Admit it: you want that perfect, quick combo of exercises that will guarantee to build muscle. But like the explorers who failed to find the Fountain of Youth, you’ll eventually realize that no such combo exists. Different athletes have different needs, which call for different workout regimens.
That said, every athlete can benefit from complex exercises—those that engage more than one joint movement. They are not a miracle cures, but they build muscle and improve athleticism, and they will improve your game.
Below are four complex exercises to include in your next workout.
Utah Jazz Front Squat
Start your workout with this exercise, which targets some of the largest muscles in the body—glutes, hamstrings and quads. Engage your core, follow your kinetic chain and complete this complex motion, which includes movement in the hips and knees. You’ll build a strong lower body, improve stability and prepare yourself for explosive movements on the court or field—so you can be the one catching the football at its highest point or cleaning the glass for a rebound.
- Start with feet shoulder-width apart and the bar resting across your chest and shoulders
- Keep chest up
- Push knees out and sit back when squatting
- Squat as deep as possible without allowing lower back to round
Reggie Bush DB Push-Up-to-Row
Travelle Gaines, director of elite athlete development at Athletes’ Performance, praises this exercise’s ability to develop core stability. Performing a Push-Up followed immediately by a Row also builds strength and stability in the pecs, triceps and lats, while protecting against developing asymmetrical muscles. Gaines advises pulling the weight all the way up to your chest before repeating on the other side.
- Holding dumbbells, assume Push-Up position with legs shoulder-width apart
- Perform Push-Up, then pull right elbow as high as possible and bring the weight close to your breastplate during the row
- Repeat on opposite side
- Keep body in a stable position throughout the exercise
Sets/Reps: 4×16 [16 Push-Ups, 8 Rows with each arm]
Dumbbell Curl-to-Cross Press With UNC Men’s Soccer
Hit your biceps and anterior deltoids with this complex exercise, performed by the Tar Heel soccer team. Greg Gatz, UNC’s director of strength and conditioning for Olympic Sports, has his athletes perform it while standing, forcing their legs to stabilize their bodies during the movement.
- Maintain tall posture
- Keep elbows tucked in
- Do not press the dumbbells above shoulder level
Sets/Reps: 3×4 for each arm with 60 seconds rest
Andre Johnson DB Step-Up to Shoulder Fly
Houston Texans star WR Andre Johnson works both his legs and shoulders with this exercise. “What we’re trying to do is make sure we catch every angle possible,” says Victor Ishmael, the University of Miami’s assistant director of strength and conditioning. “What happens is people do the same repetitive motion over and over. What we try to do is get a variety of stimulation so we continue to grow, continue to develop strength. Also, it helps in injury prevention.”
- Perform Step-Up followed by Shoulder Fly
- Keep foot stable when stepping on box
- Keep torso erect and core tight during the Fly
- Bring dumbbells directly overhead during the Fly
Reps/Sets: 3×8 each leg
Read more about the benefits of complex exercises.