The Top 10 Best Training Exercises
Last week we looked at the top ten worst training exercises. You know, those ones you see at the gym that make you turn and run for cover. This week we're going to look at the ten exercises you should be doing.
The Top 10 Best Training Exercises
Bodyweight, weighted, sandbag, goblet, back, and front. Nothing creates a better posterior chain (yes, your butts). Said another way, there is nothing better to build better glutes, hamstrings, or quads. Proper full-range squats have been around forever and no matter what anyone tells you, there is no better replacement. No other exercise can accomplish what a proper squat can. Start light with good and proper form, and from there add weight. Over and over again.
2. Calf Raises:
On the platform or on the track, the calf muscles are powerful additional (and often forgotten) firing muscles you need to move a bar or a body into explosive motion. With weight on the front portion of the foot in track, the calves fire the body forward as the balls of the feet plant and explode. On the platform, the calves fire simultaneously with the explosive shrug of the Olympic lifts. Timing is everything, so make sure the calves know how to activate at just the right moment and have the strength to do so.
3. Speed, Plyometric, Track, and Jump Drills:
Jump squats, hurdle drills, sand jumps, skaters, sprints, endurance runs, intervals, split jumps, stair and hill sprints, lunges, and goose walks. These skills transfer to just about everything else in your training regimen, whether you’re a sprinter or runner or neither. Speed and power output are key on the lifting platform and to just about every other functional movement in life.
4. Overhead Press and Bench Press:
Do these for upper body strength and definition. These are basics to strength programming and should be included no matter what your sport or athletic goal. These presses are explosive, engage the entire body (legs, chest, and shoulders alike), and perfect the jerk portion of the clean and jerk for weightlifters. They force you to engage the core and low back, and to activate the entire body.
5. Proper Weightlifting:
The snatch and the clean and jerk. I could write an entire article on this, but I will refrain (for now). My little hint for now: learn the two lifts properly. Have I said that before? Well, I mean it. Before you do full movements, conquer the smaller technical ones, like power snatches and power cleans, and make sure you know how to lift before you branch away from the basics. These lifts were designed to move a heavy-ass weight just one time. Make sure you can do that first. Don’t get frustrated. It takes a lifetime even for the greats to master.
6. Weighted Sit-Ups and Kettlebell Windmills:
My favorite version of the sit-up? Anchored feet with an AbMat. Use a dumbbell or a medicine ball for the weighted version of the sit-ups. Keep the butt glued to the ground and the weight glued to the chest. Only the core works here, in complete isolation as the chest reaches for the sky. And don’t forget kettlebell windmills. They activate and fire off muscles throughout the entire core, with the added benefit of hitting the triceps and hamstrings.
7. Strict Gymnastic Elements
Pull-ups, chin-ups, handstand push-ups, push-ups, and dips. These movements use the entire body and every muscle in between. Learn balance, build body strength and awareness, and increase range of motion and flexibility. There is nothing negative to say about the benefits of total body control for functional fitness.
8. Low Back and Glute/Hamstring Builders:
Supermans, good mornings, and GHD back extensions. Supermans and GHD extensions should never be performed for time. No exceptions. They are slow movements that engage the low back, glutes, and hamstrings. When it comes to supermans specifically, the upper body and the legs only rise upon strong engagement of the low back and posterior chain muscles. These are the muscles mandatory for each and every functional movement. There is nothing more important to athletic performance than a strong low back.
9. Box Jumps:
Done properly, a box jump consists of landing with soft feet on top of the box, with full hip extension at the top, active arms for momentum, and an eye on where you want to land. This is ideal. Be explosive, but don’t rebound. Practice seated, squat, and drop jumps, too.
Burn the “I Hate Running” shirt and go run! Increase endurance, V02 max, mental and physical strength, and give the body something it need and really does love to do. Stay consistent with it and you will learn to love it. I promise. If you still truly hate running after giving it some time, focus instead on your love of fitness, the endorphin rush you love so much, the sweat of accomplishment, and the simple opportunity to be a better athlete. No matter what you do, nothing replaces a good run.
So there you have it, the ten worst and ten best training exercises. Did I miss some? What are your favorites? Post to comments below.
Photographs courtesy of Katie Chasey. Except box jump photo - courtesy of Ryan Moody, World Record Holder.