Sometimes we have time to grind out hour-long workouts. At other times, our hectic schedules barely allow us thirty minutes.
In the life of an athlete, time constraints are a constant barrier. But there's no excuse for allowing strength training to slip off to the side.
To achieve results quickly means maximizing your time in the weight room. Next time you're in a pinch, perform the following five exercises. The holy grail of programming isn't feasible, but these are.
The Power Clean, in my opinion, is the be-all-and-end-all of performance exercises. It not only recruits maximal firing through triple extension (knees, ankles and hips), it also teaches you how to correctly "fire your hips."
From jumping to sprinting, the hip drive is a critical component of virtually every athletic activity. Since athletes almost never hit their maximum speed in any sport, it's crucial that they be able to fire their hips instantaneously.
See how to perform the Exercise of the Week: Power Clean
The Back Squat has its place in training, but it's nothing compared to the Front Squat. The Front Squat is just as effective in overall muscle recruitment with significantly less compressive force. The exercise also reinforces the Power Clean, improving mobility in the hips, knees, ankles and thoracic spine.
See how to perform Front Squat 101: A How-To Guide.
Trap Bar Deadlift
Nothing can top the Deadlift for its ability to strengthen the posterior muscles, so it should be a staple of every strength program. Unfortunately, due to differing athlete body mechanics, the Barbell Dead Lift cannot always be the first option, especially for taller athletes or those with limited mobility. This is where the Trap Bar Deadlift comes into play.
Added benefits: since the Trap Bar Deadlift applies less stressing forces to the lower back, it can be implemented in-season and can accommodate a wider range of users.
See it performed: Exercise of the Week: Trap Bar Deadlift.
Close-Grip Bench Press
The Close-Grip Bench Press has numerous applications for athletes. How often do you use your arms bench-press-wide in a game? Think of linemen exploding on a snap. They keep their arms straight ahead to maximize their physical and mechanical advantage. Athletes are trained to keep their momentum going forward, not out to the sides like the Wide-Grip Bench Press.
See it performed: TD1 Minute: The Bench Press.
Sports movements require lots of pressing action, so it's essential for athletes to have strength in their pulling movements in order to be efficient in all planes of motion. With the Chin-Up, athletes not only strengthen their pulling movements, they toughen their core as well. Chin-Ups also work the chest and lower trapezius muscle, which are responsible for upward rotation and shoulder girdle stability.
See it performed: Pull-Up or Chin-Up: Which is Better?
Gullet et al (2009). "A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Jan;23(1). Pg.284-292
Youdas et al (2010). "Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-up, or perfect pull-up rotational exercise." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Dec;24(12). Pg.3404-3414.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock