Many people wish they could lift like a bodybuilder. But let’s be realistic—you can’t be a bodybuilder if you want to compete in a sport that requires strength, speed, power and mobility. (Improve mobility with this warm-up.) However, this doesn’t mean you can’t perform a few exercises that are part of a typical bodybuilding routine.
Bodybuilders are notorious for building muscle. They laid the foundation for strength training, and it’s about time we give them the respect they deserve. In fact, performing bodybuilding exercises may give you the added strength and size you need to take your training and athletic performance to the next level.
Not all bodybuilding exercises are for athletes. Performing endless numbers of Curls for bigger arms won’t do you much good. (Learn why you should perform compound exercises.) However, the five exercises below challenge multiple muscle groups at once, building overall strength and power. They will even increase your mobility, which is the last thing people associate with bodybuilding exercises.
Add these exercises to your training to build muscle, burn body fat and look like a bodybuilder without compromising your performance capabilities as an athlete. The set and repetition scheme provided is a general recommendation, and should be adjusted based on your needs and fitness level.
Barbell Front Squat with Heels Elevated
Purpose: Emphasizes the quadriceps during the Squat, while increasing ankle and hip mobility. It’s a great exercise if you don’t Squat frequently and lack the mobility needed to get low.
Start: Position a pair of 25-pound weight plates under your heels. Allow the bar to rest across your shoulders, supporting it with either a clean or cross-arm grip.
Movement: Push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower as far as your range of motion allows. Your weight should be on your heels.
Finish: Pause briefly at the bottom, then drive through your heels to stand up out of the Squat.
Purpose: Targets the lats and rhomboids to build a strong back. These are major back muscles, which provide the foundation for upper-body strength.
Start: Hold a barbell with a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width underhand grip with your arms straight. Slightly bend your knee, and hinge at your waist to lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the ground, keeping your back straight.
Movement: Pinch your shoulder blades together and pull your elbows back to row the bar to your upper abs. Do not lift your torso during the movement.
Finish: Extend your arms to allow the bar to hang straight down below your shoulders.
Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift
(Similar to the RDL)
Purpose: Targets the lower back, hamstrings and glutes at the same time. Many coaches advocate against this exercise because they are concerned about loading the back. It’s certainly advanced, but there’s no need to shy away from it if you have the necessary experience. Plus, it’s a great way to build the posterior chain, which is the primary power generator for sprinting.
Start: Hold a barbell with a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip in front of your hips. Position your feet hip-width apart.
Movement: Push your chest out and lock your knees. Keep your back flat with a natural arch and tighten your core. Lower your torso until it’s parallel to the ground, keeping the bar close to your legs.
Finish: Pause briefly at the bottom, then squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to stand up.
Standing Military Press
Purpose: Targets the front deltoids, triceps and core muscles. It will build your upper body and help you feel strong in the gym.
Start: Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip resting across your shoulders. Position your feet hip-width apart, slightly bend your knees and tighten your core.
Movement: Push the barbell overhead until your arms are straight.
Finish: Pause briefly, then slowly lower the bar to the starting position.
Purpose: Develops the chest and triceps using your body weight. It was made popular by gymnasts, who are some of the strongest and best athletes in the world. (Watch Brandon Wynn’s gymnastics training.) It’s a true measure of overall strength and body control.
Start: Hold onto parallel bars with your arms straight. Align your body so that your feet and legs are behind your torso.
Movement: Bend your elbows to lower your body, keeping your head in a neutral position. Your chest and shoulders should remain upright and straight, and your arms close to your sides.
Finish: Extend your arms to drive up to the starting position.