The Top 8 Exercises to Improve Your Athletic Skill Set and Performance


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Some of you just read that title and are already asking yourselves, “why the hell do I want to increase my athleticism?”.  Maybe you’re a student taking classes full-time, maybe you’re a stay at home mom busy raising a family, maybe you’re a business executive always on the road – either way, you have no plans to suddenly follow the footsteps of Lebron James.  You know what, it doesn’t matter.  I’m here to tell you, you want to become more athletic.  You want to train like an athlete.  You want to improve your athletic skill set even if you have never, or will never, step foot on a field or court as long as you live.  And here’s why…

What makes an athlete?  What are they characterized by?  Let’s see..

  • Low body fat percentage
  • Explosive power
  • Lean, not bulky, muscle mass
  • Great cardiovascular endurance

Now of course, not all athletes are like this.  Shot putters or offensive lineman may share some of the attributes, but not all.  But you guys don’t really want to look like an offensive lineman or shot putter, do you?  The type of athlete I had in mind when creating today’s post was a sprinter, a boxer, a swimmer, a defensive back…something of that ilk.

Perhaps most of all, well-conditioned athletes have the bodies so many of you are working towards.  You know who also trains like an athlete when getting into peak condition?  Fitness models.  Athletic training is a great way to transform your body into what you want it to be, while also positively effecting your health, as well as making you more functionally sound and resistant to injury.

Today, we’re going to highlight the top 8 exercises that are going to help turn you into that lean, mean, athletic machine – so keep reading and begin including these movements into your overall fitness plan, whatever that may be.

  1. Barbell Squat Jumps – These are a great way to help you build explosive power in your lower body, while also tightening and strengthening your core.  To really hit those fast twitch muscle fibers (the ones used for explosive, short-term endurance) you’ll want to quickly lower into your squat (thighs parallel to floor) then EXPLODE UP, getting as high as possible.  Land softly on the balls of your feet before quickly sinking back into your squat and repeating.
  2. Hang Snatches– You want to talk about a killer compound exercise that will help sculpt and shape much of your upper body, while also giving you a cardiovascular boost?  You’ve got to start including these into your routine.  You should vary between low rep/heavy weight sets to build power, and low weight/high rep “fast” sets to build explosiveness and endurance.  Always control the weight, but focus on moving through the exercise quickly and efficiently when training for speed.
  3. Kettlebell/Dumbbell Swings – As I’ve mentioned before, this one is up for the single best exercise you could possibly do.  It’s going to help you train in a functional way, while really hitting major muscle groups in your body.  Follow different rep sequences and weights when doing kettlebell swings, and always be sure to use explosive, but controlled movements.
  4. Push Up/Dip Swings –  One of my all-time favorite exercises, push up/dip swings are a great way to hit your core, major upper body muscles, quads, hamstrings, and bump that heart rate, if done correctly.  Fire up on the push up and dip portion, and really SWING those legs back and forth.  You’ll notice it’s hard to correctly complete many of these, so really try to make them count.  Go all out, shooting for 8-12 good, fast, reps, take a break, then get right back into it.
  5. 10 Yard Sprints – When you’re training like one of the athletes mentioned above, you aren’t going to be doing many long distance runs – you’re training for speed and explosion.  For this reason, your sprints are kept short, which allows you to really give 100% effort.  Get down into a sprinter’s starting position, explode up, and sprint as fast as possible for 10 yards.  Stop, take 30 seconds to recoup, then repeat; 15-20 reps would make for a nice speed training sesh.
  6. Long Jumps – We continue on with the explosive theme, with the sixth exercise on our list, long jumps.  Long jumps are a fantastic way to build that lower body power, convert more fibers to the fast twitch variety, while also taxing your core stabilizer muscles.  Make sure you’re squatting down and exploding OUT, not necessarily UP.  These aren’t squat jumps…you’re leaping for distance here, so make each jump count and try to go a little bit further until you simply can’t handle another rep.
  7. High Knee runs – This is pretty much a controlled sprint – you’re running as fast as you can, but you’re deliberately bringing your knees up as high as possible..which invariably slows you down.  You’ll want to “sprint” with high knees for 20 yards, stop, take a 30 second breather, then repeat.  These are much more taxing than our 10 yard sprints, so shoot for 10-15 reps to start with to really increase your athletic skill set.
  8. Med Ball Slams – Throwing heavy things is a great way to build strong, explosive muscle, without losing flexibility.  Med ball slams are just one way of doing this.  Get a good stretch over head then come down in one lighting fast motion, slamming the ball in front of you and following through with your arms.  Do your best not to take the return shot in the face, then repeat.

Of course, these aren’t the only exercises that will help you increase your athleticism.  Anything that has you exploding, adding weight to jumping movements, lowering and lifting weights at an elevated pace, or trains in you in a functional manner is going to help build your athletic skill set.

And again, let’s remember we don’t actually have to be competing in a sport to aim to increase our athletic skill set. When you build your athletic skill set, you start looking more like the athlete you’re training to become.  As I always preach, if you want to look like an athlete, you’ve got to train like an athlete.  Train and to look the way you want – this is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you.  If you want to look average, train average.  If you want to look like super strong, but bulky offensive lineman, train (and eat) like a bulky offensive lineman.  But if you want to achieve a lean, tight, and athletic body, capable of explosive power, endurance, and speed, start training like the people who have those attributes.

Need a little help with your own training? Not sure which training plan is right for you?  For a limited time, leave a comment below and lock in your FREE 15 minute 1-on-1 Skype session with me TODAY and get your body and training on a path for success!

 

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3 thoughts on “The Top 8 Exercises to Improve Your Athletic Skill Set and Performance”

  1. What would be a good circuit to create from these movements? I have been playing around with crossfit recently and it seems like these are a lot of the same/similar movements

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