For many of us playing sport and being physically active forms an integral part of our lives, providing us with enjoyment, accomplishment, challenges and excitement. It is an area where all strive to be our best and remain competitive for as long as possible. However, often injuries and setbacks can impair or prevent us from continuing our sporting exploits. Whilst playing your sport, whatever it may be, the most effective thing you can do to improve is training specifically for it, cross training and strength training should also form part of your weekly regime both in order to improve your overall performance and reduce injury risks thus potentially increasing longevity as well.
Not every sport will require really heavy lifting & a complex strength program; however I do believe that everyone should engage in some form of resistance training regularly to strengthen the muscles & connective tissues that take such a pummelling in most sports. If you do not currently have a stringent resistance program, below are five exercises that I would recommend to nearly everyone, in order to maintain posture, strength and joint stability. Even if you spend just 10mins maybe twice a week performing this series of exercises, you should definitely see a benefit.
- Glute-Ham bridges – lower body strength & stability.
A lot of people have issues with their low back, glutes and hamstrings, especially when they do a lot of sport. This exercise is designed to strengthen and stabilise through your entire posterior chain & can be easily modified to make it continually more challenging.
How to do it:
- Lay on your back with your knees bent so that your feet are planted on the floor fairly close into your body. Form a T-shape with your hands on the ground.
- Push up through your heels so that your hips lift up to full extension, then hold for a 1 count, control on the way down and repeat
- I’d suggest for beginners to do 3sets of 10
- Take your arms off the floor & extend them out above your body with your hands clasped together
- Increase the time under tension by holding for up to 10seconds at the top position.
- Extend up with two legs then control down with just one.
- Do it purely on 1 leg.
- Do it with your feet on a medicine ball
- Shoulder YTW’s – Upper back & shoulder integrity.
Maintaining healthy shoulders is really important, but is unfortunately something that is very easily overlooked. Simple, floor & wall YTW’s will help to strengthen your rotator cuffs & upper back whilst improving overall posture as well.
How to do it:
- Start off lying on your back, with your arms extended above your head (so that your body forms a Y shape). Try to get your arms as low to the floor as possible, ideally your elbows will be touching the floor, though this unlikely at first.
- From the Y position move your arms downward into a T shape, whilst keeping your arms as low to the floor as possible.
- From here draw your elbows into your body, thus forming a W shape.
- Repeat for 3sets of 10.
- Try to get your elbows continually closer to the floor.
- Move on to wall YTW’s by adopting a ‘wall squat’ with your back, shoulders, elbows and wrists touching the wall, then repeat the movement as before.
- Press Ups – Upper body pushing strength.
All sports will call for some form of upper body strength and a simple push up will provide a means of developing strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps and core. Depending on your starting point you may want to begin doing press ups on your knees & build up to a full press up and beyond.
How to do it:
- Assume a typical press up position with your hands directly under your shoulders & legs fully extended out. ( if you need to bend your knees so that they are touching the floor, thus taking some weight off your arms)
- Ensure your elbows bend straight below you (not flare out), let your chest touch the floor then extend back up.
- Try to work towards 3sets of 10-15.
- Build up to full press ups through practicing with your knees bent less & less.
- Do purely eccentric push ups
- Do full push ups
- Do incline/decline push ups
- ‘pop’ push ups
- Clap push ups
- 1 arm push ups (after quite a bit of hard work!)
- Lunges – Lower body strength & power
A great, easy way to strengthen your legs is through bodyweight lunges, which can be continually progressed to be more and more challenging.
How to do it:
- Start by standing with your hands on your hips, step one leg forward, bending at the knee & forming a 90 degree angle.
- Push back up & return to starting position before repeating with opposite leg.
- Walking lunges
- Reverse lunges
- Reverse walking lunges
- Jump lunges
- Weighted lunges
- Plank – core stability
Core stability has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years, yet there is still no better exercise to improve it than the plank in my view. Your core is essential in helping you perform in sporting activities successfully and so it is imperative to challenge & develop your core with continually progressive exercises.
How to do it:
- Assume a position similar to that for a press up, then allow for elbows bend & touch the floor directly beneath your shoulders.
- Ensure you feel a contraction throughout your abdominal area as it works hard to keep you up, making sure you don’t let your hips sink too low (or go too high).
- Try to build up to being able to hold the basic position for 3sets of 30seconds then progress.
- Increase the length of time your hold it for.
- Side planks
- Take 1 foot off the floor.
- Do shoulder taps in a plank position
- RKC plank (definitely one to do once you get strong enough)
Hopefully this article may help you, and has provided a basic foundation of a few simple exercises that you can build upon. If you require any further info on anything, I’d be more than happy to give you my best advice wherever I can help.
Remember that before you do any workout it is always important to warm up, if you need any guidance on putting together a thorough warm up please watch this video I filmed recently.