8 Commercial Gym-Friendly Exercises To Increase Your Athleticism

James Garland

Guest Contributor

North Sydney, Australia

Strength and Conditioning, MMA


As a coach who works pre-dominantly out of commercial gym, I get a wide variety of clients, who come with a wide variety of goals. These goals vary from being more athletic, to looking better naked, and even training for a half-marathon (because your husband said you couldn’t do it and he’s offered you a $3,500 hand bag if you complete it) has come up.


What’s funny, though, is that despite the main goal that clients come in with, almost every one of them either a) wants to get more athletic as a side goal, or b) falls in love with the idea of being more athletic once they’ve felt what it’s like to be so.



It’s as if inherently we all feel as though we’ll be better evolved as human beings if we can lift more, run faster, jump higher, or have better fitness levels. If that sounds like you then I’ve got good news. You can start building better athleticism with some simple exercise tweaks, and you can achieve this even if you train in a commercial gym.


It All Starts With Strength

From being a better athlete, to looking better, or to running a faster 21km time, everything begins with a solid foundation of strength.


Strength is what ties all of the specific fitness-related goals together, and it’s the one true constant throughout each of them.


james garland, gym friendly exercises, exercises for athleticism


This lies in your favor, because it means that we don’t need to take the focus away from your main training goal in order to build better athleticism. All we need to do is to modify some of the exercises that you’re using to get there.


Before we move on, I have to say that any exercise that builds strength will make you more athletic.


Getting stronger, as I said above, is a path to being more athletic in and of itself. Ergo, any movement that you grow stronger from (yes, even bicep curls) will make you more athletic in some way, shape, or form.


That being said, when you only have a limited amount of time to spend in the gym each session, you need to choose the exercises that are going to give you the most bang for your buck.



Which Brings Us To The Exercise List

The following exercises have been chosen because they either a) use a larger amount of muscle, b) are more explosive in nature, or c) make you work in more planes of motion than conventional gym exercises.


To make the most of these movements (while still staying on track with your own goals) ideally you would replace a current exercise (of similar nature) that you’re doing already, with one of the ones from the list below.


For example, if you’re already doing reverse lunges, then it’s easy to swap them over for front squat-grip reverse lunges. Likewise, if you’re a hip-dominant movement, such as a back extension, you might want to look at replacing it with the kettlebell swings – and so on.


1. Front Squat-Grip Reverse Lunge

The front squat-grip reverse lunge places a greater demand on the musculature of the core and upper back than a regular reverse lunge, as when the weight is on the front of the shoulders, maintaining posture becomes crucial.


This movement is effective for those sports that need to maintain good posture whilst utilizing leg drive (i.e. rugby players, or MMA athletes when executing a takedown).



2. Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is one of the most effective hip-dominant power exercises going around. It requires you to absorb force (on the swing back), and reverse this force into an expression of power.



More hip power means better jumping ability, and faster sprint times (amongst other things).


3. 1-Arm Rotational Row

The 1-arm rotational row is one of those all-encompassing, hard-as-hell exercises. It combines a row and a lunge, as well as rotary/core strength, too.


The main benefit that the rotational row provides us with is improving total body coordination and control, which is sadly missed when trainees stick with only conventional resistance exercises.


4. Plyometric Push Up

The plyometric push up is one of the simplest upper body power exercises to start implementing into your training. It will lead to better explosive power in the upper body, and, of course, will help build bigger bench press numbers.


Try adding 3 or 4 sets of 6 reps before your bench pressing for the day, and start to benefit from the neural facilitation that will take place.


5. Medicine Ball Floor Stomp

Floor stomps are one of the best stress release total body power exercises that can be done with only a medicine ball, and a floor. Simply grab a medicine ball and throw it as hard as you can at the floor (it helps if you picture the ball as the head of someone you really don’t like).



Oh, and make sure you catch it on the rebound, otherwise you and I won’t be friends anymore.


6. Dumbbell Bench Jump

What’s a simpler way of building leg power than grabbing a pair of heavy dumbbells, and then jumping onto a bench with them? The trick with these is getting dumbbells that are heavy enough for you to be challenged, but also light enough for you to safely land on the bench with each jump.


7. Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat Jump

The benefits of single-leg training have been touted all over the Internet for the past four years, and with good reason. Single-leg strength is important to everyone, but even more so if you want to be athletic.


What is often overlooked in all of this talk of single-leg strength, however, is single-leg power. The rear-foot elevated split squat jumps fixes that problem for us.


8. Inverted Row with Hip Lift

Everyone in the entire world has a weak posterior chain, right? At least that’s what we’re told. That problem will be a thing of the past for you if you start implementing these bad boys into your training. hip and upper back strength combined into one movement? Yes please.


Improvements in athleticism can really be as simple as exchanging some of your more conventional exercises for some that require a little more creativity.


Luckily for us there’s a little thing called YouTube, and it has thousands of weird and wonderful exercises for us to trial and experiment with. Now it’s time for action. Go and get after it!


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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