How to Determine the Best Exercises for Your Workout Program

These five criteria will help you construct the perfect training program for your sport.

When asked to come up with a training program, coaches and athletes often fall back on exercises that mimic the sporting movement they want to enhance. For instance, Squats are common in basketball training because they are similar to vertical jumps, but with weight on the back.

A more scientific approach is dynamic correspondence--essentially a set of guidelines you can use when deciding whether to include particular exercises in your training program.

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With dynamic correspondence, you take into account five elements of each exercise before you decide whether to include it in a program.

1. Similarities

Are there any similarities between the exercise and the sporting movement? Look at the start position of the exercise, its range and its direction.

This could be as simple as identifying that the start positions for a Squat and a vertical jump are similar, as is the range of motion (knees and hips bend, then straighten) and the direction (straight up in the air).

Other examples of similar sport-specific movements are sprinting and Lunges, acceleration and the Hack Squat and punching and Bench Pressing.

2. Exertion of Force at the Same Joint Angle

Essentially, this element of dynamic correspondence states that you should choose exercises that exert force at the same joint angle as your sporting skill.

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To simplify this, let's revisit the Squat and the Vertical Jump. At the bottom of the Squat, you start to push vertically against the ground, creating force so that you can straighten up your body.

Similarly, in a Vertical Jump, you bend your knees and hips. But at a certain point, you start to push into the ground (exerting force), so that you can jump up.

Since you exert force at a similar position in the Squat as you do in the Vertical Jump, it's easy to see how squatting can help you train to jump higher.

3. Effort Exerted

This one is simple. The effort you apply in the exercise should be equal to or greater than the effort you apply in the sporting skill. In other words, there's no point including an exercise that's easier to perform than the skill you want to get better at.

We can again use the Back Squat and the Vertical Jump as an example. Since you put a bar on your back that adds weight you need to control and move, you are making the exercise harder to complete.

As a result, you are exerting more effort.

4. Time Consideration

Consider time for sports skills that require speed. You may not know this, but one of the key elements in the ability to run faster is reducing the amount of time your foot stays on the ground as you sprint.

When Usain Bolt sprints, every time his foot hits the ground, it only stays there for a fraction of a second, until he pulls it back up again.

You can enhance this particular skill with exercises that involve low contact time with the ground, like plyometric drills such as Bounding.

5. How the Relevant Muscle Works

Finally, you need to look at how the relevant muscle works with the exercise vs. the sports skill. For instance, in sprinting, you use both your legs cyclically to move your body. Therefore, your training plan should include exercises such as Walking Lunges, in which you use the muscles in your legs over and over in a cyclical pattern.

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Time to Strategize

The next step is to create your program. Think about the skills you use most often in your sport, like jumping, sprinting and twisting. Then, map these skills to specific exercises using your newfound knowledge about exercise inclusion.

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