Back in my day, kids (I swore I’d never say that), we used to lift one muscle at a time. We had “chest days” and “shoulder days.” Most of the time, we did all these exercises on machines to help focus strengthening the individual muscles.
Functional Training has now become much more popular. Not only does it offer more bang for your buck, but doing full-body exercises helps the muscles work in sequence.
However, certain muscles need individual attention for an athlete’s complete development. You can add the following 5 isolation exercises to any program.
My old strength coach used to say, “Your front muscles make you look good in the mirror, your back muscles make you look good on the field.” Elevated Rows not only help counter-balance all the push work we do (benching, throwing, shooting), they also enhance our upper-body power and control.
- Lie on something that allows you to pull weight with full range of motion.
- Have a partner hold your feet or put your feet under something to help counter-balance the weight you will be pulling.
- Pull the weight from the floor to your chest. Lower slowly.
- Do not sacrifice weight for range of motion and form.
Studies show that having a firm, strong neck can prevent neck injuries and may even help prevent concussions. Yet many functional strength programs leave out neck training. This neck circuit will strengthen and stabilize the neck in different positions.
Sets/Reps: 1×20 seconds each exercise
- Lie with your head on a bench. Walk your feet down to a straight-legged position or just hold your knees at 90 degrees. Hold the bridge for 20 seconds.
- Lie off the bench and move your head slowly up and down.
- Lie off the bench and move your head slowly side to side.
Ear to Ear
- Lie off the bench and move your head side to side, ear to shoulder.
Calves are one of the most neglected muscles in the weight room. We Squat on our heels, we Deadlift on our heels, but we sprint on the balls of our feet. Most “functional training” exercises involve a heel-to-toe movement. You develop your calves because of how much force they must absorb during sports.
Sets/Reps: 2×20 Each Way
- Stand on a bench, box or stairs with your heels off.
- Lower your heels to the floor, then raise them as high as you can.
- Give your calves another squeeze at the top.
- Point your toes straight, inward, and outward for each set.
Glute Ham Raises
Hamstrings are so important to an athlete’s explosiveness, they deserve some individual attention. Glute Ham Raises isolate the hamstring in both the acceleration phase and the deceleration phase.
- Get on your knees and have your partner put weight on your heels.
- Keeping a straight line from knee to neck, slowly lower to the floor
- If you cannot go all the way to the floor and back up on your own, use your hands to help catch you and get you up.
- Without hinging your hips back, raise your body back up to the start position.
The VMO, the teardrop-shaped muscle above your knee, is hard to isolate in full-body movements. A strong VMO keeps the knee healthy. TKE’s are a great exercise to strengthen the VMO.
Sets/Reps: 2×20 Each Leg
- Wrap a band around the back of your knee. Be sure the band has moderate tension.
- Roll your foot from toe to heel, squeezing your quadriceps when your leg reaches full extension.