So here are five great exercises you can use to prepare for serious competition—and ass-kicking—in five different sports. You can trust me: I’m a certified strength and conditioning coach.
The bonus? All five moves will get you ready for success in practically any sport. Which is good news for your upcoming skee-ball tournament.
1. Power Clean
Perfect for: Track (or any other sport)
If I had to pick one exercise to do for any sport, I would pick the clean. I love this exercise. When I was triple-jumping at the University of Arkansas, this is practically all we did in the weight room—and it helped our track program claim more than 45 national titles. The reason: it’s an explosive movement, so it trains your body to perform correctly and powerfully on the field. It builds your hip flexors, hip extensors, lower lumbar—and most importantly, your core. It’s the quintessential Olympic lift that’s helped generations of athletes run faster and gain explosiveness. If you’re new to the clean (or any of these exercises), watch instructional videos first to make sure you’re doing it properly. And start out using a broomstick. Then move to just the bar, then gradually add weight.
Perfect for: Hockey (or Football)
This is my second-favorite exercise, and I used it to rehab from two major spinal injuries. Basically, you’re loading up the bar, grabbing the bar and developing superior strength in your glutes and hamstrings. It’s also great for your lower back, and it encourages muscle recruitment, which is key for building strength. This is the exercise that’s going to help you in the fourth quarter or the third period (or on the back nine) by giving you the strength and muscle endurance to finish strong. The guy below has great form. If only the same could be said for his music taste.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat
Perfect for: Tennis (or Soccer or Lacrosse)
The split squat is another favorite of mine. I like to have my athletes do this one with their back foot on a bench—a.k.a. “Bulgarian style.” This one is going to light up your glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors, so it’s great for sports like basketball, soccer, lacrosse and tennis, where you need your leg muscles to fire rapidly. It’s going to help you become more explosive, jump higher and run faster. Perform reps with a weighted bar rested on your neck (like with a squat) or with a dumbbell or weight plate in hand. Either way does the trick. And as with all these moves, girls can do ’em too!
4. Poor Man’s Glute-Ham Raise
Perfect for: Football (or Baseball or Basketball)
You’ll notice that a lot of these exercises are working the hamstrings and glutes. That’s because those are two of your biggest muscle groups (along with your quads), and they’re where you get your power. Think about it: who are the fastest and most powerful athletes in football? The running backs. And what do they have? Huge glutes and hamstrings. Almost like horses. To get your own big backside, do the poor man’s glute-ham raise. Kneel down on a pad, have someone hold your ankles and slowly descend to the floor. As soon as your hamstrings and glutes can’t take anymore, return to the starting position and repeat. Training solo? Get creative like the guy in this video.
5. Sledgehammer Swings
Perfect for: Boxing (or Golf or Wrestling or MMA)
For a great upper-body exercise that also involves the hips and core, there’s nothing better than pounding a sledgehammer against a tire. Believe me, this is going to help you a lot more in your sport than, say, the bench press. It’s going to develop strength in your hands, forearms, biceps, triceps, back and shoulders. As for chest strength, that’s overrated in most sports. Look at boxers, football players and MMA fighters—they’re thick in their backs. That’s where the power and strength come from. Plus, if you vary your sledgehammer strikes, you’ll be simulating everything from a golf swing to a baseball swing to a knockout punch. In all of those, remember the golden rule: lead with your hips.
Jay Cardiello is a top certified strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Cardiello has helped Hollywood A-Listers, Fortune 500 CEOs and NFL players sculpt the best bodies of their lives. Learn more at jcorebody.com.