2 Exercises Most Athletes Aren't Doing (But Should Be)

Break out of the squat-run-jump training routine with a couple of unconventional but effective exercises from STACK Expert Joseph Potts.

Gripping the Barbell

Referring to his use of unconventional exercises in his training program, former NFL defensive back Adam Archuleta, dubbed a "freak" for his performance at the 2001 NFL Combine, once said, "Everyone squats and everybody runs and everybody jumps and everybody benches."

Under the tutelage of Jay Schroeder, Archuleta used unique training methods, and his eye-popping Combine results created such a stir in the sports performance training world that he later released his own workout DVD. For him, thinking outside the box really worked—and if you're tired of your old routine, it might work for you, too. Here are a couple of exercises to get you out of the squat-run-jump cycle.

Band-Resisted Hip Flexor Pulls with Isometric Hold

The hip flexors comprise a muscle group that is particularly prone to weakness and tightness. Yet, recent studies suggest that even a mild improvement in hip flexor strength can lead to significant improvement (nearly 4 percent) in linear speed—the equivalent turning a 5-second 40-Yard Dash into 4.8 seconds.

In addition, test subjects improved their short-shuttle time by nearly 10 percent, equivalent to shortening a 5-second 20-yard shuttle to 4.5 seconds. Other studies have shown that the psoas muscle in junior elite sprinters was three times larger than those found in "normal populations."

How to:

  • Set up in a position similar to a Mountain Climber, but do not set your foot back down while it is flexed. We often verbally cue, "pull the knee to the nipple," to encourage our athletes to achieve 90 degrees or more of hip flexion.
  • At the apex of the flexed position, hold that pose for the designated time to allow for more contractile waves to pass through the muscle.
  • Generally, our athletes perform 3 or 4 sets of 10-12 reps with hold times ranging from 3 to 5 seconds.

Veteran NFL strong safety Reshard Langford demonstrates the exercise in the photo below:

Band-Resisted Hip Flexor Pulls

Landmine Rotations

By the strictest definition, this is a "total-body" exercise, but it really emphasizes dynamic core stability and strength. Although it works and supports core musculature, it isn't so much about rotation as anti-rotation—i.e., avoiding letting gravity pull the weight down for you.

How to:

  • Place one end of a barbell in a landmine-style anchor and place a weight plate on the exposed end.
  • Grasp the exposed and weighted end of the barbell with your arms extended overhead and your elbows slightly bent.
  • Drop your hips to approximately 1/8 of your Squat depth and rotate the bar toward your right hip.
  • Once the bar has rotated fully to one side (generally reaching the hip to upper thigh, depending on wingspan), return to the start position and perform the same movement toward your left hip.
  • That is 2 reps.

When we perform this exercise at our facility, we generally assign 20 to 30 reps, depending on the level of athlete. Be sure to keep a very slight bend in your elbows and maintain that lowered-hip "athletic" position throughout the entire set.

An advanced variation is to perform the movement while kneeling, since that eliminates some of the tendency to swing the bar and use momentum to move the weight. This is also why we stress tempo of movement and cue the athletes not to move the bar too fast. We don't want momentum doing the work of the muscles. The picture below shows an athlete performing Landmine Rotations.

Landmine Rotation

Note: If you lack access to landmine-style equipment, you can perform the same movement by placing a barbell in the corner of a room (taking care to avoid damaging the walls by wrapping a towel or shirt around the end of the bar so it won'r rub paint off as it moves).

Deane, Russell S., Chow, John W., et al. "Effects of Hip Flexor Training on Sprint, Shuttle Run, and Vertical Jump Performance." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 19(3):615-621, August 2005.

Hoshikawa, Y., M. Muramatsu, T. Iida, et al. "Influence of the Psoas Major and Thigh Muscularity on 100-m Times in Junior Sprinters." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Vol. 38, No. 12, pp. 2138-2143, 2006.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock