The days of training your upper body one day and your lower body the next are over. Training muscles in isolation does not improve athletic performance, because body parts don't function in isolation.
Every muscle, joint, tendon and bone is part of a system. Every athletic movement puts the system in motion. You must train the system, not just the muscle. Compound strength exercises—movements that require multiple levers and joints to work together—build better and more efficient athletes.
Compound strength exercises engage more muscle groups and allow you to lift more weight. This facilitates faster, more consistent progress. Isolation exercises—movements that focus on moving a single joint through a range of motion—target only one muscle group at a time, which means you will lift less weight and progress more slowly.
Accelerating, sprinting and decelerating are extremely coordinated and complex tasks. The body must go through a precise and specific sequence of movements at very high speeds and loads. Performing the right compound strength exercises will reinforce these movement patterns and enhance your muscle memory.
Stop wasting time. Speed up your progress by replacing isolation exercises with compound strength exercises.
Replace Calf Raises with Step-Ups
Calf muscles transfer energy between the feet and the quads. The speed of this transfer is elicited through the stretch shortening cycle.
Calf Raises build and pump the calf muscles, limiting how effectively they can use the stretch shortening cycle to deliver energy either to the ground or to the quads and hips. Pumped calf muscles also limit ankle range of motion and make you more prone to injury.
Instead of explicitly targeting your calf muscles, train your entire hip, knee and ankle system. Your calf muscles will develop naturally as a byproduct of Squats, Lunges, Step-Ups, jumping and sprinting.
Learn how to perform Step-Ups.
Replace Bicep Curls with Pull-Ups
I can't think of any interscholastic sport that requires you to pull something heavy with just your biceps. Most of the time, the larger and stronger muscles of your shoulders and back do the majority of the work. Big biceps may look good at the beach, but they don't enhance athletic performance.
Instead of Bicep Curls, do Pull-Ups. Use a variety of hand positions (neutral, wide, narrow, inward- or outward-facing) to not only target your entire arm, but also to hit the major muscles of your shoulders and back, which support nearly all athletic movements.
Replace Shrugs with Deadlifts
Shrugs isolate the trapezius muscles in the upper back and lower neck. These muscles are important to support your head and neck, but they work in concert with all your other back muscles to keep your head up and your spine in line. If you spend a lot of time hunched over a book or computer, these muscles get tight.
Instead of getting in somebody else's way on the squat rack doing Shrugs, perform Deadlifts! The Deadlift is a compound movement that works a variety of muscles groups—maybe even the most muscle groups.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock