Sometimes workouts become too segmented. You go from one exercise to another in a systematic fashion; and though that's a good way to build strength and power, you also need to incorporate dynamic full-body exercises instead of sticking exclusively to this traditional method to build athleticism.
Athleticism isn't just the ability to lift huge amounts of weight. It's a combination of strength, power, stability, work capacity and coordination. I've found that one of the best ways to develop all of these attributes is by performing sled pulling combination exercises.
Below are four of my favorite exercises that have proven effective for developing complete athleticism. Perform one of them toward the end of your workout after strength work.
Normal Prone Plank/Plank Push to Pull
This is the easiest exercise, because nearly every athlete has done a Plank. You should be able to maintain a neutral spine in both the Plank and Side Plank. These are basic exercises that build your capacity to control your lumbo-pelvic hip area, which transfers effectively to sports. You should be able to perform this exercise before moving on to the exercises below.
Plank Hold to Sled Pull
I like this exercise because it combines a Plank and a Sled Pull. You get great core work from the Plank; and when you pull the sled, you're actually in a standing Plank position, which improves core control in a more sport-specific way. Plus, you get good grip strength training from holding the handles.
To make it more difficult, add as much weight as you can handle. This depends on the surface and your willingness challenge yourself. As you go heavier and for longer distances, your triceps, forearms, hands, back and entire core will be demolished.
You should be able to perform this exercise with perfect form before adding weight. Pull the sled for as long as you can maintain your form.
Plate Push to Sled Pull
Pushing the plate away from your body and bringing it back, then pulling the sled to your body, combines a concentric with an eccentric movement. You work both your pulling and pushing muscles. This taxes your energy systems, works your glutes and lights your quads on fire. As in the other variations, your core will be challenged throughout the set.
Use a weight you can effectively pull on the sled after you do a Plate Push. To make pushing the plate and pulling the sled easier, get a good base and stay low. If you've ever played a contact sport, you know that "the low man wins." Same is true here. Make sure your hips stay low in a good neutral position, and keep your eyes looking forward.
Sets/Distance: 5-10x20 yards
Sled Pull to Renegade Row
The Renegade Row is an incredible exercise for the upper body and core. When done correctly, it is one of the most versatile upper-body exercises for athletes who want to gain strength and mass. It also promotes core stabilization, anti-rotation, anti-flexion and anti-extension. Maintaining a balance of strength between the anterior and posterior sides of the body is critical for athletic performance.
Set up with one dumbbell and the sled. Keep your arms approximately shoulder-width apart in a good push-up position. Try to keep your hips parallel to the ground when you row the dumbbell after you pull the sled.
Sets/Reps: 2-3x5 each side or to fatigue
Perform these exercises together for an ultimate all-around workout to build strength, core stability and conditioning.
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