In our search for the most effective weight training exercises for athletes, we decided to contact a handful of the country’s best trainers and strength coaches and ask them each one simple, yet ever-perplexing question: What is the single best exercise a ballplayer, fighter or any other sportsman for that matter can do to improve his performance on the field, the court, the track or the ring?
More than one trainer made the point that it’s virtually impossible to pick one single move that trumps all others. So we rephrased the question: If for some odd reason, you were limited to one exercise to prescribe to your athletes, what would it be?
In the end, the trainers came through in fine fashion and delivered the following 10 exercises. Each individual had his own reason for choosing the exercise he did, but overall, any one exercise on the list will work for a number of sports, from football to fighting, provided that sport requires some combination of strength, power, flexibility and conditioning. Fortunately, you’re not limited to picking just one exercise. Work several (or even all) of them into your current lifting program and we promise you’ll be that much more of a beast in your chosen sport.
One-Arm Rope Cable Row
Contributor: Mike Stack, CSCS, president and CEO of Applied Fitness Solutions, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based fitness and performance enhancement firm.
What it hits: Back, biceps, obliques, core
Why it’s effective: “This exercise is a perfect pulling movement for any athlete, as it incorporates aspects of grip strength, postural stability in the athletic position and single limb movement,” says Stack. “Beyond that, the explosive nature of the pull simulates the ballistic movement common to most sports.”
How to do it: Stand facing a cable stack with a rope attachment at chest height. Firmly fix your body with your chest and head up and your feet wider than shoulder width. Start with one arm fully extended holding onto the rope and the other at your waist in the ready position. Pull the rope hard and fast in toward your midsection, rotating your body slightly to that side while also getting your back and hips into the movement. Pause with the weight at the top, then lower back to the start position. Do all reps with one arm, then switch arms.
How much to do: 3 sets, 8-10 reps per arm, 90 seconds rest between sets