1- Jump Squats
The first exercise that’s a must for any athletic conditioning program – squat jumps.
Squat jumps are great because not only will they build up the muscles in the lower body, but they’re going to increase your rebounding ability, which is necessary in any sports that require jumping.
Even if you aren’t jumping during your performance, you’ll still want to include these as they really work on getting those fast twitch muscles firing, which can improve reaction time. That is something that is needed for all sports.
Jump squats should be done again towards the beginning of a session and preferably not on the same day you’re doing any sort of heavy weighted exercises. They can also be done after a cardio workout for instance or even done as a warm-up prior to any sort of flexibility or agility work you plan to do.
When performing these, make sure that you’re on a well-padded surface and are wearing proper footwear. They are very high impact in nature and you’ll want to ensure you’re preventing knee pain development.
These are typically done with bodyweight only, however if you get more advanced and feel you need a greater challenge, you can also chose to wear a weighted vest if you prefer.
Any external weight you add while doing this exercise should be evenly distributed throughout the body, so keep that in mind at all times.
2- Med Ball Twists
The second exercise that’s great to include that’s also going to primarily target your core strength is medicine ball twists. This move is ideal for those who are hoping to improve their balance and agility and who may be involved in sports that requires lots of twisting and turning of the upper body.
By strengthening your oblique’s, which this exercise does, you’ll be better equipped to handle any change of direction you need to make.
To perform this, simply stand back to back or facing with a partner holding a medicine ball in front of you. Then, twist to one side as you pass the ball over to your partner. They then grab it, twist to the other side, and then pass it back to you.
This process should continue to repeat itself so many times until you switch sides and perform to the other direction.
The heavier the medicine ball when doing this exercise, the more strength gains you’ll experience in your core.
Also keep in mind that you should sustain a slight bend in your knees at all times while doing this exercise in order to best help keep yourself stabilized.
3- Standing Calf Raises
Next up you should be focusing on calf strength. The calves are typically neglected by many athletes, but they’re a very important move as they’ll be contracting during each and every step you take.
Likewise, if you are doing any sort of jumping in the sport, the calves will be heavily involved to make those jumps happy. Similarly, sprinting across a court, track, or field will also call your calves into play as they’ll be used to help propel you in the forward direction.
To help strengthen this muscle, heavy standing calf raises are the solution and these should be done with the heels hanging off a step. By getting into this position, you’ll move through a more extended range of motion, which then means greater overall muscular development.
Slowly lower the heels down as far as you can go and then contract the calves pressing up through the exercise. Pause at the top and then lower down again before completing the rep. This should be done in a very slow and fluid manner, never jerking your way up through the exercise.
4- Internal / External Rotations
Another important exercise to perform isn’t as much for improving sports strength but more for reducing your injury risk, which will then indirectly improve performance as you’ll be able to train longer and harder pain-free.
If you’re involved in any sort that involves passing, throwing, or catching an object, your shoulder girdle muscles will be constantly utilized. As such, the stronger you can make these muscles, the less chance of shoulder pain you have.
Internal and external rotations are perfect for this. To perform this exercise, you’ll simply lay down on a flat bench on your side. Hold a light dumbbell (5 pounds will be sufficient for most individuals) and then with the elbow bent at 90 degrees and pressed into the side of the body, begin to rotate the hand in an arc like manner.
Do this fifteen to twenty times and then repeat to the other side.
This is the external rotation. Once this is finished, you’ll want to tie a resistance band to a stationary object and again with the elbow pressed into your side and at a 90 degree bent, you’ll want to position yourself so there is constant tension in the band and the hand is pointing away from the body.
Once here, slowly rotate the hand as you bring it across the body, rotating internally. Do another fifteen to twenty reps of this and then switch sides and repeat. (Rotator Cuff Exercises)
One of the best exercises you’ll want to get into the equation is deadlifts. This is one of the best strength and power building exercises you could do in your program and since almost all sports do require some degree of strength and power (explosiveness), this is a great way to develop that.
Deadlifts will help to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, quads, as well as your lower back, while also dramatically improving your core strength and even upper body strength.
They should be down at the beginning of a typical strength building session and not ever done on the same day you’re doing plyometric work. Heavy strength work will strictly limit performance on plyometric work, so it’s vital the two aren’t paired together.
A strong lower body is pretty much the ultimate foundation to have in any of the athletic team based sports. In basically any sport that requires power a strong lower body is going to work in your favor.
So Shut up and Squat, as they say.
7- Interval Sprints
Last but not least, interval sprints should be another exercise to add into your protocol. This form of cardio training is also excellent for improving speed and agility and will also enhance your power capabilities.
Not to mention if you need to be lean for your sport of choice, this is a great form of cardio to decrease body fat.
Simply select your cardio mode of choice – one that will allow you to accelerate very quickly, and then perform short 20 second all-out bursts of exercise, coupled with 60 seconds of rest.
In 9 times out of 10 you will benefit most from choosing running sprints, since a majority of sports rely heavy on explosive sprinting speed.
Do five to ten of these intervals in a workout session and you’ll soon be experience improvements because of it.
So keep these exercises in mind if you hope to achieve ultimate success with your sports of choice. Constantly be looking for exercises that mimic the actions you make in the sport you are doing and use those to grain strength in the muscle groups involved.