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The Basic Exercises Your Athletes Should Be Doing – For Coaches

Read Time: 4 Minutes

By Mark Keil, CSCS

Posted on May 10, 2022

The Plank

 Muscles Targeted: The plank incorporates many muscles, but it particularly focuses on the Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, and the Obliques (internal and external). 


Application to Sport: The plank is an isometric exercise that strengthens the athlete’s core. A strong core is imperative to athletic performance because it will heavily influence the amount of power the athlete can generate. 

One primary function of the core is to act as a stabilizer to the body. For example, when an athlete is pivoting, sprinting, landing from a jump, etc., the core keeps the athlete upright and stable. Another function of the core is to act as the connector between the upper- and lower- body. For example, when the athlete generates power with the lower body, the core transfers that power to the upper body to produce the desired movement. If the athlete has a weak core, then much of the power will dissipate before it reaches the upper body. 

And one exercise that will strengthen the core is the Plank (which is great for both beginner and advanced athletes).


How to Perform: 
  1. Have your athletes get on the ground and bring their elbows under their shoulders and toes under their heels. This is the starting position.  
  2.  Say, ‘Up’, at which point they will raise their hips off the ground. They should be in a straight line (from ears to ankles). Their spine should be in a neutral position; meaning, they should be looking at the ground. To better engage their whole body, they should concentrate on flexing their glutes and core.
  3. Start with a Hold Position of :15-:30 seconds. Let them return to the ground for a short rest and then repeat the exercise a second time. I will usually have my athletes to work up to a :60-:90 second Hold before we move to a Plank progression. 

Coach Notes: 

  • Once you say, ‘Up’, wait to start the clock until all of your athletes raise their hips to begin the exercise. I usually will say, ‘Up’, and then once everyone is up I’ll say, ‘Clock Starts’ (this keeps them from cheating).
  • Make sure your athletes breathe during the exercise (yes, I’ve had athletes attempt to hold their breath for the entire exercise). 

The Hip Bridge

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, specifically the Gluteus Maximus. 

 Application to Sport: The Glutes are one of the primary muscles used for hip extension. When you take a step, the Glutes are the muscles that brings your body forward (hamstrings help too). 

The Glute Bridge is often treated as an Activation Exercise (a movement that activates a muscle for the training to follow). When an athlete is properly ‘warmed up’, they are able to lift heavier weights.

Unfortunately, the Glutes are usually inactive (likely a result of increased periods of sitting). The tricky part is that it can be difficult to notice they aren’t activated. That’s because, if neglected long enough, other muscles will have adapted to compensate for the Glutes’ inactivity. Not only will this hinder the athlete’s strength and power, but it can lead to injury as it may alter normal movement patterns. 

The Glute Bridge is a simple exercise that will activate the Glutes, allowing the athletes to get more out of their Team Workouts.


How to Perform:

  1. Have your athlete get on the ground with their back down, arms off to their side, and hands flat. Instruct them to bring their feet up to their glutes (heels should be roughly 6 inches from their glutes). This is the starting position. 
  2. Instruct them to push through their heels to raise their hips off the ground. At the top position, there should be a straight line from their knees to their ears. 
  3. They should pause briefly at the top position before returning their hips back to the ground. 
  4. I’ll usually start with 2 sets of 8-10 reps (with a :30 second rest period between sets)


Coach Notes:

  • Instruct them to flex their core during the movement. 
  • It’s an easy exercise, and it’s likely you’ll hear them say that. They need to remember that this isn’t a workout, but is preparing them for the workout.


Side note: The Plank and Glute Bridge are two great exercises to have your athletes perform right before practice. 

Farmer's Carry

Muscles Targeted: Basically every muscle is engaged during this exercise: abdominals, lattisimus dorsi, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes (all three), calves, deltoids, biceps, triceps, forearms (and more). 


Application to Sport: Because the exercise engages so many muscles, it goes without saying that this is an excellent strength training exercise that should be incorporated in your Team Workouts. The Farmer’s Carry provides tremendous benefits to the athlete and requires no fancy equipment.


How to Perform:

  1. Select a distance you would like your athletes to perform the exercise. There is really no ‘perfect distance’. Less weight = further distance. More weight = shorter distance. Just remember: if they cannot walk in a straight line while keeping a ‘tall spine’ throughout the exercise, then it is too far (or) it is too much weight. 
  2. Set the weights at the starting line and instruct your athletes to pick them up (they should pick the weights in the same way they would perform a deadlift – feet flat, hips back, chest up tall, arms out the the side; then push through their feet to bring themselves to the standing position). 
  3. Once standing, instruct them to walk to the second cone. The steps should be short, this isn’t a sprint. Once they get to the second one, they should return the weight to the ground (by reversing the motion they used to lift the weight).
  4. Have them take a short rest and then repeat the movement back to the starting cone. 
Coach Notes:
  • Remind your athletes that they aren’t simply ‘walking’. They are taking steps (in a straight line) while maintaining a tall position: chest up, shoulder blades back, hands gripping the weight tightly, and core engaged (flexed).

Don’t have much weight? Increase the distance! 

The Farmer’s Carry is a total body exercise that can be performed at the beginning of the workout as an Activation Exercise or at the end as a Finisher.