And it’s not the squat, overhead press, bench press, power clean, or deadlift. Though it is a compound movement that uses lots of muscles and requires lots of power. Different goals require different training methodologies. For example someone who is training to look on spring break is going to have a completely different training regime then someone who is looking to compete in their local powerlifitng meet who is going to have a completely different training regime from someone who wants to play college ball.
This is why when someone asks what the best training protocol is the answer is always going to be “for what?”. The same can be said of exercises. For example people talk about how lateral raises are pretty useless. And yeah for cracking guys in the ring or for throwing around giant rocks yeah they are pretty useless. But if you did 100 reps of them a day after your workout to build up your shoulders then you’d be using them properly and they’d be very worthwhile.
So depending on the goal the ideal workout and exercise selection is going to change. What is great for one person may be completely foolish for the other. HIT training is amazing if you just want to look good and have big muscles but is awful for an athlete. Likewise Westside style training is great for powerlifters and athletes but going to be a poor choice for a bodybuilder looking to compete. Then you have the middle of the road schemes like 5×5, 5/3/1, and such. Which offer you moderate development in all areas but take a long time to see good progress.
Alright so you’re probably wondering what the point of all this is and here it is. When I say an exercise is the “best” or even good what I’m saying is that for a particular goal it’s going to be good for that. For example want a big chest then do Gironda bench presses, want to knock kids on their ass in the football field then get your power clean up, and so on and so forth. So now let’s get to one of the best exercises for athletes.
The Importance Of The Core
Now before you roll your eyes and think I’m going to start talking about juggling bananas while balancing on a bosu ball (you know because it’s “functional”) you’re wrong. The core is incredibly important in transferring power throughout your body and having a strong core is essential to making sure none of that power “leaks” out when being transferred through your body. Good fighters and contact ballplayers need strong cores to make sure that they are generating all the power they can and that when it’s transferred from their legs to their upper bodies that they aren’t losing any of it in the middle.
Doing crunches isn’t going to be enough to develop a strong core. To develop a strong core you need weight and you need to do things that require your core to stabilize itself, as after all that is one of the main functions of the core. This is done through exercises such as ab rollouts with an ab wheel as well as where you hold weight overhead and have to factor in balancing it. Combine this with developing shoulder and leg power and we have a winner.
One Of The Best Overall Movements For Athletic Development
So this exercise that is one of the best overall movements for athletic develop isn’t some fancy new exercise nor is it one that requires loads of fancy equipment but rather just a barbell and some weights. And that exercise is the overhead squat. I first heard about overhead squatting (and it’s many benefits) from reading Dan John. I believe it was in his book Never Let Go (regardless highly recommend you pick that one up, tons of good stuff in it from a guy who knows what he is talking about). Dan was talked about how he thought the best movement (I’m paraphrasing as it’s been awhile) is the snatch to overhead squat.
From there I learned more and more about the overhead squat (an exercise I once considered useless) and found out all its many benefits. It utilizes the shoulders, core, and legs some of the prime muscles used in any athletic endeavor. It generates power (which I understand is a nebulous definition) and weight can be added for continued resistance. In Never Let Go Dan talks about a very impressive athlete who this was about all he did (the snatch to overhead squat) and was able to go very far. Obviously that in an of itself doesn’t mean much but combine that with everything else about the overhead squat and you have a winner.
If you want to look good on the beach or hit a new powerlifting record then the overhead squat probably isn’t going to be worth your time. However if you train for combat or another athletic endeavor then I would strongly suggest that you include the overhead squat in your training in some capacity. You can have a day where you do it for 3 reps working up to a 3 rep max, you could do it for 5×5, thought I would not encourage doing high reps with it, as it isn’t that kind of exercise.
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