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5 Essential Strength Training Exercises for Improved Athletic Performance

5 essential strength training exercises we would recommend for improved athletic performance.
Sam Warburton performing a squat in the gym for rugby conditioning drills

5 essential strength training exercises we would recommend for improved athletic performance. Learn how squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, and overhead press can help you become a stronger, more powerful athlete. Build those qualities and watch your performance increase!

As an athlete, strength training is an essential component of your training week. It can help you improve your power, speed, and overall athletic performance, as well as to help keep you injury free. Even as a non athlete strength training should be the foundation of your training. In this post, we'll be sharing 5 essential strength training movements that should be a part of every athlete's programming. These exercises, when performed with good technique and with correct training volumes, can help you take your game to the next level and achieve your goals on the field, court, or track. Read on to learn more!

1. Squats: Squats are commonly known as the ultimate lower body exercise. It targets all the muscles in your legs, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and requires a lot of core stability. Squats are an excellent exercise for improving lower body strength and power, which can be beneficial for a variety of sports including football and rugby. By varying the weight and intent on your squats you can train for explosive power on say a jump squat or go heavy for maximal strength. When performing squats, be sure to keep your chest up, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your back straight at all times. Some people may not like back squatting or feel discomfort so some great swaps are the front squat or goblet squat.

2. Deadlifts: Deadlifts are another compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the muscles in your back, legs, and core. Basically the most full body exercise around. We tend to programme hex or trap bar deadlifts over conventional. This is because you can sit into a nicer position and we deem them as a bit safer than regular deadlifts.They are great for improving total body strength and can help you become more explosive and powerful. Much like the squat these can be performed with varying weight and intent so you can go from a hex bar jump to a heavy set for strength. When performing deadlifts, be sure to keep your back straight, your chest up, and your feet shoulder-width apart.

3. Bench press: The bench press is the OG chest exercise that targets the muscles in your chest, triceps, and shoulders. It's a great exercise for improving upper body strength and can be beneficial for sports that require upper body strength, such as rugby, wrestling, and boxing. When performing the bench press, be sure to keep your feet flat on the ground, your back firmly pressed against the bench and tuck your elbows in to 45 degrees rather than having them flare out at 90 degrees. This will save you a lot of shoulder issues.

4. Pull-ups: Pull-ups are a great exercise for improving upper body strength and muscle mass, especially in your back and biceps. The main target muscle here is your latissimus dorsi but your  rhomboids and trapezius will also be getting a lot of activation. Pull-ups are also beneficial for improving your grip strength which will aid you in all pulling movements. These can be performed in both a supinated and pronated grip, some even opting for a neutral. When performing pull-ups, be sure to keep your back straight and your shoulder blades squeezed together. You want to try and isolate the lats best you can so try and relax your arms and pull through your elbows.

5. Overhead press: The overhead press is an excellent exercise for improving your overhead strength and shoulder stability. It can be beneficial for sports that require overhead strength and stability, specifically for rugby if you lift in a line out you will need some impressive overhead strength snd explosive power. When performing the overhead press, be sure to keep your core engaged and your feet shoulder-width apart, drive the bar up and as the bar passes overhead push your body through so the bar is directly above you not in front of you. For explosive power you can incorporate a push press here.

In conclusion, strength training is an essential component of any athlete's training routine. It can help improve your power, speed, and overall athletic performance, as well as reduce your risk of injury. By incorporating the 5 essential strength training exercises we've discussed into your routine - squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, and overhead press - you can become a stronger, more powerful athlete. It’s worth mentioning that you can change these exercises around slightly for preference as long as you keep the same basic movement patterns in there. For example bench press can swap to dumbbell bench press etc. Remember to focus on proper form and technique, start with a weight that you can handle comfortably, and gradually increase the weight as you become stronger, don’t rush this!

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