In the strength and conditioning hierarchy, exercises like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and Cleans are considered elite. When performed correctly, they produce demonstrable gains in strength and power. That is indisputable. What is debatable is how suitable they are for weight room beginners.
Before embarking on a weight room routine, young athletes need to be prepared for intense demands. You can do this by establishing a certain baseline level of systemic strength and mobility. This is crucial, because improper exercise execution often leads to tight hip flexors and poor ankle mobility.
You need to hit the weight room with confidence. Do this by incorporating the following five exercises into your existing routine. Or do them all as a workout. Either way, before long you're bound to notice major improvements in the way your body moves and feels.
Supine Barbell Hip Bridge
Muscles trained: gluteals, hamstrings and core.
Benefits: improved knee stability, hip strength and mobility.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent about 90 degrees
- Place a barbell on the front of your hips, holding it in place with your hands
- Begin by lightly bracing your core
- Next, push through your heels until you lift your hips and lower torso off the ground (you can lift the balls of your feet off the ground to emphasize pushing with your glutes and hamstrings)
- In the top position, your body should form a ramp from your shoulders to your knees
- Hold for a second, then lower and repeat until you've completed 10-12 repetitions
Note: You may want to place a towel across your hips for comfort.
Once you master this exercise, check out the more advanced Single-Leg Hip Thrusters, demonstrated by Tim Tebow.
Muscles trained: middle and lower trapezuis, deltoids, external rotators and core.
Benefits: improved thoracic extension, shoulder mobility and core strength, which can help reduce excessive strain on the lower back and rotator cuff.
- Lie prone over a stability ball with your legs straight and chest up off the ball
- Begin by bracing your core with your arms positioned outstretched in front of you (pinky side down/ thumbs up)
- Bring your arms around behind you as far as you can without pain
- As you do this, try and keep your thumbs pointed up towards the ceiling
- Once you've reached your furthest point, bring your arms back to the starting position and repeat
- Continue until you've preformed 10-12 repetitions
- Watch a demonstration
Bulgarian Split Squat
Muscles Trained: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core.
Benefits: improved hip mobility, lower body strength, balance and coordination.
- Stand a couple of feet in front of an exercise bench
- Begin by balancing on one leg as you place your back foot on the bench
- Keeping your torso as upright as possible, lightly brace your core as you slowly lower your back knee toward the ground while simultaneously allowing your front knee to bend to about a 90-degree angle
- Pause for a second in the bottom position, then push back up and repeat until you've completed 10-12 repetitions per side
- Check out these pictures and videos of the Bulgarian Split Squat
Perfect Posture Push-Up
Muscles Trained: chest, shoulders, triceps and core.
Benefits: improved systemic strength and core stability.
- Get down into a Push-Up position. Place your hands just outside shoulder-width apart, "pack" your shoulder blades and brace your core and legs
- As you hold this upright plank position, have a coach or training partner lie a lacrosse stick, hockey stick, or broomstick lengthwise along your spine. The stick should maintain contact with the back of your head, shoulder blades and tailbone as you execute the drill
- Slowly lower yourself toward the ground with your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your torso
- Once you're within a few inches of the ground, press back up to the starting position without changing your position or losing contact with the stick at any of the checkpoints
- Do 10-12 repetitions per set
Muscles trained: core, chest, shoulders and triceps
Benefits: increased core stability and upper body strength.
Execution: (Note: the Pallof Press can be done with either cables or resistance bands)
- Stand aside a cable resistance machine or sturdy object with a resistance band attached to it
- If using a band, your distance from the anchoring point will depend on your strength and the tension of the band
- Once you have the appropriate tension (or weight set), begin by packing your shoulder blades and bracing your core as you press the resistance from directly in front of your chest with your arms bent, to the same point with your arms fully extended
- The idea is to keep your core and lower body braced
- Do not allow the resistance to move toward the anchoring point—just straight out and right back toward your chest
- Perform 10-12 repetitions and then face the opposite way
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