Article written by Marshall White for LiftBigEatBig.com
Will Dinwiddie suggested this article topic the other day and I was giving it a thought and decided to give it a test run in conversation. To be honest with you folks I couldn’t believe how much conversation this ignited! Basically it was suggested that I write an article on, if I had to choose ONLY 5 exercises or movements for any athlete to do what would they be and why? The parameters of this are that the 5 exercises chosen must be specific, you can’t just say “squat and all it’s variations”, these have to be applicable to every athlete in every single sport, and finally you can’t say bench press. Ok I was joking about that last one, but the other 2 still apply. I talked with some of the LBEB athletes and my friend Chris Stark (owner of Lift Strong Run Fast) and after much mulling over I came up with my 5. Before I tell and explain my 5 understand that this is just my opinion. You don’t have to agree with me so as Pastor B says “calm your tits”, this is just an opinion piece and I would like or hear your opinions as well. Now then, since that is out of the way, here are my 5 and my reasons why.
1. High bar/close stance back squat:
I don’t think I need to go in to a huge explanation as to why I chose a squat but I feel the need to explain why I chose the bar and feet placement. I feel as though a high bar, close stance squat is easier to learn so if I were teaching beginners I would yield results much faster than if I were teaching a low bar or wide stance squat. In addition I believe this type of squat mimics most athletic stances much more so than a wider stance. Think about the foot placement in most sports, usually it is shoulder width, a natural stance, so I feel squatting in this stance will help the strength gained transfer more easily to the athlete’s chosen sport. I also feel this stance is more quad dominant which will transfer to more speed and explosiveness in most sports as well as remove the need for working front squats.
2. Clean shrugs (clean pulls, clean hi pulls, explosive shrugs):
There are many names for this movement but I’m going to use clean shrugs for my purposes. I had a hard time not including power cleans in this list but ultimately I feel the same way about clean shrugs that I did about the squats. The hardest part of teaching a clean is USUALLY getting the athlete to catch properly. If I were teaching a beginner I could yield the same explosiveness and athleticism as a power clean but in a much shorter time simply by removing the catch. Here’s a little heresy: with a clean shrug you can get an athlete to go very heavy, basically keeping within a “speed deadlift” range, which in my opinion removes the need for deadlift. Eeeeeek! Yeah I said it, I feel for athletes that are not “strength based” athletes a heavy, explosive clean shrug will actually be more applicable to their sport.
3. Push press:
I had to debate myself and others over whether a push press or a strict press would be more beneficial and I had to finally settle on the push press. I decided this because I feel the push press has more facets than a strict press. With a push press you are getting the explosive work in addition to the shoulder, tricep, and upper back work, as opposed to a strict which is not typically an explosive movement and focuses more on just the benefits of a press.
4. Pull-ups (not chin ups):
I honestly feel as though one of the biggest holes in most athletes development is their upper back. Pull ups are a great exercise to fix that hole and most people already know how to do them, for the most part. I do believe there are some other very effective exercises to build upper back strength, but those exercises can be harder to learn as they are more advanced. The funny thing about pull ups is that most people can’t do them (not strict at least) even a lot of athletes, so you have a TON of room for improvement. The equipment needed to do them is minimal and the goal to be reached with them is infinite. Take a look at most high level athletes and I can almost guarantee they can do tons of pull ups.
This movement is my curveball and I had to defend this one big time in all my conversations. I chose yoke because the other 4 movements are executed on a vertical plane (up and down) whereas yoke is executed on a horizontal plane (back and forth). Think about it, in most sports your movement is not done simply on a vertical plane the vast majority of it is done on a horizontal plane. Why do most people not train their forward movement with heavy loads like they would any other movement? A yoke allows you to load your forward movement and develop serious speed and explosiveness. Understand also that while a yoke is started with a partial squat it is not a squat at all, your big squat doesn’t mean shit when it comes to a yoke, therefore we are not double training a movement. While squatting doesn’t necessarily improve your yoke, yoking heavy will improve your squat. This movement provides a whole body benefit in my opinion.
There you have it, my 5 movements/exercises that I would have any and all athletes do if I had to choose ONLY 5. I know some of you will disagree and I want to hear your thoughts on this. Post your comments on our Facebook page but please remember these kinds of discussions can get heated so try to be respectful and explain all your points intelligently. Also, if you say bench press you better have an AMAZING reason as to why you chose that :). Thanks for reading and make sure you give us your opinions!